From Idea to Production, the Making of Omelette: Part One
A black comedy about Terrance; a man who at the best of times is a pessimist. One Monday morning Terrance awakes to a day of accidents and disasters that quickly escalate. As he confronts different situations he soon becomes furious and annoyed by the people he encounters, making him bitter and resentful. Breaking his tooth while brushing his teeth, his bike refusing to start, missing his dentist appointment, characters laughing at him, friends taunting him… Terrance is ready to blow.
These events are referred to in past tense as he tells a friend about his bad Monday in contemporary time. As he tells the story we transition back and forth to the events from that day. The tale is told as Terrance’s friend Bugsy prepares and cooks an omelette!
The Initial Spark
With an interview looming to go to film school and study a MA in film, one of the items I needed to bring in support of my portfolio of work (apart from enthusiasm to become a film maker) was evidence of script writing. Up until this point I had written several scripts for short University projects, however all my previous work was presented in the form of music videos or experimental shorts, devoid of dialogue. Maybe it was my fear of words that had brought me to this point? Never the less if I want to produce and make my own films this is an obstacle I must overcome. I graduated in Media Production and for my dissertation I created a music video which was broadcast on three music television channels during the summer of 2012. After my BA was finished over the following months I became more and more frustrated that I had not produced a short film during my last year at University. It’s a very strange sensation for a wannabe film-maker to not be involved in the act of making a film.
In my head I had ideas for two short films: one being a dark comedy, and the second an abstract film about somebody cooking an omelette for another character whilst telling a bizarre story. I decided I would write the black comedy first as that was a complete outline of the plot and situation in my head. The second idea of the omelette being cooked, I would come back too when better fleshed out. With the decision made to concentrate on the black comedy I started to write hoping the script for this 10 minute film, would be complete to show my interviewers at film school.
Fleshing Out the Idea
When the day came for me to have my interview I was hoping I would have a finished script for a short film ready. I did not, but furthermore what I did have ready was not requested for viewing during my interview. The reason for the script not being complete was due to the metamorphosis that had happened during the first stage of writing.
I had originally had two separate ideas for two different short films. During the early writing these two ideas had fused both in my head and on paper. The thought came to me ‘why not have the whole: cooking an omelette whilst telling a bizarre story section and the frame for the dark comedy I had fleshed out?’ This made more sense to me, that way the comedy could be played out in a form of flash backs, and the scenes set in a kitchen could also be funny. This also changed the feel of the comedy and made it slightly less dark and ‘arty’ as I had first envisaged. Overall this in my opinion was a nice direction for the material to go in and allowed me to create some characters that were a lot more fun.
The Story Outline
The outline for the story is that Terence goes to visit his friend Bugsy who is about to cook himself an Omelette for lunch. Whilst Bugsy is preparing and cooking for them both, Terence tells a story of a strange day in his life experienced the previous week. Terence describes the day he had. These events we see in flashback form:
Terence wakes up on a Monday morning with a feeling he is going to have a very bad day. He breaks his tooth cleaning his teeth and then fate conspires against him as he attempts to travel into town and see a dentist. On his way into town he meets: The Weird Old Man, who tells Terence that he shouldn’t get so stressed in life. The Weird Old Man then gives Terence a magic bottle that will allow him to transport himself to a quiet place where he can calm down and think about life. When Terence gets into town he meets a number of characters that infuriate him including a very unhelpful dentist. Instead of using the bottle to calm down, Terence uses it to vanquish those who get in his path.
During the writing process I scripted that while he is having a bad day, Terence has to walk in boiling hot weather which further makes him angry and adds to the stresses of the character. This was partly inspired because after two years of terrible weather it had suddenly become hot and sunny outside. In the back of my mind I knew I would probably have to change this idea as the weather in Wales is generally wet and cold. When June 2013 arrived the weather was still great and we were in the middle of a heat wave that was being predicted would last a good length of time. At this point I was only half way through the script but decided that if I was to move fast I could shoot all the exterior scenes that are set on a hot sunny day. I was lucky at that time to live in a very beautiful part of Wales (Ceredigion), so this opportunity to have nice exterior locations in the film was one I was not going to pass on.
