Guest blog

Director’s Diary, Part 3: Tom Harper on The Scouting Book For Boys

Director Tom Harper gives Film4.com another peek at his diary from the production of The Scouting Book For Boys.

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Monday 15 September 2008
Day two. We shot the climactic scene today. I was really worried about having to shoot this so early on, but Tomo and Holli were amazing and really threw themselves into it, which was a huge relief. Particularly as they had to spend large amounts of time in the freezing cold North Sea.

We recalled Holli three times and so I knew she was able to hit the emotional scenes but I was a bit worried about Tomo, because we made an offer to him without me having the chance to audition him. He is clearly a hugely talented actor, but the scene we shot today was out of his natural comfort zone and unlike anything I have seen him do before. The fact that he met the challenge so filled me with confidence about the film and the rest of the shoot. He has something very special – and not just his incessant farting.

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Wednesday 17 September 2008
Notes from the execs are all very positive. This is a big weight off my shoulders and means that while we have to take into account their (mostly very helpful) notes, there won’t be too much interference. For now at least!

Thursday 18 September 2008
Still haven’t been able to cast Kertzer and we have now had to reschedule around it. It’s a serious, serious worry.

Friday 19 September 2008
We have cast Steven Mackintosh as Kertzer. This is fantastic news, as he is a brilliant actor and perfect for the part. So much relief. Josh, my agent, and Independent, who represent Steven, were fantastic in helping out and finding someone of such a high calibre so quickly.

Tuesday 23 September 2008
I have never met a boy who farts as much as Tomo. Or with such gusto.

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Sunday 28 September 2008
Exactly half way through the shoot. Thrilled with the way it’s going so far, which is pretty unusual. It also makes for pretty lame diary entries along the lines of “the cast and crew are amazing” and generally gushy stuff that makes me sound like a total tool.

I’m getting my balls busted for shooting too much stock (film stock is expensive and we don’t have the budget to not worry about it) which I sort of knew would happen – it’s really frustrating to be limited in what we can shoot. But it’s a fight that’s worth taking on. At the end of the day, when the shoot is over, no one will give a shit about how much stock you shot, but if you haven’t got the shots or the performance then you haven’t got the building blocks of the film. But right now, it’s frustrating.

Went to a friend’s wedding yesterday, which was beautiful and really gave me some perspective. I become very insular during filming and start thinking that the film is the most important thing in the world. Going to my friend’s wedding reminded me that it’s just a film – an important one to me, but just a film nevertheless. However, I had a sudden obsession at about 10pm that everything in the film had to either be of David or from his point of view. As such, I had to go and lock myself in the toilet cubicle to go through every scene I had shot to date, to see if there was a way to edit the film in this way, and if not, how it might be possible to reshoot. I then couldn’t really talk to anyone and had to go home, much to my wife’s dismay. Of course in the light of morning I no longer think this, but just being away from the shoot makes me get a worry on.

Thursday 2 October 2008
The caravan jumping has worked. I am so relieved. This has always been a concern for all of us about how we were going to achieve it in terms of stunts, real caravans versus raised rostrum – and what on earth we’d do if it was raining on the day we had to shoot it. We don’t have the luxury of weather cover. We had a nice morning, it rained in the middle of the day and then a glorious evening. Amidst it all, I think we’ve got a great sequence.

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Tuesday 14 October 2008
The shoot is complete. I have a really good feeling about the film. It’s too early to really know, but usually at this stage I am in fits of panic. The next step is to spend an unhealthy amount of time in a dimly lit room with Dark Mark, the editor. I can be sure that there will be plenty of problems and pain that lie ahead in the edit. At the moment, however, I’m enjoying the fact that we’ve managed to complete the shoot. I’m happy.

