Tuesday, 25 May 2010

UNIVERSAL EARLog: Day 18

Lockwood spends the morning alone in the studio, no doubt grunting and hooting in response to the ridiculous "find your natural voice" book his head has been stuck in for the past two days. If that's his natural voice, surely losing it was the whole point of drama school?

The first thing I achieve once on set is Lunch, and it looks for a while like that's as good as it's going to get. Even as I allow myself a self-congratulatory "whoop" on having hunter-gathered carbs, protein and pro-biotic yoghurt for the pair of us, Lockwood tells me it's the wrong kind of carbs and the bottom falls out of my day.

A ray of of light appears in the form of a visitor to the Snuggle Office: Ian from k'motion Films, who is - until Nexus Alistair introduces him - a stranger. We talk of our respective ambitions, struggles and triumphs, although I decide not to mention the post-lunch slump thing (I don't know if Ian has eaten by this point but there's no evidence of any slump on his part), and generally reassure each other of the nobility of trying to create something from only a wisp over nothing. Ian has big plans, he also has a lunch partner waiting him for out in the cafe so Lockwood and I reluctantly allow him to leave, whereupon the energy in the room dissipates and I impulsively down the remaining yoghurt in one.

To the cafe, then, where I don my 'serious' look so that Lockwood doesn't guess I haven't a clue what to do next. I have him shift some furniture around to make up a set for "Stampys", the postal service members club from where Harley Byrne introduces each episode. But it doesn't feel right, and we decide to save the cafe environment for our next-episode-but-one, in which the space is to feature prominently. We retire instead to the studio, to which I have Lockwood drag more furniture. We are able to utilise some of the Lumpenbal donations - a splendid bicycle, an Egyptian tea set - to create the Stampys set. But then it comes time to actually film it, and I find I have nothing. I don't even have the notes we made whilst rehearsing the scene several weeks back, as - whilst embodying the spirit of original UNIVERSAL EAR director Francis Dove - it seemed to make more sense to lose them and perform instead from a memory of a contrivance of an interpretation of a script. This somewhat indefinite, analogue approach is in fact completely inappropriate here, as it is our intention to shoot Byrne's performance "lo-res" - glitching from emotion to clunking emotion with nary a segue from one to the next. (Doris, the Super 8 camera, is to record this sympathetically by gearing down to 12 frames-per-second - not least because we're running perilously short of film stock).

However, if there's one thing that'll make you slap yourself across both cheeks and face up to your professional obligations, it's having a photographer appear on set and ask to snap you in action: and that's precisely what happens, as Kit from Hong Kong pops her head bravely through the studio door and asks what we're doing. Kit packs an arsenal of proper old cameras herself, and by redirecting some burning tungsten from Lockwood's gurning face to Doris's mechanical curves I am able to draw her right in and ascertain that she is no rush to leave.

Will you help us, Kit, get these three shots? Kit is no rush, wants to get some pics and agrees to extra as a Stampys tea-girl. I quickly scribble a direction ("billowing vowels", "Bond [Roger]") on each of Lockwood's prompt cards and we're ready to go. Once Doris is whirring, we all get caught up in her momentum: Kit pours steaming tea, Lockwood clunks from "hard consonants" to "condescending pity" with zero grades of performance in between, and I aid him by holding/swaying/rolling his cue sheets in the direction and distance I think he should stare with each line. Before we know it, we've burnt through 48 feet of Tri-X on Lockwood and used the last couple of feet for Kit's close-ups, and are wrapped for the day. It's only 16:30 so Kit takes this opportunity to turn her cameras on Lockwood and I. Hunter becomes hunted as we hold our respective contraptions (Doris for me and the Universal Ear for Lockwood) feebly at each other and allow our likeness to be captured by Kit's vintage bellow-hinged Polaroid and medium format Rolleiflex. We say our goodbyes, and Lockwood and I high-five.

The excellent mood is only soured when Lockwood is shortly after given some free chocolate cake by Steph and Hannah in the cafe and I get none. What hurt the
most was the way he wolfed the remainder down when he saw I'd caught him.


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