Eibon Films Horror, Fantasy and SciFi writer / filmmaker and friend of the weird

20Nov/180

Shoot Diary – MR CLEAN

I hope that you are well Dear Reader, if in fact anyone is reading this - in that case, I really appreciate you stopping by to find out more about how our short horror film MR CLEAN is coming along.

mr clean temporary

To bring you up to speed, we did in fact end pre-production officially on the 9th November (although some last minute rushing around to buy props and preparation was still being carried out during the down time of the shoot!) and we shot all of our scripted scenes between the 12th and 15th November. Yep, everything was shot within a 4 day period. And we are now swiftly moving into Post Production, although we may yet need minor reshoots.

The shoot was gruelling, with some dauntingly giddy highs and potentially crushing lows. I was emotionally and physically broken at the end. But, thanks to everyone who took part or helped us during the entire production, I was able to finally capture MR CLEAN on camera. Some scenes exceeded my original ideas and storyboard sketches, thanks to the creativity and improvisation of the team and some failed to quite achieve my lofty [and probably unrealistic writerly] vision. But I think that these failures were mostly down to me being behind the camera and us being up against such a tight schedule, that we had no time to double-check every shot and really push that little bit further to achieve the best that we could possibly do. Oh... And the complete lack of sleep... - with me there is always the inability to switch my brain off and sleep like normal humans. Sadly, this is truly debilitating and means that I really was burning the candle at both ends, and definitely not as focussed as I could have been. However, I am still proud of what we were able to achieve with what was available to us. And I really am impressed by how my team performed, what they pulled -off, and truly grateful for every contribution - no matter how small....

Here's edited extracts from my journal, from those shoot days, to hopefully get across the state of my agitated brain during the shoot and hopefully accurately portray what a no-budget production is like (it was written in the evening hours after each shoot day and my head was all over the place, so apologies for any omissions):

Monday of MR CLEAN Day 1 Shoot stress (12th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got some sleep thanks to the weighted duvet I had purchased to help deal with any anxiety and quiet my twisted brain.
  2. That I was able to get through a tough first shoot day for MR CLEAN.
  3. That I was able to stretch and foam roll my sore back afterwards.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get through the first day of shooting without a major fuckup.
  2. Get shots that we can be proud of.
  3. The special effects arrived.

Thanks to

Darwin and Ranniz for their hard work and dedication, and Suss for doing most of the laundry and for putting up with the shoot. And Mike for the special effect props.


I woke up on the wrong side of the bed, and felt wrong. The blanket had worked and I had been able to have a sweaty night of feverish sleep. But I had slept, which is always a bonus and I think that I had been able to shut most of my fevered, stressed brain down by using the blanket. It was as if the crushing weight of it takes such thoughts away…

But I was stressed, and I woke up funny, as I said. I needed to have a good stretch, before showering and then dressed and cooked and ate my breakfast.

I raced around immediately after all of that and set up lights and tripods and other essential gear around the first location and organised my shoot papers in the study etc, as I prepared for the cast and crew arriving. I took a pre-shoot instagram moment and asked people in internetland to treat us kindly. Were there any filmic Gods to call upon?

Darwin and Ranniz arrived. So then we were soon in the midst of it and with Darwin all amped up and firing questions - and then also interrupting the answers - meant that I wasn’t the best at dealing with some of it. I wasn't the most diplomatic. I am a grump in the mornings sadly. I apologise, but can't change that aspect. Needless to say, they were both professional, put up with me and were a huge help and helped me to get through the shoot intact. However, my back was soon ruined by the weight of the camera, Sigma 18–35mm lens and the monitor. Especially for those hand held shots. Also riding in the back of the van for some shots, and adopting weird cramped positions without any seatbelts, caused me to smack my head on the van roof and it hurt for the entire four day shoot.

It was a shame that it was so damn dark outside, and it was rainy and I was so not with it mentally. I just felt that I wasn’t getting good material at all. I felt that I was back to my old habits on my shoots and settling for less etc. I hated everything and yet I didn’t know whether it was as bad as I was thinking. But there was no time. Onwards!

We did almost get in trouble. We took advantage of the empty car park to shoot the exterior scenes with the van, and found out that they were empty for an official monthly cleaning. And any vehicle there could get a fine or get towed away. We pushed our luck and got told off by them when the people in charge of the cleaning visited to check the place out. But we assured them that we'd be gone by the time they were done and we soon were.

The special effects arrived, announced by a loud banging on the door as they were delivered at 2pmm ruining a take. I really wanted to open the boxes immediately, but waited until the shoot was done and we were packing up. It was a huge weight off my mind that they had finally arrived, and they were really quite impressive. The only disappointment was that the arm was much heavier than I had anticipated and absolutely solid, so I wouldn’t be dropping it onto any tiles some time soon. It was f@cking heavy too. But also, we would have almost no time to practice. We'd needed it all the week before.

Later, after the shoot, at 6pm, when Darwin and Ranniz left, and Suss arrived we went to do our laundry, and then go into town to buy food and more painkillers for my Shingles [and head] pain and then pick up a parcel (the poster for 'K-WAC' for dressing our radio studio location), but stupidly forget my wallet and ID. Luckily Suss had her wallet. Where was my head?!? It wasn't on whatever we were doing, clearly.

Then, back at home, I was reformatting a drive to wipe it and put the dailies / shoot files onto it for Darwin to have and then that wasn’t working. That was stressful. Then I found that the footage of the largest files was unwatchable, due to the size of the VLOG files, so I needed to learn how to encode proxies and then get that working. Sadly I stupidly set off the encoding of loads of other files I didn’t need first, so everything took so long that there was no time to really watch it. I did make sure to back up all of the footage in two other places, for safety and shared a few instagram grabs of choice shots too.