Screenwriter’s Diary, Part Two: Jack Thorne on The Scouting Book For Boys

02 Oct, 2008 Productions Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Guest blog, Writers

BAFTA-winning screenwriter Jack Thorne has worked on TV’s Skins, Shameless and This Is England, and wrote the Film4 production The Scouting Book for Boys, directed by Tom Harper. Here, he shares his diary from the making of the film

 

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5th September 2008

Went to a wedding tonight, which was notable for two reasons:

i) I got to have a proper chat with Andrea, who is co-producer on the film and, according to Ivana, amazingly amazing. Got to say she seems great. She was able to fill me in on the final week’s prep – they’re all in Norfolk now and seemingly having a great time. It is quite strange to talk about the film with someone so specifically involved in it and yet someone I haven’t really properly talked to before. Guess I’ll have to get used to that.

ii) The couple getting married – Steve and Katherine – performed the most amazing first dance I’ve ever seen. I don’t think Steve will mind me saying that he’s not the most coordinated person in the world. In fact, it’s a bit of an effort for him to stand up straight at times. But this dance – which they’d taken lessons for – was awesome. Awesome because Steve didn’t suddenly turn into Fred Astaire but instead looked fragile and worried and he didn’t exactly count every step, but he kept his eyes firmly fixed on Katherine throughout, with her giving him signals that it’s all okay and he’s doing fine.

It got me thinking about Scouting Book, which is a love story of sorts, and how we represent that love. Because the characters never actually say, “I love you.” I’m not sure I have ever had characters say that in anything I’ve written, partly because I’ve never said it myself – I’ve tried twice, for those that are interested, and fucked it up both times. But we do sort of know, almost instantly, they are in love and this love is slightly unconventional. I went home and looked over the scenes again and checked they sort of had that intense fragility I so admired in Steve and Katherine. I think they do.

 

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14th September 2008

Filming has started and I get an excited call from Tom to say they’ve turned over. He’s warned me in advance that now I’m the ex-wife and shouldn’t expect much from him from here on in. In fact, he clarifies, I’m his ex-ex-wife; despite our mini-break not being that long ago, Paul, the production designer, was his wife during prep, but now filming has started he’s an ex-wife too. Now Robbie, the DP, is where it’s at. The analogy when Tom explained it to me got slightly confused at this point, because he started saying that maybe actually we’re all mistresses and Ivana is his wife, but I don’t think she is – I think she’s a sister or something. Anyway, it was lovely to hear from him. And lovely to hear that the world is not turning all sorts of wrong ways.

On another note, I am now an investor in the film. In order to shoot on 35mm me, Ivana, Christian and Tom have all had to put up a relatively small amount. It’s so worth it.

 

16th September 2008

I had lunch with Marc Forster today (the director of Quantum Of Solace and Monster’s Ball). I have nothing to say about this other than he’s an awesome man. But he did meet me because of this script and I am very grateful to it. I’m basically just showing off. I met Marc Forster today. This is a good thing.

Have heard nothing from set. Left a call from Ivana. She hasn’t returned it. I guess I’m officially now the forgotten man. Still, Marc Forster likes me, so I don’t care. Or I think he likes me. I hope he likes me.

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22nd September 2008

I’ve still not talked to Tom at all since the first day’s filming and I’ve only had a chance to talk to Ivana twice. Though I have found her weakness: text messaging. Ivana loves texting. She’ll text anyone. She’s a text whore.

 

3pm 28th September 2008

Finally, the day has arrived – the next week is all about Scouting Book. I’m going to Tom’s house to watch some rushes and then I’m off to Norfolk with him and Adam Lock – the first AD, who also worked on Skins and who I thought I’d recommended for this job. When I mentioned this to Tom he said yes, I did recommend him, but he didn’t take my advice that seriously, my knowledge of filming not being great. However, when Paul Cripps, our production designer, said that Adam was great, Tom did take his advice very seriously indeed. I’ve never felt more like an ex-ex-wife. I’m quite seriously nervous. What if it’s really shit? It’s probably not going to be, but it could be.

 

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12am 28th September 2008

The rushes are beautiful. One shot in particular I think is amazing. It’s a shot of Tommo Turgoose walking along the Hunstanton Beach. In the background are the wings of an off-shore wind farm. It’s gorgeous and is so the sort of portrait of contemporary Britain that I was hoping for. (Yeah, I know, ‘portrait of contemporary Britain’ – shoot me now and make me write for the Daily Telegraph.)

