First Anniversary of Graduate Decline Shoot: Punches, Tramps, and Anthropomorphised Wheelbarrows

Short films are very much like the Queen. Constantly waving, christening cruise liners and making sure one’s husband doesn’t say something racist. Actually, that is just Her Maj. But the way they are like ER Indoors is in that they have two birthdays. Good Ol’ Liz has one genuine bday, when she was born into this merry old world of ours, and her official day, when the Crown gets set aside for a Royal Party Hat as the day to recognise the birthday of the Monarch(TM). Our short films also have two birthdates. The one is the release date, when you good people get to cast a beady one over our handiwork, clapping and cheering, or haughtily sniffing and holding your nose, as your reaction dictates. The other is the production date, and with that in mind it is with pleasure and some nostalgia that we inform you Graduate Decline, currently playing to adoring crowds (and some indifferent pigeons) in Birmingham city centre, was shot a year ago yesterday. Happy Belated Birthday, Graduate Decline!

To mark this august (and August based) occasion, we decided to let you in on a few anecdotes from the shoot. Featuring moderate violence, mild homelessness and excessive use of the word “wheelbarrow”.

THE TRAMP

Towards the end of the day’s shoot, the alley we were shooting in was infiltrated by a homeless man. The alley, off New Street, Birmingham’s main thoroughfare, was a dead end; it’s main purpose was to store rubbish from the shops or business housed in the overlooking buildings, when people weren’t smoking out there that is. So this tramp was certainly not in Kansas. Unfortunately the poor fellow had his own issues, either with alcohol or drug abuse, or mental health problems. In any case coming across us, four actors, a cameraman and a director, he asked what we were doing. “Making a short film” we told him. He laughed, and swore. He muttered to himself, then left the way he had come. Not much of a story, but a bit of colour. We got back to organizing the final set up, a wheelbarrow laden with useless qualifications, a reference to hyperinflation in Weimar Republic Germany where such stashes of cash could only buy a loaf of bread, which as it trundles along drops out some certificates and students fight over it.

Then the tramp returned.

Without a word, the homeless man walked over to the wheelbarrow and scooped all of its contents out and dumped it on the floor. We asked him what in the hell he was doing. He mumbled something about us having been making fun of him, which was naturally decidedly untrue. Then, he left again. Slightly shocked after that run in, we then had to pick up the pieces. All the paper, each a photoshopped version of an actual award certificate, had to be put back, while we debated what to do next. As we did so, the tramp returned.

Once again he wordless moved in, and again scooped the papers onto the floor. Again, we asked what the hell he was doing. His response, a variation on “what are you going to do about it?” My rebuttal? “Call the police”. So I did. I rang the Po-Po, informing them of this reprobate’s antics, and they said they’d send someone over. The homeless man never returned, presumably spooked by the soon to arrive Five Oh. The Fuzzy didn’t turn up however, not until forty minutes later, when we had hurriedly shot the final sequence, packed up and left. So much for taxpayers money, am-I-right? The single most frustrating aspect of this story is that it negatively affected the film. That scene to me makes no sense; what’s in the wheelbarrow, why are they fighting over it? More coverage would have been better, but being scared a slightly violent tramp would come and either smash up our camera equipment, which cost a pretty penny I can assure you, or, my main concern, our actors, including, especially, the lady folk. Although that in itself shouldn’t have been a concern, considering the girls were tougher than the guys on this shoot…

THE PUNCH

Some of you may have noticed that in our last post about Graduate Decline, where we informed the world it was big-screening it, you may have noticed hidden away in our praises of lead actress Christina Kruzewski, the fact that she “pack[ed] a mean punch.” What did we mean by this? Is she a costumed vigilante, dealing out justice to unsuspecting hoods in the dead of night? Maybe, but not as far as we know. It might be a good idea however, considering the considerable right arm she has. Early on in the shoot, the climactic face off between the exceptionally talented Christina and no less talented Neil Iwanicki, whose fine features have graced many a Studio 279 project, an accident occurred. As all poor directors do, the Graduate Death Match fight sequence, was not actually choreographed. In fact, it wasn’t even scripted, but was a response to a rather cool location. So, a basic choreography was established between the talent, whilst the bumbling director yours truly nodded it through. And then, this happened. Readers of a sensitive disposition look away:

Stomach churning, I think you’ll agree. Fortunately no lasting damage was done; Neil had a red mark on his face, and garnered all our sympathy (and probably some jokes at his expense, too) whilst Christina was very apologetic, more so than remotely necessary. Fortunately, this writer was not sued, and got off scott free. In any event I accept no liability, instead just evilly twirling my non-existent moustache. So there!

THE WHEELBARROW

In the Ballad of the Disruptive Hobo, we mentioned something about a wheelbarrow. Here it is:

What the picture doesn’t show what an irritating little toerag he was (for clarity: the wheelbarrow, not Dale O’Keeffe. He was lovely.) All the other talent was very amenable, and easy to direct. Wheely was a nightmare. First, ever the prima donna, he could not be located. The day before the shoot we were forced to traipse across Birmingham’s hardware warehouses, looking for him. Finally he turned up, and he was in pieces. The next morning, mere hours before the shoot, he was in a heap on my living room floor. So, like any good director, I assembled him again, tweaking his nuts (steady…) and ensuring he was fit for the long day ahead. Piling him (and the other, more docile actors, Anthony Crutch and good old Neil) we then had to gently walk him, laden with props and booty, including a rather large bin, to the shoot and back. It was quite a sight, three men and a wheelbarrow in rush hour (would make an interesting Steve Guttenberg film, come to mention it…) And that damn wheelbarrow never thanked us once. Ingrate!

Hopefully these stories amused and entertained you (although the wheelbarrow yarn may have been pushing it) and a big thanks again to all involved. Remember, you can catch the film in Birmingham city centre for almost a month, so get down there and celebrate a year since the film was shot. Maybe bring a cake for the occasion. Go on, treat yourself!

P.S. Good luck to all those GCSE students getting their results today. I was tempted to blog about my own results day as I did with A Levels last week, but nothing exciting happened and I got very decent grades, which would be both very boring and insufferably smug. Fair play to you all!

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