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The making of "The Seer" by Diggy Mottram.

 

The Seer


At a Summer Meeting, ideas for a couple of films were put forward as possible Club entries for the N. v S. competitions. In the event both proposals were met with approval. To remind you, the theme for this year was to be "Tell me about it." Interestingly both screenplays open with a visit to a psychic. The one of interest here is titled "The Seer". "The Seer" is undoubtedly the more complex of the two. It includes a number of locations and both natural and artificial light; herein lay some of the difficulties. The plot involves five characters; The Seer of the title: Jim, her husband: Mr. Henderson, an elderly client of hers: A Mugger: A lady client, i.e. two ladies and three men. With a little persuasion, two lady members agreed to play the female characters, Cilla in the pivotal role of the Seer, whilst Eve was to appear as the client. After some frantic phoning we managed to get two men to play Jim and the Mugger. Both are enthusiastic Am-Dram enthusiasts from the Sutton area. I finally decided to play the elderly client myself. All we had to do was to find mutually agreeable dates for filming. Geoff and Lewis, our amdram people, were busy rehearsing for theatrical roles so it was a little tricky. However we managed at last to get the actors, plus crew, to agree on two filming sessions, an evening one for the indoor sequences and a whole Sunday ear marked for the exteriors.

The interiors were to be in Ron and Sheila's dining room, and the exteriors in various locations in West Ewell village. Our first shoot was the interior, evening, one. How Ron and Sheila put up with the disruption I'll never know. Sheila was heard to refer to us as "recycled teenagers"; I hope she was smiling. LESSON NUMBER No. ONE PLAN AHEAD. Although we had a respectable shooting script with shot numbers, type of shot, description of action etc., the actual camcorder position and shot angle was decided on the night. We started at 6.30 and continued till near midnight, the pressure to push-on was great, and we were all flagging at the end. As a result some shots were left undone, since I didn't, then, think them necessary. But after a preliminary edit, they were found, of course, to be essential. Also in a number of shots, the eye-lines of the actors were wrong - camera angle indecision of course. As director I should have known better. Anyway a second session was absolutely necessary. Fortunately we were able to agree a future date when the one am-dram actor required was free. In the meantime the external shots were filmed. This was achieved with a good deal more success.
I had reconnoitred the various locations, which were all only a short walk from my house. However the session still took from early morning to the evening. The day was extremely fine with high temperatures and a brilliant cloudless blue sky. The contrast between streets in full sunshine and the deep blue shadows made exposure settings rather tricky for our cameraman Jeff Mundell but he coped well. The local population took considerable interest in our activities and were very helpful. A preliminary edit went well but showed that a few additional shots would improve the flow. Fortunately they only involved my character, and with Eve acting as apprentice cameraman, the pair of us were able to shoot them during the following week. The second indoor session went much more smoothly. With our first attempt acting as a rehearsal, I was able to write a "camera script" detailing the camera position and approximate camera angle. All went quite well. However------- My character was to wear heavy horn- rim glasses. This was to make him easy to spot. I had a pair to suit, but they had no lenses. This was helpful cutting out lighting reflections. However to view the monitor linked to the camcorder, I had to change them for my real specs. When reviewing the shots later Eve suddenly said, "You've got the wrong glasses on". She was quite right. In some shots I had neglected to change back to the prop ones. Absolutely no one had noticed. Fortunately the shots involved, showed only me. So " Ron, can we use your dining- room again?" Ron agreed, and with just he and I, we shot the replacement footage. Incidentally after setting up the shots we started to shoot with me wearing the wrong glasses. Thank goodness we spotted it in time. LESSON NUMBER TWO. HAVE A MEMBER OF THE CREW WITH THE SOLE RESPONSIBILITY FOR CONTINUITY. It's a painstaking job, so pick the right person. And so, finally, "The Seer" was in the can - largely good fun and very interesting. Mind you, I am reminded of an allegedly ancient Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times."

SECOND TAKE October 2005.

 

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