I watched an episode of MAYANS to try and relax.

We had to finish the laundry and make the bed, and I finally managed to wipe that damn drive and encode all of the proxies by the time we were heading to bed.

It was sadly still raining so I could not open the window and cool the room down. I foam rolled the kinks out of my back and neck and meditated in bed with headphones on, under the new weighted blanket. And tried to wipe my mind of stress. (fat chance...)

Tuesday of MR CLEAN Day 2 Shoot (13th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got some sleep, if only a few hours.
  2. That I was able to get through MR CLEAN Day 2 Shoot.
  3. That the blood FX worked a treat.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get good focus and exposure in my shots.
  2. Find the last props for MR CLEAN.
  3. Backup my footage in multiple places.

Thanks to

Suss for finding me a syringe for blood FX, Terese for taking part in the film and my patient cast and crew for a great shoot day on MR CLEAN.


I managed to sleep a few hours again. This was good. I woke up feeling like ass [and remained half asleep the whole day], and had to force myself up out of bed at 7am to stretch my aching body and put it all back in the right place, as Suss got ready to leave. I dove into the shower for a quick wash and then dressed and wolfed down my breakfast, before preparing the papers and gear for the shoot.

Darwin and Ranniz were here early. So we had a quick update, with a donut and coffee for breakfast, for the guys as a treat. Then we took a look at the footage from the day before. However, although we were slow to go and start work on the shoot, it was the right thing to do, to regroup.

I even showed them the old first cut of BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR (an earlier film of mine). And they liked it.

The shoot overall seemed to go well, despite me being a little sore, tired and snappy in places. But my mood improved as the day improved, as more shots were done and they were ones that I was more proud of generally. We shot scenes 8 and 12 I think - the shot in the car park with bloody overalls, Ranniz becoming a black bin and bucket, body bag combo, decorated with some fake blood, and the Estate Agent shoot with Terese in Stureby. Both were quick and efficient.

However, I think I did trip and kick the HDMI cable from the Smart HD, poking out of the GH5 and bent it. Luckily, bending it back seemed to fix it and I was able to get through the shoot with a functioning monitor.

Darwin and I did fit in a walk into town to take Ranniz to the bus station, so he could get to Stureby before us and I could pick up the K-WAC poster.

Afterwards, Darwin and I drove back to the house, Ranniz went back with Terese, and we copied the files onto the hard drive for Darwin, and backed them up twice for me and discussed the plan for tomorrow.

Darwin then set off to go and pick up the Smoke machine and take the van back. Then I went into town. I called Suss and asked her to see if she could get me a syringe for shooting blood. She said yes. And then I went and bought a red curtain, a sign you pin letters on and lighter fluid for the Zippo. Some hurried inspirational props for the Studio segment.

Felix was his usual nosy self and really enjoyed the excitement of the shoot and constantly fussed around us and tried to get in on the action. Damn cat.

Darwin liked the quick and dirty graded shots I sent him from Day 2. We then had a catch-up planning session, before I then went to make a sign for the studio shot, and then went to watch TV for 30 mins to try and relax.

I just couldn’t relax. There were lots of messages flying around. And yet I could hardly keep my eyes open.

I foam rolled my neck to finish, and rehydrated, but my stomach wasn’t happy and I felt dehydrated, despite downing much water. That burger was dirtier than I thought...

Wednesday of Day 3 MR CLEAN shoot - armless (14th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got through it all despite no sleep and a splitting headache.
  2. That I was able to get through MR CLEAN Day 2 Shoot.
  3. That I was able to get a few more shots that I’m proud of.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get good focus and exposure in my shots.
  2. Sort the black sand and use my intestines for MR CLEAN.
  3. Backup my footage in multiple places.

Thanks to

Suss for the excellent blood FX syringe and pressure spray, and not freaking out at the blood covered bathroom. And to Jaba for taking part in the film and being such a great victim and my patient cast and crew for MR CLEAN.


I didn’t sleep last night, not really if at all. The magic blanket aka the weighted duvet couldn’t deal with my dodgy stomach and my restless stressing brain.

I got up, after meditating [to try and get my shit together] and started stretching my body back into position, after the weight of that duvet had reset it, and then showered, dressed, breakfasted and I prepped / moved some gear back into position for the day’s shooting when Darwin, Jaba and Ranniz arrived.

We were trying to shoot the victim scenes, this meant Jaba was being abducted from outside the house and we were then eating his intestines and then chopping his arm off in the bath and sacrificing him to the Old Ones. A normal day right? No. Sadly a good one and productive, but not all the way through as I had hoped. Felix didn't help when crashing the scenes, so much so that Ranniz had to carry him (as pictured above). And we didn’t get to do the tentacle stuff that day. And we got to use a lot of blood….

Darwin had brought black paint for the sand, but it was quickly found after one quick test to not be working. The brown sand looked grey and it was very matt. Then he had to go and pick up the stuff I’d wanted in the first place.... Sadly, this was part of the shoot, where better communication between us during pre-production would have saved time on the shoot... Luckily, Jaba had fish and knew exactly what I needed. He and Ranniz convinced Darwin, although he was very reluctant - and then they went off to bring it back. It cost us an hour and cost us valuable daylight. But it was totally worth it!

