GRASS GROWN HIGH
It is now officially the wettest June on record, so I might be forgiven for having been a little paranoid about the weather.
As it turned out we were incredibly fortunate. I had asked Simon Gee, a cameraman friend who is based in the Lake district, if he would be camera 2 on my exterior Rink shoot and he had gallantly made the journey back from Wales to the Lakes the previous evening, and duly met me at 9am the following morning in the car park of Hartlepool United. He should have been tired but he was bright and chirpy and was already assembling gear.
If he was happy, I was even more so… we had sunshine, yes real, happy, shiny sunshine – with complementary blue sky.
Of course there was also that humidity in the air… you knew it would be foolish to expect any degree of permanency. Still… time for a quick walkabout on our location next to the footy ground.
I had been congratulating myself on getting everything sorted. The transport was booked for the dancers, audio playback in place; I had got permission from the football club to use their facilities, my camera crew were booked and about to be briefed – and I had signed the relevant council paperwork to cover the lands use. Then I saw the grass;
“My god it’s like… four feet high!”
I really hadn’t considered the laws of seasonal cause and effect. The last time I had driven past this empty space that is the site of the Queen’s ballroom, it was in its usual green and scrubby state. A place to walk your dog. A cut through. Now I was confronted by this sea of grass – swaying gently like it was waiting to be made into Hay. I was about to ask 20 student dancers to somehow trip through over grown pastures, when they were expecting something a little less resistant to movement.
We considered the option of hiring a strimmer, but decided it would take too long. Tom and Imogen would be here at 10 with the polecam and the schedule was tight.
In the end we had a go at stomping it flat. It was so long that it formed a mat when pushed down, so I decided if we waited until everyone arrived, with teamwork, we could make the equivalent of crop circles .
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that in fact this was a beautiful device. The point of filming here was to visually emphasise the passing of time, and it being overgrown really added something to that feeling.
First thing we did when the polecam was on site was to take a number of camera sweeps across the location in all its serene banality. Starting low and moving through the grass was actually quite dramatic. I wanted to establish the atmosphere of the place before going on to bring in any other element.
Sun still out but getting hazy… you could feel trouble in the air.
The dancers arrived at 12.30 right on schedule. I had expected Mike (the gentleman who was going to do a ‘walk around the perimeter’ for me whilst recalling his dancehall memories) a little earlier, but in fact he appeared just before the dancers, so I decided to incorporate them as a background tableau whilst he did his piece.
Simon got on with his ‘roving mid shot and close ups’ brief and I concentrated on various setups with the polecam. The student dancers were great .One of the most dedicated of the bunch, was suffering terribly from hay fever. This really wasn’t helping, but he struggled on with red eyes, rubbing them at every opportunity. He could have easily opted out and I was, and am, very grateful for all their commitment. A couple of the girls complained about the possibility of dog poo and the appearance of uninvited worms…but I couldn’t blame them.
By 4.00pm the air had changed and ominous black clouds loomed. By 5.30pm we were having our lunch (yes lunch), watching the torrential rain pour.
I had the footage though; everything was good.