Iceland – Days Fifteen to Nineteen

Learning the Sound EquipmentI had my work cut out as an executive producer in Iceland. Everything that went wrong was my responsibility and I had to deal with it. Any issues I had to sort. Any conflicts I had to resolve. I also had to arrange meetings and schedules and ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone. This was no easy task I can tell you. Despite being one of the best experiences of my life, the trip drained me of life and energy. It really took its toll on me but it has prepared me for the future when I will be working professionally. I don’t want to start on a negative work but people’s laziness and lack of commitment really made the work harder.

I will cram a few days into this blog post as I am unsure of dates and also so much happened in such a short space of time, it’s a blur!

The first weekend the whole crew were there, I delegated them to get out into the local surroundings and familiarise themselves with locations and logistics. We picked up the minibus we had blagged for cheap. We also picked up some spare equipment from the film school which greatly helped us. I had personally organised a meeting with Einar Tómasson who is the Film Commissioner for Iceland. I had arranged a meeting with the top player in the film industry in Iceland and Alex accompanied me as I travelled to meet him. Ironically, his office building was 50m opposite our hotel which made the meet so much easier. We were greeted by him as friends and taken into a private conference room with him just to ‘chat’. He was so interested in what we had to say and what we were doing in Iceland and was utterly thrilled for us that we had managed to get into the national paper.  We talked for about an hour and he offered to help promote the films in Iceland once we had finished them. He also gave me personal permission to use the “Film in Iceland” logo and brand to use on our film. Some may see this as him trying to get his mark on our work but we actually asked if we could use it because it would give our films so much more credit in Iceland, the UK and around the world. I can now say I have produced films which were branded by a country’s institution for film!

Also on the Sunday, Edda helped me arrange an audition with her nephew who ended up playing the part of Pall in our Cats film. She could work with him effectively and get a better performance out of him because she knew him. Also, his parents were happy for Edda to chaperone him on set which was fantastic as she was family so we were legally covered but it also meant we didn’t have people clogging up our set. I arranged for us to start filming on the Thursday evening and a full day on Friday. This was a very short space of time but we were confident we could do it.

Snowblind would start shooting on the Monday evening. I was able to go along to the shoot however; on set I would only be runner.  We set out the tent we had taken as a base whilst it was still light; in it contained the first aid kit and the ladies she-wees! We designated a toilet area and also set up the minibus to hold everyone’s snacks and hot drinks in. The shoot was along a stretch of road. The only problem was it was completely pitch black so we were in radio communication. I had a radio at one end and had to warn the crew of approaching traffic. I also had to flag down cars at speed using my torch and glow sticks.

Every hour or so, I would wander down to the set to deliver moral boosting warm drinks. People were cold and tired so I went round checking everyone was okay and hypothermia was not setting in. Despite getting a beasting for this, people’s wellbeing was my primary concern. I took the telling off knowing that if someone had got in a bad state, the crises would be much more severe so I made sure nobody got into that state. At one point I came across Sunil who had been standing around for a length of time not doing much; not moving much to keep warm. His lips were starting to become blue and he was slightly unresponsive. I instinctively dragged him to the minibus and wrapped in my spare warm clothing and got two hot drinks in him. I cuddled him and rubbed his body to pass on some of my warmth. He started talking a bit more and coherently but I knew he had to get back to the hotel. Steve also came down with some stomach cramps and with my depleted and exhausted collection of hot drinks I agreed with Bex that we head back to the hotel to drop off Sunil and Steve as well as resupply the flasks with hot water. I telephoned ahead and ordered everyone to get into reception to help us. As soon as the bus wheels stopped moving, I was out the door handing out flasks to get hot water poured into them. Steve went off to his room and I got Sunil in his bed with an extra duvet. He still had all his clothes on including his hat (though we took his boots off) to get him warm. I asked that someone stay with him until I got back which they did. Once I had restocked the flasks thanks to everyone’s help, Bex and I set off back to the set. I started adding coffee and soup sachets into the flasks. We got back to set and I went around forcing everyone to drink something warm and acquired a couple of packs biscuits and chocolates that I compelled people to eat. It may only have been little but it boosted their moral and gave them a short energy boost. Once everyone was recharged, Ross, Bex, Clifton and I walked up the nearby hill to get some beautiful shots of the Northern Lights. It was also incredibly amazing to watch the shoot from such a remarkable viewpoint.