Also, the fact that Darwin did not take part in the rehearsal, that took place before the shoot, meant that we lost valuable time blocking out the scene and explaining what we were going to do, for any scenes that did not feature in the test shoot we did previously. He did a great job when we were doing those scenes that were new to him, but then he inevitably picked the worst moments to then ask what he was doing - usually during a take, while the camera was running, so that it became impossible to keep track of the shots and so going through all the takes would not be as easy. Once we do it it will all work out. But at the time I was often just saying 'f@ck it!' and ignoring the need to use the clapperboard at all.

So that was an issue, but the fact that the arm was not soft and light and slightly rubbery, as I'd envisaged, and that it arrived during the previous day, meant that we had to improvise the shot as we had no time to rehearse - so no time to make it feel more natural - and that also cost us another hour.

Despite all that, I am really grateful for everything they’ve all done and Jaba was awesome. He was a real star. But it was frustrating not getting all of the shots this day. Instead we elected to keep the smoke machine an extra day and get the tentacle shots the following day. We also didn’t get much foley for the afternoon stuff. We’d need to do that another day.

There was a funny incident earlier, when choking Jaba out - when a sweet old lady walking her dog came up to us and asked if we were committing a crime. In our bad Swedish we explained it was a sort of 'Veckans Brott' (The week in crime) a local popular TV show that old people like, and she seemed happy with that, so we carried on choking Jaba.

MR CLEAN - 1 of 1.jpg

They did help me clean up some of the mess, but then they left and I spent hours scrubbing as much as I could to clean the blood off the bathroom. But some of the spots of calk between the tiles were still pink. Pity. But I will work at it. Suss came home at 6pm and was very forgiving, but I felt bad nonetheless.

I backed up all of the footage, twice, created proxies and then carried on cleaning, before we ate pizza for tea and then I cleaned some more, before charing all the things and taking a few nice quick and dirty graded shots to share on social media: these were also kindly received.

I sat and watched FURY to try and relax at the end of the day. I was feeling beat up, and Darwin felt the same after an intense day. However, it didn’t work, soon I was too overtired and had to foam roll my neck and meditate in bed with the headphones to finish, to try and wipe my thoughts. (spoiler - it didn't work)

Thursday of Day 4 MR CLEAN shoot - it’s a wrap! (15th November)

Three things that I am grateful for

  1. That I got through it all despite little sleep and aches and paints
  2. That I was able to get through MR CLEAN Day 4 Shoot.
  3. That I was able to see it all through, thanks to my cast and crew.

Three things that would be good to achieve today

  1. To get good focus and exposure in all of my shots.
  2. To get the tentacle and Studio and street shots that I had dreamed of.
  3. Backup my footage up in multiple places.

Thanks to

My entire cast and crew for helping bring MR CLEAN to life.


I was exhausted by the time that I needed to get up for the last day of shooting on MR CLEAN. Weirdly I had been awake most of the night, restless [and my brain full of me composing shots in the film], full of stress. And I only actually got any real sleep from 6am; a nice 1.5hrs of rest. Soon I was waking up with just half hour to get frantically showered and dressed and ready before they would arrive. Luckily Darwin and Ranniz were delayed in traffic so I could have breakfast too.

We started with doing the internal shoot for MR CLEAN, as he is leaving and taking Jaba’s watch and rings with him. We made it look like night time by taping up the windows and over the double doorway in the hall. Felix of course wanted to get in on the action.

After that we did the tentacle shot. And it was a bit of a farce, but eventually went as desired. The sensitive or movement specific stuff really required subtleties of that movement. But as we had little control or practice of it some of the movements were jerky and off. Sometimes when I was directing the shot, Darwin would sometimes be giving his own direction. So I had to stop him and I felt mean doing it. But once he listened, he understood - as we had discussed this before the shoot [only one director on set] and we soon got much better shots - and then we were no longer confusing poor Ranniz.

After that part of the shoot, poor Ranniz had to race off to drop off the smoke machine and then meet us at St Eriksplan, while I hurriedly packed up all of the gear and Darwin loaded the car. I then cooked and ate, while chatting briefly with Darwin, while trying to get my food down me.

Then we were off and driving, and I found that I couldn’t shut up. I was invigorated by the shoot, crazy with a second wind. And soon also dizzy with tiredness and knew that I needed to keep moving to stay awake.

We had to dump the car and switch the gear to the van and drive to the studio. There we met Ranniz and Sofie, who were both waiting outside the church. And Darwin and I had to find how to get into this one way street outside the studio. Luckily, I convinced Darwin to ignore his instincts to not follow the electronic map and trust me and we got there. It wasn't easy to find. Then I had to unpack my gear from the side of a van and assemble my rig, while dodging cars coming up alongside me and then I could finally say hi to my actors and get ready for the scene, as it started raining.

First we did the scene in the street. We had no choice. The engineer, Gabriel, was not at the studio yet and we couldn’t get access to the building / get the door code. So we improvised. I set up across the road and held an umbrella and tried to set up my master shot, while Ranniz filled-in as her co-worker and Sofie walked off up the road and Darwin followed in the van.

Then we did the reversals up the street from both sides and lastly the interior of the van. This was problematic. Darwin was stressing and trying to get me to hurry things up and it was as if he was almost unintentionally trying to sabotage the shots - as crazy as that sounds. And so when I was finally almost wound down by his intensity, and I caved, he finally tried to urge me to keep going and spur me on to finally nail the shot. And just when I was recovering from the twists and turns of the emotions, and was suddenly grateful in a way, we were then going into the studio. I still don't understand what happened. It's like we were a functioning bipolar production team. Crazy. But it mostly worked!

