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ON-SET REPORT - October 2005

by Dave Clark


It barely seems like a year ago, but it was October 2004 that I first launched this website all about Shane and his films.. To have been told at the time that within a year, Shane Meadows himself would be endorsing the site and that I would be privileged enough to be invited for a day on-set of his new film, I would have found the ideas pretty far-fetched to say the least!
To my astonishment, this is exactly what has transpired!

As many of you can probably imagine, the thought of visiting the set of Shane's latest film, was a hugely exciting prospect, if also a somewhat scary one.
Thankfully the winner of the Shane Idol competition, Phillip Nicholson, had been able to send me his own on-set report and photographs before I set off for Nottingham myself.
Phillip's on-set preview, coupled with the fact that I had met Shane and his wife Louise once before (and they are both extremely amiable folk!), meant that some of the scary notions of the visit had started to wane.

6th October 2005

On my arrival in Nottingham, I rendezvoused with Louise Meadows at the hotel where I would be staying during my visit.. With my set visit not until the following day, I had decided to take a trip to the cinema to while away the hours.. Louise was kind enough to drive me into Nottingham and walk with me to the cinema, where coincidentally, she was to meet up with one of the actors from 'This Is England'.. During the walk through the town, Louise and I talked about how the film was going and covered such topics as, Frank Harper's brief visit the day before to play a small role in the film, the change of location to Grimsby the day before, and how Stephen Graham had been delivering a phenomenal performance.

Arriving at the cinema, we met up with the as yet unnamed actor.. It turned out that it was none other than Jo Hartley (Dead Man's Shoes, Northern Soul).
Jo was also extremely friendly (a theme that you soon find runs through the whole cast and crew of the film) and was more than happy to have a quick chat before leaving with Louise.
Left to my own devices, I now I had chance to relax before the exciting day ahead.
With the benefit of hindsight, watching 'Land of the Dead' probably wasn't the best choice of film to settle any nerves I still had about the following day.

7th October 2005

The next day I was to be picked up by a minibus at 9.10am which would then drive me to unit base and pick up some crew members on the way.
It was lucky for me that it was a reasonably late start on this particular day.. My job as a projectionist means I never usually have to be up at an early hour, so I was dreading a possible 6.30am start!
Arriving at unit base was the point at which I knew the day had officially begun.. In a large open car-park were a number of trailers and buses.
The smell of cooked breakfasts was on the air as I approached the wide variety of breakfast options presented by the catering trailer.. I had always imagined on-set catering to be a pretty limited affair and perhaps even have the slight hint of a "greasy spoon" style cafe.. I couldn't have been more wrong.
I didn't feel up for the cooked breakfast, so plumped for yoghurt, fruit and chocolate croissants!
Whilst queuing for my food, Louise (Meadows) came over to say hello, and pointed out Shane and Andrew Shim polishing off their breakfasts in the 'canteen' (or, 'double-decker-bus-fitted-with-tables' to give it it's proper title).. As Shane finished off his breakfast, he came over to say hello before rushing off for a quick meeting with producer Mark Herbert.

After breakfast, I briefly got to speak to Andrew Shim and George Newton who were both friendly characters (so no surprise there then!), but I was soon called to my designated transport to set off for the first location of the day.
I was lucky enough to be ferried about in Shane's car for most of the day with either Louise or Andrew Shim at the wheel.. Shane had only bought the car a few days previously, and to have said that he was as 'pleased as punch' with his purchase would have been an understatement.


The cafe being used for most of the days filming

One of the two Super 16mm cameras being used on the film

The first location of the day was a small shopping precinct in a residential area of the town.. I quickly recognised it as the same location that competition winner, Phillip Nicholson had visited a few weeks previously.
There was plenty of preparation underway when I arrived, with cast and crew all moving about purposefully.. Shane was quickly in discussion with Stephen Graham, George Newton and Joe Gilgun with regards to the first scene to be shot that day.
By listening in on the discussion, I soon discovered that Stephen Graham's character goes by the name of Combo, and George Newton's character by the name of Banjo.
Joe Gilgun plays the character of Woody as Phillip Nicholson discovered in his own on-set report.

Shane Meadows (right) watching Joe Gilgun as Woody (in pink shirt), and Stephen Graham as Combo (centre), during a rehearsal run.

With everything set for the first take of the day, I was given my own seat behind the monitor, and my own pair of headphones to listen in on the actor's radio microphones during the filming of the scene.
Not having been on the set of a film before, it was quite a surreal experience being in such close proximity to actors acting!
With it being a Shane Meadows film, the actors are of course acting in a very naturalistic way, which makes it really quite impressive watching them snap into character at the drop of a hat.. It isn't like they are switching to some kind of stylised acting mode either, it is more as though the actors are stepping into an entirely different personality and mindset whenever "Action!" is called.

The first scene to be shot was a short exchange of dialogue outside of a cafe involving the characters, Combo, Banjo and Woody.
From behind the monitor you get to see just how the shot is being framed, and through the headphones you get to hear exactly what is being recorded from the boom microphone and the actor's radio microphones.

George Newton, Joe Gilgun, and Stephen Graham during a take, surrounded by crew.
On-set photographer Dean Rogers is leaning in for a shot in the centre of the photo.

After the first couple of takes, the dialogue that was used in the first take had begun to change slightly with new lines and ideas being added to the scene.. Shane is clearly always open to suggestions from the actors, and is also continually coming up with new ideas himself as he watches each of the new takes.
Most of the scene development stems from the fact that as the dialogue is brought to life by the actors, it begins to take on a new dimension.. This in turn then often leads to new ideas arising from both Shane and the actors.. This process develops the dialogue to a point where it sounds as much like natural conversation as possible.
Amusing ideas for dialogue also arise from this organic process, in much the same way that amusing comments can arise in real-life conversations.

With the dialogue always evolving, each new take is a fresh experience.. Occasionally you will see Shane and Diarmid Scrimshaw (Script Supervisor and continuity) laughing like naughty school boys behind the monitor whenever a new amusing piece of dialogue is incorporated into the scene.

With the external cafe scene being filmed in a small shopping precinct which was still open to the public, there were quite a few minor disturbances to contend with throughout the day.. There were local residents visiting the adjacent shops, and one of the shop units nearby was having a refit done, so drilling and banging had to be put on hold for the duration of each take.. There was also a friendly local chap who had, shall we say, 'had a few' wandering about giving encouragement, and pointing out a good take whenever he saw one!

There are stewards on set at all times to redirect members of the public during filming, and for the most part, people are very happy to comply.. Of course you are bound to get the occasional angry punter that shouts the odds and barges through the set, but thankfully there were none on the day that I was about.

The director's monitor used to view the action.


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Take a look at some of the polaroid photographs used to help with continuity on the film.. The photos feature images from earlier in the film's shoot and a couple of images from scenes which didn't make the final cut of the film.

While I sat in on the rehearsal runs in the cafe (see the main report for details), I was able to record some of it on my MP3 player.. The clip may be of great interest to some of you as it demonstrates quite well the way it which Shane allows new ideas to develop in each rehearsal run (and also in each take during filming).
There are a couple of occasions in the clip where everyone starts laughing due to a visual cue, which of course doesn't translate on the audio.
It is probably best if you have read the report before listening to this clip, as it may make more sense after doing so.

Read the first ever report from the filming of This Is England.
This report was the first glimpse that any of us got of This Is England, and it was way back in September 2005

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