Is it me... or are people obsessed by Series 2 of The Wine Show

wine show 2 banner .jpg

Don't believe me, here's what ET have to say:

“Pour another glass because our favourite import Matthew Goode is back with a second season of The Wine Show, Friday 12th January 7pm Channel 5. Sky Vision’s food and travel magazine series, which moves the action from Italy to the South of France, is already available in the U.S. on Hulu. The show became a favourite among viewers thanks to the bromance between Goode and co-host Matthew Rhys and their journey through the heart of Italy in search of tasty wine and lasting memories. Joining Goode (who also stars on The Crown season two) is James Purefoy, an equally English and handsome actor, who steps in for Rhys. This season, two hosts are tasked with finding a case of wine to match a six-course French lunch cooked by Stephane Reynaud."                           

I mean what’s not to like? A bromance, lashings of adventure and a “Provencal palace of plonk”. No wonder people are obsessed.

I’d like to say Series 2 was hard work, but you wouldn’t believe me. I could mention long days, endless treks burdened by kit, but you’d just laugh and pour yourself another glass of something cool and sparkling. But honestly, contra to some producer's opinion, the show isn’t made on vast budgets with carefree schedules. This is classic TV - a small tight unit, Arri Amiras and buckets of natural light.

As always the show travels the globe in search of great stories and stunning locations. My personal favourite this season, Japan. Based mainly in Kyoto the episode teamed Joe Fattorini with Jaega Wise, a new presenter from the Wild Card Brewery in London. Together they studied Saki, which is brewed like beer but consumed as a wine. Of course as always with the Wine Show it was less about the drink and more about the experience and in Japan most experiences come with a wealth of personal cultural complications:  I kept my shoes on when they should have been off, forget my business cards and said something that I thought was “thank you” but in fact translated as “bog off”. The only person who was in more trouble than me was a Monk unable to remember his lines due to a shocking hangover – apparently drinking Sake brings you closer to God. As they say locally - “Drunken life, dreamy death.” Or something like that... 

For Series 2 I also shot a lot more food thanks to chef Stephane Reynaud. His gorgeous dishes gave us some mouth watering tabletop opportunities. We were also joined in the South of France by the legend Jancis Robinson who was tasked with the job of judging the findings of our two exuberant stars. There's also Chef Shoots - I was lucky enough to spent a day with Angela Hartnett at Line Wood Hotel in the New Forest. Gorgeous. 

Of course it's all worth while when you get a prime time slot on Channel 5 and if you can't wait or live outside the UK it's globally available on HULU and other local channels.

Can't think of a better way to start the New Year So - Salute!

 

Is it me... or do cats hate Directors?

Screen Shot 2017-12-14 at 12.25.20.png

Once upon a time, as the festive season was close at hand, a lovely script arrived. It was a simple story, the story of a dog, a cat and a magical fire. Animals, who hate each other, united by a wondrous product. What could possibly go wrong…

WC Fields was right; working with animals and children is never easy. You have to have patience, nerves of steel and a selectiuon of squeaky toys. But the challenge goes a lot deeper than knowing when to release the mechanical mouse. Here’s a few ideas in case you find yourself faced with a ferocious feline and a set full of expectant clients.

Rule number one - cast the owner not the animal.

One of the first films I ever made was about the life of a bull terrier. I knew nothing about working with animals but my star seemed a joy, following me around and doing nothing I asked. My cameraman, an animal lover, suggested I make noises through a cardboard tube to attract the dog’s attention. Bingo, suddenly we were in business, but the animal’s owner didn’t approve – a short man with a broken nose and a penchant for gold jewellery. 

That night, uninvited, he banged on my door and announced that the dog’s fee had just gone up, because comedy was extra.

I learnt my lesson and these days I leave the comedy to the professionals. Charlotte Wilde doesn’t have a penchant for gold jewellery and doesn’t charge extra for comedy but boy can she deliver some pretty special animals.  SHADOW was already a super star before he even put a pad on set.  In fact, he can fly a plane. No, I’m not joking, SHADOW was saved from death row to star in a TV series where animals do amazing things. Check out this clip and you’ll see our hero at the controls. Amazing.