The extraordinary thing in the rushes is that Tommo walks and talks like me. I don’t know quite how he’s done this: we’ve never met and Tom tells me that he doesn’t talk or walk like that in real life, but, like me particularly at that age, he’s got this thing where his legs don’t quite connect to his head but seem to move independently. It took me six attempts to pass my driving test because I have no coordination whatsoever and could never move the pedals in time with the gear-stick and definitely didn’t have any time to look at road signs. In fact, I’m not sure I didn’t eventually pass because my test examiner, Mrs Joy, who handled me for five out of six of the tests, was just being nice to me. At the start of the sixth test she told me to call her Valerie. Thankfully for the world, because of my illness, I’m not allowed to drive. Anyway, Tommo has channeled that from somewhere and maybe it’ll please no one except me, but it pleases me very much.

The only thing about the rushes that I’m still getting my head around is that Tom has made the decision to sort of heighten everything. All the characters, apart from the two leads, David and Emily, have a touch of unreality to them. In particular, Steve the security guard has a huge Elvis quiff and an odd way of talking. I think this will work. And think I’m dead excited about it and certainly tell Tom I am (be good). But it isn’t what I’m expecting, and to claim that I’m not sitting here in a slight state of flux, turning over exactly what it will mean, would be lying.

We arrived at the park at about 9 o’clock, with petrol station sandwiches and smiles and I meet Tommo for the first time. I’m slightly shy around him, to be honest. He isn’t shy and I overhear him arguing with the barman as to whether he’s allowed to buy beer or not. (He isn’t).

P.S. I’ve never been in a caravan this cold before. It’s freezing. I suppose it’s almost October but even with that considered, it’s freezing.

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10pm 29th September 2008

My first day on set. And I’ve never felt more like a spare part in my entire life. We’re filming at a real-life location, a police station, which means there’s no place for me to watch the action. So mostly I sit in the back room with Marnie, the awesome script supervisor, whose job it is to basically be another set of eyes for Tom, and to protect the script and check the actors are following it. She’s very good. We watch on a monitor, and when earphones are free, I use them, but otherwise I watch a silent film of my film filming.
Acting today are Steven Mackintosh, Tommo, Rafe Spall and Susan Lynch – brilliant actors all. I only catch the briefest words with Rafe, where I admire his haircut very much. Someone told me that he’s going to be the biggest star in Britain soon – I wouldn’t be surprised. Susan I’ve worked with before (she came and did a day’s workshop on the Honky Tonk project me and Tom are doing), where she made the lovely Jo Eastwood, an actor with Down’s Syndrome, cry by being fucking scary. She is, I think, the most underrated actress in the British acting thing. I think she’s awesome.

Steven Mackintosh was the only one that left me slightly star-struck, not only because of Care, which I think is one of the best dramas on TV in the last 20 years, but also because when he was Tommo’s age he was Nigel in Adrian Mole, the TV show of the book that defined my childhood. I know I’m sounding like a luvvie now, and I’m not, but I am dead chuffed we’ve got the actors we’ve got.

In the afternoon, we move to another location and take a look at the caves Paul, our production designer, has built. He’s done it using bits borrowed from The Descent 2 and Merlin. And the cave looks, well, like a cave. I’m not going to say awesome any more because I’ve been overusing it as a word. But it is.

I sit with Tom as he rehearses the actors for the afternoon. I say nothing. I rarely do in rehearsals for anything (radio, theatre, TV) for two reasons: i) I know how I want every line to be said and I don’t think it’s helpful to let them know this, plus I know that generally they land somewhere pretty close by the time a scene is finished, and ii) the sad fact about writers is that we’re seen like the oracle, somehow always understanding what a character thinks or feels. I don’t, and I don’t think I’m alone. Tom is great with the actors anyway – patient, inquisitive, careful. He is ex-theatre, albeit from a long time ago, and it really shows sometimes.

Anyway, now back in the caravan on my own. In bad news, Tony Maudsley, who’s playing Jim, is staying in my caravan tonight but has gone AWOL. Because everyone is on 5am starts I don’t think I should phone anyone to ask whether I should be worried. In good news, someone has told me two ways to warm up my caravan. The first is to turn the heating on. Yup, I should have probably done that last night. The other is to put the spare duvet in my room under my sheet. It works a treat – I’m a lot warmer now anyway.