Now bear in mind that we were booked from 5–7, but wanted to get in early to get started early, so when Gabriel came out and let us in early we were setting up for 3.30pm. So I hadn’t used up much time at all, and yet Darwin was really driving me mad by pressing me to crack on. Again it was confusing to my analytical brain. So when he was trying to contradict me in the shots that I had wanted to get, I had to put a hand on his shoulder to get his attention and remind him about what we had agreed and discussed, that there was only one director on set. However, once we’d dressed the set and got things set up - the only thing that was lacking was the lighting. Everything else was going well - including the curtain, poster and other props and wardrobe etc. It was mostly looking great, but a bit dark.

It was funny and touching how Gabriel was celebrating his birthday that day and then two women came in to sing him happy birthday. And we were there. I bet he felt like a celebrity.

Gabriel was up for being in the shoot, but at first he couldn’t switch off from doing the sound. So it may have looked like his quest for perfection was driving Sofie to the point of frustration and it was at risk of getting in the way of me getting my desired performance. But we got it. At least I think we got it. We certainly got nice shots. I’m not sure in hindsight about the lighting. And I didn’t like that I was being rushed. And yet, just when I thought I was about to give up, spent, Darwin spurred me on to get the money shot, the closeup of Sofie’s mouth and the microphone. Again I was confused by this. - obviously as creatives we attune ourselves to the unique qualities of the other, with more time and practice. But it was perplexing all the same.

Then, when we were in the moment of a wrap, and congratulating and thanking each other, and yet we also then had to suddenly pack up, remove all of the set dressing and props and lights and pack up the gear etc and get the hell out of there. And then we were on the street with a packed van, saying goodbye and hugging. Sofie and Ranniz walked off to the tbana, Darwin and I went to drop the van off. Gabriel went to finish his broadcast - after giving us the audio.

I had hoped to have a mini wrap party right after the shoot in a local bar, but sadly it wasn't to be.

Back at the car park, we pulled the MR CLEAN ident from the van, and transferred the gear to the car, before we then drove back to mine - via the pizzeria, to buy burgers for both of us [a less dirty one for me]. Then we got home to have a beer, transfer the footage to the different backup drives and look at a few shots, eat and chat.

Darwin left around 8pm. I then set about cleaning up, moving the gear back into my studio or the spare room, and finding random spots of KY Jelly and blood, and trying to clean them up.

I tried to relax, showered and put red heat on my shoulders, and back and then sat and tried to watch a bit of a film to relax.

I foam rolled my neck and went straight to bed and meditated myself to sleep. But then after being disturbed, I was lying awake…

If you want to see more shots, check out my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lee.bailes.writer?


Some observations / lessons learned:

Had we done some of these things I truly thing the film would be better and have gone smoother, and I think that they will be my focus for the production of MR CLEAN 2 and 3:

  • More people. We needed a larger crew. Having people around means less space and more mouths to feed and more people to direct. However, the lack of a script continuity person and a dedicated cinematographer, and a knowledgeable lighting person, meant that we were all having to perform multiple roles to fill in on the day. Believe it or not, but most of the shoot we were literally only three people.
  • More lighting gear. You can never have too many lights. We really put every light that we had to use, but we needed more. Some shots were too flat as a result.
  • Less locations. We were ambitious and creative and maximised our locations. However, the distance between them and the time to strip everything down, pack it away and then reassemble it, only to strip it back down again and move on, was a huge factor against efficiency. It's why most horror low budgets are one-room / location efforts.
  • Our special FX props arriving far too late - this meant that there was no time to practice beforehand. Not really. So we may need to reshoot the tentacle scene.
  • Rehearsals and blocking are key - The fact that I was not able to block out scenes and rehearse with my main actor before the shoot, meant that essential time was lost communicating what I wanted and that ate into the shoot time. I will not shoot a single scene of the next films without ample rehearsal time.

Anyway, I'm sure there is always more to share. But this is already of an epic length. If you read it all, I hope it was illuminating. If you didn't and skimmed it, I don't blame you. Thanks again for stopping by! Just think of me, being ill, after having worn myself down through lack of sleep and stress. And I hope that if you come back in the future, you'll think that it was all worthwhile!...

MR CLEAN - 4 of 4

And please do think highly of my cast and crew! They're awesome!

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7Nov/180

Update – the ups and downs – MR CLEAN

Wow. Filmmaking is tiring. You forget this, when you don't do it for years. I mean real filmmaking, which involves putting a full production together, and building a crew up from the ground, because you're living somewhere where you don't know anyone in the industry and have to start from scratch. And you are trying to wear so many hats and perform so many different tasks, and all while doing a day job with urgent aggressive deadline requirements. Kudos to anyone who does this and doesn't whinge about it and takes it on the chin and gets it done!

Anyway, this time since the last update has been fraught. It's been a real rollercoaster of ups and downs. Where one minute we have 'this' and then we lose 'that'. Where 'that' is back again and 'this' is now missing. The twists and turns of real life filmmaking are more exhausting than the plots I can contrive. But that is what pre-production is like.... One minute I want to do a feature film already and the next minute I never want to pick up a camera or plan a shoot, or break the bad news to an unsuccessful auditioning actor again....

