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DOLLS film live shoot – day one in LewesI am always looking for chances to work on films and the Dolls film seemed like a great opportunity for me. After seeing the position for ‘Production Assistant’ advertised at my university I checked out the website and straight away wanted to be involved. I love dark, creepy dark films and was intrigued by the proposed mix of live action and stock animation, but also the chance to work with people who are doing the very thing I want to do some day. My application process consisted of a barrage of online harassment via email to Emma (production manger), the film’s Facebook group and Twitter. A couple of days later I got the job. I like to think it was my charming personality that secured me the position… but it was probably more to do with the fact I had a car.

After meeting at Elena’s flat on day 1 our first job… loading the van with all the gear! Now I like to consider myself a reasonably fit person but it wasn’t very long before the four flights of stairs leading up to Elena’s flat were branded the Devil’s architecture (particularly at 6am after a 12 hour shoot later in the week!)

Second job, picking up the actors before heading over to Lewes. Collecting Myka was easy, she was already waiting outside her flat but on arrival at Christina’s there was nobody home! Luckily, hyper organised Emma had provided me with everyone’s contact details in the event of such an occurence so I was straight on the phone. I was greeted by a slightly frantic but extremely apologetic Christina who hadn’t made it home after her birthday celebrations the night before. After Christina had explained (what can only be described as a possible script idea for The Hangover 3!) I rearranged the pick up time and went on to Lewes to meet the rest of the crew. Luckily, we weren’t able to film until it was dark so there was plenty of time for Christina to get home, re group and be picked up in time to be made up before filming. Although the start wasn’t ideal for Christina it certainly didn’t make any difference to her performance, as you’ll see when the film comes out later this year.

Once the crew had all become acquainted with each other it was on to the first scene, a beautiful cobbled street in Lewes. My job was to set the 2.5KW light up at the bottom of the street and block the orange glow of the lampposts with flags to help set the mood of the scene. An hour later we were set and rolling. Filming always comes with logistical problems and shooting through the night in a residential area whilst using a mobile generator to power the gear must come pretty high on that list. After completing the first batch of shots the lights and smoke machine needed for a second angle needed to be be shifted half way up the inclined street. After Jay (editor) and myself had lost our body weights in sweat dragging the generator up the hill and had begun setting up we were ‘greeted’ with a rather unhappy resident wondering what on earth was happening. Despite being as quite as we could and having all the correct permissions from the police and local authorities to film at that night this resident clearly was very unhappy about a film set being constructed outside her house at 12:30am on a sunday night, and who could blame her. Again, my charm and personality failed me and despite Emma also attempting to appease the resident we could not persuade her to let us carry on. Out of respect we shut down the rest of the scene and moved on. This was a real blow to the production at this early stage but it was the right thing to do and we planned to do the scene later on in the week.

After packing down and moving across the road to the next location it was now getting on for 1:30am. The 2.5kw light was set, lampposts were flagged, everything was in place, we were good to go again. With this scene I really got chance to show off my multi faceted skill set, I was delegated 1st ‘smoke wafter’. With my friend Jenn operating the smoke machine, for each shot I used a flag to waft the smoke into the frame, the back light creating that classic ‘creepy’ feel to the action. You’ll have to wait to see if my finest work was successful or not, all I know is that the blister that appeared on my finger as a result proved the effort I put in!

At around 4:30am we wrapped, and apart from the obvious set back, we’d had a successful first shoot. The playback on the camera looked amazing.

For me the most amazing part of the night was being part of a team that, for the majority of which had only met earlier that evening, but worked together so harmoniously. The combination of everyone’s enthusiasm and unrelenting effort spurred us on through the night and the final product will no doubt encapsulate the passion, energy and spirit present in all of us (Despite the very lovely, but very veggie based food provided that was fuelling myself and Rich (DoP) – both self confessed carnivores)

This was a great experience to be part of and I am very much looking forward to our hard work come to fruition in the final cut. I encourage you all to do the same.

Russ Stedman
Production Assistant

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