Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Letter From Urbino. 2. In Which Robert Mountford enters the underworld of Fine Art Film and Joe Birch finds a Killer Ventilator

'Sandwiches,' Conrad says. 'That's what we need tomorrow. We won't have time to mess about.'
Just when I was planning on messing about...
'M & S,' Conrad says. 'You'll get sandwiches there.'
'And don't forget to get me the revised script.'
I walk home laden with worries.
Had I remembered to save the revised version of the script?
What if I hadn't?
What if I'd given Rob the wrong version.
Version 1 instead of 2?
What if he isn't any good?
What sort of sandwiches should I get?
On the way I meet my friend Lucinda's cat. He's strayed far from home.
'Hello Sammy,' I say. 'You and me both.'
Sammy doesn't seem interested. With an acknowledged flick of his left ear he disappears across the now deserted street.

I was on my own. With a film that may or may not come together tomorrow.

There are fifty-two sandwiches.
How many are you expecting?' Conrad asks but then Rob arrives.
We show him the skeleton film, work in progress, sort of. It's a very rough cut, we tell him, hoping he understands. But Rob has done his homework and gets it immediately; the script, the uncut visuals, the fragments of music, my hopes... Conrad and I glance at each other. So far, so good. Conrad adjusts the mic.
Rob spreads his script around him.
I hold my breath.
We begin recording.
In all we do only three takes and Rob is fantastic. Light and shade in his voice, colour in his phrasing. Later on, when we add the music and the wild track, his voice will fit perfectly with the rhythm of the sounds. But he is not to know that now as he reads from the script, his voice pouring into the silence of the studio; filling the room, rising and falling, unveiling the story, giving meaning to the images. Conrad and I look at each other. Yes! we mouth. Yes!
('What do you expect, darling,' Alison says later. 'He's a pro!')
It is an invisible triumph for the three of us, like all the other secret and memorable moments, embedded forever in the making of a film. We will never be able to watch it without remembering. That is the joy of filmmaking, I think. Why I put myself through it, again and again. Like a meal, this sharing. A pleasure not just for one person.
'Better start eating the sandwiches, then,' Conrad says.
But I know from the look on his face he's pleased.

A few days later Joe, our sound man arrives with some of the wild track.
'I've got the ventilator,' he announces. 'And the hospital trolley.'
Conrad who is knitting voice to image looks up.
'Oh yes? I hope they weren't in use at the time?'
Joe's ventilator turns out to be amazing. Just the job for our ruined hospital. Although, listening to it, I wonder about its effectiveness in real life....
'You did say you wanted a 1940s ventilator,' Joe grins.
He has recently returned from filming in Greece and we have one last question for him.
Do cicadas in Greece sound the same as Italian ones?
'I'll look it up,' Joe says, meticulous.
And off he goes stealing my bag of jelly babies...

Now comes the hard bit.
Wild track.

All together, locked in with the images? Will we do it?
'We're going to have to,' Conrad says, sternly.
He sounds like the dentist. Pulling teeth...

Coming soon...our first trailer...


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