Flaps Theatre Production: Filming on Set
I’m producing my live show Flaps Theatre as a series of micro-short films
Flaps Theatre was developed as a live performance for Dandifest 2014 and working it into film has been a challenge.
I posted recently about the difficulties of transforming live flaps into film flaps, and how I had dealt with problems that had arisen in the production process. Those problems seem tiny now, compared to the disasters I dodged at the shoot.
Bertha doesn’t like flaps
Why did I make the Flaps Theatre set so BIG? That is a question I ask myself every day. The set is too big to assemble indoors and get a good shot on camera so I was planning to shoot it in my garden. That was until it came to light that the tail end of a hurricane called Bertha was headed our way. I considered rescheduling but I knew that it would be difficult to get my cast and crew together again, so decided to do my best to find a workaround.
So, with a day to go, I set about building a slightly smaller set out of cardboard and bamboo sticks. I also went out and bought a couple of worklights from B&Q – not ideal but enough to make filming indoors possible. This was all very tiring and a tad stressful but I was chuffed to have found a solution so we could go ahead with the filming.
All by myself, don’t wanna be all by myself
As I was putting the finishing touches to the new Flaps Theatre set, the cancellations from cast and crew started rolling in. All for very good reasons. By this point I had put in so much effort to make sure it went ahead that there was no way I was going to give up. I pictured the worst case scenario of me shooting it on my own and decided I could do it. Luckily, though, this wasn’t necessary as a couple of my crew stepped in to replace my cast. I will be eternally grateful to M-N and Benjamin G Wilson for putting their all into their roles as my glamorous assistants at such short notice. The role of glam assistant hinges on improvisation, which I personally would have found quite daunting in their position coming into it fresh and unprepared. So a big, BIG thank you goes out to both of my flappy friends for taking it in their stride and creating two dynamic, hilarious characters.
As well as a fresh cast, I was working with a new crew for the first time. For the past 3 years I have mainly worked with one close collaborator who was a pro camera op and director, aswell as knowing me and my creative process very well. I was a bit worried about working with new people, and doubting myself quite a lot. Would they understand the way I work? Would I be able to communicate clearly enough? Would they be able to run with things and use their judgement?
In the end the lovely Jam Lindsay shot the whole thing for me, and he was a complete and utter hero. Once we got into the swing of things he really helped to take a lot of stress off of my shoulders by working quickly, efficiently and being open to playing things by ear. I felt like I could trust him to get what I needed, and to give it to me straight. That’s what I have learnt that I really need from anybody on set – straight communication! I was also very lucky to have Sam Walker-Smart on board to help out generally, and M-N and Benjamin also got stuck in. Things would have been a lot easier with the full crew but things don’t always go to plan, and I was reminded how invaluable it is to have people who will give everything on the day to get the film in the can. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to all involved.
Building on strengths
The Flaps Theatre performances were devised by myself and Becca Patch, who also usually plays the part of glamorous assistant. Sadly Becca was too ill to shoot flaps with me on the day, which was a real shame and also daunting as she knows the show inside out. Essentially I was the only person on set who knew what was going on, but in many respects this was useful in giving me a different perspective on the performances. Working with people who have not been present or aware of the way Flaps Theatre was devised and seeing the way they were engaging with it sparked new ideas for me. I felt a bit like I was performing for a new audience, which was interesting as I began to improvise certain sections or really run with certain aspects that people were responding positively to. That was a good dynamic to have while filming, and reaffirmed my feelings that Flaps Theatre works very well for a small audience where a connection can be made. I now feel like I can come back together with Becca and we can hopefully collaborate on the next steps, building on what I have learnt.
It’s a long and flappy road
Flaps Theatre has been a long and intense project for me, and I have been quite unsure about it at times. I think getting stuck in to shooting it helped me to engage with it creatively again, and to realise that it’s not finished. I have plans for where to take Flaps Theatre next, and how it can develop. I am very excited to share the films as so many people have been following this project and I am proud of the performances and their strength of communication.