It was good to be a father yesterday.
For his short, milk-related film, Ben, who studies film at RMIT, found a very upscale kitchen in an extraordinary house built into the shell of an old brewery in Collingwood. The place was bursting with beautiful furniture, objets and what have you. There was an internal balcony looking down from a bedroom onto the living area you see beneath, two vast old brick chimneys beautifully integrated into still another sprawling living space, and a roof top deck with a view of all northern inner-city Melbourne. I don’t often get the chance to see inside places like this …
Maybe one day ... I can only dream.
Ben had a bigger crew than I expected and a load of equipment, including tracks. Into this complicated scenario walked the tiny six year old Polly in her school dress. I know she hates being in front of crowds and the concentrated attentions of an eight-strong film crew must have worried her, but she showed no sign of nerves. Ben took just the right tack. He was sweet, patient and gentle, but he’s that sort of guy anyway, so it wasn’t much of a stretch.
Polly discovered the meaning of the words action and cut. She saw her first clapper. She learned that sometimes shots need to be done again and again, even if the actor has done her job perfectly. As I mentioned in a previous post, all she had to do was get a bottle of milk from the fridge, take it to the kitchen bench, pour a glass and drink it. It sounds simple, I know, but it wasn't.
I was amazed – and proud – of how precisely she obeyed the director’s instructions, and how well she remembered all the little subtleties she was asked to add.
They’d chosen one of those big 3 litre plastic bottles, so it took all Polly’s strength to heft it, but the real killer was the milk itself. So many takes, so much drinking, and I don’t really think she was pacing herself. Then came a shot in which she accidentally poured a huge quantity into the glass and proceeded to swallow it down. The camera kept rolling and the room held its breath. Would Polly obey her directions and try to drink it all before looking up and smiling at the camera? Or would she work around the excess in some way? Trooper that she was, she attempted to do what she’d been told and continued taking gulp after gulp. Everyone there was feeling that milk go down. Ben and I were exchanging worried glances. I was concerned that she’d damage herself in some way, internally, or perhaps vomit …
In the end, thank god, the director broke in to say she didn’t have to drink it all. Such a determined little creature, focusing so hard on getting it exactly right
From that point on, she mimed as much of the milk-drinking as was possible, and, inevitably, began to complain of a sick stomach. After about two hours of hard concentration, she slipped, banged her tooth on the bench, and let go all the pressure with a long cry. Then a short break, one more shot, a wrap, and a round of applause for a fantastic effort.
It so happens that the camera they were using was the same one used in the filming of Brideshead Revisited. What about that? The work of Sir John Gielgud, Sir Laurence Olivier, Jeremy Irons, Anthony Andrews has passed through that device…