Tuesday, May 08, 2001

The Enemy Within: British Guerilla Filmmaking

Submitted by by Peter Courridge


My name is Peter Courridge, one-half of Telsa Productions. The other half is Peter Davis. We are both students at the East Norfolk 6th Form College (ENSFC) in Norfolk, England. This is the story of how we created our film coursework The Enemy Within. It is basically a ninety-second trailer done in the style of the gangster/thriller film conventions. We hope it'll provide an amusing insight into student filmmaking. Without a doubt, it was a memorable production for reasons both amusing and frustrating.

The Plot

A lone man is on the run. He has been given a briefcase and has no idea of the contents. He is then kidnapped, watched, and chased by gangster style agents. It couldn't be a bigger cliché if we tried! Usually Telsa's productions are entirely original material. But in this case we had to "recreate conventions" and therefore accept no responsibility for the overwhelming "cheese" factor of our production.

The Cast and Crew

Peter Davis and I wrote, directed, edited, and produced The Enemy Within. Mike Dicker stars as the man with the briefcase and Phil Thompson is his accomplice. Agents include Ross Smith, Adam McGee, Nathan Lacey, and Phil Hill.

The Shoot
Hostage Scene - April 5, 2000

At lunchtime, Peter Davis, Mike Dicker, Ross Smith and I filmed the kidnap sequence in a science lab. The science lab was equipped with blackout blinds. Mike sat on a stool in the middle of the dark room. Peter Davis pointed a single light down on Mike while I filmed Ross doing the interrogation. However, Ross, is actually harmless and pointed that out to Mike during a take: "Please don't do that because I am actually weak. I have about as much anger in me as a piece of cardboard that's been chewed." Everything went well, until next week.

Castle Shopping Mall - April 12, 2000

I got permission from the local shopping mall in Norwich to film there for a day. But before we even got there, things started going wrong.

9.55 AM - Leaving College

Peter, Ross, Mike, Phil, Adam, and I, along with our friend Sarah, who came along for the ride, set off from college to the Yarmouth train station in costume with our bags and camera cases. Our train was due to leave at 10:20 AM. Unfortunately, our bus was late and we arrived minutes after the train left for Norwich.

10:25 AM - Stranded

The crew was now stuck at the train station for an hour until the next train came. To save time I decided we should film while waiting for the next train. The first shot, in the men's bathroom was a scene where Adam, Nathan, and Ross had to kick in the stall doors. By the time the first shot was complete, Adam had broken his shoe and Mike had purchased some condoms. We were all a little excited, especially Adam, who couldn't stop firing his gun. He even asked the woman at the ticket office if she'd like to be in our film. Naturally she declined. As we discovered later, it wasn't a good idea filming there.

11:25 AM - On the Train

Another not so bright idea: filming on a train full of passengers. I thought it would make for a good shot. But the conductor stopped us, and rightly so since we had no permission. We said no more about it until we reached Norwich.

11:45 AM - Norwich Station, Reported

At the Norwich station I asked the same conductor if we could shoot here. It was our intention to do a couple of shots before we moved on. He made our situation clear. We had been reported by the woman at the Yarmouth ticket office for carrying "authentic firearms." These were cheap cap guns. Besides, who were we kidding? It was obvious we weren't real gangsters. The conductor claimed we were close to having the police waiting for us at Norwich. Whether this was true I have no idea. I said no more about it and got everyone to hand back their "authentic firearms" before proceeding to the Castle Shopping Mall.

12:05 PM - Castle Shopping Mall

Events went smoother for a while. Filming in the mall was interrupted by the occasional security check, but largely we were left alone. Except when Adam attracted some unwanted attention in the shape of two large middle aged ladies. I felt very cautious looking around the balconies. We were attracting a lot of attention. I didn't want to lose any equipment while filming. Thankfully, Sarah kept an eye on our bags while we ran around filming. Our chase sequences looked good, with one minor defect, Ross can't run. After a couple of hours we packed up and went to KFC.

3:30 PM - Home, Disaster

We took two cameras with us. To my complete horror, the main Hitachi camera had not recorded a thing, with exception of the bathroom scene back at Yarmouth. A whole day of footage was lost. I called everybody to break the news. Mike and Peter were still both in good spirits.

The Re-shoot - May 2000

With the re-shoot, we couldn't go back to Norwich, so made use of the local harbor. Nathan Lacey now had full-time job and Adam McGee was on vacation. So we ended up replacing them with Philip Hill. The re-shoot went well except when Mike jumped over a concrete wall and sprained his ankle. We also had a lot of fun trying to get Mike, to say his one line. He had to dangle the briefcase over the harbor edge and say "tell me what's in this." Simple enough but here's how it turned out on camera:

Mike Dicker and Peter Courridge are both giggling.

Ssh. You can't do it can you?


Alright. Alright. Go for it then.

Tell me what's in this.

That's pathetic.

Ah, f*** you. Tell me what's in this.

One more time, louder!

F*** sake.

Louder, come on!

MIKE(grits teeth)
Tell me what's in this.
Philip Hill(mocking in the background)
Tell me what's in this!

Don't grit! Just Shout!


PETER(lighter tone)
That's good, excellent, well done.

The Aftermath

Happy days! Of course it was all done in good spirit. I hope this has given some insight into the world of "guerilla" filmmaking. It's obvious, we still have a lot to learn. Since The Enemy Within was completed, Peter Davis and I formed Telsa Productions and have been making short films ever since. Now we stand at a crossroad in our lives. University. But with any luck there'll be more films made before we actually have to get a real job.

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