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  • Writer's picturePoppy Stils

THE LOST - The feature film shot in 8 days!

I've always said it, making this film aged me by 10 only 8 days. The stress levels go through the roof when you have to shoot on average 13 scenes a day.

Just to understand how difficult that is, each day was aroung 11 hours, minus the hour for make-up and the lunch hour, that leaves around 9 hours. That's 540 minutes. Divide that by 13 and it's around 41 minutes per scene. So give or take around 20 minutes of set up time...that leaves around 21 minutes for us to get the scene in the can and move on. That means no room for error. No time for rehersals. No time to learn scripts on set. No coverage. Limited B-roll. We had to get the essentials and move on.

This relentless clock counting continued for 11 hours a day for 8 consecutive days. There was no time to breathe. Luckily I chose a cast and crew who were so good at what they do that they didn't need much time to nail it. If there was just one weak chain in the link everything would have fell apart. But we pulled through...somehow.

Some ask why we decided to shoot in 8 days...we the simple answer is budget. We could only afford the location fees of that lovely house in Surrey for 8 days. Same goes for the cast and crew. Also the pandemic story was growing every day in the news so it started to feel like a 'now or never' shoot.

I was sleeping at the location in a self contained loft upstairs and everynight I would go to sleep exhaused at 9pm then wake up in a panic at around 2am. Unable to go back to sleep I'd start my day, printing sides, cutting scenes from the script to make schedule, reworking the schedule. Then once I felt like management work was complete I'd try and get back to sleep around 5am but would only lay there awake, sweating for three hours saying to myself "how the heck am I going to pull this off?" Then I would get up at 8am, exhaused and ready to steer this ship for the next 11 hours.

You see my usual on set producers Tony Currier, Catherine Currier and Nik Stylianou was unable to be there due to their own 9-5 work schedules (and the film budget couldn't pay them unfortunately) so I was steering the ship with a hired hand who helped greatly in a production management sense but I still took on way more than I could chew. Aside from doing the admin work each morning, scheduling and printing, I would direct the film, then would have to data dump all the footage, while also having to arrange accomodation and payment for cast and crew while also having to order food daily, and order and pay for equipment/prop rental as and when. I was an on set producer, line producer, DIT, director, Production Manager...and more.

If it was a small set then I may have not felt so overwhelmed but it was a big cast in a small space. At least 7 main actors including a child actor as well as 14 background day we must have had at least 50 people on set! That was the day the whole team looked burned out. By then we all felt like we were halfway through fighting a war. But we showed true grit and soldiered through.

It's counter intuitive to think that less shoot days is actually more, harder work but it is. Think of it like riding a push bike, if you ride at a steady pace you can go on for miles, but if you struggle up a hill for a few hundred yards it will wear you out because you can never rest, as soon as you stop, you roll downhill, you can only keep pushing up the hill no matter how tired you are.

Once it was wrapped I then had another uphill battle alone...the edit. I edited the entire film and because of lack of budget I had to mix all sound myself, add sound effects, add stock music, colour grade myself...then search for someone who would want to sell it! But we finally landed a distribution deal and it's out now!

I learned much on this film. The intensity, the dread, will never be topped in my opinion. I feel like any other film I make will be a walk in the park compared to this lol. What it has taught me most is not to bite of more than you can chew. Ask for help. Get the team around you needed to take the pressure of you as a director so that you can focus on the creative stuff!

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