Monday, 21 March 2011

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

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