Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

25 years of film-making have taught me just one word: preparation.

Well, two words, actually. The second word I've learnt is procrastination. In fact, maybe I learnt that word first.

Preparation and procrastination don't go too well together, apart from potentially in songs by Eminem. And if Slim Shady were indeed writing a rap about my film-making experiences, then he'd probably also include words like tribulation, exacerbation and reorganisation. (I suspect he read Dr Seuss books as a kid)

I am something of an introvert, and find it terribly hard to ask people for favours, which is a bit of a bind, when your entire cast consists of yer mates on their days off.

There was this one film that I began shooting with Gideon and Richard in 1995. Two years later, in 1997-8, having got much of it in the can, I sat down at my typewriter and finished scripting the remaining scenes, including the first one, and the last one.

Said final scene was to see the lead character (played by Gideon) reading a letter from another character. (played by Richard) Often in the world of movies this sort of event will typically feature the voice of the character who wrote the letter paradoxically reading it out loud on the soundtrack, but I wanted to be more visual than that. (it was a film after all)

So six years after that, in 2004, Richard gamely came over, stood in front of the camera, and I filmed a close-up of his face reading the whole letter to camera, to superimpose over the sheet of paper that Gideon was to pretend to be reading. In 2006, having not actually seen Gideon for eight years, I gave him a call and, after a few other meet-ups, (and one other shoot) we agreed on a filming date for those opening and closing scenes in 2009.

Today was to be that day.

So, really, I'd had, ooh, about 14 years to prepare today properly.

Late last night (those words don't bode well for this paragraph, do they?) I'd begun to assemble the many props and equipment that we would need.

The opening scene would feature a tramp in 1990, so I knew I'd need Gideon to be sleeping under the sheets of an actual newspaper from 19 years ago. There probably aren't many people in the world who can do this, but I simply went to my archive of old newspapers that I'd collected over the years specifically for film-making purposes, and trawled them until I found some that fitted the requirement. One of them - The Guardian from 6th August 1990, carried the headline "Bush hints at military action against Iraq", which I would ironically have to keep out of shot in case it looked like an anachronism.

Not in the film
There were also a couple of Sunday Mirror Magazines from 1989, which we used, as it was perfectly possible, although a little unlikely, for someone to be in possession of them in 1990. (as evidently I had been throughout that year)

Then, in the early hours of this morning, I was busy tapping away on this computer, generating a roadsign "DOG'S STOMACH APPROACH" that I wanted to have in shot for a joke. I'd measured the real roadsign that it would be placed over and everything. Too late I realised that I'd been going about doing this the wrong way. I knew what I had to do to formulate and print-out the sign properly, but I was getting tired, and it would take maybe another hour, so I decided to just let that joke go. Getting the extra hour of sleep would be more important to me following day than one elaborate minor-gag.

I had also been searching high and low for the battery-pack that powers my digital DAT audio recorder, which I had been intending to capture the sound on. Nup, nowhere. In all probability, I had left it in my other hemisphere.

So this morning, with about an hour to go before starting, I was out at the local electronics shop, hoping to procure another one. The guy said that, yes, he did have just such a battery-pack, that yes, should fit my DAT recorder fine, and he was perfectly happy to sell it to me. The only problem was that he, also, had mislaid it.

So back home I dug-out an old-style cassette-recorder, to lay-down the audio old-school.

Gideon was held-up getting to the location by about an hour, which was a terrific boon because it gave me a whole extra sixty minutes of last-minute prep-time. Once I'm running hopelessly behind schedule, I can charge through twenty-times more tasks than I do when the pressure's off.

Gideon arrived, so I phoned Herschel and suddenly everything was happening.

Being an afternoon in early February, we were almost immediately losing the light, but we got started, and as usual I don't think I looked at any of my storyboards even once. Gideon was wearing the beanie I'd found beside an Auckland mororway in 2004, the bulky mail-order bride prop that we'd built over two years ago finally got filmed, and thank you God, the light actually held-up for a good twenty minutes longer than it should have. Barring cutaways, scene one was finally in the can!

Then it was back into the warm indoors for a few minutes where I set-up the the second of our three scenes for today. Gideon was to stand in front of a sign (that I'd also made years ago) and deliver some very brief lines. It was one of those scenes for which just about everything went wrong.

Although we were now indoors, I still recorded the audio onto compact cassette, instead of plugging-in the DAT recorder to the mains. I was trying-out a different light, that turned-out to be kinda dim. I gave Gideon the wrong clipboard prop. I only noticed afterwards that he had been wearing the wrong glasses throughout too. There was an extra person present who I didn't think to use as an additonal extra. And I clean forgot to take any publicity photos, as I usually do for every scene.

Anyhow, when the footage comes back from the lab, I still hope to use it.

Back out into the cold again, we ran-out the new extention lead I'd bought from the electronics shop that morning, and continued to record the audio onto regular analogue tape instead of plugging-in the digital. It was dark now, and I was talking to Herschel via the walkie-talkie as he turned-on every light he could find in the building behind where Gideon would be sitting. Despite the snow this week, we seemed to be filming in front of the only building where absolutely none was visible.

Herschel returned, and passed me my still camera. My fingertips brushed against it, and it immediately fell to the ground, crashing onto the concrete pavement. My beloved, well-travelled 35mm camera. Nope, it was completely dead. No more still photos today, maybe ever.

Finally we got the last scenes of the film happening. I was dressed in an ill-fitting suit to body-double for Monty, who'd shot his line for it back in 2006. When I say 'ill-fitting', I mean that although it's my suit, I can no longer breathe-in enough to do the flies all the way up. But we managed.

And then came the moment when Gideon was to read the letter. The camera rolled, he undid the package that I'd sealed-up before his arrival, got-out the sheet of paper that I'd printed-up last night, and, in character, began to scrutinise it.

At that moment an out-of-shot film-projector suddenly came to life, projecting Richard's looming face, from 4½ years ago, onto the letter. A second cassette-player ran the audio roughly in-sync, for Gideon to listen and react to.

As Gideon and Richard communicated with each other across the years, it was a thoroughly ridiculous moment, especially given the surrealness of the pre-millenial script, but such silliness is what I live for.

Because, God knows, I'd die without friends to be silly with.

Extra!  Extra!


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