We catch up with Bare Films’ director Jim Weedon on his mammoth shoot in sub-zero Kiev.
11 locations in Kiev over three days, with 300 extras – not counting the babies, dogs, guns, car stunts, punch ups and freezing temperatures. All for this live-action short film, Metro: Last Light – the sequel to the game Metro 2033 made to bridge the gap until the new game is launched next year.
Set in 2034, it sees the human factions fighting for a super weapon buried beneath the rubble of Moscow. New mutant enemies await the humans on the surface and, with resources running low, the conflict between the clans continues to escalate. The terrible situation humanity finds itself in is about to get even worse. Hmmm.
AGENCY PRODUCER: Samantha Clare
CREATIVE DIRECTOR: Neill Furmston
DEPUTY CREATIVE DIRECTOR: David Carr
ART DIRECTOR: Neill Furmston
COPYWRITER: David Carr
PRODUCTION COMPANY: John Sparry / ichi
PRODUCER: Kat Harrison
DIRECTOR: Jim Weedon
DOP: Mark Patten
EDITOR: James McCavana
POST PRODUCTION: Unit
TK: Simon Astbury
SOUND MIXER: Nigel Manington
VFX SUPERVISOR: Jon Berridge
This short film is epic. We're sure the usual lack of time was a major challenge - was it? And what were the other main challenges of the production?
Interestingly and for once we had the time, however, there were huge budget constraints. We needed to depict Moscow, the metro system and the people. Moscow is actually not that cheap for shooting and with permissions and visas it can become unnecessarily convoluted.
I opted to shoot in Kiev. Having been there before I knew it is similar in architecture and with an almost identical underground system. During the Cold War Stalin built several underground stations as nuclear bunkers in both Russia and the Ukraine. In the underground station we shot the film in, it took us 8 minutes to descend on the escalator to the platform with a split tier half way down to take us onto another escalator... so you can imagine how deep we got into the earth!
The main challenge (other than working with dogs, babies, car stunts, fire arms, live railway lines and three hundred extras) was the weather. Two weeks leading up to the shoot the weather in Kiev looked cold but workable, then days before we arrived a cold front came in from, I think, Siberia with the temperature dropping to -15 in the day and down to -23 at night. Whilst we were there several hundred people in the Ukraine lost their lives in these terrible conditions.
What was the original brief for the film and how did this evolve?
The original brief was to show the last hours of man’s existence shown from the perspective of an alternative reality set in Moscow. This for me was a dream campaign, my main reference being the film Children of Men. The script had a basic narrative but I wanted to add a new character, which was the radio operator to take us into the film, once we had established him in the storyline ichi then came back and added more protagonists, we ended up with multiple storylines running through a single narrative. I think the performances are what make the film so powerful.
Did you storyboard every scene and did the filming go according to plan?
Yes I am meticulous about storyboarding. I also made what you could say were drawn up 'battle plans' depicting the movement of people, stunts, camera positions etc. For once, and in spite of the weather and the fact we had only three days, we managed to get every single shot.
How difficult was it to shoot in Russia with so many extras?
Shooting in Kiev was actually incredibly easy. The service company Adrenalin Brothers made the whole production a really enjoyable experience. Everyone in the crew wanted to be involved. Once you saw the storyboard you knew that this was going to be an exciting, different and special film.
What were the key lessons you learnt from this shoot?
Preparation was the key. I drew plans [and] spoke with all heads of departments time and again, going over exactly where and when we needed things to happen. Thankfully they understood me!
Any good tips to pass on for shooting in minus temperatures?
Buy proper cold weather socks, not discounted pair from Karrimor! The weather was just so extreme; you couldn't take your gloves off for more than a minute. And the Alexa works fine at -15. However, you have to cable as the transmitter doesn't work in these conditions.
There’s talk of the feature film - but I am hoping they'll want to shoot that in the summer time.