Little Diva Rising

Heavy Days

It’s interesting as somebody with limited experience in filmmaking to watch experienced people do their stuff. Our director of photography, Stuart, immediately looks at a location for its potential to be visually interesting. That doesn’t mean it needs to be some breathtaking vista, contain beautiful décor, or to be aesthetically mesmerizing, but just that it’s not going to be bland and unappealing and have the audience’s eyes slide right off it.

Our star, Ellie (seated), Bil (setting up the sound), and Stuart (setting up the shot).

Our sound guy, Bil Chute, does the same with sound. An American ex-pat, Bil would seem so unobtrusive, but has a dry sense of humour and a hearty laugh. He organises the boom mics so that we can hear our actors, and/or wires them up with lapel mikes, being careful that the mikes themselves aren’t seen. He’s always trying to make sure we get the best sound possible.

As a scene is being filmed, he’ll usually stand or sit somewhere out of the way, listening studiously on headphones. He’ll remark if any peripheral sounds are becoming too loud, e.g. our six-year-old Charlie sat in the background of one scene, eating cake with a spoon from a plate. Charlie got a bit too enthusiastic, and his spoon scraping the plate became noisy – well, at least to Bil. The rest of us were largely oblivious. But the recorded audio would’ve represented the cutlery on a ceramic plate disrupting the dialogue.

Saturday (and Sunday) we planned to film one scene in a location with a tin roof, as well as one outdoor scene. Unfortunately, the two times we’ve scheduled filming outside, Melbourne has decided to deliver rain. On Saturday, it rained on and off, and we filmed a couple of small interior scenes while it was (temporarily) off (before moving to a new location). On Sunday, it rained heavily from late-morning to early-afternoon.

Rain may sound great when you’re lying in bed, snuggled up under your blankets. It may be the perfect excuse to sleep in. But when you’re wanting to film and it’s drumming a tin roof, it’s a nuisance. As Bil and Stuart described it to me, rain hitting the roof sounds (on film) like bacon crackling as it’s cooking. We discussed somehow trying to use the sound, but were unable to come up with anything that would’ve worked. So several scenes have been postponed.

One of those scenes involves a newcomer to our set, Candice Leask. Candice plays Audrey Low, Maria’s acting rival. Both often go for the same auditions. While Audrey’s role starts as small, it does grow and become instrumental to the story’s over-arching plot.

Candice Leask

We met Candice the Thursday before shooting. She showed up with her pages from the script, as well as lots of notes scribbled in the margins. I’ve never seen notes so neat. My handwriting transforms into a scrawl after a couple of sentences (and that’s on a good day). She listened attentively to our input, wrote more and more notes, and read lines with a verisimilitude that confirmed for us that she was going to give us exactly what we wanted.

I’ve probably kept writing it through this blog, but it’s amazing to see talented people at work who’ve given serious thought to who their characters are, the way they should behave, and how they interact. People who aren’t actors probably don’t think much below the surface. Actors (well, good actors) keep delving, trying to uncover new layers.

Candice is the loveliest, bubbliest person – sweet and genuine and invested in everything you say. She is the polar extreme of Audrey, who is … well, I guess snarky is the best way of putting it, without giving away too much spoilers.

We got some of the smaller scenes with Candice filmed between the spells of rain, but have to reschedule the scene where she and Maria have a forced exchange (outside). That’s one I’m looking forward to. When Candice and Maria rehearsed it, the meeting was implicit with genuine disdain and underlying hostility. It was like watching two predators eyeing one another off, each refusing to defer.

Although the rain did mess us around (in that one location), we did have two heavy days of filming – over ten hours each day – which left me feeling exhausted, but in a good way.

It’s nice to create with talented people, and to hear different voices contribute to what we’re making.