A few years ago, a call was put out by a Film Studies University student. They wanted volunteers to be a part of their Doctor Who fan film featuring original characters. Alarm bells might have rung in my head about how this would pan out when I realised the script hadn’t been finished. Effectively, by the time the script was finished, nearly all of the volunteers had dropped out and had mostly been replaced.
I don’t know how relaxed Film Studies is at this particular uni, or if it’s a reflection of the student, but my two experiences of filming have been interesting.
The first experience involved going to Cardiff. They brought coffee and read the script to me, and highlighted my parts. I found a location where we could shoot a scene that involved walking – no dialogue. Then we had a sit down meal. Then, while the light was fading, we walked to the Doctor Who Experience and filmed another short scene where their character answers a phone. That was a day of my life and £70 in food and travel costs.
The second experience came from my recommendation of Coventry Cathedral ruins as a backdrop for the main villain’s headquarters and a battle scene. The night before, I asked them to email me the script so I could learn my lines as I didn’t want to read through the entire manuscript looking for the few pages I’m in. They asked me when I was arriving at the location, and I said I had an open train ticket. They had done some research to discover the venue closed at 5pm, and decided they would arrive at the train station at 3.30pm as the tickets were cheaper. This gave us 90 minutes in Coventry. A good proportion of that time was spent with them struggling to put their costume on, asking where the hotel was, where the ruins were, how to hail a taxi, checking into the hotel. By the time we got to the ruins, they were closing the gates.
I suggested we use the exteriors as filming locations. We managed an hour due to the cold. We managed one page of script, as they didn’t know how to set up the tripod for the camera. They only had one camera. They didn’t know their lines. Some of my stage directions said “chants in an unknown language” for which they had no suggestions. I chose part of the All Blacks Haka. They had brought a tube of fake blood, which they hadn’t skin or screen tested beforehand. They didn’t take photos for continuity.
I went back to the hotel and stayed in my room all night. Mostly I spent it in the bath defrosting my hands. While I’d remembered to wear a thermal base layer, my hands were exposed and my hot water bottle went cold very quickly. We agreed we’d meet in the foyer at 9.30am, as that would give us chance to set up and then start as soon as the gates opened at 10am. I had a social media message at 9.12am asking where I was. I replied I was in the foyer having checked out.
They were on a fixed train, so we had 3 hours of filming and 40 minutes to get to the train station, get lunch and change into normal clothes. The day went like this: