Tuesday, 19 September 2017

UNIVERSAL EARLog III: Day 28

The day begins with a confusion of keys which results in me walking to the studio by myself in the rain, a delay that I try to exploit as thinking time in which to resolve both the problems at the studio and a broader existential malaise; it is my birthday, after all. Well, I only have thirty minutes to walk, so I don't get very far with either pursuit. Mostly I wonder whether it might be good human management to make fun mandatory in the studio on my birthday.

Yesterday, however, Leray and I managed to hurtle our way through creating an entire shot list and storyboard, meaning today we each face the challenge of tedium: it's time for me to attempt to start scheduling, leaving Leray in the hands of the Tangibles - and our art team unfortunately have to delegate the less inventive jobs to their temporary ensigns (in this case, stencilling wallpaper).

The shot list seems to be quite completable in the eight days we have assigned to shoot it. Unfortunately, the matter is complicated by the varying availability of our enormous cast and our studio space - questions that I hope will be resolved over the next 24 hours, since the illusion of feasibility that comes with a draft schedule is like a warm hug in these nervous pre-tournage days.

Preliminary sub-hugs come in the form of our first actors-on-set: Felipe, who will play a security guard (and quite possibly the only biologically authentic human in 2187 Bourges) and Josephine, who will play the late Brieanne Morelle - the disgraced former heritage minister responsible for the state in which hero Harley Byrne finds the city. With their presence comes, if not the illusion of feasibility, at least the reassurance of some sort of inevitability.

They are both game, and we drape them in some preliminary costumes before attempting the canning of emotions - the back-up technique used by all major contemporary serials to ensure they can always complete the show if one of their actors should wander off or become otherwise unpresentable. It is a technique we first tried with enormous success with Stewart Lockwood/Harley Byrne himself.

This is actually a very challenging way to act, starting from a discrete emotion (hungry; outraged; numb) with no dramatic context or scenery. But it's a splendid way to get to know each other and to start figuring out the talent's metaphysical topography. 


It's also a great way to ensure the actors don't get too carried away with the ol' "method", and engage instead with preconceptions and stock characters. This tends to make Lockwood/Byrne look rather absurd as the only person who's trying to really get inside his character and create a nuanced, sensitive and sympathetic portrayal. He would never 'play' a villain, for example, because nobody believes they are a villain - just a person with certain wants, needs, and insecurities. Josephine, on the other hand, jumps right into being an awful Tory teen, and I find myself measuring her attempts at her given emotions against those of Theresa May (who is actually a great study figure for the 'I'm not bad, I'm just drawn that way' type).

Midway through the day, before Felipe's arrival, our daily screening of Flash Gordon: Space Soldiers is interrupted as the Bandits-Mages team invade the studio with cake, sparklers, pink booze and other surely contraband materials. Somebody clicks play on iTunes and by coincidence, Lockwood's singing voice rings out as the track happens to be cued up to his guest vocal on Duett's Running Scared. Niemczyk is noted to have made herself quite at home in the studio, since she is wandering about in her socks (in fact a result of the rain/wet shoes). She hunts out the giant pink monster-feet slippers that Chaillou has found for her, and wears them around the impromptu party, apparently being all about the mandatory fun. Getting nervous, I draw the fun to a stop before Felipe walks in on us: there is already too much to explain.


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