Thursday, 14 April 2011

Behind-the-Scenes - Chapter 3: Anna of the Six Towns

The plot thickens in Chapter 3! This episode rounds up the first act of our adventure, introducing the last of our three main protagonists and giving them an objective.


This is Rachel Shenton's first episode and it gives her a chance to show off her acting talent. She's currently starring in a major British soap and the character she plays in 'Blood and Bone China' couldn't be more different. I've known Rachel for many years, since she starred in my final University film, 'Agnosia'.


The majority of Chapter 3 was filmed in Newcastle-Under-Lyme Museum and Art Gallery in early December 2010. The room was already dressed in Victorian period furniture but we added more props to the room to give it a lived in feel. Once again we were filming whilst the museum was open and we had a number of visitors come in and watch what we were up to. One young lad even wanted to help us out and was a clapper boy for an hour, much to the delight of his grandparents!


The end of this chapter takes place at exterior of Hemlock Manor. This stunning building is the privately owned Caverswall Castle in Stoke-On-Trent, complete with a moat, suits of armour and a dungeon! We were kindly allowed to film there over a few days, watch out for the wood-panelled interior in future chapters!

We conclude 'Anna of the Six Towns' with one of my favourite moments of the series
so far, when Newlyn exclaims, 'I'm you're new doctor'. This line was shot and performed in such a way as to reference long running British sci-fi series 'Doctor Who', which I'm a big fan of. I asked Anthony for several takes to give his performance that 'David Tennant' flair.

Don't forget that Chapter 5 'There's No Such Thing As Vampires' goes live this Sunday (17th April 2011) on the website.

Next up: Behind-the-Scenes - Chapter 4: The Devil In The Potteries.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Behind-the-Scenes - Chapter Two: The Enigmatic Mister Pyre

Chapter Two focuses on the mysterious character of Alexander Pyre, who is played by the brilliant John James Woodward. John is not only a fine actor, but a master prop builder. He has made many props for the series and also put together his own costume. His accent is based on his wife Maggie's Scottish accent.


The first part of this chapter was shot at Gladstone Pottery Museum on a very wintry day last December. We struggled to get the equipment through the deep snow to the set! We used the doctor's office display and although it was pre-dressed in a Victorian style, the production team added a lot of extra props such as taxidermy animals, paperwork, candles and skulls. This gave the room a more messy, 'lived in' feel and helped reflect Newlyn's character.


The museum was still open as we were filming and we had a number of bemused visitors walk in during the middle of a scene.

The train sequence was filmed in two halves. The wide shots of the train in it's entirity were filmed on a rainy day in Matlock, which involved me trying to outrun a steam train in my little car to get the perfect angle. The exiting of the carriage onto the platform was filmed at Foxfield Railway Station in Stoke-On-Trent. We used a smoke machine to give the effect of a steam engine when in fact all we had were a couple of empty carriages.


Filming the arrival at the brother's house was even more complex. The exterior is in Newcastle-Under-Lyme and belongs to John Pye, the police officer who worked on the real vampire case referenced in Chapter 7. However the interior, like so many Victorian houses nowadays, has been upgraded and furnished in a modern style. So, the inside of the house is stitched together; the stairwell is at the Upper House Hotel in Barlaston, the kitchen is inside the Doctor's house at Gladstone Pottery Museum and the office can be found at Newcastle-Under-Lyme Museum and Art Gallery.


This episode ends with a different song by Birthrite 'Look To The Future' as I felt it required a more sombre note.  You can find out more about Birthrite and their music at their website.

Next up: Behind-the-Scenes - Chapter 3: Anna of the Six Towns

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Premiere

Here's a quick look at the premiere of 'Blood and Bone China', which was held at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery on March 2nd as part of the Stoke Your Fires film festival. Video by Sandy Wagg and the Staffs Live team.

Behind-the-Scenes - Chapter One: The Man In Black

Chapter One sets up the Victorian world of Stoke-On-Trent and establishes the vampire threat. However, as in the films 'Alien' and 'Jaws', I didn't want the audience to see the monster straight away. Instead, I decided to tease them for a while, seeing only shadows in the dark and flashes of the mysterious antagonist's eyes.


This first episode also introduces our lead protagonist Newlyn Howell, who is a slighty awkward, bumbling country vet and the curious Alexander Pyre.

The very first day's shoot was in early November 2010. It was for the chase sequence in Chapter 1 and was shot at the Museum and Art Gallery in Newcastle-Under-Lyme. They have a fantastic indoor recreation of a Victorian Street, a ready built set.


I had checked with the management there that the my smoke machine would not set off the fire alarms (I've used this smoke machine for five years and it's never done it). However, just as I called 'Action!' on the very first take, the alarm bells started to ring and everyone was forced to evacuate the building.

As we stood outside in the early morning drizzle, a fire engine screeched to a halt outside the museum and I had the enviable job of explaining what had happened to an unhappy fireman. I don't think he appreciated us interrupting his breakfast... What a great start!

The rest of the morning was spent filming Simon (Richard Howell) running backwards and forwards down the same streets over and over again. I used lots of different angles to create the illusion of a larger, inter-connected street system. In fact, it's not in the slightest and it's possible to run from one side of the streets to the other in 5 seconds!


The next scene was filmed that afternoon. It was the very beginning of episode one, where the whore approaches Richard Howell as he is waiting with his brown paper parcel. The production team travelled across the city to Gladstone Pottery Museum in Longton, where they have an indoor toilet museum! Part of the toilet exhibition is a Victorian alleyway, complete with replica human excrement to show how the Victorians tossed their 'business' out of the window. If you ever have the pleasure of visiting, I suggest you hold your nose as they have very accurately recreated the smells. It was not pleasant working in that
environment for four hours!


The second half of Chapter One, the farm sequence, was filmed a couple of months later in mid-February. It was originally scheduled for December, but we were hit with massive snow storms so filming had to be delayed until the weather improved. The location was a field in Leek, just behind my friend Shelley's house. Shelley played the farmer's daughter and her mum Amanda provided the production team with tea and freshly baked cake all day (brilliant!).

Next up: Behind-the-Scenes - Chapter 2: The Enigmatic Mister Pyre


Hello everyone!

This is my first blog post about 'Blood and Bone China', our new Victorian vampire web series.  Over the next few weeks, I'll be giving you a bit of a behind-the-scenes look at how the series is being made.