Before sets have been built and costumes designed there usually isn’t much to help promote upcoming theatre productions – which means creating a buzz before they launch is tricky.
So the Almeida Theatre in London has been commissioning me to produce behind the scenes films to help promote upcoming shows.
These have been quite demanding shoots, learning to work with a small footprint and minimise disruption to the directors and actors in the room.
As with all shoots it’s about getting the footage you need for the edit – capturing a sense of what’s happening in the room as well as the themes of the play in rehearsal. The location set-up is often only seen on the day of the shoot – meaning I’ll make a very quick assessment and mental shot list as I walk in.
Access to the rehearsals can be anything from 20 minutes to an hour – which means there are strict time limits to capture enough footage – this is stressful, but it also forces me to be efficient.
It also means that shoots are usually handheld and dynamic, with lots of camera movement to help emphasise action. During the shoots I’m quite procedural, using my mental shot list to make sure I get a range of close-ups, mids, wides – camera movements, detail shots – and slow motion – all of which I know I’ll need to make a compelling edit.
Interviews and access to the actors is also very limited – so quick decision making in setting up the look of these is vital. These pieces are used to promote upcoming productions, so getting the key sound bites that really sell the production and describe the tone of the play is vital.
The edits themselves usually start with music selection – which is how I tend to approach most edits – so finding the right track can take some time before cutting even begins.
Grading is also another useful way of communicating the tone and language of the production, for example with the Tragedy of King Richard II, I chose cooler colours to emphasise the starkness of the play’s content.
I’ve really enjoyed working with the Almeida because they’ve been very supportive in producing adventurous work – something that not all organisations have the confidence to do!