Series 2: Shoot Day 8

Production Diary - Day 8 Saturday 9th July 2016 11am - Somerset House, Merthyr Tydfil

It was Scottish poet Robert Burns who wrote the line 'the best laid schemes o' mice an' men gang aft agley' and never have those words been more prescient than they were on the afternoon of Friday 8th July.

You see, we had a best-laid scheme. The weekend of Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th July were going to be the main shoot of Episode 2. Over these two days, we were going to complete around 80% of the episode by shooting the dinner party scenes. The readthrough/rehearsal on Thursday evening went really well. The location was ready, the cast and crew were ready, props and food were bought. Thunderbirds were go, as far as we all knew.

But then, a curveball. On Friday afternoon, one of our actors had to drop out of the weekend filming due to a sudden and serious family illness. Of course, family and health have priority; there's absolutely no question of that. It did precipitate a quick read through the script to find out what we could actually film. So a few e-mails and social media messages to cast and crew flew around on Friday afternoon to let them know of the changes.

The revised plan: one day of filming (Saturday), not two. Fewer scenes but all those utilising our other five actors. Even this was not without its issues, as I'll go on to later.

So Saturday morning, we all headed up to our location in Merthyr Tydfil to film our scenes. It was raining when we arrived, which did put the mockers on two short scenes- Steph and her boyfriend Jake arriving and then leaving the house. But, as we'll be going back to the location in September to pick up the rest of the scenes, we'll get them then. I do have to say a massive thank you to Gary and Linda James for allowing us to take over their house for the day.

The first set-up of the day was a scene from later in the episode, which involves Jake and Steph's sister-in-law Julia having a brief conversation outside the bathroom. We had cameras and lighting set up before the actors arrived so we could make a start straight away. Both Craig (who plays Jake) and Amy (who plays Julia) were excellent and played the scene very well.

We then moved on to record some audio with Alison, who is playing Steph's formidable mother Glenys. This will feed into a scene we filmed previously with Victoria when Glenys calls Steph with the invitation to dinner. As well as recording it as audio only- as I really want to maintain the mystery with the character and not show her on-screen until the dinner party- we filmed the scene but only showing Alison's eyes, mouth and hand on the phone which will give our editor some options when it comes to cutting the episode together.

By this time, Victoria had arrived but was a little shaken due to having a prang in her car on the way up. Luckily, we were able to give her time to collect herself rather than throwing her straight into the crucible.

After that, we moved on to recording some static shots of the table being laid ready for the dinner party, for use in a montage towards the start of the episode. So the table was laid and recorded in sequence - firstly the tablecloth, then placemats, cutlery, wine glasses and then a final shot of the whole table. The script originally called for candles being lit but, aside from the whole continuity nightmare, it would also impact on the lighting requirements.

Next we filmed the opening to a scene where Steph and Jake enter the dining room to find Julia and Steph's brother Matt at the end of an argument. We asked Amy and Antonio (playing Matt) to improvise the argument before the others walk in, and they came up with some great material. There was a bit of co-ordination needed as people needed to get into the right position to hug or shake hands but we got it.

However, during this scene, our director Craig was called away unexpectedly to deal with a family emergency. This left Luke and Teddy, our camera operators, to take on additional responsibilities to ensure that the footage got shot. They both rose to the challenge admirably and without complaint, especially Teddy who was also acting as our boom operator for the day.

The penultimate set-up of the day involved a very brief scene (with only 2 lines of dialogue) between Steph and Jake. We made sure we got the coverage and then moved on. It's a small but important scene which feeds into the next one, which involves a heart-to-heart between brother and sister.

The final set-up for the day was also the first time during the day that food- specifically dessert- was involved. As I said, it starts off as a quiet chat between Steph and Matt. Victoria and Antonio really played the scene well; it's beautifully low-key and the performances just shine. Then Glenys enters the scene which sets up a mother-daughter chat. Alison and Victoria played off each other so well and that scene really has a spark to it. You really get to see the family dynamic and both actresses played the scene wonderfully.

We finished filming at around 7.30pm. It was a long day but we covered everything we were able to (weather permitting). It will be great to reconvene the cast in September to get the rest of the episode filmed.

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