On September 24th I received an email from James, a Production student at the University for Creative Arts in Farnham.
James mentioned “My team and I have recently been given a brief which entails creating a 5-7 minute film”.
The initial idea was for a film that would be focussed mainly on the Surrey Swans. Because of difficulties in finding people that were able to participate on the dates that were available, it changed somewhat into more of something that would be about aspects of the life of a transvestite with some filming to take place at a Surrey Swans meeting.
I emailed everyone that goes along to Surrey Swans regularly to ask how they felt about the idea of a small film crew turning up. No one raised any objections. A little reticence from some. But also several people expressing really positive feelings about the concept.
Then there are emails, phone calls, a visit from James (producer) and Sinead (sound).
Risk assessment and filming consent forms get completed.
James and Sinead check that Mike, who runs the pub where Surrey Swans meets is ok with using it as a film location.
And so, at about 09:30 on the morning of Friday November 22nd, James (producer), Sinead (sound), Lexie (post production), Xander (camera) and Vlad (director) arrive.
I hope I’ve got the roles right.
They come complete with cameras, sound equipment, light reflectors and all the paperwork that goes along with shooting a film.
I’d taken a day from my annual leave and woken at the usual kind of weekday time to give me a chance to greet them as Andrea.
The transformation takes about an hour.
The makeup actually takes less than an hour. I have to spend ten to fifteen minutes face shaving.
GGs (genetic girls) don’t generally have to factor these extra 15 minutes into their plans.
I’d done the nail polish thing and the body shave the night before.
“I know that you’re already wearing nail polish, Andrea, but can we have some close-ups of you polishing your nails?”
Vlad focuses everything whilst Andrea re-applies some Rimmel Pink Amazon to a selection of fingernails as directed.
Then there’s lipstick (Maybelline 24 hour) over lipstick.
We spend a while, unsuccessfully, looking for a mirror and end up using the black mirror of a mobile phone.
And then mascara.
Two cameras are set up pointing in the direction of the armchair. Vlad positions one of them, Xander the other.
Things are adjusted to cope with the light and avoid unwanted reflections.
James sits on a chair beside the main camera with a sheaf of papers.
Sinead has the microphone which is attached to a boom.
I sit in the arm chair.
A few warm up questions from James.
Now everyone knows my name, my age and height – with and without heels.
There are quite a few questions. I occasionally ramble, I think.
I need to remember to include a paraphrase of the question in the answer. And to wait three seconds before answering.
The experience is ok for me.
I feel as though I’m talking with people rather than at a camera. It’ll be interesting to see how it actually looks.
Living in Windsor makes life more difficult than it might have been. Every 90 seconds or so an aeroplane passes overhead. The kind of thing that Sally and I never notice when we’re inside. Microphones are more sensitive, I guess.
And then … the main camera signals that its memory card is almost full.
Unfortunately, it’s not yet afternoon and there is still an awful lot of filming to do. Strange that I keep referring to “film”. There is, of course, no film involved at all.
It’s one of those technologically potentially catastrophic moments that can afflict us all from time to time.
However well we prepare, there’s always a hole waiting for us to fall into.
The camera can takes SD memory cards.
But on sliding one into the slot there doesn’t seem to be a menu option to convince the camera that it’s a good idea to use it.
It may be that one day someone will unearth this option somewhere on an obscure menu. But it would have helped a lot on the day if it was somewhere a little more in everyone’s face.
Andrea mainly sits comfortably on the armchair.
Sally is at the table working n a laptop.
Everyone else is busy working out the best way forwards.
I’m impressed that everyone is busy working out a solution rather than complaining about a problem or blaming everyone else.
Coffee and tea.
A few pone calls and Xander heads off to borrow a memory card from another team.
Everyone else tries to coax the camera into using an SD card. But it refuses to cooperate.
But the camera still refuses to play ball.
There are some other shots that need to be taken using one of the other cameras.
There’s a plan to illustrate the transformation of Andy into Andrea.
The idea, I think, is that Andy does something and transmogrifies into Andrea in the process.
Wouldn’t it be cool if makeup was as easy as that?
The idea is to film the Andrea part of the activity now.
Andy can do his bit tomorrow.
So Andrea walks across the room and closes the curtains.
Gets an item from a cupboard in the kitchen and puts it into the microwave.
Comes in from outside and walks across the kitchen.
Yep. Several times.
These last two shots are more complex.
Vlad is outside with the camera.
The kitchen window provides a variety of unwanted reflections.
Andrea provides a black coat.
James stands beside Vlad using the coat close to the camera as a shield against the reflections.
It’s a cold day so there is some shivering.
Sticky tape gets applied to the floor to mark the spots where the camera was so that when Andy does his bit tomorrow everything will be aligned.
The camera moves. Sticky tape gets stuck.
Andrea walks out the bedroom door and down the stairs a few times.
The camera moves. More sticky tape.
Andrea walks down the stairs a few times. The camera capturing the high heeled shoes.
Here’s Lexie, Vlad, James and Sinead. I took the picture. Xander is out hunting for a memory card. The camera is pointing at where I was sitting during the interview.
The view from the interview chair – except Xander is out looking for the memory card:
Sally waits patiently for the arrival of the memory card.
Xander returns and the new memory card re-invigorates the camera.
The interview resumes.
And then it’s Sally’s turn to be interviewed.
I spend a while removing makeup.
The day ends with Andy arriving home, parking the car in the driveway and walking into the house. Four times, I think.
I have no idea what the neighbours thought was happening
And so ends Friday.
Saturday begins at about 11:15.
James, Vlad and Sinead arrive.
First on the menu is an interview with Andrea and Sally.
Then there is footage of me removing makeup in the bathroom.
Usually, before I remove makeup, I remove clothing.
On this occasion I just remove my hair.
And then the makeup.
And then the problem of the day arises.
Another shot of Andrea with Sally is needed, but Andrea has become Andy. Though Andy is still wearing a dress.
James and Vlad discuss the problem.
The problem being that it will take Andy up to an hour to become Andrea again. Well, maybe 45 minutes. But not much less.
The proposed solution … filming from the back over the shoulder of Andy complete with a dress and a wig.
The camera is set up something like this:
It’s a strange feeling. Wig without makeup. Even though I’m wearing a dress I feel strangely naked as I head downstairs.
It will be interesting to see how this turns out. Andrea from behind says hello to Sally and offers her a glass of wine.
About 5 times.
And then the other half of the transmogrifications. I can’t believe that I spelt that word correctly first time.
Off with the heels, the wig and the dress … on with the trousers, shirt and sweater.
The camera moves and Andy walks across the room and opens the curtains.
The camera moves outside.
James gets the black coat.
Vlad calls out “Action”.
Andy pops something in the microwave.
Andy walks through the door and across the kitchen.
The camera moves.
Andy walks out the bedroom door and down the stairs.
The camera moves again.
Andy walks up the stairs.
Just the man-shoes appearing in the shot.
Of course each activity happens several times.
Each positioning of the camera involves lining tripod legs up on pieces of yesterdays sticky tape.
Pieces of sticky tape get gradually unstuck.
And that’s it.
Well, apart from the night at the Swans.
To be continued …