We were given a rather sketchy newspaper article: and asked to put some flesh on its bones. Specifically, we were told: "Choosing your own narrator, rewrite the article, enhancing it with a sense of place and mood. Try to, at least once, control the pace of the narrative."
Martin, the director of the movie, settled himself down in the editing room to watch the scenes they'd filmed today. The room smelled faintly of celluloid and glue, though it had been many years since any of those things had last been used in here. Today's digital equipment meant that splicing scenes together into a completed movie was all done with computers not a human hand touched the raw footage. But today Martin was more concerned with the integrity of the individual scenes than he was with how they would eventually fit together. It would be many months before he'd actually be stitching them into the finished film...
Today's first scene showed an astonished man staring out of his kitchen window. The camera zoomed in on his face as he made it perfectly clear that he couldn't quite believe what his eyes were seeing. Martin nodded approvingly this man could certainly act! Then the point of view shifted, and the camera looked through the kitchen window at the house across the street. Two women and a man were clustered around the front door. The man was levering it open with a crowbar and as the camera watched, the door frame splintered and they went inside the house, clearly bent on burglary. Soon they reappeared, and began loading items into their car.
The scene shifted back to the man in the kitchen. He had obviously just telephoned the police. In crisp, clear tones he described what he had seen. Then he put the phone down, thought for a moment and dialled another number. The sound engineers had made a very good job of recording the dialogue, and Martin didn't think it would need any overdubs later on.
"Aw, mate," said the man, "some drongos are breaking into Johnny's house. I've called the cops, but they won't be here for ages. Why don't you and the lads come round to sort it out?"
Martin decided that this didn't quite work. It had looked good on paper, but it needed something more. He resolved to film some pick up scenes later so that he could show the other side of the conversation. Perhaps he'd film it in the local pub where the lads would discuss what they should do after they'd received the phone call. Yes, that would anchor the scene more convincingly. Martin made a note.
Then the film showed the lads from the pub arriving. They drove up in a collection of battered and muddy Hondas and Holdens which they parked across the driveway so that the burglars couldn't get their car out. A tractor trundled into view and blocked the last remaining gap. Martin examined this scene critically. He'd shot it in several takes with a multitude of cameras at various angles and distances from the action. This was a crucial comedy scene and he wanted it to get a good laugh. He quite liked the third take, the one where the tractor actually bumped into the burglars' car and a lump of cow shit fell off and smeared itself on to the shiny bonnet. That was unscripted, but sometimes, in Martin's experience, the cinematic gods smiled and gave you a perfect shot anyway. He always enjoyed it when that happened.
The next scene shifted the point of view inside the house where the burglars were discussing the arrival of the crowd outside and wondering what to do.
"We can't drive off," said a woman who looked like Cher, "they've blocked us in."
"Well, that's it then," said the other woman, who didn't look like Cher. She was carrying a jewellery box. She put it down on the hall table. It wasn't going to do her any good now. "Perhaps we ought to just call it a day and surrender. We've had a good run of luck, but it had to end sooner or later. Looks like it's just ended."
The two women looked at each other and nodded in agreement. They went through the splintered remains of the front door. "We're coming out," shouted the one who looked like Cher. "We're giving ourselves up."
"Blow that for a game of soldiers," said the man. "I'm not going quietly." He sidled out of the door and then ran off across the garden. Vaulting the hedge, he set off across the field. As he ran, he brandished a hammer. "Keep your distance," he shouted. "I'm armed and dangerous. Don't mess with me or I'll make you regret it."
Martin pursed his lips. The script called for the burglar to be brandishing a tomahawk, but the props department hadn't been able to come up with one in time, so they'd had to use a hammer instead. Martin made a note for the special effects people to magic up a CGI tomahawk over the top of the hammer. Nobody would ever notice...
The man ran across the field with the boys from the pub in hot pursuit. Martin decided to speed up this sequence so that everyone was running jerkily, like characters from an old silent movie, while the Benny Hill chase music played over the top of them. Everybody likes a Benny Hill chase... Perhaps the women burglars could take part as well but he'd need to find an excuse to get them running in bikinis. He made another note for a later pick up shot of the women getting changed.
The final sequence in the day's filming showed the police arriving to take the miscreants away. The lads from the pub were holding the man and the two women firmly. Martin noted that the actor holding the woman who looked like Cher appeared to be enjoying himself rather more than the script called for. He considered doing another take of that scene tomorrow and making it even sexier, but then he rejected the idea. He didn't want the censors to give him too restrictive a certificate. This was supposed to be a family film after all.
"Well done lads," said the police sergeant. "That was a brave and selfless action." Martin winced as a police sergeant, this actor made a good bedside lamp. What a terrible piece of casting. Martin made a note to overdub his lines later using someone who could actually say the words as if he meant them. Mind you, the scriptwriters needed a bit of a kicking as well, the words really were rather corny.
"We have been after this lot for months," continued the sergeant woodenly. "We have recovered a significant amount of stolen property from their car. We will be charging them with multiple counts of burglary." Martin shook his head sadly. The man looked and sounded like a puppet on a string. But then he cheered up wasn't that what real police spokesmen sounded like?
All in all, reflected Martin, it hadn't been a bad day's filming.