Titan 6 – Filming in Tunisia V

A lie-in

It had been a while.
The occasional sunrise can be spectacular. A succession is exhausting. We had seen night turn into day for many – days. And, I suppose, nights. Now a late start for a late shoot.

The bedroom was bright. I supposed that’s what had woken me. The local interior designer in Tunisia favoured the colour blue and white. He had clearly designed the whole of Tunisia. I was suffering blue-white overkill.

The room was monastically bare. A room slept in by thousands of sleepers for a thousand and one nights. Only one night each, of course. One night was enough. One day, more than enough to experience the charms of the locale. Or to be accurate, charm. Or…

I showered. The shower was blue and white too. I was pink. Sunburn is bad enough for semi-naked, overfleshed tourists but for gold-clad actors, excruciating. My lobster-like armour, a ready reminder of the sun’s grilling rays. I would go home pale and interesting. Meanwhile I dried out under the indifferent gaze of a battalion of ants.

The miniature army manoeuvred its way around my compact bathroom in spite of me. They were preoccupied. I’d done it again; hit their southbound orbital route with a major flood. They were diverting east as I took a short walk to breakfast. Yesterday it had been west.

The dining room was blue. I ignored it. I didn’t look at breakfast either. A certain automation arrives with familiarity. Bric á l’oeuf is an interesting experience. What mind conceived of an egg deep fried in papery pastry is lost in the hieroglyphs of time, carved in ancient temple walls. But there is a word for it. Explosive. The local laugh is to watch the tourists splattering their holiday clothes. The yolk’s on them, I suspect they snigger. But over several days I had grown canny. Familiarity is knowledge.

I ate breakfast thinking of dinner. It would be fish or chicken. Last night it had been chicken or fish. The night before… Generally, no one noticed because they toured off the next day, egg-stained and bored. I noticed. I avoided the fish. It might look like a giant beach but a desert seems a foolhardy spot in which to eat something that swims for a living. How did they get there? They hadn’t swum. And I’d seen them on a plate; no propeller in sight. So not flying fish either. I was healthily concerned that what goes down can come up. Locked in a gilded box all day you think of these things. Was I being neurotic? I stuck to the chicken. The chicken stuck to me. Nothing explosive there. Au contraire…

I pinched some sugar sachets. Childhood memories of extravagantly titled paper packets filched and festering in forgotten grainy clumps. But I had a purpose.

Back in my room I laid a trail from the bathroom into the corridor and hopefully beyond. The ants needed a new sense of direction, I thought. They ignored me and the white crystal trail. I grew bored. Perhaps they did too.

The morning drifted by in aimless wanderings down dusty alleys. It was a relief to join the crew and trek out to our new location. The Sandcrawler again. But it had moved – just like in the movies. It wasn’t by Uncle Owen’s homestead any more. The painted timber sheets clung to their trellis scaffold in a rocky new terrain.

We pulled up and parked our jeep next to all the trucks and buses and caravans and honey wagons and kitchens and cars attached to the unit, carefully and efficiently ranked to avoid the random anarchy of a supermarket free-for-all. They baked peacefully in the sun by the crawler. An odd but peaceful scene.

sandcrawlerTHE CAR PARK

The very important people arrived. The Director. The Producer. A sudden chill of tension. Not just the usual flush of concentration when the boss arrives. A huddle formed. Some arm waving. Low voices. Intense. The huddle broke up. Clearly, someone had boobed.

Head of Parking.

When all the drivers had eventually found their keys the car park broke up too. But not that easily. The ant-like procession of assorted wheels took some time to move to its new resting-place in the dust. This time, out of camera range.

Well, we were meant to have a late start.

Eventually we did.
I had merely some close up coverage to cover. This was achieved with a minimum fuss but as usual, total discomfort. Now the cast grew larger – in numbers if not in size. It was Jawa-time again. They had stolen Artoo and dragged him back to their lonely parked crawler for loading. The sun was setting. They would need lights.

Sandcrawler loading lights are all very well but some style and taste is still desirable. Jawas are strangers to both.

Fortunately the DP, director of photography, knew a thing or two about lighting, learned over decades in the movies. He shared his thoughts and lights were rigged to create the scenic atmosphere. Looked good to me. The producer moved closer. He shared his thoughts. Looked bad to him.

A huddle formed of only two this time. Some arm waving. Low voices. Intense. Very. Words throated through the twilight air. I didn’t grasp them all but, “Who’s meant… be lighting this… movie, …or me, because… you’re… it, I’ll… off!” is roughly what it sounded like. I wasn’t really listening of course but I never knew you could speak to important people like that.

There’s nothing like sucking up to the boss. And this was certainly nothing like sucking up to the boss.

The huddle broke up as the DP continued to light the atmosphere – perhaps less dramatic than the one he had just created with his employer. I was impressed.

Eventually the Jawas scuttled carefully up and down their little stairway – miniature monks on a Tower of Babel, bathed in an edgy glow as they loaded their trophy.

Artoo doesn’t do steps. The script called for him to be sucked up a giant tube. I saw the tube. I was intrigued. Surely, even Hollywood sycophancy couldn’t take sucking-up that far. Actually, it probably could, but after that earlier scene – no hope. They had to resort to another old Hollywood phenomenom.

Two prop men stood above the tube behind the painted boards. They held Artoo firmly. Then they didn’t. The sensitive little droid shot down the tube and past the lens, landing on some thoughtfully placed padding – out of camera range. Later they would reverse the film.

I wasn’t being neurotic.

Sometimes what goes down can come up.

sandcrawler_sketchNIGHT FALLS

The shatteringly bright lighting in my room had obviously been created by a DP of a different school. Bouncing off the blue white walls, it gave a forensic clarity against the benighted windows as I checked to see if my plan had worked. The line of white crystals seemed thinner. Perhaps only in contrast to the, now thickening, line of ants. Obviously word had spread.
I left them to it and dreamed – of breakfast.

(c) Anthony Daniels. All Rights Reserved.