Sunday, March 30, 2008

What is an assembly cut?

We have 3 more days of scene assembly to go. Then it should take about two days to edit together an assembly cut. So, by Friday April 4 we will have the first ever full cut of the film. 

But this is only the assembly cut. The scenes are cut purely for dialogue, pretty much as they were shot. There is no music or any pacing in the scenes yet, or even cutaways that explain the action. Its a cut that is literally the script on screen. 

There is a great old saying: ' no film is as good as its dailies, or as bad as its first cut', and that is so true. You often fall in love with pieces of scenes or certain shots completely out of context when you're scrolling through the footage, and sitting through an assembly cut is like watching your own autopsy. 

Everything feels rushed or too slow, or in the wrong place, or just very very bad. You begin to think you have wasted 4 years. You believe its never going to come together.

But it always does. That is the true miracle of editing. The assembly cut is a vital, ugly stage from which you learn enormous lessons, and now we are very close. Then we will have three weeks to turn it into an actual rough cut, then 3-6 months to turn it into a fine cut. That sounds like a long time, but actually its quite quick. 

Just don't call us late Friday. We'll be very depressed. :-)



Mark Wilson as 'Tim Dalkey', Francesca Stone as 'Kitten'

Jeremy has come up with a possible way of rescuing the Tim Dalkey scene, by placing the emphasis of the scene on a different theme than it was originally. 

This is fantastic news. The character Tim Dalkey has existed since the original co-op writing sessions of early 2004. At those meetings, myself, Lawrence Scott, Rebecca Denton and Jeremy Henman threw out scene ideas based on the loose framework of the Steve Lynch story. 

Tim Dalkey, a close friend of Steve's wife Olivia, was there from almost Page 1. 

Originally gay and living in an Islington loft (shot in 2004 complete with exposed cock shot) by 2005 he had become virulently heterosexual and was now in a club he owned in Shoreditch. Its a fluid world. 

Both times he was played brilliantly by Mark Wilson, who had just come off a small part in 'Closer'. 

Saving at least part of this scene will also preserve some of Michael Greco's best work on the film. 

- MT

Thursday, March 27, 2008


Mark Tierney directs Steven Berkoff, Debenham House 2006 

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Cast & Crew setting up from B camera, Debenham House, 2006

We've started the assembly cut on 'The Lion's Den', a sequence of scenes that are the heart of the film. It will take us several days just to do the assembly edit of these scenes (a normal scene takes about 2 hours to edit at this stage). 
We'll post more pics and notes over the rest of the week.

The scenes were shot at Debenham House, also used for the 50 Cent/Timberlake video 'Ayo Technology'. 

Paul McGann

Paul McGann as 'Mr Johnson'

A few posts ago I promised to write more about the work of Paul McGann on this film, and tonight as I came across the rough edit we did in Burbank in late 2006, now seemed appropriate.

As this blog progresses I will write many more positive things about almost all the actors on this project. This is not to falsely praise them, nor is it simply a nod to shared experience or trauma survived. It's because for the most part we were very lucky with the people we were privileged to work with. They were generous, patient, and above all talented. 

But a special place is reserved for me with Mr Paul McGann. 

In mid 2006, it became obvious that the film required another viewpoint apart from that of Steve Lynch. Partly this was from convenience (the story became too complicated to have one character constantly re-explain it) and also from an attempt to place the story on two separate days, so that we weren't confined to only shooting in the bright summer. 

So a storyteller device was added: the story of Steve Lynch would now be told in the past tense to a complete outsider by the intimately involved character of Roy Weggerly (Mark Rathbone). The outsider was a 'Mr Johnson', a gangster acquaintance of Roy's.  

Thea MacLeod, our star casting agent, suggested a gallery of excellent suspects for this part, which Jeremy Henman and I had barely conceived, let alone written. One name stood out, half way down the list. 
"Paul McGann? Really? He'd be up for this?"
"Sure. Why not?". 
"Um, because we haven't written any of it yet?" 
"Well, I need something to send out by tomorrow. Morning." 

It came to some 12 pages or so. Early drafts are always overwritten. You have no idea yet which bits are important, so you throw it all in. But it covered everything we thought we needed. It framed Steve Lynch's story as essentially Roy's confession - the final tale of a man's fallen dignity laid bare, with Mr Johnson as the angel of death. But it was still a hell of a mess. 

It went out.