But let’s not get carried away. Those of us with "previous" in the animal world know that every day comes with a new dawn and even if Shadow was on my side I still had to deal with his feline co-star and as producers will tell you…

Rule number two - cats hate directors.

To understand cats you need to train as a Buddhist monk. You need to meditate on what they might have been in a previous life. Where they lived, what they ate and what it is about a film set they find so repulsive. Then you need to throw away all that knowledge and pull out a big stick with a fluffy feather on the end and wave it around in the direction of their eye-line. Failing that wipe chicken over anything you need them to look at. Note to any actors – that may includes you.

The third rule, forget WC Fields and channel your inner Poirot.

Like children, animals have their routine, some are better in the mornings, others in the afternoon and if you want to get a dog to go to sleep you’d better find out when he likes to sleep. Oh and giving him a big meal followed by a very long walk, that’ll work.

Preparation done, it’s time to shoot - two animals, one room and an open fire, what could possibly go wrong…

So here’s the twist – they’re not in the same room, at least not at the same time. You see unlike the legendary commercial  where the mouse joins the cat and the dog, we only had hours to get what we needed and so I’d already storyboarded the shoot to separate the animals. After all, it’s really the dog’s story - don't tell the cat but she's actually the side-kick.  So through the power of angles and good old-fashioned editing they co-habit only in a land of post production.  But the real star… now that’s the product.

I kid you not. Unlike many products I’ve worked with that don’t do what the client says The Dimplex Opti-Myst is a truly amazing fire. It looks like a real fire but it's electric, controlled by remote control: up, down, on off you name it.  It’s a fire made for Hollywood. No more special effects guy with a rusty old pipe and a gas can set to disaster The Opti-Myst is instant heaven, a film friendly fire. Revolutionary,

Oh, and let's not forget - good film, great script. 

So finally, as the 2017 draws to a close I’d like to wish you all Season’s Greetings and a Happy New Year. See you in 2018. They'll be series 2 of the Wine Show and a very special announcement about The Cutter, just in time for The Oscars. 

Is it me... or is it time for a Happy Halloween

Screen Shot 2017-10-22 at 11.08.30.png

This year, as the door creaks open on All Hallows' Eve, a legend will be reborn. Determined to put a smile on your face is the not so grim Reaper. That’s right, on October the 31st the big man in the hooded cape will be hitting the dance floor and you’re invited to the premiere.

Welcome to the world of DEAD GOOD.

Dead Good started life as a short film but it quickly became clear the story was destined for a longer run and after all, this is the era of the series. Netflix, Amazon and HBO. Box sets has replaced the one off as we watch the on-going adventures of robots, gangsters and the folk beyond the wall. Everyone’s looking for longer formats.

Developed over 13 episodes the series tells the story of The Reaper’s search for acceptance, as a dancer. Understandably for most people steppin' out with Death isn’t top of their wish list so the Reaper is forced to take matters into his own hands. In classic genre style our hero puts together his own crew of misfits to take on the establishment and the world of street dance will never be the same again.

Script written, time to make a sizzle, put the look and feel down for all to see. But sizzles are speculative, traditionally having no production budget, so it was time to ask some very talented people for more than a little professional help. First…

GRIM NEEDED A COSTUME. Luckily there’s some expertise in the family. Lou Prechezer worked on Sleepy Hollow and The Phantom Menace so she knows a thing or too about the dark side. The challenge was to develop Grim’s classic look but not in a horror style. We kept the hooded shape but we used mirrored shades to bring sparkle to the inner hood. Trademark Adidas Ultrastar 80s, Run DMC style, gave him the Hip Hop vibe and if you look closely you’ll see the legend “Grim” sequined across the back, Strictly eat your heart out. Now it was time for the iconic prop.

NO SCYTHE NO REAPER. The fabulous Derek Brown created something totally original out of driftwood and sculptured metal. It’s was huge and we listed it in the call sheet's risk assessment as an “action prop”. Luckily it was never wielded .

