Tales from Suburban Bohemia: Making a Film
This post originally appeared on Stumpy Moose on 12 May, 2002, and was migrated to PraguePig.com on 3 August, 2019.
Away from work, life has been surprisingly, well, “bohemian” recently and, among other artistic endeavours, I’ve been helping my friend Will make a film.
Filmmaking sounds exciting in theory, but anyone who’s ever been on a film set knows that it’s a slow, tedious process, with every scene shot several times from several different angles, and regular pauses for philosophical discussions about the Dogme movement and “crossing the axis”.
Will’s film is an artsy ten-minute short called Oranges about an insurance clerk who has a strange experience with a bag of fruit.
I was only involved in the filming for one day, but can claim a key role in the birth of the project because I lent Will the book (Woody’s old copy of Feature Film Making at Used Car Prices) that inspired him to make the film in the first place.
Because Prague is a lot like a village, it’s a good place to make a film. Everyone knows someone who knows somebody else, and there’s a healthy pool of people who are willing to doing something for nothing if it’s vaguely creative. (I’m one of them, I guess.)
Through a Herculean process of pulling strings and calling in favours, Will was able to line up a cast, crew, locations and a professional-quality digital video camera at almost no cost. In fact, the phone calls needed to co-ordinate everybody were the only significant expense.
The day’s filming took place at a shop and at an office.
The original shop-owner had backed out at the last minute, but Will’s girlfriend Helena had miraculously arranged two hours of filming at a new location. (Satisfyingly, Jackie Chan was filming a Hollywood blockbuster, Shanghai Knights, just down the river, allowing the illusion that we were a part of some international community of film.)
I was doing sound, which meant that I got to wear an impressively large pair of headphones and I could call things to a halt if I picked up the sound of cars outside or the shop-owner and her friend chatting in the backroom, where we’d hidden them.
Somehow, Will managed to wrap things up only a few minutes behind schedule, allowing the increasingly desperate shop-owner to use the toilet, and we headed across town to the office.
At the office my main role was to dial the main character’s telephone number over and over again, though I did get to ad-lib some phone conversation in the background at one point. I was able to draw on extensive experience of working for Norwich Union back in 1996, but I don’t think Oscar will come calling.
With filming completed, we’re now waiting for Will to figure out how to edit this film and start work on the new one.
Hollywood, you’ve been warned!