Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Home for Christmas the film: aka watching a figment of your imagination become real

So it finally happened - on Sunday 4th May 2014 I watched the filming of Home for Christmas and fulfilled a lifetime ambition to see one of my novels brought to life.

Me with the clapper board.
I was nervous and excited in equal measures as the taxi drew up outside the Duke of York's cinema in Brighton at 9pm and my brother Dave, my sister Bec and I all clambered out. I was weighed down with bags - a handbag containing my fancy Nikon camera, a supermarket carrier containing two bottles of champagne for the directors and copies of The Accident for the cast and a second carrier rammed full of sweets and chocolate for the crew.

As I squeezed through the door to the cinema, I ran straight into Nathalie - one of the co-owners of JumpStart and the woman who first approached me via email back in 2012 to ask if her company could turn my book into a film. Nathalie is also eight months pregnant (and did a bloody good job of staying awake until 3am. Something the rest of us really struggled with!).

Me, Dave and Bec in the Duke of York's cafe before filming started
We hugged hello and then she took us up to the cafe where they were setting up to film the first scene (where Beth comes into work to hand in her notice to Mrs Blackstock and runs into Creepy Carl).

As a Christmas tree was assembled in the corner of the room, tables were cleared and the camera and sound crew set up I was introduced to Jamie the director, Richey the soundman (who will also be creating the score for the film), Matt Beveridge who plays Aiden, April Pearson who plays Beth, Melissa the make-up artist, Georgia the production assistant, Cliff the camera man, Graeme Dalling who plays Creepy Carl, Shirley who plays Mrs Blackstock and so many other people I've forgotten their names (sorry guys!).

Excited to take some pics of everyone in action I reached into my handbag for my Nikon, only to discover I'd left the SD card in my laptop at home. Doh! Never mind, camera phones at the ready instead...

As everyone frantically rushed around getting ready we squirreled ourselves away at the tables in the corner of the room (where we'd later 'act' as customers in a scene) and were joined by some friends - the lovely Georgie D (if anyone needs a personal trainer in Brighton she's your woman!) and author and 5:2 guru Kate Harrison and her partner Rich.

From left to right: Rich, Kate, Bec, George, Me, Dave

I wasn't expecting what happened next - I was asked if I'd mind being interviewed as part of the Behind the Scenes section of the DVD! One of the production assistants was swiftly tasked with scribbling down some questions for me, a camera was set up in front of me, Richey dangled his thing over my head (microphone, you perves!) and BOOM! we were off.

I wasn't told the questions in advance so stumbled over the first one

'What's Home for Christmas about?'

I've spent so much time over the last few months telling people what The Accident is about that I'd totally forgotten the elevator pitch for my second rom com. I had a second go and managed to get through the rest of the questions without stumbling although I was horribly aware that the room was totally silent and everyone was watching. Rather them than me in front of the camera!

Me being interviewed for the Behind the Scenes documentary
Then it was time for the first scene - the confrontation between Beth and Carl as she prepares to leave the Picturebox forever and fly to Australia to be with her mum. April and Graeme were fantastic - I loved the way April portrayed Beth's new found confidence and Graeme, with his soft lilting Scottish accent gave Carl a real malevolence.

It was so surreal hearing actors speak the lines I'd written and see a scene I'd played out in my head come to life in front of me - it was still my book but it wasn't, it had taken on a life of it's own and become something new, shaped by other people's interpretations and visions.

I sneaked a peek at a page of Graeme's script (complete with his notes)
Writing a book has often been compared to having a baby - you nurture it for months and when it's published it's 'born'. If that's the case then watching your book become a film is like watching that baby grow up and leave home. When they come back for a visit they're still your baby but they've changed too, they've had adventures and experiences you haven't been part of. I have no idea if that analogy makes sense but it's the best I can come up with!

Watching filming of the first scene. That's April (Beth) by the door and you can just make out Graeme (Carl) with his arms crossed perching on the table behind the camera.

After filming that scene from several angles (including with us in the background as customers) it was time for one of the really touching scenes in the film - where Beth and Mrs Blackstock (the owner of the Picturebox) say goodbye. Shirley was perfectly cast as Mrs Blackstock. She's got a lovely open, warm face and demeanor with an edge of steel underneath.

Beth and Mrs Blackstock hugging goodbye.
By the time filming upstairs was finished it was 12am and time to head downstairs to the ticket office for some more scenes - including the first time Beth and Aiden meet, the moment Mrs Blackstock tells Beth she's selling the Picturebox and the scene where Carl tells Beth about Aiden's 'engagement party'.

April (Beth) and Matt (Aiden) practice their lines whilst make up artist Melissa checks her phone.
We weren't needed as extras immediately so we amused ourselves as best we could for a couple of hours...

We drank tea (a lot)

We ate Malted Milk biscuits (and Haribos and jelly babies)
Dave did tricep dips on the bar!

We watched filming and Tweeted

And Dave refreshed his make up!

Bec and George also went for a wander upstairs in search of the fabled Duke of York's ghost and both swore they could sense something weird in the balcony (George said she saw some cushions move!).
April went off to get changed between scenes and, when she returned, Georgia suggested we have our photo taken together...

Me and Beth (April Pearson) a figment of my imagination come to life!
Lots of people wanted to get photos of us together and it was like being papped! (thanks to Kate Harrison for capturing the moment!)

Being 'papped' with April!
At this point it was about 1.30am and Kate and Rich were exhausted and well and truly jetlagged after returning from Australia just days earlier and decided to call it a night.

Kate and Rich - smiling through the tiredness!

Then it was time for April to be 'turned orange' by Melissa for the aftermath of the fake tan disaster scene. She didn't thank me for writing that!

Fake tan disaster in progress
And then, at 2.30am (and with the four of us yawning for England and wondering how on earth the actors were able to speak never mind remember their lines) it was time for the final scene and our moment of glory as extras - a stroll across the foyer and up the stairs of the cinema. Jamie told us to take our time but Dave told me later I shot across the foyer like a bullet from a gun. I wouldn't be at all surprised if our entrance ends up on the cutting room floor!

The final scene of the night: Creepy Carl tells a very orange Beth that he's been invited to Aiden's 'engagement party'.

At 2.47am Jamie shouted 'That's a wrap!' or maybe 'We're done' or 'You can sleep now' - I can't quite remember, either way that was filming finished for another day. I hugged as many people as I could and said thank you, thank you, thank you, then strolled out into the cold Brighton air and headed for bed.

It was one of the most extraordinary, exciting and enchanting days of my life and one that I won't forget for a very, very long time. Roll on December when the film will be premiered at the Duke of York's and I get to see the whole thing. And thank you again JumpStart Productions, for helping make one of my dreams come true.

You can see more photos and follow the progress of the film here:


Anonymous said...

Absolutely in awe! It must have been so exciting to see your hard work come to life like that. Massive congratulations.


CL Taylor said...

Thanks Kathryn. xx

Bec Taylor said...

Such a proud moment - happy to be part of the dream xx

CL Taylor said...

And really special to have you and Dave there, sis xx

Nik Perring said...

How exciting!

Wendy's Writing said...

I am going to read your post again once I've read Home for Christmas to bring it all to life (I'm reading The Accident at the moment). What a fantastic experience for you, Cally.

CL Taylor said...

Cheers Nik, it is!

CL Taylor said...

Wendy - you'll see it in a whole different light once you've read Home for Christmas. Hopefully I haven't given too much away!