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1am 29th September 2008

Tony has arrived. A very, very nice guy. Turned out – thanks to his SatNav – he went to the other Broadland caravan park in Lowestoft and, as everyone he tried to call was asleep, he then drove around for two hours hoping to remember where he came for his make-up and costume tests. I love the fact that there are two Broadlands, but I hope I’m appropriately sympathetic. He’s annoyed because he wanted to get pissed and do the scenes hungover, the way that Jim would be – he’s clearly going to be a perfect Jim.

 

9.39pm 30th September 2008

I can balance an egg-cup on my nose for four hours at a time and I know all the words to Never Ever by All Saints. Those apart, I have very few skills in life other than writing – if that can be described as a skill, although you can get doctorates in creative writing now. This I’m discovering on set as I just seem to clutter things up and get in the way.

And yet everyone is being really nice to me. Tom warned me that I might feel a bit left out on set. (Do you get the sense that this guy is quite protective? I think he might think I’m a small child.) In actual fact people are being lovely – particularly Julian and Shaida in the costume department, and Jody and Karen who do make-up. Working the length of days they are, and having to spend much of that waiting for the drinks break to do their work, you’d expect them to be savage and difficult, but they’re not. Julian in particular seems to have worked on everything (including Last Resort and My Summer Of Love), so it’s great to pick his brain about stuff. He’s a real horror film geek, in fact – so much so I feel slightly out-geeked and intimidated. (One of the many things that can turn me ugly is the fear that someone knows more about TV than I do.) But no, everyone’s been a good laugh, which is a relief, as I hate being hated.

I’m then in the office for a few hours because a note has come down from Peter Carlton, our exec, to keep an eye on David’s slyness. Tommo is brilliant but, unlike I was at his age, he’s a nice guy who trusts people and sometimes that comes across too heavily in his performance. Ivana and I go through the script looking at the remaining scenes and working out where David can really show his darkness and guile. It’s fun doing this and fun working with Ivana together on script.

In the afternoon I witness DP Robbie Ryan’s genius at work as he makes wet and overcast Norfolk look like a warm summer’s day. He understands filters, that man. Or someone does on set, because how the scene looks in reality and how it looks through the monitor are literally miles apart.

Paul Cripps then cooks me and Tom dinner and finally I get ‘face time’ with the great director. And once again I’m amazed at how relaxed Tom seems about everything. If I were him I’d be having several small kittens right now. This film is important for all of us but arguably his career is the most on the line – in fact, he turned some stuff down before this because he wanted his first film to be the right one. Yet stress seems to wash over him. I would write down some cogent greatness he expressed as we ate our burgers, but truth is, he was pretty knackered and talked bollocks for an hour.

 

  Watch the trailer for The Scouting Book For Boys

 

4pm 1st October 2008

I’m now on the train home having finally seen Emily and David together. Holliday Grainger, who is playing Emily, had the first few days of my stay off so I didn’t meet her at all until last night. What I knew was her auditions were amazing – she has a brilliant understanding of rhythm and comprehension, she makes lines work. But Emily is not an easy part and aside from the fact she’s beautiful (and that’s quite important), she’s got her spirit nailed. Watching her and Tommo on top of the toilets together, I’m so chuffed: the film will live and die on the basis of the relationship between those two, and they work brilliantly together. There’s genuine chemistry, wit and love.

I’m going home earlier than I should do because I’ve stupidly run out of tablets (stupid disease thing again), but I do actually think this is the right time to be heading back. I have very little to add to set, and in some ways I think I can take stuff away. And besides, I’ve a shitload of work to do on other projects.

I know some writers hang around shooting all the time, but this is the eighth or ninth thing I’ve had made (including shorts and TV) and this is only the second time I’ve ever attended set. The first shoot which I did attend was a disaster, so I hope I’m not a bad luck charm. I’m pleased I’ve seen it all at work, and how hard everyone is working. I’ve got to say sometimes the lengths people go to I find slightly embarrassing – this is just some shit I’ve knocked out on pieces of A4 after all. And then I have to convince myself that the pain I’m causing them is only the equivalent of the pain I caused myself all those months ago when slogging at this script. But mostly I feel happy to be part of something far bigger than myself. I like being part of a team: it’s why I write scripts rather than novels.