BLACK AND WHITE. I always wanted to shoot the sizzle in widescreen black and white, a classic look for dance videos and movies like La Haine and The Artist. The immensely talented Cliff Evans – see Wine Show – made the dream a reality and we were lucky to have George Simpson AKA SteadyG on steadycam. We shot on an Arri Amera capturing raw colour and then Danny Coster’s team at Locomotion London – graded by Jon Davy – created the wonderful widescreen image. Edited by Ben Harrex at Final Cut. Music was thanks to James Edward Baker and sound by Zane Hayward.

THE CAST. Came from Brighton based dance guru JP Omari, owner of Marine Studios – his young crews have won Street Dance championships all over Europe and you can see them every year at Straight Up which he stages at Brighton’s Dome - the event was somewhat of an inspiration for the story structure of a dance championship.  It was through JP that I discovered Amelie Hurley, the film’s lead. This young lady is sure to have a bright future given her immensely watchable and charming performance. Talent.

THE GRIM REAPER.  Now for the big man in the hooded cape. Dancing in such a costume was like a work out in a hamam, not to mention the challenge of almost zero visibility. So who achieved the miracle? Watch out on social media and all will be revealed but let’s just say he’s a magician, dancer and his bones are quite magical.

Dead Good was an amazingly refreshing experience, a chance to create something original. Here's the trailer I hope you enjoy the sizzle - out on Halloween - and we all look forward to shooting the whole 13 episodes. 

Is it me... or is this the T-Rex of Tabletop?

Been to Heathrow lately?

If not, watch out… Wagamama’a new T5 22-metre widescreen is attracting humungous attention. Part signage, part display, this massive offering pumps out mouth-watering food 

The T-Rex of Tabletop. 

But how does a director prepare to shoot for such a giant screen? Can a 16:9 image be adapted or are we talking brave new world?

With a lot of experience in cinema-style-ratios, systems such as Hawk and Panavision anamorphic, I knew we had to adapt our thought process for such a giant ratio, but an early test and conversations with the screen’s supplier determined that anamorphics were out, potential distortion. So we needed to work within a 16:9 frame at a resolution that would hold up when most of your image is surplus to requirements. 

Danny Coster and his team at Locomotion established that shooting 4K would give us enough resolution for the 22:2 frame and we began storyboarding based on our new tech spec. Also, working directly for the client meant no agency backup. We had to get it right and we only had 2 days to shoot over forty set ups. So...

High speed special effects – EG: PHANTOM see Philips blender, were out. Too expensive and no way to pump high light levels into a live restaurant without frying the diners. This was all about appetising food shot in a quirky appealing way. We needed to be clean and straightforward, like the dishes. Locomotion had previously shot stop frame for Wagamama Takeaway so we knew a more graphic animated route worked. 

Shot on location at Wagamam Great Marlborough Street excellent home economist Lisa Harrison teamed up with my talented camera crew of The Wine Show fame: Cliff Evans and Jamie Knights. Whether it’s tabletop, location or UFC breakdown these guys can make it look great, but this was a real mission. 

We decided to use the live restaurant downstairs to give depth / a big backdrop and set up two mini tabletop studios upstairs on the mezzanine. Directing both simultaneously was a task - you should have seen the spreadsheets needed to coordinate the storyboards,  almost as epic as the giant screen.

But how did we view the monster 22:2 frames?  Trade secret.  No, joking aside, we programmed a mattes into the monitors and split the result between two displays. In fact the technical challenge wasn’t the monitoring it was working out how to shoot that wide. You have to retrain your brain to use a whole different set of lenses and staging, or else you end up with a twenty two metre mouth eating noodles, not so nice. Luckily…

The result was stunning.

In fact the campaign was so successful we went on to shoot social media content for Wagamama displayed on Instagram, Snapchat and other platforms.

That's waga-tastic!

Is it me... or is The Wine Show a dream come true.

Finally, it's official!

