On Wednesday we wrapped on the challenging, exhausting and totally thrilling shoot of Fire. As we move into post-production, here’s a recap a little on the journey so far. A new short film written and directed by Christopher Andrews, Fire was commissioned and developed as part of Film London’s London Calling scheme and shot on location in Haringey, North London. We always knew Fire would be a production challenge. It is a magical realist tale about a teenager whose anger towards his father manifests in spontaneous pyrokinesis, and involves a set piece in which a huge tree is felled with a chainsaw – in amongst fires, car theft, foot chases, fistfights and other producer’s-worst-nightmares. How on earth would we make all this happen on our tiny budget? Our first challenge was finding our lead actor. With the help of our casting director Beatrice Ray we found a young actor called Ewan Mitchell. Ewan is training at The Television Workshop in Nottingham, a drama school well-known for training talent such as Samantha Morton and Jack O’Connell. Ewan is a brilliant emerging talent and a great fit for the role of Jack, with the guts and energy to push hard and get to the heart of the character. Rupert Proctor was cast as Tony, Jack’s abusive father, while Michael Shaeffer was cast as Mark, the ranger who helps Jack control his fiery emotions. We quickly assembled an amazing crew, including our fantastic Director of Photography Luke Bryant, and we were ready to shoot!
On the first shoot day, we were filming scenes between Jack and his father. Ewan had to tolerate take after take of shoved around and shouted at by Rupert, which he did with surprising enthusiasm! In the afternoon we were joined by stunt supervisor Jude Poyer, who helped us to create some stunning shots with real fire – eliciting applause from cast and crew.
On our second shoot day we relocated to Queen’s Wood in Highgate to shoot the scenes between Jack and the ranger. We had a lot of script to shoot and were in the (literal and metaphorical) shadow of a huge, 60-foot tree which we needed to cut down before 4pm. The tree had been selected for felling as it was growing in an area which contained saplings – young trees which would only grow if the light currently blocked by the large tree’s canopy could reach them. Our crew worked like a well-oiled machine and Ewan and Michael delivered belting performances, and somehow we made it to the tree-felling scene just in time. We were losing the light and time was slipping away but Luke Tamblyn, our arboriculturalist, calmly began felling the tree with a chainsaw. We’d only get one chance to get this shot, so tensions were running high. Seconds before the tree fell, the sun came out from behind a cloud offering priceless lighting as the huge Hornbeam crashed to the ground – covered by four cameras. It was a tough, adrenaline-fuelled shoot, but the rushes look great and we’re excited as we go into post with our editor, Marco Ruffatti. We’ll be posting updates as we go, and hope you’ll follow us as we bring Fire to life.
Photos by Jonathan Birch