Director’s Diary, Part 2: Tom Harper on The Scouting Book For Boys

Director Tom Harper shares his diary from the production of The Scouting Book For Boys

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Wednesday 27 August 2008
Sent a video to Robbie Williams to try and get him to play a cameo role in the film (sadly, it didn’t work).

Friday 5 September 2008
The camera company have unintentionally stiffed us a week and a half before principal photography – as the new digital camera, which from the tests I’ve seen looks fantastic, and on which we were intending on shooting, is now apparently unavailable! This has caused a whole wasps’ nest of problems: we don’t have the money to shoot on film and neither Robbie [Ryan, the cinematographer] nor myself want to shoot on any of the other digital formats.

In general I am an advocate of digital cinema, and was really pleased with the look of both my short films, Cubs and Cherries, which were shot digitally. But in the case of those films, the format suited the subject matter. Scouting Book needs a slightly magical and nostalgic feel to it, a quality which I think film inherently brings.

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Saturday 6 September 2008
All sorts of tough wrangling. Everyone wants to shoot on film but no one wants to cough up any extra dough. The additional cost is only £15-20k which Jack [Thorne, the screenwriter] and I say we’ll pay. This currently seems a good line of argument, but I’m seriously hoping they don’t take us up on it.

Monday 8 September 2008
We are shooting on 2perf 35mm. Bring it on! Film4 and Celador have stumped up a bit, some has come out of contingency and Jack, Ivana [Mackinnon, producer], Christian [Colson, producer] and myself have all had to put a bit of our own money into the mix in order to do so. But it will be worth it.

Tuesday 9 September 2008
Rehearsals with Tomo [Thomas Turgoose] and Holli [Holliday Grainger]. We have been through the script a couple of times and talked through the most important scenes, character development and plot points, but I am increasingly aware that they are both very instinctive actors and I really want to keep the material fresh. I will need to block out some of the more complicated scenes, but for the most part I want to leave the script alone and just get them to hang out together and piss around. They are forming a really nice relationship and it’s this chemistry that will bind the film together.

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Friday 12 September 2008
Tony Curran has pulled out of playing the role of Kertzer just half a working day before the shoot. This is a bit of a disaster. He’s got a part in an American film that will pay him lots of money – which, while understandable, is still seriously frustrating. He’s a great actor and would have played the role brilliantly and it’s so late in the day there’s a strong possibility that at this late notice we’re not going to be able to find anyone as good to play the part.

Sunday 14 September 2008
Day one of the shoot: 5.30am. Call isn’t until midday, but I woke up an hour ago and can’t get back to sleep. I’m not really nervous, just looking forward to getting started. It has been my dream to direct a feature film for such a long time, and now it’s about to happen it seems a bit unreal. It feels like the moment should be bigger somehow, or I should be feeling more. But actually it feels like most other mornings. Only I can’t get back to sleep.

Screenwriter’s Diary, Part One: Jack Thorne on The Scouting Book For Boys

27 Aug, 2008 Productions Posted in: Behind The Scenes, Guest blog, Writers

BAFTA-winning screenwriter Jack Thorne has worked on TV’s Skins, Shameless and This Is England, and wrote the Film4 production The Scouting Book for Boys, directed by Tom Harper. Here, he shares his diaries from the making of the film

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My name is Jack Thorne. I wrote The Scouting Book For Boys. I want to call this diary Notes From A Hole In The Floor, after my first-ever screenwriting job. I was employed by a great man called Pawel Pawlikowski and a great woman called Tanya Seghatchian. Pawel liked me because, apparently, I was just like the lead character in a novel called Notes From The Underground (literal translation: Notes From A Hole In The Floor) and he wanted me to adapt the book for him to direct.

I hadn’t read the book when he told me this and was very excited both by the notion that anyone would want me to write anything – particularly Pawel, who is a hero of mine – and also by the notion I might be some literary romantic character. The first notion turned out okay; the second, less good, because it turns out the lead character in Underground is not such a literary romantic character. Instead he’s a nervous, angst-ridden, unlikeable guy who turns out to be a rapist.