The Wine Show will begin its run in April - ITV4 Sunday 10th April + ITV1 Saturday 16th. The 13-part, one hour shows will be hosted by Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys. Yes that's Matthew Goode of Downtown Abbey and Matthew Rhys, star of The Americans.

After nine months filming on location - Australia, Chile, USA, France and Europe - the show ended in my homeland, Italy. Why? Because in every show Mr Goode and Mr Rhys search for a wine that represents the spirit of Italy. Completing a "mission" set by wine guru Joe Fattorini.  It's a wine-off and believe me, things get quite competitive.

Our Italian Odyssey kicked off in Rome where my loyal camera crew decided to test their crane, inside the hotel room. As the afore mentioned piece of kit was too big for the executive double they opened the window, allowing the camera to poke out into the street, directly above... a nunnery. Needless to say the pole was immediately retracted. Papal disasters avoided we moved onto a story about ancient wine and, as Mr Rhys eloquently put it, the bouquet crossed "manure with leather". What he didn't know was that our Roman historian had added her own secret ingredient - cheese. Believe me, there was no acting in the ensuing facial expressions, it was pure Stanislavsky. All of that before we'd even left the capital. I won't tell you what happened at a barrel race in Montepluciano, just watch on April 10th or 16th.

In short it was a lot of fun, and I'm proud to say that's reflected onscreen. It was great to work with actors and presenters on longer form dialogue and interesting to shoot multi-camera links as well as actuality.

Back to the present April has also brought more stories from the octagon, and two more shows for UFC FIGHTNIGHT. There was also a new TVC for ALPEN GOLD which will premier in the next spotlight, and post production on a secret table-top project that's going to appear on a massive screen at Heathrow later this year.

I hope you all enjoy The Wine Show, love to know your thoughts.

Is it me... or is it time for some Vino Veritas?

Screen Shot 2016-01-22 at 18.53.59.png

Guess who’s back, back again…

Hello 2016! If you’ve been dry for January, well done. If you can't wait for February, I’ve got something special for you…

The Wine Show - a 13 part series to be broadcast on UK TV  this year. Directed by my good self it's presented by two UK movie stars, hot new factual discovery Joe Fattorini, Amelia Singer and the well know Gizzi Erskine.  

Spanning the entire globe the show’s full of riveting stories, gorgeous vistas and (cue Don LeFontaine voice over) "the biggest wine cellars in the world!" There’s also plenty of mouth watering food as globally renowned chefs, such as Atul Kochhar, discuss their perfect food and wine combinations. It's a table top delight. 

Of course the filming wasn’t without it’s dramatic challenges; occasionally feeling as if we were staring in our own version of PLONK. But then what d’you expect when you’re humping kit and crew across the globe. But for every airport meltdown there was the most incredible sunrise or sunset, usually followed by an amazing glass of local surprise.

What makes me particularly proud is that not only does it look fantastic, the whole series is immensely watchable. Nothing about this wine show is dry or high brow, it’s an accessible program you can watch with family and friends.

Technically it showcases Arri’s amazing Amira and the skills of Cliff Evans, Jamie Knights, Ed Bullman and many more.  There’s drones, drones and more drones – one of which ended up on a million pound titanium roof - nothing to do with Mike Garner whose drone skills brought the show’s Italian location to life.

So keep an eye peeled for further announcements and updates because it’s the TV wine show everyone has been waiting for.

Is it me... or is it all Ding Dong Digital?

Deck the halls with social media, 
Facebook, Flickr, YouTube, In-sta-gram 
Tis the season to be trending, 
Twitter, twitter, tweet , t-wit, t-tumblr 

Holy Santa, the world’s gone hashtag–tastic.  Monty and Mabel are trending, good old Coca-Cola's making everyone happy, but Magic and Sparkle might just have taken the Christmas crown.

Seems Patrick Bousquet-Chavanne, has gone all out for M+S “switched to promotional activity on social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr" rather than TV.  So now it’s official, forget the mistletoe, switch on the iPad and have yourself a virtual Christmas and don’t forget the death star decorations.

