Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Set Report from Filming Today 21/04/09

OK here goes… hoorah, my first set report!! (I may have gotten slightly carried away with this! Apologies for the length!) Bits and bobs first, then I’ll move onto the actual Cribbins scene from last night...

  • Amongst the crowd of fans watching was a chap who’d come wearing a Doc Ten coat… (anyone from here?)… He may be amused to learn that one slightly inebriated passer-by was absolutely convinced that he was David Tennant! 
  • The street had been decked out in Christmas decorations in the shop windows, with some extra lights and big golden stars added by the art dept. (Incidentally one of the aforementioned big golden stars fell off the wall of a building just as they began their first take.)
  • They had also set up an illuminated ‘Underground’ sign, and brought along their own red litter bins and newspaper stands, although the newspaper stands didn’t end up being used.
  • While they had brought their own street signs with them, and were tinkering with them for a while, they turned out not to use them in the end. The street (Wharton Place) retained its Cardiff name for the shoot, but one of the art dept. spent some time up in a cherry picker obscuring any welsh bits on the street sign with appropriately coloured gaffer tape.
  • The Salvation Army band spent a bit of time with a sound man recording a wildtrack of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, which they later mimed/played quietly along to for each take.
  • At the end of the street they had a chuffing huge crane type thingy with a chuffing big light on it… this was lit up and raised to shine down into the street… those cranes get pretty damn high – way above the rooftops high. But the most amusing thing about them setting the light up was that all the gulls in the area got really confused for about fifteen minutes and started behaving like dawn had come early – squawking and sweeping about above the location, but they eventually settled down.
  • They had another of these chuffing big lights down another street, set up outside St. John’s Church (hence the early report that filming may have also been due to take place last night at that church)
  • To add my own experience to the occasional and ongoing debate about set-reporting and watching filming etc. apart from some members of the production team looking slightly bemused by the numbers that had turned up (Julie Gardner for example!)… all the people that had turned up to watch the filming were brilliantly behaved and perfectly respectful throughout. Of course we were, why would we want to cause a nuisance to the filming of our favourite show!?! The only trouble/difficulties came from random passers-by and drunken clubbers on their way home.
  • One particular group of lads should count themselves very lucky they were pissing off Doctor Who fans who were too bloody nice and polite to lynch them – but there was some horribly idiotic shouting during rehearsals for the second set-up… thankfully they didn’t hang around too long once they realised the ‘After-Dark Cardiff Ambassador’ (oooh!) had radio’d the police.
  • On the subject of numbers… for most of the night there were about fifty people who were specifically there to watch filming, rather than passing by and stopping to watch for a bit (yes I did count the crowd!)… then at time went on and it got properly into silly o’clock there was still a decent gathering of about twenty fans looking on patiently and contentedly.
  • Oh and there was a silver Auton there for a while, but don’t worry he looked ‘armless!

Here goes then with what they actually shot…

First Set-up

After blocking out and rehearsing the background artists for a while with one of the crew standing in for Bernard Cribbins. The man, the legend then arrived and they went for their first take…

(It’s worth pointing out that Cribbins has a cute little run-on-the-spot type jig that he does before each take to focus his energy! And he could be seen from time to time muttering to himself, presumably practising his lines and working his mind through the scene and plotting out his actions, thoughts and expressions – what a pro!)

Before they went for another they concluded that the street needed hosing down again, so the water truck backed up the street and they began spraying the ground liberally. The water truck had to back up a bit further to get full soakage around the tree and beneath the Salvation Army… yep, someone told them they missed a bit!
(Wetting down the street was a great idea, ‘cos it reflected the council Christmas lighting hung above the street and just brought the whole look of the scene alive and vibrant.)