Here's a quick summary of what's gone on:

  • We completed our casting process - seeing a surprising number of dropouts and no-shows, compared to the actresses applying for the same types of shoots in the US and UK. Basically it would seem that Swedish actresses either have more self-doubt or less motivation to actually learn lines and audition, or are really busy working actors because there are less of them per population? I'd hate for either to be the case. But based on the data, there's no other call to make. However, the outcome is that we now have our lead actress, who will rise from the ending of this current film and lead the next two planned sequels. And we've found two more actresses, that were runners up, who we'd really like to also work with. Huge props to Pontus for sorting the best casting venue. That was also a mission for uneducated Stockholmers such as ourselves.
  • We reached out to the Swedish Film Board, to find out about permits and the like and have received zero replies. To be honest, I'm not surprised. There's a lot of filming going on right now and they must be very busy. I saw two film shoots going on in my neighbourhood alone today.
  • We formed a skeleton crew. And we lost our cinematographer, due to a clash with dates. Then we moved the shoot and gained the cinematographer again and now that we're a week away from the shoot we unfortunately lose them again. You can't lose what you never really had right? - but all it means is that the small crew will all wear more hats. it'll slow us down a bit, but make the logistics easier in some ways, e.g. less vehicles to use to move cast, equipment and crew around when needed. It's a real shame, but it's happened on so many films I've experienced and to be honest, I knew it would be foolish not to assume that something might go wrong.
  • We put a shoot schedule together and then had to completely move the whole shoot, due to failing to get a minor location one that suddenly became much more significant as the script evolved - and now, when we were just about to move the shoot again, we finally get our location with one week to spare. Cue much frantic scurrying to get everything else in place. But huge very-grateful thanks to Darwin and Terese for calling through a list of 60 locations to get the one we need! - Especially as Darwin is finishing of the post production of DON'T FORGET TO BREATHE.
  • We used the extra time to redo the bad intestines I made, to create some much better ones. We've antiqued our Cleaver, which finally arrived. But we've still not received our main show piece FX. Although the workshop pics look awesome. The pain I went through just to buy candles I wouldn't wish on anyone. But still a few props to track down.
  • Trying to write a sequel, in between texts and calls and while builders are jamming crowbars into the wall by your head, or hammering and sawing outside....
  • We have the artwork that we needed for set dressing, and now that we have another location, we suddenly have to create more stuff to dress that location and weave it into our filmic world.
  • Meanwhile, I've been trying to create briefs to help form the characters, and communicate the origins of the story and why a character needs red hair and what shade of red hair, and why some are naked and some are not... and all of this gets in the way of the planning and headspace you need to create that filming world in your head all over again. Because you had to put it away when the shoot got pushed back and now you must dust it off again. And the doubts are back... have you planned enough? Do you know what you're doing?

Apologies for dumping that huge mental list on you. But that really is what it's like. You create a huge list of tasks, and the team tick them off as they go and then things change and you discover more tasks that need to be completed and so on, and the clock slowly runs out and the shoot date looms....

But we'll be fine. Things will and can go wrong. But if we can keep our heads and keep our humour, hopefully we'll remember to enjoy the process and we'll end up getting all of the shots we need in the can, and be surprised and spoilt for choice for how much material we can choose from in the edit... and not wishing for shots we had to compromise on. And more importantly, raring to go on parts 2 and 3 - which I really need to finish writing, as soon as this one is shot.

A huge thanks to anyone helping us on this crazy journey. I love you all. <3 🙂

 

 

 

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6Oct/180

A busy week – Pre production diary

Pre-production fun

 

So it's been a full-on week of pre-production on MR CLEAN (click to read more):

 

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27Sep/180

MR CLEAN

So... I've been neglecting you. Sorry. Will it happen again? Probably, if past behaviour is anything to go by....

So quite some time has passed. And during that time I've been through the ringer, health-wise. Let me fill you in on what you've missed:

  • Worked a lot. And was exhausted by the end of it. This including making a short promotional film for a friend, to promote the release of his computer game.
  • Went to Japan in March and April for the trip of a lifetime. Had an amazing time, 17 days travelling across Japan and came back exhausted through lack of sleep.
  • Got a stomach bug, while still exhausted from Japan. This weakened my system so that I then got Shingles. It took months to recover from and I am still daily suffering from random attacks of chronic pain from it.
  • Had a lot more work to do and had to do it while battling the pain and the heat of the hottest summer on record - while sweltering in my pants (there's an image you didn't want in your head). Cue a lack of sleep and a complete neglect of all creative activities until the worst of it subsided.
  • I managed to edit the photos from that trip to Japan, but haven't finished editing the 4hrs of footage down to something more palatable. Essentially the VLOGs are dead for now.
  • I also finished writing a new short, called MR CLEAN, at the start of August.
  • I went to the Lake District and to visit friends, and then to Skiathos, where upon my return my cat got himself lost for a week.
  • During that whole period, from April to September, I had been suffering a massive depression. I had become burnt out through the demands of work and my ill health, and I had also seriously considered ditching all social media; this poor neglected blog included. I tried not to wallow, to turn things around and get my shit together. As a result of a new regime of behaviours I've tried to cultivate, I've lost some weight, I am more productive and marginally happier. Will it last? Who knows... but I'm not giving in easily!

What is Mr Clean?

So, now that you're up to speed, what is MR CLEAN? Wasn't this post supposed to be about that? - Yes. Right you are then...

I had written a darkly fun short about a nice guy who breaks into people's homes and cleans them up, to explore why he might be doing such things. It's a variation of an old idea, fused with a bit of inspiration for adding something new and also seeing if it could be done for a very low budget, perhaps even shot at home.

After spending some time over the holiday to do a few storyboards for the film - actually part of an exercise from the Martin Scorsese Masterclass - and yes I am crazy enough to want to do this while on a beach, with a beer in hand. So it was homework essentially. But made fun. - I then shared the storyboards with my good friend Darwin Reina, to see what he thought.

Darwin and I were both in a creative rut of kinds. I went around to view the rough edit for DON'T FORGET TO BREATHE and showed him the storyboards and let him re-read the script. He was immediately enthusiastic about it and asked a very poignant question: "Why aren't we making this?" To which, I had no answer. I had wanted to do it earlier in the year before I got sick...

