I have received the incredible honor of being a guest blogger for The Sea Change, which I am truly excited about. My name is Linnéa Rundgren and I’m a freelance journalist.
It has been two days since I got back, and all the impressions are starting to sink in. As a complete outsider I was just waiting for an excuse to travel up to this remote island of Mull, having heard so much about the project throughout the last three years as well as watching with participation how many woolen socks and hats were packed into my sister-in-law’s suitcase before she left. So when I got the offer to personally deliver the ‘rushes’ (a sample of what the final filmed material will look like) last Sunday morning it took me about two seconds to think about it and accept.
An eleven hour train journey including one interchange in Glasgow, a night in an Oban hotel room listening to stormy winds rattling the window, and a ferry trip later (must admit I had underestimated how remote this island is), I finally reached the mighty Mull.
Before I start throwing superlatives about my intense visit to the film crew around me – trust me, it was a rush – let me just set the scene here. Imagine waking up in a freezing cold and dark town (Oban) with hardly anyone around at 7.30am. The papers haven’t even arrived yet so I have my breakfast cereal in an empty hotel restaurant, listening to the silence. When I step outside the wind has calmed somewhat and the only source of light is from the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry, which leaves for Mull at 8am. Still pitch black when we set loose and start the journey across the sea. I choose to avoid the smelly breakfast buffet downstairs and find some seats upstairs. Here we sit in silence, a dozen other recently awaken passengers and I, watching the sun rise behind the snow-covered mountains, sweeping away the mist over the water. Having lived in Britain for six years now I’m quite used to grand buildings, castles, not to mention memorials. However, they are usually surrounded by a well-groomed garden and a snack bar. That’s why this morning’s view is so spectacular as I spot the most beautiful castle resting on top of steep cliffs, which calm waves crashing into them. It looks as if it is untouched by both tourism and time. I just sit there and take it in. I think of my fellow Londoners traveling like cattle on the tube.
Does that explain how beautiful and peaceful it is here. Hope so. Back to memories from Mull. I got off the ferry in Craignure where local resident Peter picked me up and drove me to the set whilst filling me in with the colloquial film vocabulary. I picked up that ‘wrapping’ seemed to be a good time of the day, i.e. the end of the day.
Five minutes later we arrived at the waterfront, where the first scene of the day had just been filmed in the freezing water. The atmosphere was pretty relaxed – mostly because the scene was over I gather – but also a bit tense. Everyone was just about finished dismantling the set and got ready to head straight off to the next one, whilst trying to warm up with cups of tea. Two members of the crew stood a few yards away sorting out some kind of disagreement. Lovely Liz introduced me to the crew. Even though the handshakes were cold, most of the crew managed to smile (or was it simply that their jaws had frozen, I do not know). If it was a genuine smile I am even more impressed after three hours in the water.
Since there was no time to stand around Liz and I started walking whilst she told the plan for the day, schedule changes and events. After a quick stop at the base station (which I’m sure is called something different in film language), consisting of a few trucks including the catering vehicle as well as a school bus where they eat and gather heat in between scenes, it was time to go to the location for the next scene. Apparently there was no time to go to the originally intended filming spot on the other side of the island, so they quickly had to find a new one. In the car I got a taster of the crew banter, of which I understood about half. If I would have picked it all up I would have extended my vocabulary massively.
To me the location looked like any piece of forest, but according to Liz, Brek and Rain it was close to perfection. They barely had time to wait for the car to stop before they rushed out, jumped over the damp ditch and started walking around eagerly discussing potential angles, camera movements and light. They got very excited about the spot indeed, apart from a few pine trees that apparently were in the way. “I can’t believe people just leave their Christmas trees out here!” I heard someone shout as I started to walk back and forth along the road to keep my blood from freezing in my veins. Embarrassingly my outfit for the “London winter” wasn’t enough for Scottish temperature.
Anyway, soon the sound guys arrived (apparently the best team according to themselves) and kindly let me sit in their car with maximum heat on whilst they unloaded their stuff (about two trolleys full) to take into the deep soft and damp moss. Very much appreciated. After that it didn’t take many seconds until the entire 50 yard stretch of gravel road along the spot was packed with trucks and equipment, people rushing and running around knowing exactly what to do and where to be. A bit like Santa’s toy factory I imagine. I heard a lot of “Excellent”, “love it” and “beautiful” from the very impressive cinematographer Rain Li as she made the final adjustments. Some of the male crew found it very amusing to unzip the make-up girls’ stomach bag whenever they passed him. They let him get on with it for a while before they had to work. The last ones I walked passed just before everyone had to be quiet were the light guys. Just before lunch everyone was ready and I got to witness my first film shoot. Very exciting! If the small camera used for documentation didn’t have a flat battery I would have filmed the shooting myself there in the deep moss between trees and overgrown hillocks and stubs (and Christmas trees). But instead I just stood there (on a wooden lid as my boots weren’t water proof) taking in all the action – and excitement! The scene was when Callum tells Nikki about the little people and with this atmosphere you could almost imagine these little creatures lurking behind trees. Very impressed with the actors, especially in this temperature. Did I mention it was cold?
Generally I really have to say that I admire the hard work put into this film by everyone. Admittedly I don’t know how other films are made but even I can say that filming everything in 20 days is definitely something. I was given the timetable for the day so I could follow what was going on – a booklet of 13 pages.
At the end of the second ”CUT” (at least a word I know from movies) it was time for lunch, served in the school bus of course. I barely finished chewing my fifth bite of prawn curry before everyone shot off again to do more close-ups at the same location. I chose to stay where I was.
This is what a tight timetable does, and apparently not to everyone’s excitement. Forget one hour lunches and tea breaks. What a contrast to the otherwise so peaceful surroundings. But the locals seem to love it – especially Peter and David who were, and still are I think, helping out with pretty much everything.
As the sun started to set with a golden glow and Will the 1st AD (whose feet still weren’t dry since the morning) started to order people to go into the water for the final scene of the day (interrupted by Liz crying with laughter after watching the stunts trying to get into their wetsuits, apparently looking as if they were given birth to), it was time for me to go back to the mainland. Far too soon, but to be honest I was freezing.
‘Imagine doing this if the weather wasn’t behaving so perfectly as it did today’, I thought to myself as I boarded the ferry and ordered a hot chocolate. As I got back to Glasgow later that evening, the weather forecast issued severe weather warnings as heavy snowfall and strong winds were predicted. Oh well, I hope the crew made it to the pub after the swim to focus on something else.
The things I witnessed during those eight hours were enough to fill three days. And there, half way into the filming, it was easy to spot the exhaustion in their eyes from early mornings and late nights. On top of that there are the frozen toes and practical problems such as diesel stations closing at 5.30pm or simply running out, that are impossible to predict. Despite this all I see and hear is laughter, banter and encouragement. Perhaps that is the only way to get through it. Perhaps they are simply having fun. Either way, it is truly inspiring to see so many great people supporting this fantastic project.
I take my hat off to all of you up in Mull. This will be something amazing.
Thanks again to the entire team for letting me shadow you all for a few hours, and best of luck with the rest of the filming!