This first set-up consisted of a quite complicated shot with a big crane on a track. They began close up on the Christmas star at the top of the tree, tilting down to take in the Salvation Army band, and then pulling out wider and panning round to see a small girl with her mummy and daddy meeting Santa Claus and checking out his bulging sack (!) with plenty of other shoppers mingling and passing by… the shot steadily moved down towards the street, eventually picking out Wilf who was dawdling through the busy street with some Christmas shopping – he seemed very much lost in thought.
As he approached the Salvation Army band his attention seemed to be drawn to them (or something in that direction) where more thoughts seemed to fill his head…
By this time the camera had gone tight in on him with just a headshot.
Then he muttered to himself for a moment, coming to some kind of conclusion, before walking off out the right side of frame.

To answer someone’s question from earlier about the black cab that the crew spent time decorating the inside with festive trinkets… this was right at the back of shot, half-way down the street with a couple getting out and taking their shopping out of the boot.

Whilst the focus was definitely on the crane shot, this scene was actually shot with two cameras. The second camera was on the left hand side of the tree near the Salvation Army band. That camera shot the scene from two or three slightly different positions in that area, beginning right beside the tree and moving a bit further left towards Waterstones as they did more takes. Whilst this camera was on a tripod, it was also tracking slowly left during some of the takes.

The thing to note about this second camera though was that they had little multi-coloured LED lights just in front of it and they were shooting through the lights.
At first thought I just assumed that they were using those to simulate the Christmas tree lights (i.e. they would be out of focus on the shot and give a nice pretty Christmassy dazzle and twinkle but wouldn’t just obscure their view, which the much bigger tree bulbs would have done – as though looking through the tree branches) but as they moved further away from the tree I began to concoct another theory… Could this be an alien POV shot? Is Wilf being watched?!?
It is possible that Cribbins wasn’t looking at the Sally Army but at the second camera and spotting/realising something… more on this in a bit…!

As they set up for the next shot, one of the runners turned up with some hot snacks for the cast and crew. I don’t know what they were but they smelt nice (something pastry related) and as the runner gradually found himself running out of takers for his hot pastry delights… there was a clear sense in the air that if the crew didn’t want them – the crowd of onlookers certainly wouldn’t turn their noses up at them if offered… alas, no such offer was forthcoming.

Second Set-up

This presumably continued on from the first picking up on Wilf after he’d walked out the right side of frame on the crane shot. He walked forward checking something out ahead and/or above him… shoppers continued to mingle about him and the Sally Army continued to ‘play’ in the background.
It was difficult to see for sure, as the camera by this point was positioned with the crew and monitors obscuring our view somewhat… but it looked like every take of this shot was done by shooting through those coloured LED lights again…
Which is another reason why I thought this might perhaps be an alien POV shot, as I felt sure that Cribbins was looking down the lens from time to time.

After several takes, and plenty reviewing of footage, they eventually called a wrap for Cribbins, background artists and Sally Army… although not before the Sally Army boys had got themselves a prime group photo opportunity with Sir Bernard of Cribbins.

And then…

Then it all became a little… erm… suspicious!
It was late, I was tired… but for a while I completely convinced myself that they were pretending to pack up and finish, but were actually loading the trucks, driving round the block and waiting for the onlookers to go home so they could carry on with something secret!! But I think I was probably just misinterpreting the occasional glances from Euros Lynn and other crew members – they were probably just wondering whether some of the remaining fans actually had homes to go to!!
(Also some papers were handed out to some crew members once the others had left – my brain was working overtime thinking they were preparing to shoot a secret scene, but they were more likely just the call sheets for the next night!!)

But what was interesting was that after the actors had gone, they decorated a lamppost with Christmas lighting, and took some shots of that, and then wheeled the camera down the road for a bit to take some other short shots, but it was difficult to see exactly what was going on… they had a couple of lights set up down that street, even though no action had been shot there, and an attempt to get a better view from another angle was prevented by a security guy posted at the other end of the street… They were probably just grabbing some establishing shots, but they did seem a tad awkward as they did them.

thanks to Eeeyun from the dw forum for the heads up

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