Mardi Gras – Taking Oxford Street by Storm

Trish had three weeks, but I had three days to get organized if I were to take advantage of the behind-the-scenes prep for Trish’s Mardi Gras float.  Unsure whether this idea would have the legs of mass popular interest, this was too good an opportunity to miss so I decided to get the Mardi Gras shots in the can and re-evaluate.

190706_1606496602428_1236567467_31384900_2164680_nHad I been in my native London this would not have posed any issue.  I could have crewed up with reliable talent and expertise on the strength of a single phone call, but I was in Sydney where the industry is far smaller.  No Dean or Wardour Street here!  It’s all over the place.  I literally jumped online in search of experienced cam op’s & DP’s.  I contacted a few and was immediately struck not by their creative interest but keenness to lock in price first! There was one exception, Mark Camwell of iCam Pictures.  Funny enough Mark’s rates were right up there on the top tier!  I would have saved money hiring one of the other guys, but I immediately warmed to this Mark Camwell.  Yes, he had bills to pay, a family to support and a mortgage to service like the rest of us but with Mark it was about the creative input first, financial remuneration second.  I liked that.

On meeting Mark for the first time, over a coffee in King’s Cross, just two hours before Shot 1, Take 1 my instincts did not let me down.  Of course I still needed to see any rushes – but I was of the mind, I had found my cameraman.  That said I had to set the tone of how I work, just to make sure.  Whilst by no means a guerilla filmmaker, not in the illegal sense [unless you happen to include racing around Paris clutching a bag of replica weapons on a low-budget action feature … pre 9/11 of course! But I do like to shoot on the run.  I’ve always worked with film, 8mm, s16mm and 35mm, and it took more than once for Mark to get me to slow down “this is video we can afford a greater shooting ratio.”  I soon adjusted.

DSC09887Whilst a doco I storyboarded every potential shot.*  I once worked with Hollywood veteran DP Gene Talvin who taught me always to cut a film on paper/in your head before shooting a single frame.  This was a valuable lesson.   Later I worked with DP Gordan Hickie who once told me “I like working with young directors without money, since anyone can make a movie with finance.” **

Our first set up was to capture Trish’s dancers rehearsing.   This was my first exposure to the colourful, fun, vivacious characters attracted to the Trishy Dishy way!  I then wanted to capture the transformation of the truck, from arrival to what later proved both a public and organisers favourite, but then how can you fail – 20 glittering tasseled dancers all dressed in pink.

48170_371999546192700_1939214615_nOn the day of the parade itself we encountered our first production hiccup.  Apparently media passes do not permit directors or anyone without a camera to accompany the floats!  My entire project now rested in the hands of Mark.  We’d got along well but only worked together for two hours.  Would Mark actually deliver the shots I needed?  Was he capable in that short time of knowing me, to get inside my head and provide the vision I had envisaged?

An antagonizing two days later we sat down and viewed the not-so rushed rushes.  I needn’t have concerned myself – it was awesome!

Sequence 70






Highly recommended

*Film Directing Shot by Shot by Steve D Katz [awesome storyboard examples]

**Rebel without a Crew – Robert Rodriguez [inspiring]

Guerilla Film Makers Handbook – Chris Jones & Genevieve Jolliffe