We were nervous. While we all were aware of his work, we definitely weren't die hard fans,  but somehow the idea of him doing this part came to obsess us. It became the first question asked every day - have we heard from Paul? Do you think he'll do it? We didn't care about anyone else - this was our guy. Now time was playing a part - we'd organised everything for a Saturday in early November. If we didn't have an answer by Wednesday we'd have to scrap the shoot until deep into 2007. 

Wednesday at about 5pm I got a call from a mobile with a familiar voice on the other end. 
"I'm driving."
"He's sort of like a priest really."
"Taking a confession."
"I see it as very still. He barely moves."
"Like a visit from the angel of death."
"Ok. One thing."
"It's very long. I may not have it all by Saturday. I'm travelling."
"That's ok. We'll roll with it."
"OK. See you then. Shall I wear black?"

Saturday upstairs in a pub off Waterloo Bridge. No dressing room, no green room. The usual din of a busy set in a very confined space. Paul sat dressed ready to go, and said very little. 
The first section of the scene was 6 pages. He had to do a complicated entry, deliver a speech in three distinct parts standing, then sit, and deliver another speech in almost five different parts. Throughout he has almost no other actors to play off. He has every line. The scene was lit in a way that required him to hit several marks at the same time, otherwise he would be in complete darkness. He had to pour himself a drink, and remember to keep savouring it. I was petrified at how long it would take to get.

"Right Paul, shall we give it a go?" 
He smiled and went to his starting position. We rolled.

About 30 seconds in, it was like I had an out of body experience. Andre de Souza was DOP that day, and snuck a look at me off the eyepiece of his camera. It was mesmerising. Its not unusual for actors to be word perfect quickly - that is their job. But this was more. This was every nuance correct, every pause perfect, and all encased in a phenomenal stillness that seemed to warp the gravity in the room. He was genuinely a different person now. People sometimes ask if its rewarding to see a character or a particular passage of script come to life. The answer is yes, but its incredibly rare to actually see it. But here it was, a scene unfolding as if every word and movement was naturally occurring to him for the very first time. This was "Mr Johnson" in the flesh, a real, living being that you could feel and touch. 

He reached the end. No-one said or did anything. We were all hypnotised. Our First, Peter Errington, finally called "Cut" from downstairs. 

Paul relaxed, then turned back over his shoulder to me.

"How was that?"

- MT


Monday, March 24, 2008

Hard at work 3

Almost a brains trust: 
Jerome Scott, Helen Liston, Mark Tierney, Jeremy Henman, Hugh Edwards

Soundman (and part-time killer), Angus Sutherland, 2005

Jonas Mortensen, DOP

Helen Liston, Neil Sheppeck, Suzanne Gardner

We're working hard to get back in a couple of scenes we thought we were going to lose for various reasons. This is possibly the most creative part of the entire process - to unpick scenes and recontextualise the same dialogue to work for new motivations and action. 


PS: If any of the crew or actors reading this have photos, stories, or anything relevant to the blog, please email it to


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Still working......

We're just in the process of bringing in an additional editor as Peter is back in the UK for a month. Starting to feel the pressure to get the rough cut together.......

We met three outstanding people yesterday. Will update once we've made a decision.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Duncan Bannatyne

Duncan Bannatyne as 'Donald', Michael Greco as 'Steve Lynch'

Duncan has been part of the this project since the very beginning. 
Long before he became a TV star with the BBC's Dragons Den, Duncan attended the same RADA course as Jerome Scott. A very successful businessman, Duncan only fell into media after bidding for a one-line part in a Guy Ritchie movie at a charity auction. Being the organised fellow that he is, he thought 'I'd better learn to act then' and trained in New York as well as London.

So for us to cast him as a successful businessman mentor wasn't really much of a stretch. 

Donald is an old business partner of Steve Lynch's who Steve turns to once too often. 

The scene was shot in Shad Thames, an area that used to be the centre of London's docks, then fell into disrepair and became the backdrop for a hundred car chases in UK classic The Sweeney

Now its home to City boys and their loft apartments, and thus fitted the scene perfectly. It was an infuriatingly difficult day, with clouds moving in and out, boats constantly blowing horns, and poor Duncan could only spare us 3 hours that day. 

But as ever, we survived. 


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ok, we're busy.....

and film's a visual medium right? So more set pics.

Jonas Mortensen and friend: the incomparable Francesca Stone. 