So we talked it through.... Could it be done? If so, how? Where? When? With who?

And that my friends brings you fully up to speed. At the end of October, we are shooting MR CLEAN. We're going to shoot it mostly at my place, shoot it with the GH5, in 4K, and we're going to try and make it as great as possible.

Here's a quick and dirty test shot - where we just looked to take the storyboard frame and plan which lenses to use and where to put the camera, to get the shot on the day - because we're crazily going to try and get it all done in 4 days...

Here's a screen grab from a test shot of Darwin as MR CLEANHere's the cruddy storyboard of mine, below (top left) that we've recreated above.

We've broken down the script and done a test shoot - so we can perfect our workflow for the edit as well as not dick around too much on the day of the shoot. We still need to sort our lighting. Special FX are being prepared. We've sorted vehicles. We may have a composer and we're searching for an actress. It may just happen... but still so much to do and to fall in place for the shoot.

Wish us luck!

And if we pull it off. There are already two planned sequels. Yes, this might just end up being a small short film web series.

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14Sep/170

Soundscapes – Redux

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Fans of synth soundtrack music, video nasties and 'the glory days of VHS' - please check out the excellent new album REDUX: https://videogram.bandcamp.com/album/videogram-redux

- The keen eyed will notice my name appearing in the credits - for a video ident I did for him (and what the album cover design is based on). Which I hope you will get to see soon.

- thanks Magnus (aka Videogram)! You're very kind.

I really like this album and it's great to write to. I can't wait to somehow persuade a film soundtrack out of him. (*sssh!*)

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29Dec/150

2016 will bring editing

Today I printed the rough draft of MUTAGENE - my nanowrimo zombie novel from 2014.
Mutagene_Rough_Draft.JPG
2016 will definitely produce a 2nd draft of it. I've printed it to go through it and painstakingly highlight it and mark it up, ready for editing, in the new year. I've ignored it and my other nanowrimo novel for too long. There's always a reason to work on something else. But I will bring one of them forward at least!
 
It's quite astounding that my tiny mind conjured up a 379 page novel. But also that I've still got another novel left to edit.... the question now is, are they any good????
I'm also going to devote some time to reflecting on how I've done in 2015 - with regard to following my goals. And looking at setting some new creative goals for 2016.
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22Oct/150

PIG SWEAT BLUES finished

Yesterday the rebirth of an old tale called PIG SWEAT BLUES was finally finished. Let's await the verdict of whether it makes the grade 🙂  .

Meanwhile I'd like to thank Matthew Sanderson and Christopher Alan Broadstone for royally kicking my *ss over the rewrite / edits of this new and improved version - all for the greater good. You sods 🙂 .

PSB is a tale that was very loosely inspired by this documentary: SLAUGHTERHOUSE: THE TASK OF BLOOD (2005) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I41IYWb_Mus - although much of the early research came from doing research stuff for a company that designed futuristic computerised abattoir systems. It's where I first had the glimpse of an idea about a young lad abused in the Shambles, who later takes his revenge on the whole town and the guy who drove him to it.

I wanted to unleash a furious fictional vengeance on a town I once lived in; it was a town I hated. And - although I know this is not the case everywhere, the worst people I met in that town worked in the shambles or the kitchens that I washed pots in. It was a dry run for a future novel - a great writing exercise. I was happy to get a glimpse of my protagonist and to see his world - and then to take the bare bones of what I needed, to then flesh them out elsewhere; ultimately unleashing a shit storm upon them.
Anyway - thanks guys. You're awesome - and I apologise for cursing your names often whilst going through this *&%king process. 🙂

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17Nov/140

50K Nanowrimo2014 target achieved – what Next?

So - as of yesterday at 11:11pm I managed to hit my #nanowrimo2014 of 50,000 words just half way through the month! This has never happened to me before - considering the last time I did Nanowrimo I did exceed my target, but with only a few days to spare.

Screen Shot 2014-11-16 at 23.13.58

 

I was both ecstatic when it happened, but also feeling all kinds of strange feelings, elation, mixed with despair ('What would I do with myself now?') and also heightened by a large weight having been removed from my shoulders. So I tweeted:

Then I made sure my baby was backed up (on my hard drive, USB stick, to Drop Box and to One Drive - paranoid? Who me?) and went out for a walk in the brisk Stockholm night air, to calm down, and do some thinking as I wandered the almost abandoned night streets. I had two questions to answer - how had I felt the process had gone and what to do next?

So how had I managed to complete the challenge so quickly?

This is the first Nanowrimo - or the first time during any writing project! - that I have planned in advance. I am a classic pantser. I have tried planning / outlining and structuring before and never completed it. Usually I get distracted quicker than a dog at a fire hydrant museum and after a few dedicated hours of effort I drift off and find myself starting to write. But this time I was relatively steadfast and forced myself to spend a good month and a half planning (I'll explain more about the process I'm using later). I didn't complete the planning in time, but I did manage to at least set up a separate scrivening scene for every idea or scene I wanted to cover in my novel. I also managed to assign meta data in Scrivener to every scene - so I could use the status of the files to find out which ones needed working on, if I decided not to work in a linear fashion and jump around - and I knew which characters were in which scene and what time of day the scene took place, in case I wanted to kill characters or merge scenes or basically move things around. I would know at a glance if my ideas would work. I would also be able to easily filter based on specific criteria and jump to any scene I wanted.