I hate to say I told you so - decreasing TV spends are hardly new news - but connectivity seems to have come of age.  Thankfully we’ve moved on from adapted facebook pages allowing you to put your face on the derriere of a baboon to properly integrated campaigns such as John Lewis’s cross-promotional behind the scenes production video of the Monty advert.  Not to mention Jamie Oliver’s digital Christmas recipes, which compiles festive foods with lists of ingredients linked directly to the supermarkets that sock them.  Also an honourable mention goes out to TK MAXX with their big european hashtag push #youbyme which has been prominant in the German market, it sticks with you thanks to Solmon Burke's "Everybody Needs Somebody to Love."

I've also had a busy online year thanks to some lovely folk at Isobar, shooting a series of online films for Kellogg's  – the latest offering used five go pros inside cereal packets to film families at breakfast.  Very interesting results - more of that in the next blog. Amazing results, especially as the films have gained nearly 2 million views.  Turn that into US box office and we’d all be retiring to a Hawaiian Island, even though I don’t do holidays.

I’m also excited about the chance to turn this online talent into longer formats combining agency know how with my tool kit as a writer director.  You only have to look at some of the current successes - The Power Inside by Intel and Toshiba – to see the potential to produce an engaging ongoing series for brands across the globe.  I mean wouldn't Magic and Sparkle make a great prime time show or web series?  Two fairies whose aim to help others but just can’t stop meddling in human affairs because secretly they want to become human.  Hold on, I have to go, I think Disney’s calling…. 

Watch this space for more online news in the new year.  Until then have a Happy Hashtag wherever you are and thank you all for a fabulous year and all the gifts you bestowed on one lucky director for hire…

Keep posting!

Is it me… or should you dress for success on film sets?

I never travel light.  People laugh at my luggage.  Producers have been known to balk at my baggage.  I can take it, I like to be prepared: warm feet = happy shooting.  So let’s talk clothes, but first…

NEWS

I’m delighted to join froehlich-management who will be replacing the folks at Cream.  Annex is still my home in the UK and if you fancy flying south to avoid the winter blues pack your shorts and join me at Grinder in Cape Town.  Talking shorts…

Remember how hot it was this summer?  30’ degrees in the shade.  Perfect weather to shoot table top for Philips.  Camera, lights…  Phantom!  As everyone knows, the higher the frame rate the bigger the lights.  As temperatures soared I suddenly remembered for once, I'd packed “light” exchanging shorts for a more dignified look.  Bad move. Like Albert Brookes in Broadcast News, I wasn't looking pretty.

So how do you combine style with functionality?  How do you make sure that you don’t look like a geriatric hiker on route to the National Trust tea rooms?  The camera department get it right – part military, they can unzip at will.  For PA's it's all about the cut of your jib.  And producers…  rightly or wrongly I always listen to producers, because producers check the weather.

Then again, who can predict the weather, especially in the UK.  This summer filming wheat fields for Kellogg's we experienced four seasons in a day, now that’s a sizable overnight bag.  This time I hadn't travelled light and ended up costuming most of the crew.

Sadly last week I couldn't be so smug.  Hanging off the back of a low loader my trusted DOP reveled in the definition of an expression involving 'brass' and 'monkeys'.  With my teeth chattering I could only dream of my beloved Canada Goose at home in the wardrobe as “surely it won’t be that cold”…

So how exactly do you dress for success on a film set?  Personally, from now on, I’m going to go back to my old motto “pack everything and handle the laughter”.

My Russian friends have got it down to a fine art.  They know the true meaning of getting caught out in the cold.  It’s less a case of 'dignity always dignity' and more 'layers always layers'.  They snigger at waterproofs using disposable macks but when it comes to winter hardware their brands have history.  When it’s minus 20 in the shade you better be sure your goose in real and not a chicken is disguise.