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28 July 2008

Last week, me and Tom went on a recce to the film’s locations. We visited about 15 caravan parks, some forests, lots of cliff tops and numerous beaches. We also stayed in the caravan park that will be one of our principal locations for the film, and enjoyed the night’s entertainments.

Norfolk was never the location I had in my head for the film. I wrote it sitting in a caravan park in Wales about a childhood going on caravan holidays on the Isle of Wight. But the longer we spent there, the more right it seemed. The landscape is stylish, long, flat. I want to call them salt plain vistas. (I’m probably wrong – if so, blame Lionel Ritchie). I told Tom he could shoot one scene like David Lean and it really is David Lean-type country. He nodded and smiled.

But it’s the parks themselves that really pleased me. There were a few details I saw and now desperately want to get in the script – the habit of flying club football flags from the top of caravan roofs, a girl on roller skates dancing at the caravan karaoke, and a granny being pushed up a steep slope from the beach, her dress blowing in the wind. But mostly I was pleased how well the world fitted with what I’d written.

The other sort of purpose of the trip was to spend a large amount of time with Tom. When he first got involved with the project we sort of knew each other, but not well. Tom pitched for a script I’d written, but another director was deemed a better match. He sent me an e-mail anyway and we met up for a coffee and sort of got on. We’ve become friends since – a few dinners, some drinks, I’ve flirted (badly) with his wife, we’ve been 10-pin bowling twice and we’ve become genuine collaborators. We’re also working together on a one-off for the BBC.

It’s always interesting spending an intense amount of time with someone, when you get past the point where you don’t feel you need to impress each other anymore, and I think that happened this week. To put it in Bridget Jones terms, we’ve been having a romance and this was our mini-break. That moment when the relationship becomes truly tested… and I think we sort of passed.

I was reassured yesterday when he phoned me up about some script notes and I was feeling shitty. I’m allergic to heat – it’s complicated – and so behaved a bit shitty and he got angry and sort of said ‘why you being shitty’ and I sort of pulled myself together. A few weeks ago, I don’t think he’d have got angry or said that, because he’d be too worried about offending me. So the fact he did was sort of testament to the fact that, you know, sharing the same bed in a foreign country and cuddling actually works.

Anyway, now we’ve achieved that, I’m thinking about what my job is from here on in. I wrote this film two-and-half years ago, it’s been an idea in my head for six years and I was the lead character when I was 13 – so now that we’re a week or two before prep, it feels very, very odd. Exciting, but scary. And I tend to have the same thought over and over again: what if it’s really, really shit? And the thing is, you can sort of get away with that thought when you’re writing the thing, because you’re important then and people have to support your princess complex, but at this stage it’s a really unhelpful thought to have. Because, aside from tweaks and nibbles, my job is done, so I should be concentrating on making Ivana and Tom feel good. And at the moment, I’m not. Or not enough. I’m being argumentative, difficult and shitty and I’ve got to stop being/doing that. So that’s my resolution: I must be good. I blame ET.

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5 August 2008 9:30am

Final script tweaks before handing to the someone or other that Ivana says is very important. After today the script will be locked – which doesn’t mean there won’t be tweaks, but does mean that stuff like scene numbers have to be kept the same.
I need to plough a ‘middle way’ between Kertzer being odd and being more police officer-y. Anyway, I’ve only got one day because they’ve been ridiculously busy and have only just got me the notes (with a ‘these should only take one day, right?’ – be good, be good…) so it’s quite stressful, but I’m quite used to tight deadlines from telly – where they say ‘either you sort it or we’ll overwrite you’. If you don’t want to get overwritten, learn how to write quick.

5 August 2008 9pm

Hand in. Kertzer’s okay, not great. I’ve tried to pull back on the big mannerisms he uses, and the small practical notes were relatively easily fulfilled.

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5 August 2008 11pm

Or so I thought…

Hey jack most of this excellent – here are my thoughts: If you do get a chance to do these it would be great to get this out by about midday tomorrow! If you want to discuss anything, I will be up from eight.

