Day 2 of Newborn started in a dynamic fashion. As I rolled out of the car my First AD Anurag was already waiting in the doorway of the house. I wasn’t alone and suddenly I knew that the six hours sleep I scraped last night was going to feel like six and not just two. My clipboard was in my hand and I was talking at a million miles an hour going through the shot order. Anurag held his hand up and said ‘Go eat breakfast. It’s all arranged.’ A wave of relief enveloped me. Breakfast. A First AD maybe be a necessity, but he/she can also be a luxury.
Sammm and actor Christopher stumbled into the house with around eight to ten bags full of prosthetics and monster materials. Today was going to be one the longest days on set for Christopher. He would be in the same place for six hours or more and unable to move around too much as the creature make-up was applied.
My cousin Robin acted as runner for the shoot. She welcomed everyone with her Canadian hospitality and helped my Aunt with the catering. What is that famous saying? It’s a family affair. And I was grateful as my crew were served breakfast and happy.
Solomon, Manuel, Digpal and Louis were already setting up the lighting for the first scene of the day.
We began with the dialogue scenes. They posed the most risk due to sound and I was also keen to get them over with because of the unpredictable weather and light consistency. Writing dialogue is difficult but all is wasted if you don’t give equal importance to the recording of it, especially when recording on a public street.
My friend and actor Charlie Cheswick was in the make-up chair after Mairead. ‘So what are you thinking of?’ Sammm asked. After Sammm took a walk down memory lane from some of our previous clubbing escapades, we chose the look for his character John. I also took inspiration from an odd movie idea that Charlie and I once had about a character called The Wizard, a creepy unassuming old man with a fetish for young dancers and their shoes. With these references Sammm whipped up a great look for John, but it was Charlie’s menacing acting that also brought it alive.
Hours flew past all to quickly. We managed to film the dialogue scenes with the talented Lucy Stylianou. She played the character Tupperware Lady. But we were soon disturbed by a voice coming from somewhere. It was a man talking on a phone and it took us a few minutes to locate him hiding behind the tree across the road. In normal circumstances I would’ve gone over there myself, but Anurag bolted across the road and spoke to him politely. I also flashed…a smile but inside I was annoyed and keen to continue the filming!
Darkness hit. The daylight was fading. Not too long to go until the most important scene of the night. I popped my head into the room to see how Sammm and Christopher were doing. It had become a green room with people chatting and hanging out among the prosthetics, hair, gunk, glop and sludge decorating the room.
Next came one of the hardest scenes of the day as lighting the hallway took time. Luckily due to the hallway being quite simple with no windows (thank goodness) it wasn’t too bad faking the daylight. However, ensuring that the light looked pretty and not just ‘lit’ took some skill. Thanks to Solomon, Manuel and Louis’s bantering on. ‘No, it’s ugly and needs more atmosphere, need those shadows across the staircase,’ they protested. We eventually got there…but it took two and a half hours.
Yes, you guessed it, once again we were behind schedule, but more difficulties were to come.
The hallway scene was by far the most agonizing to film because technically speaking Louis found it difficult to focus the Black Magic Camera and it was virtually impossible to get a decent wide shot. We had to do many retakes and it was taking its toll on Mairead. Due to the hallway being a lot shorter than I remembered, I also had to ensure that Mairead’s reaction in the hallway to the creepy moving stair lift wasn’t so immediate as she emerged from the bedroom. We had to mark the moment of her glance. It was like working out a mathematic equation.
Then came the scene that took the most time: The ambitious rolling of a hairball. Lucy had spent an hour or more preparing a super gooey hairball under Sammm’s guidance for character Marris to step onto. However it took myself, Lucy and finally Solomon to roll it across the floor at the right speed. As we filmed we realised that Mairead’s white socks kept getting stained from the slime. With the shops closed now was not the best time to find a new pair. Anurag offered his white socks for the final few takes and slipped them off handing them over to Mairead.
We rapidly approached the time for the night shoot. But no one had eaten dinner, something that had already been delayed for an hour and a half. It was 9pm and the monster scene should have started three hours ago. Crew were probably worrying about how they were going to get home. It was late. The tube and buses would be closed by the time we finished shooting.
There was tension and I knew I had to address my crew.
It was a make or break moment. Louis took me to the side sensing my angst and said, ‘Look Simi, you’ve got to have a production meeting pronto and let everyone know the situation. You know I’m with you.’
I gathered everyone in the living room and it was one of the scariest moments of my life. My crew was working for free. They didn’t owe me anything and had already worked relentlessly for hours, with little sleep and other jobs to work also.
