Monday, 6 November 2017

Filming in Liverpool

I'm presently sitting in a Mcdonald's at Stafford services at the end of a long, but hugely rewarding day. We've been in Liverpool with the Edge Hill students on the final day of what's turned out to be an incredibly special project. Today was the day we did the filming.

It was raining at 7am when I left the Premier Inn: punishing, brutal, freezing cold rain which had turned to hail and snow by the time I'd reached Skem to meet Keith the Cam. Keith and I have been working together for almost ten years, and I adore him. I think we bring out the best in each other. He shot my Hattersley film, which I think is head and shoulders better than anything else I've made. He's been working as a cameraman in news for a long time, so doesn't get enough opportunity to flex his creative muscles. He comes to shoots with a huge amount of energy and an endless supply of ideas, which I adore.

We reached Liverpool in some sort of howling gale and got royally soaked filming cutaway shots of the iconic Liver building.

Speaking of iconic, the first proper shoot of the day was at the Cavern Club. It's not the actual Cavern Club, which was knocked down in the mid 70s for unfathomable reasons, but this version has been rebuilt, brick for brick, a few doors down Matthew Street. It's still a real treat to be there. Adele played a set there just after releasing 19.

We shot our end sequence in the club and the students, whom I've come to adore over the last few days, gave it everything they had. They all looked spectacular in their 60s costumes. A lovely lady from the university's costume department came along to make sure they all looked brilliant. There were beehives, brilliant fake eyelashes and more polyester shirts than you could shake a stick at. Not that I've ever shaken a stick at anything or anyone. What is that phrase all about?

What I wasn't prepared for at the Cavern were the tourists, many of whom were Japanese, none of whom seemed to have any sense of what we were trying to achieve. Several walked straight through the dance floor whilst we were doing our routine. Another came up to me whilst I was delivering a pep talk to the cast, tapped me repeatedly before asking where the loo was!

From Matthew Street, we went to Princes Street, a grimy little lane in Central Liverpool where we filmed the opening sequence. Trying to film something which is set in the 1960s is always going to be a challenge on a next-to-nothing budget. It's not to hard to find a street which looks vaguely right, but modern cars and buses stream past almost constantly. I can't imagine how we'd have coped if we were recording sound as well. We spent much of the day sending people round corners to stop traffic by activating pedestrian crossings.

That said, Keith the Cam just sent a little clip from that particular setup and it looks fabulous.

After lunch, we travelled to the area around Stanley Dock, which is incredibly filmic and interesting on account of it being full of fabulously grotty Victorian buildings which have not yet been gentrified.

We did a lot of cheeky on-street filming, occasionally sending some of the cast further down the road to encourage cars to stop so that we could finish the take without interruption.

A highlight was definitely creating the illusion of smoke with one of the students vaping and blowing the vapours across the front of the lens!

We wrapped at 5pm, an hour earlier than expected, as the temperatures plummeted and the fireworks started to bang and crackle across the city. I have seldom seen a larger moon than the one which rose in the sky as I drove away from Keith's house this evening. The air smelt of dynamite and wood smoke. Everything seemed to be wrapped in a mysterious, timeless haze which felt somewhat appropriate after the day we'd had.

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