The film business is a tribe, we kind of follow our own fashion - t-shirts from last exit to nowhere, Carhartt to blend in, and if you’re going to wear a baseball cap it better look like you stole it from a truck driver somewhere in Middle America

So as the temperature drops and your wardrobe changes it's time to whip up a stew with your new Philips blender.  Check out my latest spot to see how this brilliant device makes light work of even the toughest tasks.  I've already cooked pumpkin soup, homemade pesto and some serious arrabiata.  God I love cooking.

Coming up in the next few months viral films for Philips, a charming new online spot for Kellogg’s and an Ecosport commercial for our friends at Ford. Until next time, dress for success!

Is it me... or is time the Director's greatest enemy?

Once upon a time in DUMBO

“Good morning, this is your wake up call.”

4.00am?! Like all crew, I’m used to early starts, but 4am, must be a mistake. I head for reception. “Good morning Sir, how may I help you?” “My wake up call, it’s 8am, not 4am.” “Oh I’m sorry”, we'll fix that right away” but before I can say, “how?”, Mr Enthusiastic announces, “You're all set. That’s 8am for room 803, you have a great day!”  

Welcome to New York, the City that never sleeps!

No matter how tired, how busy, or how jaded you may be the Big Apple is always exciting. Not to mention being with the home team @ Annex Films shooting for Shots brand of the year Samsung, and a new friendship with the very nice people at JAM.

Wandering the streets at 4am I remember just how great this City is. I mean hell, they even have there own timescale – The New York minute. It's a time frame known only to New Yorkers. Or as Johnny Carson once said, it's the interval between a Manhattan traffic light turning green and the guy behind you honking his horn. Actually It appears to have originated in Texas around 1967 and is a reference to the frenzied and hectic pace of New Yorkers' lives.

And believe me, when the production scehdule arrived, as Maverick once said, “I felt the need, the need for speed” - 7 films in 6 days, by anyone's standards, that’s going some. Makes you realise that, like New York, the film business has it’s own clock. It’s like someone put a secret flux capacitor into the Alexa - once you hit turnover, film speed kicks in and time speeds up. Pause and you're behind. Stop to think, and you're behind. Look at your storyboard and the 1st assistant director is shouting "that's lunch everyone!" So what can a director do to keep ahead? Here’s my 5 top tips:

 

RULE NO 1:  Accept everything resist nothing.

Doubt, anxiety and prevarication will slow you down faster than a meatball sandwich. Forward movement is the only way. The trick is to remain positive but stay relaxed, which is why the directors chair was invented: the soft fabric evokes a state of calm allowing you to observe without anxiety – see point 5

 

RULE NO 2:  Choose your crew wisely.

Luckily Hans + Becky had recently introduced me to the wonderful Dan Holland who’d just shot some gorgeous work with the same team Luke, Drew and Christian for Samsung. Dan is one of those DOP’s who’s mastered the kit. Fast and flexible he shoots great looking images in a user freindly way, proving that it's all about...

 

RULE 3:  Low fi hi fi

As you know from previous blogs I’ve always championed new technology but sometimes digital still travels with a truck load of crew. Kit like the easy rig proves a DOP can be free to move fast and still produce results. 

 

RULE NO 4: Ignore your crew and love your actors.

You may love your crew but always remember, the people in front of the camera can kill your schedule. Remember that great Jack Rosenthal film “Ready When you Are Mr McGill”? A forerunner to Extras it’s the story of one little man who kills the whole shoot. Now I’m not saying for one moment that my cast were anything other than professional but our script was full of technical jargon, rhyming algorithms and phases to tongue tie Brian Cox – the greatest joy was looking over my shoulder to see Hans nodding because an actor was word perfect.

 

RULE 5: Forget the chair and lead from the front.

I long for the chair. There’s nothing I’d love more than to sit facing a monitor and study my scene, but sadly contemporary commercials don’t run that way. My style is more… best foot forward, lead from the front, and go, go GO! In short – S.H.E.Z.A.M.  Smile, don’t Hesitate, Encourage And Move (The Z is just a reference to my name, and the fact that I like saying Shezam when things go well)

 

And so, with a lot of help from my friends we avoided the Delorean time bomb, finished ahead of schedule and produced some great looking films. In fact numbers for the  #SMARTMOVE series have topped a million views. Well worth getting up at 4am.


