Sunday, March 20, 2011

Filming the Rabbit

The two stars of the production

This weekend, after endless distractions and befuddlements, I finally managed to get part of my Great Rabbit Movie filmed.

For weeks I've been juggling the commitments of actors and my cameraman, trying to make sure they're all available on the same day and not realising that most human beings need more than an hour's notice. And yet despite the lack of a visible, viable script or a proper location or anything approaching a plan, by 2pm today I had a professional photographer and two actors in a bar, ready to recite the lines I'd written.

It was strange. There's a feeling you get as a comedian when people first laugh at your jokes which is hard to describe or to replicate; perhaps the rest of your career consists of trying to make people laugh as much as you thought they did the first time. After years of performing on stage, some of that naturally dissipates, otherwise you'd go crazy from the combination of ecstasy and terror every evening. Yet I had something similar today: watching two people act out the lines that I'd written a few months ago, and to begin with stumble over some of the complex wordplay I'd constructed, and then suddenly become comfortable with the script, and then add nuances to it that I'd been unable to hint at when I wrote it, adding something special to what I'd made ... it was a complex feeling of joy and humility, part of me feeling proud that I'd written something that still made me laugh on the thirteenth or fourteenth take, and part of me just feeling lucky to be around while my uber-talented cameraman and my actors did their stuff.
Boom! Another shot

We have a scene that lasts around two and a half minutes of screen time. We did around fifteen full run throughs, plus some extra establishing shots and some close-in work; about four hours of mucking around with cameras, tripods, lenses and extraneous handbags before we had everything in the bag. Truly there's some sort of inefficiency in the production of the moving image that's hard to overcome.
At the same time, there's something awe-inspiring about how good technology has got, so quickly. Looking through the viewfinder of the camera at what we were filming, it doesn't look like we were doing things on the cheap; instead of the harsh, everything-in-focus look that you get from cheap video cameras, we had gorgeous, film noir look and feel to everything. If it looks like every penny we spent appeared on screen, then it would be rather disappointing: I'm hoping this looks a lot more expensive than the production budget so far.

When I started to explain the project to my co-conspirators, they were wondering how long the whole film would be, and whether the script was complete. It's taken a while to persuade them that this fragment of a greater whole isn't necessarily a component of a single narrative, rather than a more complex piece, muddling together French nouvelle vague, film noir and me mucking about in a pretentious fashion, but I think pretty soon everyone had bought into it. Now there's going to be the even more fun task of editting together the four hours of footage we've accumulated, and (possibly) discovering that all my carefully constructed dialogue has been drowned out by a French couple shouting, or a truck driving past. That's show business!
Anonymity has its benefits


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