I feel like I've been run over by 1200 little tiny feet! Tales from the White City officially features 600 school children. 600! Count them! And we filmed them all today.
What I found genuinely uplifting and touching was that all of them had bothered to learn my song. They knew it off by heart, every last one, and they sang it with an unparalleled sense of joy. I confess to being more than a little proud... And grateful.
I was also rather grateful to the weather for staying at least dry, although sometimes bright sunlight can be fairly disastrous when filming because it makes everything irritatingly contrasty. We were forced to rush through a shot today at the height of the afternoon sunshine and I'm really concerned that the person we were filming might look a little like a panda; her face half in shade and half in sunlight.
Everyone worked really hard. We have a really good team on this shoot. Cameraman Vic (who shot my first ever film) and I are the only blokes, and we have a bevy of wonderful women doing everything else. We flew a little by the seats of our pants at Shepherd's Bush Market, however. Stall holders, as I've discovered to my cost on way too many occasions in the past, can be money-grabbing, shirty, arse holes. The place was almost empty, and yet a number of them wanted to complain that our filming outside their pitches was ruining their trade, forgetting, of course, that filming generates crowds, and if your stall's any good at all, said crowds will take a peak afterwards. That said, the place was empty, so we're talking relative crowds; two homeless people and a woman with Tourette's.
There was an edgy atmosphere, specifically because we were shooting a sequence about female genital mutilation (don't tell me a musical film can't be politically hard-hitting!) One of the areas of the market where we were trying to film is frequented by Somalians, and our presence, filming two Muslim women, caused quite a stir. Fortunately neither of the women was speaking (it's all done in voice over) but when one of them touched her belly to indicate the pain caused by FGM, a group of women ran up to one of my producers and said "why is she holding her belly? Is she pregnant? Is she ill?" It is, in my view, this mutual suspicion which causes most of the race-related issues in this country. I felt deeply privileged to be filming two strong, independent Muslim women whose choice it is to wear the hijab.
We travelled from Shepherd's Bush Market to Charring Cross Hospital; more specifically the sexual health clinic at said hospital. This is where one of the women we were filming does a lot of her work, encouraging members of the Somalian community, who have gone through the hell of FGM, to get help.
I suggested she put some of the leaflets about FGM up on a notice board, and we looked around the clinic for a few. We looked and looked. Nothing. Eventually we found a doctor and asked why there weren't any on display; "it frightens people," he said, and I thought, "so does syphilis, but there are leaflets everywhere for that." FGM genuinely is one of those things that we in the West are happy to look down on in principle, but very uncomfortable to either discuss in detail, or 100% condemn. Meanwhile up to 600 British children a year are sent off to African countries to be butchered in the name of religion. This must stop.
Whilst we were filming in a quiet corner of the hospital, a mental health patient started to stalk us. He stood and stared. Firstly at the young Muslim girl we were filming and then at me. It was hugely unnerving, because he didn't say anything, he just stared. He followed us around the hospital, staring. We, of course, were too polite/ scared to tell him to sling his hook, but I found myself desperately trying to avoid turning my back on him. The alpha male in me was very much present however, because I did find myself hyper-aware of the fact that I was responsible for a group of women. I've never felt that protective over a bunch of people before.
We got most of the shots we needed... Just... I think we might be slightly pushed for shots in some areas of the sequences we were shooting, but I felt quite relieved as I drove home along the North Circular, listening to a satirical show hosted by Punt and Dennis.
I was amused by the contrast between that, and the show that followed. The announcer's spiel of introduction said it all really;
"Now on radio 4; Emma's flowers are floppy on The Archers..."
Floppy flowers, eh? Painful! Does anyone actually listen to The Archers, or is it just 20 minutes on Radio 4 designed for people to snooze or eat through?