Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Judge Minty - taking the law to the lawless - in Camberwell

Last Saturday (the 28th of July) saw me up at stupid o’clock (which is officially designated as being any time before 5 a.m.) to travel to That London - aforementioned waking up not exactly helped by an aborted attempt for an early night the evening before thanks to the excellent Olympics Opening Ceremony and an inviting bottle of Gordons Gin (and a ridiculously entertaining facebook thread I got caught up in involving puns involving songs and the names of countries, inspired by Fiji coming on to the Bee Gees). Curse you, Danny Boyle!

The reason for my early train journey to London? I was due at Camberwell Studios at 10 a.m. to assist with some pick-up shots for Judge Minty, the fan film I’d been following with great interest since I’d learned of it about a year or so previous. The hour long journey gave me time to read the latest copy of Empire which had a huge article about the forthcoming Dredd movie; the reading matter felt appropriate given my reason for venturing into the capital.

The term ‘fan film’ to me conjures up all kinds of horrific images after some of the things I’ve sat through, eyes bleeding, on youtube. They’re traditionally poorly acted (by well-meaning but ill-prepared enthusiasts) with either no special effects or ones that look like they were rustled up in fifteen minutes on a Commodore 64. If I see one more Star Wars or Warhammer 40k fan film with pixel laser beams drawn on with MS Paint or explosions crudely superimposed over I won't be responsible for my actions. Minty is several light years beyond that – just watch the work in progress teaser below if proof of that were needed.

Impressive, eh?

I’d been dreading the journey having been warned about how the Olympics would be affecting transport throughout London. I’d had visions of fighting my way through literally billions of people at Euston, tube trains crammed with asphyxiating passengers and platforms spilling over with frenzied baying crowds and tracks lined with rats feeding on mangled crushed corpses, but upon arrival Euston was as quiet as I’d ever seen it. The high traffic warnings echoing over the tannoy by Mayor Boris seemed somehow inappropriate. The few other passengers who were there all seemed as equally confused as I. I'd begun to think I'd somehow arrived in some Parallel reality London until Very Important Rude People who life owed a living pushed past me to get to the tube - No, this was still old normal London.

A short walk from Oval Tube Station (Camberwell itself not having one) narrowly avoiding a drunk yelling abuse at me and anybody in my vicinity and I found myself approaching the studios at around 9 a.m. thinking I’d be one of the first there. I hadn’t accounted for the enthusiasm of the other 3 Judges I’d be doing the shoot with, one of whom was John Burdis - my partner in crime justice from LFCC.

It was nice to meet new people, and fellow Dredd fans I had as friends on facebook but had never met in real life - Guy from Planet Replicas also arrived during the day to lend a hand - Planet Replicas are involved in this film in so far as it was them who'd designed the Judge suit used in this film - the last time I'd seen him was when he'd delivered the Judge outfit to my house back in February just in time for SFX 2012.

Before shooting we were shown some of the nigh-on finished footage from Minty so far - this was a genuine thrill for me, having only gotten involved at this, the very last step of the film. It looks incredible and I can't wait to see the finished product - If this footage was anything to go by, It's going to be fantastic.

The source - Judge Mintys appearance in Judge Dredd in 2000AD prog 147
The morning was spent filming the scene where Judge Minty takes the long walk into the Cursed Earth under the Steel Eaves of an eight lawgiver Judge salute - this was all taking place in a Greenscreen studio. You’ll be amused to know that I had to stand on a block of wood in certain shots to make me as tall as the three judges I was doing the scene with., but was thrilled to learn that this block of wood in particular had done cinema work before – it was the acting coach for Keanu Reeves for his role in Bram Stokers Dracula.*

The routine, repeated many times and from different angles, was simple. Stand to attention and then raise the lawgiver into the air and then hold it in place – an action made considerably more difficult for me in that I was the only Judge holding a non-stunt lawgiver, a bulky metal thing far from the balsa light gun I’m used to. Still, my weak girls wrist has almost recovered ;) We tried it with lifting the guns up, and then in reverse with us beginning the shot holding the guns aloft and then lowering them.

The eponymous Judge Minty is portrayed by the actor Edmund Dehn, star of stage and screen (a name I recognised from the Cradle of Filth portmanteau horror film ‘Cradle of Fear’ the wife and I had watched some months back and from the 80s childrens gameshow Knightmare). It was great to see a professional at work and he casts a genuine powerful and enigmatic presence as Minty in his full armour – and he’s a thoroughly nice guy as well. After we Judges had finished Edmund did his shots - namely Mintys dignified and defiant slow walk towards the Cursed Earth.

"Judge Court reporting for Cursed Earth duty, sir.
Yes, I've got my platforms on.
Yes, I do tend to fall over when I fire this big gun."
A break for lunch kindly provided by the two Steves in charge (Director Steven Sterlacchini and Director of Photography/Digital Imagery Stephen Green) saw us filled with sandwiches, crisps and pop and then the early part of the afternoon was spent doing pick-up shots with some of the other non Judge characters and some more footage with Edmund.

The remainder of the day was spent doing footage for CCTV that will feature in the film - just citizens of Mega City One and the Justice Department doing day to day activities - Some of these were already storyboarded and some were made up on the fly. I got to direct traffic, guard the City walls with a ridiculously large gun and police a riot - all without leaving the confines of the studio. For those not in Judge attire it was the chance to play around with a huge selection of clothes and accessories, anything to look like a Mega City One citzen with all the craziness -and bizarre fashion sense - that that entails.

With which it was time to get dressed back into civvies and rejoin normality. In as much as normality can be defined as "Going to a friends house for a birthday party consisting of ridiculously large quantities of alcohol, the legend that is Ma Hickmans Chocolate Cake and a bouncy castle".

So all in all an absolutely awesome weekend. Minty is a project I'm genuinely excited about being a part of, and the finished product - due out later this year - is going to be brilliant. I've seen a fair bit of it now, and can't wait to see how it all fits together. Even though I know in one scene one of the short-arse Judges (who barely passed the Justice Department minimum height requirement) is being made to look taller by a bit of a length of Justice Department Approved wood that has been painted green - Ah, the magic of cinema!

The short, long, long and long arm of the law
* Cutting edge Satire, eh?

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