The main thing that helped me - but I also found to be a creativity limiting factor - was having a feature film script already prepared previously. I had basically taken a script and taken the scene information and used that as the basis for my planning. So in most cases I had a good idea of what the scene was about and where it should go. Here's an extract from the first page of the script:

Screen Shot 2014-11-17 at 11.30.44

(I will explain more about the process of taking a script back into Scrivener - from Final Draft - and breaking it down for adaptation purposes, in another later post)

So, with that level of detail you'd think it would be a breeze right?  Well I found that when my fingers wanted to dance across the keys and I wanted to write the scene in a fresh creative way, I'd often be trapped into a mindset where often all I could see was the original scene in my head. It was tough sometimes, when my energy levels were lower, to be able to see the way it should flow from a novel view point, maybe to see the scene from a character's perspective, rather than the viewer's perspective - which after all is how a script is written. The script is far from perfect. In fact I had wanted to do a complete rewrite on important sections of the plot to fix it - because I realised later in the process, that I had started to rewrite, making brutal changes to the plot and not finished the job or tidied up after myself by leaving detailed notes about where my mind was at the time. So there are massive chunks that conflict with previous scenes or that were just plain missing! But the real positive I found for me, when I felt like I was really writing and in that creative flow, was when whole new scenes would flow from my fingers and onto the page, or I'd see the scene in greater and fresher detail, and I'd wonder how I'd missed key details when I was writing the scenes of the original script!

And work was also a factor - this was the first year that work was not absolutely insane for me. I am between main gigs, looking for work contracts as a freelancer, and purely through scheduling issues with certain projects starting, I found myself with a window to devote almost entirely to Nanowrimo. I'd have to spend a few hours each day on work related stuff for the most part, with only the odd insanely demanding day, but mostly I was able to force myself to focus on the novel - in between conversations with my partner, trying to keep fit, housework and cooking, and socialising. And I did have to force myself - especially when having to deal with my insomnia or illness. It's not fun writing when your heart isn't in it and you feel like crap and you can barely think straight. in fact I did have a few days of terrible performance; but never a day when I didn't write a single word! When you read all those inspirational articles on writing you find that the one central and great truth is that writing is a [mental] muscle. You have to work it hard, flex it and get it used to hard work. it has to be developed. Then, when you have to dig deep inside for a small grain of something, to put onto a page in your moment of need, things like 'writer's block' rarely are a genuine blockage.

In fact, I hope that such effort can be maintained. I hope that I can plan more. I hope that I can force myself to write each day - as I've done - to continue to develop that muscle activity.

So what will I do next?

I was almost toying with writing a second novel, over the rest of Nanowrimo, to see how far I could get with more pantsing. lol As I do love writing and I'm not short of other ideas. But I think that I will continue with this novel - I still have more to write. I'm guessing around 10K more. But I am still in the end of a slightly bloated Act Two, so there is definitely more work to be done.

Once that is done - i still have various planning activities to do - like finish constructing the maps of my locations, finish defining my characters - their backstory, timelines and motivations - so that I can really nail these details when I next come to work on the rewrite / second draft. Those activities will definitely keep me busy.

For anyone else still in this journey with me - stay strong! You're awesome! I've already seen three people fall by the way side, unable to see the challenge through. The fact that you' re doing this is great. There were plenty of times when I wanted to give up on this foolhardy quest. Of course I'd much rather be drinking and going to parties, than sitting staring at a screen, or cursing my neighbours for having a party when I very much needed sleep after a tough writing day. Or having nice dreams instead of the blood-soaked visions of torture that bled through from the page into my subconscious in the rare moments when I did sleep. There were days when I hated what I was writing and wanted to jump onto another idea, or do anything else, like scrub an oven, rather than stare at a page - even with knowing for the most part what I was to write! Keep at it people!

For me, I'm going for another walk, then I'm going to get comfortable and I am going to get me another 2.5K under my belt before the end of the day. If I don't, something bad is going to happen. I know this because my harsh taskmaster of a brain tells me this. He says that if you want to open door no.2 you'll get a nasty surprise. Go through door no. 1 and don't be foolish. I think I'll take his advice. I can hear the claws on the other side of door no.2 and I don't fancy meeting what's on the other side.

 

 

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12Feb/120

JUGGERNAUT – A novel by Adam Baker – review

I first became aware of Adam Baker’s writing when searching from some holiday reading. Shopping sites remember our preferences, and sometimes they’re even correct - sometimes - and this time when searching for post apocalyptic pandemic / zombie fiction it presented OUTPOST to me. At the time of purchase there were only a few reviews. Although the reviewers were divided, the positive reviews filled me with hope that I would find a new PONTYPOOL or 28 DAYS LATER between the covers. It wasn’t until I was sequestered in by the pool, in the shade, so pale that I appeared to be in black and white compared to the other resort guests, and opened the cover of the book, that I realised I was in for a skilfully crafted and incredibly addictive joyride. Outpost

OUTPOST was an unforgiving tale of Arctic desperation, and ever pervading dread: seen through the eyes of a suicidal overweight priest and the crew of a defunct oil rig; watching the world submit to a global pandemic which turns its victims into a 21st century version of the living dead. Every page was either filled with the slow dread of eventual starvation, submitting to the elements and the bite of the infected, or I was captivated by the survivors’ Maguyver-esque attempts to turn the tables on fate.

I couldn’t wait to tweet about it as soon as I finished it - being a social media-addicted saddo (hence the blog) - and tell people that they need to grab a copy at once. That’s how I eventually came to own a pre-publication copy of JUGGERNAUT; a sort of prequel, if you will. Adam Baker read my tweets. We then corresponded. And when Adam later announced that he had written a new tale, I jumped at the chance to get my greasy paws on it. And I’m glad that I did... (forgive any spoilers!)

