Friday, 17 June 2011

I Heart You, Dave Anderson

Something horrible has happened. MY Production Company shot its first short film this weekend and I’ve fallen in love with the director. You mustn’t ever, ever, EVER tell him as I really like him and want to work with him again, and he has a girlfriend and is young enough to be the son of someone exactly my age – but none of these significant considerations has proved an impediment to the waterfall of feeling he inspired on Saturday, directing me as I acted in my own script.

I think it’s because he was on time.

It is possible he was on time because Chris, the producer, and I forced him to spend the night on her pull-out sofa and he wasn’t able to sleep through both of us throwing alarm clocks at his head.

It is also possible I love him because he loves movies so much. Finishing up at the London Film School, he’s made five films (two award-winning) in the past 18 months. I’ve always been attracted to obsessives.

But I really suspect I love him because he walked into the teeny, tiny world we’d created – six minutes of a story about an out of work receptionist filming a fake life to impress her mother -  took it seriously, and made it real. He helped bring something out of nothing. This feels like magic to me.

It’s not an uncommon feeling.

I used to babysit a precocious and articulate six-year old boy who was addicted to books. I’d read to him, and when I’d run out of books or patience with the ones I’d already read, I’d tell my own fairy tales – full of Canadians and hockey and women who ran countries and didn’t charge income tax. And flying dogs. He would sit in front of me, his eyes expanding like moons. Once I paused to answer the phone and he panicked. When I sat back down he grabbed me and said ‘Don’t stop, just don’t stop – I have that story-telling feeling.’

Maybe I actually love our director, Dave Anderson, because he lives in the story-telling feeling and the story he was telling, on Saturday, was mine.

Stephanie suggesting Chi hold the camera in a really uncomfortable way.

At 8 05 on the morning of the shoot, Dave, Chris and I sat in her car –  a Honda CR-V doubling as dressing room, green room, office and bar – with Chi, the cameraman, watching Dave’s sound operator approach. The sun was making a miraculous 12-hour cameo appearance in what would prove to be a week of rain as Dave, in a voice like Dad talking about presents on Christmas morning, shouted ‘Who wants to make a film??!’
Sound-Guy-Tiago (‘Do you only know people with exotic names, Dave?’ I asked, having met Chi, Tamin, Jeroen and Yoona at his last birthday party), a good-natured young man, went to work setting up batteries and cables and attaching radio mics, not suspecting that he and I would develop a Special Relationship over the course of the day.


After seven self-help attempts to attach my mic to my bra, he had to take over, and as a result is better acquainted with my lingerie and the exact curvature of my left breast than most men I’ve dated.

(Sometimes I really love my job.)

Chi, the friendly and endlessly-patient camera operator, had spent the evening before mastering new equipment and was now ably pushing switches and turning dials while saying things like ‘Rolling’ and ‘Set’. After which Dave would say ‘Action’. Just like in the movies about the movies.

Chi and Tiago knowing what to do with equipment.

We were filming in chronological order, to my huge relief. (You see why I love Dave?) Movies usually shoot in the most convenient order, not the most emotionally sensible order. Alan Rickman showed up for his first day on the set of Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility and had to act like a guy who was marrying the girl of his dreams. In the last scene in the film.

Waiting for the crew to arrange the frame and focus the camera and finesse the sound I said ‘Films are very different from the theatre’ to my co-star, Emma, who has done both.

‘Ohhhhhhhh yes’ she said, at that moment blessing our production assistant, Della who was looking in her bag for a spare tissue to blot Emma’s mascara (her character is unhappy and Emma has to cry). I wanted to comment further but I was unable to as, looking up,  I suspected I was about to fall more in love with Dave.

Emma blesses Della; Della finds tissue.

He approached me on the pavement (we shot everything outside), slowly,  steadily, not taking his eyes off my eyes which indicated he had Something To Say, so I walked towards him, knowing my last performance was probably ca-ca and, even though you want to give a better performance, hearing you’ve been ca-ca is the worst feeling in the world.

‘It’s coming along Miss Young,’ he said, kindly. He kept looking at me so I kept looking at him as he paused a nanosecond before saying ‘What about starting more gently? Speak to Emma even more gently.’

This changed the emphasis of the line. And it was a good idea.  If I spoke more gently it would be easier for Emma to cry, which she was going to have to do again in about three and a half minutes.

We do the scene. This is take twelve. It’s the last shot of the day. I speak more gently and Emma bursts into tears.

Everyone approves the take. It’s 6:30 pm and we’ve been working for ten and a half hours. Dave watches the playback with Chris and the crew, I see her nod, I see him nod. He murmurs something about shooting again for luck.

‘But I’ll ask the actors’ he says.

No one ever asks the actors. Just above writers, actors have the least say in the filming process. But Dave asks us.

‘How do you feel? Could you do it again?’

Julian, the dark-haired, blue-eyed comic relief in the story, hilarious and precise take after take after take, says he’s willing. In fact we’re all willing, but we’re all tired. Emma, who has been crying on cue for an hour, rubs her temples.

Julian leaning on his trailer. Where we kept all the cheese straws.

Dave notices. He looks at me. I look back.

‘That’s enough, then,’ he says suddenly. He turns to Chris and includes the company in his glance when he shouts ‘That’s a wrap.’

We held the cast party in the car. We translated ‘Dave is a really great guy’ into Portuguese (Tiago), Cantonese (Chi) and Australian (Chris). Emma tried to drink a beer. I ate crisps and told Dave that I’d had an affair with a married man simply because his name was Dave Sanderson. Even though he was propped up in his seat like a corpse, exhausted and drained, Dave laughed ‘Huh!’

There was no Dave Sanderson, of course, that was just another story.  But perhaps not one I should dramatise and expect Dave to film. He might then -  it’s just ever so slightly possible - suspect my real feelings, which would be horrible and he, obviously, must never, ever know.

Just as he mustn't know I have all my own hair, my teeth are real and I cook a mean tofu cacciatore.

(You could tell him I'm free Friday, however. That would be good.)(Thanks.)

(I'm fine if you do that now.)


ps We are thrilled to announce we have raised almost a third of our budget for this film. Thank you, hugely generous people. This pays for equipment hire, our insurance, and salary for three of the eight cast and crew. If you think Dave should be paid, you can give us money and we'll let him know.  Next is funding for post-production! See our progress:

Dave directing, Chi filming, Emma acting (not yet crying).

Chi, the heroic camera operator, taking a fall so Stephanie doesn't have to. For the tenth time.

Tiago. Sound Guy.

'I know you're roughly the height of a gerbil, but try to remember the camera is HERE.'

Dave Anderson, spent. (Good thing he's nice because, as you can see, he's repulsive-looking.)



  1. i love being on the inside of your shoot and seeing all the pictures. can't wait to see the finished product and good luck with dave!

  2. My mother wrote saying she tried to leave this comment but was thwarted. My deciding to post it is wholly and completely in keeping with the theme of HOME MOVIES (isn't she adorable?):

    I would like the world to know that I felt a great love and respect for my daughter Stephanie, who shared with everyone her unique experience with friends and colleagues in making her first film.

    I loved your story. I was there -- it was great being part of that special day.

    My daughter is talented, loving, kind, and very intelligently creative --- I am truly blessed.

    Is that allowed on bloggs?