Mark Tierney, Hugh Edwards (Producer), Philip Carson (makeup)

These two pics were taken at the ill-fated Tim Dalkey scene (that character was cut from the film to make way for Colin Salmon's 'Ralph'). It was a terrific shoot, with actor Mark Wilson and a cast of great girls supposedly lounging after a heavy debauch. 

Michael Greco gave some of his best work that day.  In the way of these things, it will never be part of the finished film. 

Hard at work 2

Andy Cockerill & Jonas Mortensen

Andre de Souza and Jonas Mortensen

Of Lou Doillon and Hotel Costes

Lou Doillon as 'Olivia' & Michael Greco as 'Steve Lynch'

Firstly I must apologise to Lou, one of the most interesting and intelligent women in the world because this post is only partly about her. Its mostly about our casting meeting at Hotel Costes in Paris.

Hotel Costes is possibly the most pretentious place on earth. In this case, that's a good thing, and I'm certain they wouldn't be unhappy with the title. It is really just a gorgeous courtyard, surrounded by a small number of small rooms, metres from the Place Vendome in Paris, where you can only book by fax. Yep, fax. And then they decide if you can stay there. 

Should they allow your barely tolerable presence in the confines of their establishment they then treat you as if you were a small annoying thread hanging from the sleeve of their couture Chanel. They are arrogant to a point far beyond rudeness, and completely, utterly, totally unhelpful. The service, by a collection of nervy catwalk models, is entertaining but terrible. 

The rooms start at EUR550 a night. 

And its fantastic. It is one of the true treasures of France. It is everything that you would satirise about the French character made real. You are appalled, but also strangely captivated by it. You feel simultaneously oppressed and very smug, because hey, they might be treating you like shit, but at least they let you in! They all look beautiful, and rich, and happy, so I must be too! If only I could get another coffee. I've been waiting an hour. 

So it was here, on one of those mornings in Paris where you actually think you could move there, that we had breakfast with Lou - myself, Jeremy and Thea McLeod, our true gem of a casting person. Her sister, who works in the French film industry, had arranged it all. We came down early so the courtyard was empty, and we sat across two big tables and ordered coffee. Lou arrived on time, looking incredible in a purple dress and big hat, have walked over straight out of bed. For the next 3 hours we talked about her, us, French politics, acting, music, and film. It was a joy.

About 90 minutes in, I noticed that the courtyard was now full, but no movement by the Costes Models to move us along, or even restrict us to one table. Nothing after 2 hours, or even 3. By being with Lou we had trumped the cool of Costes. We had become untouchable. That we were rendered so by the least pretentious person in the room made it somehow even better. 

Lou finally left, and with it our force field of hip. We were back to being foreign scum, and not even famous foreign scum. When I checked out I felt like I was being thrown out. 

And yes, I've already booked (or should I say applied) to stay there again. 

- MT


Monday, March 17, 2008

Jerome Scott

Jerome Scott as 'Paul' in the climactic scene

This project is really the fault of Jerome Scott. Not the plot or script but the motivation: the original push down the hill. 

I shall attempt to make a long story a bit shorter.

Together he and I (and Andy Rolfe) founded The London Film Syndicate in Feb 2004, after Channel 4 had shown minor interest in a 5 minute short we'd made (which if I can find a copy of I will post). 
I had known Jerome via business in London for a few years, when he announced at the end of a heavy drinking session that he was attending RADA over the summer.  

At the time I hadn't directed or produced anything for 5 years, and frankly, the thought of Jerome acting stunned me. And he had no idea I had a background in film, or at the very least didn't believe it.

The bargain was struck: he'd bring actors, I'd bring crew and experience. Together we'd raise a tiny bit of money (10k) and make an artsy 30 minute thing for Channel 4 to screen at 2am on a Sunday in summer. This eventually became NAKED IN LONDON.

Why? Because Jerome was convinced we should make a 90 minute drama. Convinced in that effortless way of the truly naive that we could just bang out a watchable commercial feature film, with a team with very little experience at drama and no money. 

He was very persuasive.

Obviously, it did take a LOT more money, time and energy. Jerome is the Executive Producer on this film, and along with myself, has quite a bit of money in it. But his thriving business has meant his direct involvement has diminished since 2006.   

But then he got the best reward of anyone from participating in this project: he met his wife Vanessa on the 2005 shoot. 

But she's another story...