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21Nov/100

Films watched recently

A few of the more notable films I've watched (in Alphabetic order):

30 days of night 2 dark days

  • 30 DAYS OF NIGHT 2: DARK DAYS - Yawn, blah... this b-movie sequel fails to live up to the promise of the first film. Right from the first movement when we see a quick actress switch and tiresome flashback monologue you can tell the film will suck worse than the hissing vampires this actress is trying to warn everyone about. It tells the tale of the female survivor travelling around and trying to convince people what happened after an apparent cover up, who is then sought out by a useless band of supposed vampire hunters to hunt the vampire queen. Only these tossers have no clue, inappropriate ideas about suitable weaponry and we don't care what happens to them as none of them are anything more than cardboard cut-out characterisations, including the Ripley-esque lead. It really outstayed the welcome and stunk up my night's viewing and was only memorable for the pain it induces when I think about watching it again.

Blood Creek poster image

  • BLOOD CREEK - a strange mix of atmospheric horror and sporadic, outlandish CG gore. This tale of a Nazi warlock using an ancient runestone to reanimate the dead and do his bidding proved entertaining, if a little predictable in places. Surprisingly good cast for what felt like a low budget schlocker. The main plot had more than a few plotholes, but entertaining and innovative enough, despite it's obvious desire to create a franchise. Worth repeat viewings.
  • CASTRATION MOVIE - Round a friend's house I was told a tale of a tape handed down from a cult film director by the band who released it. The bizarre nature of its footage and the murky provenence seemed like too good a chance to pass up the opportunity to watch what may be an actual - albeit bizarre - 'fake' snuff-type movie; as released by Psychick TV. The movie features the shoddy home movie road trip footage of a potential serial killer, featuring various 70s Mexican and White rentboys playing with electrode sexual stimulation / drug induced highs, with not altogether successful and sometimes fatal results. My friend had never watched it all the way through, so we did. You can't unsee this type of film, so think twice before deciding to check it out. - if you wish to check out what others think about the film and find out more about what is shown CLICK HERE. I certainly think it is a film that deserves more research into it. Not sure who would want to though.

Machete poster image

  • MACHETE - Danny Trejo (FROM DUSK TILL DAWN, HEAT) stars as the titular badass Mexican cop with a penchant for overly large shiny knives. The bag guys underestimate his gift for survival, when he is forced to watch them kill her, before being left for dead, stabbed and left to die in a burning house. He soon appears in the US as an illegal immigrant and is forced to take part in the fake attempted assassination of a candidate for State Senator (De Niro), using immigration as his ticket to office. Soon everyone is out to get Machete, but this unstoppable force of chopping and slicing carves his way through them all, until he gets his revenge; only stopping for the love of some hot Chicas - including a great pool scene with Lindsay Lohan (the Senator's daughter) and Alicia Rachel Marek (the Senator's wife). If you don't mind your action extra bloody CG, and can handle the idea of Trejo being an irresistible stud, then this film will float your boat. It did mine.

Ong Bak 3 movie poster

  • ONG BAK 3 - Another flawed martial action film starring Tony Jaa - picks up right where the second one finished. We find out more about the power of the Evil Crow assassin character, whilst Tien (Tony Jaa) is healed and regroups to fight another day. Flawed, but still amazingly shot and featuring some unique action sequences - this time a more yoga / Thai dancing style of fighting. Well worth a view.

PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 poster image

  • PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 - The much hyped sequel to the original haunted house tale - where a family bring their first born male home and all hell breaks loose. I fell asleep through the first film and wasn't entirely keen on going to see the second one. It does suffer from the same repetition and painfully slow build-up, and 'just-in-time-exposition', but it does deliver in the end. I was impressed that I felt the classic hairs-standing-up-on-the back-of-my-neck feeling, and that others in the cinema were jumping left right and centre and the unhappy ending. But I could have done without the pool cleaning equipment porn moments and other repetition. The film could easily have been 30 minutes shorter without sacrificing the experience. If I'd watched this at home on my own I doubtless would have slept through the good bits. I may now actually bother rewatching the first snooze fest.

REC 2 movie poster

  • REC 2 - a brilliant sequel to the first excellent Spanish Cinema Verite zombie movie, which blends the occult, possession and zombism into a terrifying unrelenting mix. This film picks up where the last one left off, the same night, with the female reporter being carted away by a possessed freak, and throws two new bands of curious people into the apartment building looking for answers. As one would expect, each band fall prey to their own stupidity and the hunger of the building's inhabitants. This film should be watched late at night, alone, in the dark. It will scare the pants off you and make you reach for the light switch when you go to bed. It has a very clever spin on how to make a monster truly terrifying and make use of night vision; something that is rarely seen in the tired horror genres of the last few years.

The collector movie poster

  • THE COLLECTOR - amazingly dark and unflinchingly twisted take on the Slasher film genre, with a thief breaking into a family home, only to find the house rigged with booby traps (ala SAW) and the family all trussed up in various states of disrepair. The titular killer is always one step ahead and seemingly unkillable, or rather the victims are seemingly intent on only maiming and not finishing the job. if you don't mind that sort of cliché fare then it is well worth a look.

THE LOSERS  poster image

  • THE LOSERS - a weird comic book action movie about an A-TEAM-like band of Special ops characters who fall afoul of an evil CIA operative and barely survive an assassination, when they go against his orders. Their quest to restore their honour and avenge a Helicopter of kids didn't really float my boat, despite the very slick action sequences. Nor would it interest me to read the original books. But I may rewatch this when I'm in a better frame of mind and hopefully learn to love it.

Anyway, there are far more to mention soon. But that's it for now.

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