|PRIDE BEFORE FALL
|There was at least one
up-beat moment where it felt like we were winning. Rob was no longer gaga and
was finally out of hospital and, although he was still weak and feverish, we
were at least able to shoot the scene where he was, well ‘weak and feverish’.
|So out popped the saline
drips from his arm and we assisted him into the car where the doctors made sure
he would rest for at least the next ten days and, of course, we drove straight
to the location where Jon and his team had already set up the lights. This was
what Rob wanted too.
|I had agreed with Jon where
the camera would be and which lens and by the time I turned up from the
hospital, there it was, on the tripod, with the exact lens. The ‘video assist’
monitor was set up, the generator was working and Jon’s lighting set-up looked
|I had thought that we would
create Rob’s feeling of sickness with his performance, a little make-up and an
odd camera movement created on what’s called a ‘dutch head’ (sounds naughty but
it’s actually just a type of tripod head that can give you a nice off-kilter
movement) and we had lugged this piece of kit all around with us, in and out of
cars, countless times. Normally, we did this with other bits of kit and props
and, by the time we needed them, they had mysteriously gone missing. This time,
everything was present and correct. This was how a shoot should be.
On top of this, Jon had
created a fantastic effect with the fire-flicker and added a moving light
effect that would pulsate across Rob’s face as he lay feverish and as Jon put
it ‘it has no justification whatsoever but will look good and add to the
nausea’ and he was right. I looked through the lens, he demonstrated the effect
and loved it. I would never have thought about doing this and it was just what
the scene needed. This was how the Ford Brothers team was meant to run and it
was just like we had been on a number of commercials, except we didn’t have the
corporate client saying ‘lose the light effect’ and screw up our scene. We were
back in the game.
Not only this, but Rob
received a hero’s welcome. There were pats on the back from the rest of the
crew. Given his condition, he seemed in a good mood and we were all happy to
see that. Even more amazing to me was that I had asked someone to get a live
chicken before I had left for the hospital as it was in the script that Rob
would wake from his flashback and there would be just a chicken pecking around
in an ordinary way. These were the little details Jon & I loved. To my
utter amazement, not only was this live chicken actually present on set, but my
little suggestion, just as I was getting into the car that it might be nice if
it was a white chicken, given that his character had dreamed about himself in
pure white, (this was an additional odd visual reference that even if only a
few folk get it, could be a nice touch.) There it was, right in front of me, a
white chicken. I could have kissed it. This sort of synchronicity just hadn’t
happened before in the entire production.
|Then we just got on and shot
the scene. Jon did his lighting effects, I briefly went through some details
with Rob and he did an amazing job performance-wise and, as I was looking
through the lens as our camera ran with no problems whatsoever, for once, I
felt like we were winning.
|That night, we all had
dinner in a restaurant and I even made a speech congratulating everyone on
their efforts under such difficult conditions and what great work had been
achieved that day. Most of us even had a beer or two, which was a rare treat,
given the cash flow. Little did I know the unthinkable was about to occur.
|Just to add further injury
to the insult that was about to unfold, first thing in the morning we decided
to do a shoot without Rob so he could sleep in a little. We needed a wide shot
with loads of Zombies in it and, whilst we had been on set smoothly shooting
the night before, our local fixers had been doing a great job recruiting lots
of extras for the crowd scene we really needed to help give the film scale.
|I won’t pretend this shoot
went smoothly as it was a real stress directing the crowds, and it got a bit
rowdy, but we got some great shots in the can on the remainder of the roll we
had been using the night before.
|It was about mid-day, and we
were back at the accommodation and Rob was emerging and getting his kit on and
Jon & I were ‘canning up’ (taking the exposed film out of the light-tight
camera magazines and sealing them in cans for processing). We had done this
hundreds of times and not once had a problem. I was holding the magazine in my
hand and Jon was conscientiously cleaning every spec of dust or sand from the
light-tight bag ready for our precious celluloid.
|Then it just happened. The
magazine in my hand simply fell open. Even writing this now I’m feeling sick
again. Jon & I and also Nada the associate producer, who was the son of
Amir’s key investor, both stood staring open mouthed at the mag that had
literally popped open in my hand. I slammed it shut again but that’s like
putting a gun down to go run after a bullet. It’s pointless. I may as well have
danced all over that roll of film and used it as a urinal. All I could do was
pace around saying ‘NO, NO, NO’. I literally doubled over in agony. This has
never happened in the history of our filmmaking exploits. Jon would normally
have gone ballistic due to an event at even half this magnitude but, instead,
he just turned pale. He could see how bad my pain was and he just put his head
in his hands. Normally a single can of film would only be part of a sequence
but on our budget we had to make every frame of film count and this one had
both days footage on it. We would have to re-shoot both sequences. Even the
poor little white chicken would have to return to set.
|On top of my anger over this
happening, the fact that this had happened quite literally in my very hands
made me feel that I’d let down the whole crew, who had worked so well, and we
would never get to see Rob’s great performance on that sequence, although he
did do a great job second time round. I apologised to everyone and decided I
would never again tempt the fate of a day’s rushes by making a congratulations
speech even if something had gone well. I needn’t have worried about that.
Nothing ever went as smoothly again.
|Too many things like this
were happening for it to be a coincidence. Once the film was out of the mag, Jon
and I tested that magazine again and again to see if we could make it pop open
like it did. It was impossible. We couldn’t do it, yet to this day I can feel
the sensation of it opening in my hand.
|Perhaps it’s just a
coincidence that this sequence was the one that has our real voodoo witch
doctor in it; with a real voodoo spell and real witch-doctor outfit which had
taken weeks to negotiate for authenticity (another real detail Jon & I were
keen to incorporate). The witch doctor footage was shot on a separate day from
this scene but it was always intended to be inter-cut with the feverish
footage. I have no idea if this had anything to do with it, but something was
messing with us and it was about to prove fatal.