Jerome Scott & Mark Tierney on set 2005


Death in Soho

Meredith Ostrom & Colin Salmon

What begins so promisingly above, ends very messily below.

The meeting of the two killers in this film (Callas & Ralph) was shot in the original Soho House in Soho. No celebrities (apart from us) were in attendance at the time. We also had all our extras drawn from London's young and itinerant New Zealand community so its good to know that we funded a lot of Islington and Clapham drinking with this scene.

We used to joke that it was the United Nations of NIL: the crew and cast featured Australasians, Scandinavians, South Americans, North Americans, Eastern Europeans and even the occasional Brit!

Perhaps above all, this is the part of the film that is most reflective of London.

Ralph & Callas

Macbook death

Apologies for the lack of posts these last few days. My Macbook Pro died.
Ah, the joys of kernel panic.



There Will Be Blood

Nick Townsend as 'Peter Denby'

NIL is not a violent film but we did have fun with the Peter Denby torture sequences. Its not Hostel, but we do cut his toes off, and perform other unspeakable acts on his person.

In recompense, Callas (Meredith Ostrom) does strip down to bra and pants to do it.

PS: P T Anderson was robbed. I mean ROBBED. I could go on about this for hours.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Jake Maskall

Jake Maskall as 'Jonathan', Home House 2005

One of the best 'happy accidents' of this film was getting Jake Maskall to play Olivia Lynch's brother, Jonathan.
Originally Executive Producer Jerome Scott was going to play Jonathan but for various reasons decided against it (Jerome ended up playing a smaller role in the climactic scene instead), so we needed to find someone quickly who had the right presence for the role.
Matthew John, a producer slumming it as one of our runners volunteered Mr Maskall, who had just come off legendary UK soap Eastenders.
Jake came to set in Chiswick to chat about it, took the role and learnt 8 pages of intricate dialogue in 2 days and nailed it.
We then brought him back in 2007 for a flashback sequence with his on-screen sister (see below).

Just a terrific, focused actor, and a true joy to work with.

Jake Maskall as 'Jonathan', Lou Doillon as 'Olivia', 2007

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


With a film that took so long to form, there were many 'false' endings to the shoot.
This is the 2005 end of shooting with Micheal Greco after he'd done 22 days on set.
Note the relief in his demeanor!
Little did he know he had another 10 days to go in 2006/7.....

VANESSA - A sultry moment of exposition

Gabrielle Jourdan as 'Vanessa Clark'

Today we did the sound for the Vanessa scene and the Driver scene.

The Vanessa scene is a very technical pair of scenes: it falls at a point in the film where Steve Lynch must decide to take action against Callas, and also the true villain of the film is revealed. Its also where poor Gabrielle has to deliver what is known as 'exposition': she has to explain to the audience everything that has happened up to now in the film, by explaining it all back to Steve.

If you watch films and television closely, you'll see them do it constantly - characters telling you what's going on by telling other characters what's happening. For us, Vanessa's speech was always a touchstone: whatever rewrite or reshoot occurred, her speech still had to make sense.

After a while, film making becomes a game of Jenga with a plot. If we take that piece out, will the whole thing collapse? In our case, it all revolved around Vanessa's speech, delivered crisply and well by Gabrielle Jourdan, who at this time had just come back from shooting with Billy Zane in the Bahamas.

How long have we been making this film? Gabrielle will be bringing her 2 year old to the premiere.

Steve Lynch & Vanessa get reaquainted


Monday, March 10, 2008

Hard at work on set 1

Andy Cockerill, Set Photographer and 3rd Camera

Andre De Souza takes a break during a take

Chiswick, 2005

Our DOPs

Bjorn Hellem, Jonas Mortensen & Andre de Souza
on set in Chiswick, 2005

This film had a few DOPs (Directors Of Photography) over the many shoots, but the primary ones were Jonas Mortensen, Bjorn Hellem (the human tripod) and Andre de Souza.

Without them, this project would not have been possible. Their incredible patience and hard work for very little money is one of the main reasons this film exists and all of us who worked on this project salute them.


THIS WEEKEND: Lions Den & Peter/Callas

Steven Berkoff as 'Lawrence Masters'

Meredith Ostrom as 'Callas' and Nick Townsend as 'Peter Denby'

This weekend was spent putting the sound back on a pair of characters who were completely recast and reshot in 2006/7 from their 2005 versions. ( a longer post on the actors they replaced and why is forthcoming).
Both Steven Berkoff and Merdith Ostrom were joys to work with, and brought incredible energy to the project. Both characters are pivotal to the story, with 'Lawrence Masters' being the decadent mentor who in a brilliant and devastating cameo spurs the run in the first place , and 'Callas' the sexy, violent killer who pursues Steve Lynch through the film.

