The battle for Jessica Jackson Smith and other near misses.

Yesterday Mark Forstater and I received a new house guest. This is a real Jess not a Connie Jess. She is our fight coordinator and safety expert. In addition to this it is worth mentioning that Jess can do several martial arts to a high standard and loves nothing more than a good scrap or a sword fight. In short she is young, fit and very hard. I have decided that in light of certain death I am going to be on best behaviour. Mr F is finding this very funny and appears to be enjoying the situation a little too much for my liking.

What however is hysterical is that the boys on set have not worked out what they are dealing with. They somehow do not understand that if they continue to follow her around with their tongues dangling out of their mouths for the next few days one or all of them are going to get seriously injured. So let me introduce to you the protagonists in the battle of Jessica Jackson Smith (Kick ass martial artist et al). In the Red corner, we have Panda our beloved first assistant Director (He is also Welsh) do I need say any more. In the Blue corner, featuring a tiny penis we have Amos. Last but not least in the sort of died from ginger to dirty blond corner we have Cuddles (who has a girlfriend – Bad cuddles, bad, bad, BAD Cuddles) I genuinely think I am going to enjoy this!!!!

Mr F drives us both back to our house. On the way Jess asks to stop at the corner shop and buys a bottle of wine. I figure the least I could do is by some beer. It transpires that new Jess is as cool as you like. We sit up drinking till quite late, we eventually run out of booze and steel some more wine from Mr F’s private collection. We eventually wake him up at just gone one in the morning by shouting “SSSSHHHHHHHsh!!!!” at each other getting progressively louder and only punctuated by childish giggles. It is not until after half two that we finally say our good nights.

Mr F pounds on my door at Six thirty AM my love for Mark evaporates, what a bastard. I get up and wander down stares and dive in the shower and try to wash away my hangover. As I put the kettle on Mark asks me “Where is Jess” I look at him (I guess blankly) and say “In her room” he looks at me inquisitively before saying “Oh …. I better wake her up then”

We rock up at Epic studios for half past seven. Paul Hills is outside and greats our gang of three. He looks me in the eye, it is a look I know, the question lies between us. I shake my head at him. He grabs my arm and whispers in my ear “You will brother. You will” I must confess I am starting to worry about my reputation.

Today’s shoot is going really badly. We are trying to catch up on a monumental balls up that occurred last night. To cut a long story short Magda has broken out of her cell and is trying to make good her escape from the basement. She wanders around with a simple torch deciphering the codes written in to the artwork on the walls of her dungeon. We cut last night when she sees the Baphomet images on the walls. Today when we are about to start filming Grace simply asks “Which hand do I have the torch in?” She can’t remember. Paul Hills shouts to Molly our script supervisor “Molls which hand is the torch in?” Silence …. Molly stares at her continuity sheets …. More silence. Paul leaves the set “Molly…. Please tell me you have documented this … Molly! What hand is the torch in??? Molly!!! Please Molly!” I see a tear form and she is off to the toilet.

Paul walks back to set screaming “Jesus!!!” he quickly calms himself “Roger, Roger, Roger Bonicci, can you do a play back on the video to see which hand the torch is in!” Roger walks out of the set “Yeah no problem I’ll get that played back now” It is now one of those you had to be there moments, the entire camera team very slowly try to become invisible by looking very busy at doing a job. Air canisters come out, a Gate check is taking place (even though it is not required) clapper loader decides to do an end cut stock take…… I think you get the picture…..

“Jesus fucking Christ!!!” (guess who said that)

And so the entire team get prepared to re shoot the whole of 74. Before we can even look at today’s shot list. It is going to be a really long day. From here on in they are all going to be long, we are well over a day behind. To compound the issues the amount of days we have left to catch up on are starting to run out. The pressure is on and this is a really inexperienced team. So you know what is coming. Yup queen bitch has arrived.

The crew are starting to fracture. Panda and make up are arguing. Paul Hills is fighting with Costume and Production. Bear the most easy going Gaffer you will ever meet has started to get a short fuse, the sound guys are getting more and more hacked off with being asked to work passed midnight without so much as an apology. And in the middle of all of this the catering has managed to lower the standards. Something I genuinely didn’t believe was possible to do. I have never in my life eaten anything this bad. This includes trips of the beaten track in Africa. Nothing has prepared me for food this terrible. The only thing it appears to do is galvanise a few of us into hysterical laughter whenever it is dinner time. Most people are no longer eating the food that is supplied they choose to leave the studio and by sandwiches from the local garage or shops, it is really that bad.

However, in the middle of all of this a thing of beauty.

Paul Hills and Magda are planning her escape. It is agreed that she will try to escape but fail. In the fail part we will do some blocking and make the set safe. This is after all why Jess is here. The cameras roll and Magda starts to build a makeshift ladder out of old paint pots and things she finds in the cell. She precariously piles them up on each other and builds a stairway to the hatch. While she is doing this she starts to get higher. She manages to knock the hatch up and place some wood in it to stop if falling back. She fights higher and higher towards freedom. The crew are in panic Paul should have called cut ages ago this has become really dangerous. But still she fights on with a monumental leap she is half way out of the cell a good fifteen feet in the air she pulls herself free. She has escaped.

CUT! The crew not a dry eye between them cheer, people hug and applause fills the void. Paul Hills runs out among us “Magda, you’re supposed to fail, you’re not supposed to escape what were you thinking” Magda (Grace Vallorani) says “Your supposed to call cut”. Laughter mixes in with tears, we have all gone along this journey with her looked in her tiny cell day after day, night after night. But now it is different we have our Grace back.

Paul had arrived back just in time to witness this. It’s good to have him back from Reading. He looks better for his escape, I introduce him to Jess and suggest that there is not a lot for us to hang around for. We take a break from filming and go to the pub. A different gang of three drink fast chasing the allusive pissed pie. Back at the house we drink wine. Paul goes to bed at one o’clock leaving Jess and I alone in the living room with the gentle snoring of Mark Forstater echoing from his room. We laugh and talk movies. It is strange Jess leaves on Sunday, we will have only known each other for two days and I know I am going to miss her. She is a keeper, a sister in arms, a veteran of the Power. A veteran of scene 74 the satanic scene, BAPHOMET be praised.

Ian Manson – Making of Documentary.