Over the next couple of days I prepared for my film as much as possible in the way of casting people I knew would be around, and getting my head round how I would capture my film.
I had recently become a member of Perygl Productions, a production company formed by a group of talented people I had met during my time at University. Some of those people I had also cast to play some of the characters in the film. Perygl now had three new members including myself, a script for a film and a desire to produce something bigger than we had previously. Omelette now had a crew of people to make the filming happen, and the crew would also make up the cast.
Every member of Perygl Productions owned a Canon 600D DSLR Camera, which its main purpose is still photography. An additional option with the Camera is its ability to capture moving images at full high definition. With no budget to speak of I had decided to shoot Omelette using my 600D. Now that I had a crew who also had the same cameras, this would facilitate some of the more complex scenes and give me more options down the line in the editing stage.
The date of June 10th 2013 was set for the first day of production.
I woke up on the first day of production with a feeling of ambivalence. On the one hand: I was about to start making a film with actors, multiple cameras and a crew. On the other hand: SHIT! I am making a film and it’s my idea. After an hour of tearing my hair out I calmed down and prepared for the day ahead.
Today’s task was to shoot scene three. This scene was an exterior where the character of Terence meets the Weird Old Man, who gives him the magic bottle. I had cast Axle Zappa to play Terence, and Norrie Parmar to play The Weird Old Man. I had seen Axle act in his Science Fiction epic dissertation, and was impressed. I set Axle the task of playing the lead role in Omelette and he was only too happy to oblige. Looking back I think he said yes to do me a favour rather than wanting to be a performer. Norrie Parmar was cast as I needed an older gentleman for the part who had some gravitas as a wise old man. Norrie has a distinctive charm when he talks; coupled with the fact he had performed Shakespeare on stage.
Armed with the script, the actors, four Canon 600D DSLR’s and a lot of excitement; Perygl headed off to the first location shoot at the foot of ‘The Longwood’ in Lampeter mid-Wales. This is a beautiful spot where there is a country lane leading up to a small stone bridge over a river. The two actors performed the scene on the other side of the bridge where there are hills and fields. Another shot was filmed here, to be used in a different scene. It was a scorching hot day and the sun beat down on us hard as we proceeded to shoot the scene. Production went very smoothly and after hours of hard work, sweat and fun, we had our first scene in the can.
That day was an important one for Perygl as it was the first time we had all worked on a joint project. This was a very enjoyable experience, I remember a real buzz as we all crowded round my computer monitor to watch the footage we had captured that day. The weather had been outstanding, the actors excellent considering they had not seen the script until that morning! All of Perygl had pulled together like a well-oiled machine and the fruit of our labour was there in front of us.
After the first day of production the heat wave continued and we were set for a long hot summer. The factor of the good weather had a huge influence on the writing and shooting of the script. I could now write more scenes set outside, all the exteriors would be shot first to take advantage of this good fortune. I decided I would shoot the interior shots and scenes last as they would not be affected by the weather. We set the next date for filming which would require more actors, more scenes, and me to hurry up and write more of the script!
Scene five was the second scene that was shot in part. Essentially it’s made up of three sections: the first being mainly dialog, then the second and third actions. I chose an alleyway in between some shops as the location for this and one other scene. The reason for this was that I needed an area that I could film from different angles and serve as two different locations. The alleyway served this purpose well as from one side it looked as it should, but on the other side there was a dentists. The dentists would serve its purpose for the next shoot but not today.
Myself and the rest of the Perygl crew ascended on the location one late afternoon in June. Even though what I was filming on that day wasn’t a huge amount of the script, the practical process would take longer due to the fact we were filming in a public place. The cameras were rolling, and soon Alan (played by David Roberts), The Dentist (played by Rokas Baniunas) and Terence were delivering lines like they had been written for them (which they had) . As the sun started to go down, a crowd of local kids had gathered to point, laugh, and try and walk in front of the camera. I remember feeling strange after this day because it felt like we had only filmed a small amount, and would have to get the rest on another day. The rest as it turned out would be logistically more complicated…
By pNut Sammarco
Stay tuned for: Production Grows and So Does the Cast, the Making of Omelette: Part Two.