Berkoff managed 17 pages of dialogue in his day on set which is certainly a record on this film, and possibly many others. We also ran 4 cameras on that day, so sound sync took most of the weekend.

Some of you may recognise the lower set as being The Loft, the office and studio we were based at for most of 2006/7.


Friday, March 7, 2008

Why 4 years of shooting?

Micheal Greco as 'Steve Lynch'

NIL is set in London on a bank holiday that also happens to be the hottest day of the year (in real life usually in late July, early August). The film was partly inspired by the summer of 2003, which had record breaking sunshine.
London becomes a completely different city in the heat: all its hidden cloisters and rooms are thrown open to the sun, and that is a strong theme of this film: dark secrets being revealed by sunlight.

However, trying to make an indie film when you are relying on a specific weather condition is a dangerous business, as the summers of 2004 and 2005 were mostly disastrous. The weather was such a strong component of the film, and gives it such a unique look, we had no real choice but to wait it out. We also became expert amateur meteorologists, repeatedly checking about 5 different websites for the latest weather updates, and gazing constantly to the horizon looking for a break in the cloud.

In the end, it served the film well in other ways: we had more time to contemplate script and character changes and even format changes (HD arrived between 2004 and 2005).

But its certainly something we won't be doing again!


Peter Denby

Nick Townsend as 'Peter Denby'

Peter Denby has the worst time in this film.

He has a stressful early morning, then gets kidnapped and tortured, and eventually dies!
Nick Townsend played him across 2005-2006 like a trouper and we could not have a had a better performance of this difficult, nuanced character.

If anyone is watching closely, you'll notice the very subtle difference between the two shoots. The above shot is from 2005. Once we're doing the Callas/Peter post from 2006, we'll post the before and after.

The 2006 version. Same shirt, same room, completely different background.


Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Of Astons and Helen Liston

Helen Liston in front of Steve Lynch's Aston

We spent an enormous amount of time shooting in Northampton Park in Islington on this film. Its the widest street in Central London, has some beautiful Georgian terrace houses, and Islington Council are very easy to deal with re filming. In the photo you can see stellar runner/pm/all round awesome chick Helen Liston being clapper girl. Also note the non-timecode, non-electronic clapper board, last seen doing work on an early Charlie Chaplin movie.

Today was spent synching Steve Lynch's first conversation of his harrowing day with his business partner Peter Denby (Nick Townsend) which is made by phone from Steve's Aston. This car was a V12 Volante we hired for 3 days. Very nice, but not the easiest car to drive over London speedbumps.

Jeremy Henman as 'The Jogger'. Nice shorts.

Steve Lynch also has a confrontation with a jogger in this scene, that sets in motion the events of the rest of the day. Unfortunately George Clooney was unavailable, so we went with who we had to hand.

Ah, the joys of finding footage.....

Colin Salmon as 'Ralph', Mark Rathbone as 'Roy'

One of the real pleasures of cutting a film so removed from shooting it is that you get a real kick out of seeing the footage again. And finding scenes we had completely forgotten shooting!

So far we've found a sexy massage scene with 'Callas' we'd completely forgotten about, and Paul McGann's incredible work as Mr Johnson, a character that was eventually cut (much more on this, and Paul, later). His character was replaced by Colin Salmon's 'Ralph' above.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Hard at work!

Jeremy Henman & Peter Rockliffe
in the Laurel Canyon edit suite.

Merging Sound

David Cleveland Dunn as 'Bob'

The first stage in the process is adding sound recorded on seperate machines to the HD picture. This is a long, dull, slow process. Which is why asst. editor Pete Rockliffe is doing it! It takes a full day to do about a scene and a half. Yesterday we did Roy and Callas in Soho, and Bob's Shop, both crucial early scenes.

Bear in mind the film has 130 odd scenes, so this may take a while. :-)

Monday, March 3, 2008

And so it begins......

Meredith Ostrom as 'Callas'

Ok, so after 4 years of shooting, many crews, actors and recriminations, today we finally began the edit here in Los Angeles. This blog will keep you up to date on all that's happening. Feel free to post questions, although you may not get answers. :-)