Is it me... or is Greece the new Italy?

Cartoon 24 Jan 2013 Hipster.jpg

We want it to look like the Mediterranean... Could be the South of France but no palm trees, the client doesn’t like Palm trees. Southern Italy works, but not Sicily. Why? I ask, as a Sicilian.  The people are 'too dark'. Physically or emotionally? The question is ignored, the briefing goes on… Basically it’s Rome, but by the sea, without old buildings.  No old buildings? No, we like old buildings, just not that old. 

 

You’ve all seen the TVC featuring the location scout, it’s pretty close to the truth. Except these days, location scouts are history. If you’re making X-MEN and your budget is the size of Romania’s GBP, location managers aren’t a problem, but back in the credit crunched real world location managers have been replaced by the guy in the office currently checking his social media status. PA’s are the location scouts of the future, hell the 5S even has panorama, how hard could it be?   

 

Let me tell you something about finding locations, finding locations has nothing to do with locations. A location is only as good as the person who gets you permission to film. And the permission is only as good as the bargaining power of your location manager. This is the person who will keep your show on the road when the old lady in the upstairs apartment is suddenly not happy you’re filming under her beloved balcony. No spotty guy with an iphone is going to get you out of that corner.

 

Late in 2013, as the warm glow of summer headed South, my “Mediterranean feeling” job was confirmed, but the location was not.  Positivity on, I dial local contacts - it's the Mediterranean, but no historical buildings, no foliage, especially palm trees and we need sun.  I know just the place, says my guy in Rome - Sicily!

 

Rome is out, Croatia’s in, and then Croatia’s out and Lisbon is in. Pretty soon, as Ken Kesey’s infamous bus sign read we were going “nowhere” fast. In a way locations weren’t wholly to blame. Yet again this was a typically modern production with a “challenging” budget - apart from quasi-Mediterranean requirements we also needed to create a high speed chase through a busy market with stunt doubles on Vespa’s and fruit flying everywhere – think Knight and Day crossed with an Italian comedy from the late Sixties. Bit of an ask.

 

Then, in true modern European style, the outside man, or should I say woman came to the rescue - Greece.

 

Now I have nothing against Greece, in fact, as a Sicilian, Greece is the Sicily of my dreams. Believe me I’ve watched Medeiteraneo many times. You tell me we’re shooting in Greece and I’m doing a deal just to get there, but Greece to look like Italy, really? Isn’t it the place to go if you want white on white with a bit of azure?

 

Then again, as an old producer of mine once said, choose the wrong lens and everywhere looks like Peckham.

 

Turns out I was totally wrong. Seems that back in the day the Greeks were in love with Italian architecture and build their first City Italianate style. Nafplio is not only the perfect Mediterean backdrop it’s charming and has a couple of streets that would bring a tear to even the toughest Venetian. Of course they have been somewhat ravaged by modern tourism and the place lacks some of the necessary “charm”, but all of that can be fixed with a good location art director and some time.

 

Enter Avion films, with the enviable task of transforming Nafplio into a non specific Medetearn location through which a couple of crazed Romanian stunt doubles can narrowly avoid local extras without disturbing the perfectly placed fruit stalls integral to the plot. And you know what, these guy not only have location managers but they have location managers who can manage.

 

Within days thanks to the team and Simos Korex, a very old friend of mine, (director in his own right), we were in business. The street was dressed, the sun was shining and there wasn’t a plam tree to be seen. But just as the crane was about to swoop in across the shot the shutters on an upstairs balcony opened and an old woman appeared. She pointed at me with her walking stick and yelled in Greek what I only presumed was – hey sonny, what you doing on my street you little punk!

 

I can’t even begin to tell you what our location manger had to do to calm her down...

 

If you thought this was fun check out more behind the scenes at Instagram and my new about section. Become a fan.