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The Levelling Diaries: Shooting

Tomorrow we start our final week of principal photography which means this time in a week I’ll be home. I can’t pretend I’m not loving shooting this film, because honestly there’s not much in the world that I have loved doing more, but I also have to admit that I’m counting the days.

The first week was crazy – terrifying, intense, and adrenaline fuelled non-stop excitement. Week two hit me like a truck. I was exhausted, hormonal and anticipating my family’s arrival on set at the end of the week. I was so excited to see them, but turned out to be the hardest part of the shoot to date.

I had written them into a scene, aware that their presence in the scene could be lifted out if they weren’t playing ball, and also that it would have no impact on the story if they didn’t deliver what I had pre-imagined. They arrived on set with me, and ran around having fun. They loved being given costumes, and fitted with radio microphones, and given chairs to sit in as Mummy worked on other things. It was all alright, until suddenly it wasn’t. The older one got so nervous, and upset, that he started crying and I was the only one who could help him. So the scene continued as I walked away with him, trying to reassure him, while he yelled at me through tears that he never wanted me to work again. That I had to come home NOW!

Trying not to agree with him and get in a taxi then and there, I asked him to consider – what about me? What about what I wanted? He has his friends, he goes to school, this is my thing and it’s not forever. He listened, and stopped shouting, until I tried to peel him off me and return to work. Everyone was crying then. That afternoon I shot a scene where my main character has to take a newborn calf from his mother. The dramatic irony was not lost on me.

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I’ve tried to console myself that in the big picture this visit will have been ‘A Good Thing’. The boys will see themselves in the film. They will remember visiting me on set and if I’m lucky enough to do this again, they will understand what I’m doing every day. I also rashly promised my sobbing child that next time I will do it nearer to home so I can see them more often, and maybe during the summer holidays so they can visit me more regularly. I felt like I was promising something I can’t deliver – the pony you promise to get them to drop the bread knife – but who knows, maybe it would be a good thing.

Right now I’m not sure. I know that being able to focus entirely on my work is essential, and that means that whenever they’re around I’m distracted and frustrated. But I also know that being away from them for weeks at a time doesn’t work for us long term. If I could see them every weekend for at least a day while shooting, that would be amazing. Because this isn’t just about the four weeks of shooting. There’s development and prep and post and it’s all pretty intense and to cut away my emotional ecosystem while I’m doing something creative is exhausting and probably counter-productive. So there is work to be done with making that possible.

But right now there’s also work to be done before I can go to bed. I’ll be back in touch after this is over. In the meantime, thanks for listening.

2018-11-22T18:18:16+01:00November, 2015|Production Stories, The Long Read|