As the shoot drew to an end, I raced toward the set. I knew people would be cold and tired and therefore mope about so I took complete charge of the packing up of equipment. What took them 45minutes to set up, I packed away in 10. I delegated tasks to people – “you get the all the lights”, “you collect all the reflectors and bring them over here” etc. I feel my inspiration and leadership was needed here because everyone was at rock bottom. The shoot had gone badly and not enough had got done. People did not challenge me, instead they just got on with that I ordered. It needed to be done quickly and efficiently so people didn’t get even colder. I asked Bex to bring the minibus down from base camp to the set. This made packing away a lot more rapid. Within 20 minutes, the kit was all packed, everyone was in the vehicles and we were ready to leave. Filming was over for the night. But my job was not done.

We got back to the hotel and there was an issue between the director and producer of Outdated I had to resolve. Egos clashed and I had to diffuse the situation and resolve the conflict. I then had to have a quiet word with the boasting the Outdated director was doing toward the defeated, moral-broken Snowblind crew about how bad their shoot had gone. We were all in this together and that did not help the situation. I expect if I was a producer in the real world I would have to deal with similar scenarios and this was preparing me for the future. I’ve done plenty of conflict resolutions and bollockings with the cadets but never in an environment where I was working with people. I feel I handled the situation with delicacy and composure.

The day after, Snowblind went on their day shoot. I took it upon myself to boost morale back up with them as they were filming that night and needed lifting. I drove the point into them that they would learn from the night before and their shoot on that evening would be successful. In the end, Snowblind finished their shoot 2 hours ahead of their schedule although I was not on that shoot.

The next couple of days I spent finalising locations and searching for props for the Cats shoot. My role had gone from executive producer of Gryla Productions to producer of Cats. As I was also the sound technician on the shoot, I had to get out and master the kit I would be using. I set off with my rifle mic and Z44T with an XLR wrapped around me. In a day, I pretty much had my head around the equipment and knew what to do with it. I did spend a lot of time helping Outdated with issues they had (one of their filming days was lost because of horrendous weather conditions). I then went from scolding to consoling their director and had to spend a lot of time with him proving his film was still possible and could be achieved.

On the Thursday afternoon, the Cats crew set out to the location we would be using for the majority of filming. We managed to get both our internal and external night shots. It was a small cramped house and actually had a little cat in it – he played havoc with my allergies and my boom mic. The external sound was tricky because of the weather conditions. Wind and rain gave my rifle mic a hard time and I returned it to the improvised loan shop blown and soggy. It dried out nicely however and still worked fine.

On Friday, I spent the day recording the sound in the house. I was trapped under a bed in a stuffy room with a constant need to sneeze and was completely shattered by the whole week. But I persevered and got the job done. We went outside for an external scene where Pall rides around the town on his bicycle to the chemists to get his mother’s medicine. This was tricky as I had to constantly take sound however, the wind was blowing a full on gale. At a later stage when I went through the sound clips, most of my audio was useless.

We also went down to the beach to film the final scene of Pall and his Father. It was an emotional scene to me and I reckon it will spark a few tears when people watch it. Once again however, the full on gale the wind was racking up as well as the inbound coastal wind made my audio useless. I gave up on using it and instead assisted in making the sure the track (from which a wheel had been lost on the second Snowblind shoot) ran smoothly. My frozen fingers hardly felt pain when the track crushed over the top of them however, I got the job done. We had to battle appalling wind levels but triumphed in the end.

My last few days were spent exploring Iceland which was truly amazing. I had tried to do as much of this as possible during my recci’s but I got to visit the places I had missed. I also had to organise the logistics of getting the borrowed and rented kit back the Film School and Pegasus Rentals respectively as well as get the minibus back to the place that hired it. After one of the most exhausting but rewarding trips of my life, I made my way back home.

But my job didn’t stop there. I am currently promoting the films and getting people hyped up for their release. I am also chasing up the editors for their rough cuts as well as keeping all the paperwork in check.

Iceland was one of the best experiences of my life. I learnt a great deal. I learnt about myself and I learnt about working with people. In my opinion, if you want people to do a truly grand job, you either selectively work with certain people or pay them. I have built up quite a lot of respect for me and my work and people now look to me for similar roles. I am not trying to be big-headed but it is nice to know that people trust my reliability and consider me for work. This will help tremendously in my career.

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