MAKING OUR FIRST FEATURE
In March 2011 it became apparent that lots of pieces of the jigsaw were coming together. Jason and Bill identified a natural window of opportunity to shoot a feature length project in or around July 2011 and decided to take the plunge.
They sat down with script writer Ian Thomas and worked out a possible script outline. Money was extremely tight and so played a very significant part in the development and design of the script. To make the project achievable for the budget, Fallen soldiers was structured around a series of two or three person conversations in deliberately restricted environments. The main plot thread was that of Sergeant John Cross (Matt Neal) recounting the story of events that had happened to him over the previous 24 hours. This was interspersed with flashbacks of his adventures to illustrate the story.
This structure and it’s small environments allowed the production to keep lighting and studio costs down considerably. Likewise, the majority of the flashbacks were staged outdoors during daytime to make the most of available light.
The nature of the script also allowed Costume, Art, Props and Makeup to all begin work very quickly as so many of the locations, events and characters were established very early on.
Over the following two months, at lunchtimes, evenings and weekends, Bill and Ian drafted several versions of the script (four in total) and rehearsals began at the end of May.
The actors put in hours of work to learn the script verbatim, as if performing a play. The shoot was planned so the main dialogue scenes, some running close to ten minutes, were shot with multiple cameras, in order that the actors could play out the full scenes uninterrupted. This approach made the shoot very efficient, as well as allowing the actors the opportunity to really immerse themselves in their performance.
Principle photography began in the second week of July, with Director of Photography, Faye, overseeing multi-camera sets ups, using a combination of F3 and 5D cameras with prime lenses. The first two days of shooting were flashback scenes shot outdoors in a private forest near Amersham in Buckinghamshire and the weather held out pretty well.
Days four and five were shot in the basement of Copped Hall, a stately home near Epping with fantastic cellars, that Bill and many of the crew had shot other productions in before. The shoot went well if a little tight for time on the last day.
The following three days were our main interior scenes, shot in a small studio near Battersea, for which the Art Department had constructed three high quality sets; a carriage interior, the interior of a prison wagon and the interior of a prison cell. These three locations comprise the majority of the films dialogue.
During the last day of main unit interiors, Kiera Gould, our 1st AD broke away with a second unit, directed by Lindsay Harris and Stuart Leach, on a farm near Watford. Their task was to shoot two action sequences as part of the flashbacks, which they did admirably, producing some fantastic footage, despite unbelievably bad rain.
The following day, main unit also relocated to the farm for more exterior scenes and then continued for one final day of elements and pickups, during which we simulated a wagon crashing which was brilliant fun.
A week later, back in Amersham we shot the final scene of our film.
After a rough edit by our editor, Roberta Bononi, we shot a few pickups and some miniature effects and explosions which were used in conjunction with VFX, then on to sound, music and the grade.