I explained how the hallway scene had taken a lot longer than what we’d expected and that we were going to have to work throughout the night. I expressed that nobody had to stay or feel pressured to stay because I understood that they have lives, families, work etc.
Although some of the crew were my friends, I honestly didn’t know whether they’d agree. People were tired and the next scene was going to be the longest scene to shoot in film. ‘Are you in or out?’ I said with my eyes watering because deep down I knew that without my crew and without this scene the film would fall to pieces. There would be no film.
There was an awkward silence and I looked around the room, my head heavy and spinning from the faces glaring straight at me. I felt like a failure and incompetent, but slowly and surely people put up their hands and voices started to speak. ‘Sure Simi we’re in,’ I heard Digpal say. Then came the questions. Where was everyone going to stay? It was a house after all and Solomon had already been staying at the house over the weekend. There were beds and sleeping space for everyone. It was a crazy-ass decision but viable, there were plentiful linen, quilts, towels and a working bathroom. A home is a home even if the home is soon to be sold and all existing memories to be perished. Live for the day as the Cubans say.
‘Only shoot what you want,’ Solomon said. He was right, I am a notorious over shooter, always have been but there was no time for that now.
It was after 11pm when we finally started shooting the first of the monster scenes. Due to the design of the monster, we had to film some scenes back to front for prosthetic purposes because of the eventual destruction of the latex mask and adding more materials to the monster as it devoured character Marris.
After shooting the scenes outside, lighting was ready for the biggest scene of the film. It was fast approaching 1am and we made a start on the monster, carefully shooting each section of the scene step by step. Sammm and I stood in front of the monitor as she watched scrupulously at the way Christopher moved in the monster suit and mask. We worked together to get the best performance out of Christopher. Having made the suit from scratch, Sammm was able to art direct on how he should move in accordance to the materials and how to look effective in the lighting.
Robin and Anurag were outside pouring water into the tubes secured above the windowpane for the fake rain. Not the nicest job but it wouldn’t have worked without them. It was an ingenious idea by Louis and it looked exquisite on camera.
With Sammm by my side we were like a dual powerhouse getting more excited and motivated at each take. But then I took a look at the time. Jesus it was now after 3am and daylight wasn’t far off. Louis was exhausted, Solomon had taken over (multitalented our Sol) and Louis sat on the stair lift. I had to make a drastic last minute change to the script. There was no way on hell I was going to complete the scene as written. In the original script, character Marris was going to be scalped by the monster’s mouth and we’d have to spend an hour doing a prosthetic bald cap on Mairead. I went over it again and again with Sammm and finally decided that there just wouldn’t be a bald cap scene. With the amazing images already shot, of the monster caressing, touching, feeling and getting lost in the facets of Marris’s skin, hair and body, I thought of the mask and its abilities. What if the monster ate Marris, he felt so compelled for her to be inside him and for him to be part of her in his adoration of her perfect form? ‘Can the mask open up? Can we get it to swallow Maireads head?’ I turned briskly to Sammm and asked to which she replied, ‘Yeh! Will take some puppeteering though from me and someone else.’ Charlie stepped in and agreed to do it.
I still had to figure out how to end the scene to convey the devastation of the event. Louis woke from his coma-state and said two simple words. ‘Her feet.’ He had saved the day.
After more monster direction, fondling, licking, feeling, grasping and stroking, the final shot approached and the crew were dead silent. I kept the shot going for as long as possible as character Marris was ‘face pillaged’, ingested until her head disappeared and was swallowed by the monster’s gaping mouth. When I could no longer see her head, I wanted to keep it going like the ultimate climax before an orgasm, relishing in the moment.
I eventually said, ‘Cut.’ Sammm, Charlie and Christopher immediately pulled her out of mask with Mairead shouting, ‘Get me out of this fucking thing!’ She wasn’t impressed and I felt bad as I saw her scarper out of the room with her face full of goo. Sammm ran after her as she went outside in the garden to have a well-deserved cigarette.
I glanced at the time. We had two pick ups to do…and the sun was about to rise. I called Sammm and asked for Mairead, to which Sammm panic stricken and dutifully concerned explained that I couldn’t expect Mairead to go back on set right away. She was right but I was desperate for my shot. Suddenly Mairead whisked through the door, ‘Yeh yeh let’s just get it over with.’ I was grateful and utterly impressed by her professionalism.
It was 7am when we wrapped and we were of course all exhausted.
You’ll be glad to know that call time the next day was a lot later.