Professionalism in Practice – 1st Assistant Camera and Script Editor on “Cigarettes & Alcohol”

In the first term, Nick had asked me frequently to read his World War II script and offer him feedback on it and I did offer him some advice on how I think he should take his story forward. Initially, I was of the impression that Nick’s script was a story about a survival in that a Jewish man would sink so low as to masquerade as a Nazi in order to survive and I thought that would be more of interesting angle to explore it from. However, exlporing that story idea from just an interrogation scene in one room wouldn’t be enough, and to pull off a decent war film with a small budget is no easy task. Nick however was adamant about keeping it all in one room as he likened this short film to be like the end scene to a much longer film that he would like to make in the future. I was initially skeptical about this approach but decided to go along with it and help him fine tune the dialogue as much as I could.


Approaching the shoot period, I signed on to be a gaffer, but then was immediately switched to be 1st AC as there were already three gaffers on set. For some reason, Nick was under the impression that we would be able to dress the set and leave it dressed for the three days we were shooting but I remember Andre (the producer) saying that we couldn’t. There must have been some miscommunication between the two as the time taken to dress the set every day was not taken into account in the shooting schedule so we ended up losing like 3 hours of shooting time each day. This led to Nick having to drop shots and only keep in the ones that were essential.

This crunch time shooting slowly started to affect Nick mentally as he had apparently not eaten or slept adequately enough leading up to the shoot which caused him to have some sort of breakdown on set. This eventually resulted in Andre and Sam (the DP) having to sort of backseat direct the remaining shots we had to get as we were running out of time. Needless to say, this shoot did not pan out as I hoped it would because in the weeks leading up to it, I was convinced that Nick knew exactly what he wanted and was on top of everything as there had been literally no production problems up until the actual shoot day.


After the rough cut screening, where Nick for some reason showed a cut that barely resembled a rough cut (more like a very rough first assembly), Nick decided that he wanted to reshoot some of the film as there were some shots we couldn’t get because we obviously ran out of time. However, since the place we shot in had been redecorated since we left and the Nazi uniform that the Nazi officer Hermann wears was different the first time around, we instead had to reshoot the whole film from scratch. To make things even more difficult, we were told that we would have even less time to get into the location and shoot which would make capturing this whole film impossible.

Sam however, suggested that instead of shooting during the day where we would have limited time and the sound would be bad (due to the traffic on the high street outside the location) we should get into the location when the bar closes and shoot throughout the night. This made all the difference in the world as we found that we were getting through shots a lot quicker and smoother than we did during the first shoot and that the sound was much cleaner although there were the odd noises of early morning traffic here and there. Nick also performed better as a director and didn’t suffer the same mental breakdown he did during the first shoot which made it all better.

All in all, this shoot was a unique experience to me in where I learned quite a bit. I learned that the flexiblity of the location you shoot in is vitally important when scouting locations and from observing Nick I learned that as a director you need to have a basic understanding of the technical side of filmmaking as you’ll annoy your technical crew if you ask for things that can’t feasibly be done.


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Filed under MDA3400 - Film Dissertation Project

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