Twelve Frames Per Second – Part Three

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A year after the birth of my daughter, I was sat at work, surrounded by others who had been working at the same place since leaving school. They were now mid forties, fifties, early sixties, and I thought, “I don’t wanna die here.”

That’s where the initial idea for the film came from. A fear of waiting around and getting bogged down in the hum-drum of the everyday, before you know it…

**LIGHT BULB APPEARS ABOVE HEAD**

A bloke stuck at work, doing the same thing over and over and over, for months, years, his whole working life. Then, on the day he’s due to retire, he’s forced to do the very thing he has hated doing for the last 40 odd years, otherwise he’s going to die.

Like many places, the economic crisis (or depression as I like to call it) led to voluntary redundancies/retirement and one of the guys I’d worked with was looking forward to sorting his garden, a few trips abroad and generally sitting off and enjoying some time to himself to do whatever he wanted after working his arse off for 40 years. Three months into his retirement he’s diagnosed with inoperable cancer, died a few weeks later.

Now is the time people! I’d just finished recording the actors for the film and life was screaming, “You were fucking right! NOW IS THE TIME!” Time to work on those little ideas. Time to create new projects. Time to embark on creative adventures. Long time dead, as they say.

My band BATTERYMEN were leasing an industrial unit within a self-storage facility at the time so I figured we’d use that as our studio. The intended sound man was off getting hitched but had lent me his recording equipment, so I roped in Andy Rawlins (a friend who had recorded the band a couple of times) to push buttons and generally make it look like I wasn’t some lone madman without a plan to the actors I’d duped into appearing in this strange, stop-motion world of oil rigs, monsters and a miserable old git.

After a night preparing with pizza, beer and a viewing of The House That Bled To Death we arrived early the next morning attempting to set up the recording equipment only to find there were no instructions. It turned out to be pretty easy to sort out, but why would you take the instructions out of the box? Dave?

To make Sukuntala, our first actor, feel as comfortable as possible, I tried my best not to come across like some skanky low life porno producer when I ushered her into the badly lit room within the confines of the industrial unit, where a selection of microphones and a camera awaited.

Her intonation was perfect, which is why I had wanted someone of Indian decent to play the part. There’s something about the clipping of the words, and controlled expressive way of speaking the scripted lines that suited the character.

We were just about finished when she mentioned that her father has a shed-load of old cassettes filled with all kinds of Indian music which he had recorded throughout his life. I’d recently got into Mongolian throat singing (check out Genghis Blues, a great documentary about an American blues man and Tuvan throat singers) so straight away I’m looking for an angle where I could get to hear some of this stuff. She told me, “I wasn’t going to ask, but thought you might be able to help. It would be great for my dad to listen to the tapes again.”

It turns out Andy has a cassette deck which also has a USB output. They exchange numbers and I make them promise to let me listen to the goodies.

Next in was Gareth. His voice didn’t quite fit the character that I had on paper when listening to his show reel (voice reel..? What the fuck is that called anyway? Audio audition???) But then I heard him reading a children’s story playing all of the characters and he smashed it!

So I rewrote the part, and here he was, a couple of weeks later, relaxed and complimentary, whilst we recorded the “Dooley” dialogue. Some of his performance reminded me of the skeletons in Army of Darkness: The Medieval Dead.

Then it was down to signing my standard Rumplestiltskin contract, paying him off (a tenner for his first-born) and that’s day one, two actors done.

There was one point in the recording where I got Gareth to repeat a line seven or eight times. I’m sure I had what I needed after two or three takes but he did it “for my amusement.”

Later, I told Andy about how the multiple takes of Gareth’s performance had reminded me of another film I had done: there was a scene where one of the characters was getting a beating, so I got the one actor in the room to play both the beater and the beaten. Me and the sound man suppressed giggles as the actor let out an aggressive battle cry, punched himself in the chest and then slumped on the floor:

[Me] “Again.”

[HIM] “ARRRGGGHHH”゠**PUNCH**“OOOFFFFF”

[Me]“Again!”

[HIM] “AARRRRGGGHHHHHH”**PUNCH**゠“OOOOFFFFFFFFF”

[ME] “Again!!”

[HIM] “AAAAARRRRGGGHHHHHHHHHH”**PUNCH**゠“OOOOOOFFFFFFFFFF”**cough cough cough**

It turned into a weird version of the Milgram Experiment where the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience was played out but with the person inflicting the pain also being the person the pain was inflicted on. We took it far too far and I never heard from the actor again,  even after I’d sent him a DVD copy of the film. I’m sure he was okay. Yeah, there can’t have been any permanent damage… could there?

I was feeling pretty good with two actors recorded, but I was still not quite half way through. Andy couldn’t make our next recording day, so it would be down to me to direct and engineer the next session, which just happened to with my big marque star…

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