This I wasn’t expecting and initially I am properly angry. I actually throw a DVD box-set across the room, which is quite aggressive behaviour for me. But then I read the notes and a) they’re not extensive, and b) they mostly correct stupid mistakes I’ve made. A lot of them are correcting things like scene headings, because the scenes have been written at different times so sometimes ‘night’ is followed by ‘day’ is followed by ‘dusk’ is followed by ‘night’. I am a loser for not checking this myself.

I guess now is a good moment to talk about how the script developed. I met Ivana on the back of my friend Dan Outram recommending us to each other. Me and Dan had just had a short film in Sundance (called A Supermarket Love Song) and Ivana liked it. Two years before, I’d developed this idea about a kid on a caravan park (the initial sort of jump-off point was actually a biography of Robbie Williams, which talked about his dad being a campsite entertainer, and I got thinking about what that must have felt like) who hides his friend in a cave and then it all starts to go wrong. Ivana commissions me via this new writers’ scheme that she’s set up at Celador. Anyway I wrote it, she liked it, she showed it to Tom, he liked it, she showed it to Film4, they liked it and paid us money to develop a new draft. Which is when it all started to go wrong..

I’m still relatively new and everyone was telling me what to change and I ended up with a huge script that polluted the idea of who David was. The trouble was not so much cutting stuff, it was keeping stuff. I think this is something that doesn’t get talked about enough – yes, you need to kill your own babies, but also you need to kill other peoples’ babies. Because people are nice, people kept telling me what they loved, and I felt obliged to keep everything they loved. Anyway, crisis point hit when we got a note from the lovely Diarmuid at Celador that I’d turned David into a psycho. At which point Tom, Ivana and I sat down and gently cried and discussed what the script really meant, and I went away and wrote a draft just for me.

As I wrote, another fortuitous thing happened, which is that the British film industry decided to set up its equivalent to the LA Blacklist. The Blacklist is an industry vote on the best unproduced screenplay in Hollywood. Anyway, because people had liked my first draft, Scouting got voted number two on the Brit List, and immediately people got more interested in the project again. (Number one was The Men Who Stare At Goats, which was then immediately sold to George Clooney for £1.5 million – not that I’m bitter.) Coupled with my slash and burn (I cut the script from 112 pages to 82 and really got to the heart of the story I wanted to tell, namely David’s), we were semi-green lit and Film4 promised us money. Hurrah!

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August 9 2008

The naming of the caravan park. Tom wanted either Sunshine Park or Sunbeam Park, I thought both sounded slightly ironical in a sort of Sunnydale sort of way. So I said can we go for Sunpark Caravans and he said “fine”. So that seems like the name, though now I’m worrying about whether it sounds too much like Sunpat peanut butter – my brother was really into it when we were kids.

I love naming things. When I worked on Skins, I named some characters after old friends – and these surnames are now everywhere. Basically, naming things makes me feel important. Other people really fuck about with names – Gavin & Stacy have got the surnames Shipman and West because the writers decided it was funny to name them after serial killers. Rather more sweetly, Mark Ravenhill named the characters in his play Shopping And Fucking after members of Take That.

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26 August 2008

I got that excited/scared feeling. Like 98% excited, 2% scared. Or it could be 98% scared, 2% excited, but that’s what makes it so intense.

Three bits of business; one, a meeting with a lovely man at Pathe, Michael Cowan, who’s just taken over the development wing. I have quite a lot of these meetings – going along, having a cup of tea, it’s sort of how the industry turns – but he’s particularly interesting because they’re distributing the film. Anyway, he was really nice about the script and it sounds like the company’s behind us, which is brilliant because distribution money is almost as important as production money, and as a low-budget film, we are not guaranteed it. They could still hate the final thing and put us out on one screen in Basingstoke, but they like us for now.

The second is that I went along to the production offices today because Tom said I should meet everyone and touch hands and stuff. I’m actually quite shy when out and about and generally can be relied upon to look awkward whatever the occasion. I haven’t gone to a party for about six years-– but that’s also because I can’t drink because of the weird allergy that makes me angry, which I talked about above. There’s also the thing of (and this happens quite a lot, or I think it does but this might be to do with inflated self-importance) people seem to look at me too much when they’re working on something I’m doing. Not the rest of the time -  I’m very unnoticeable, in fact – but I guess when you’re working on something and the writer comes in, you’ve got to try to work out where the script stops and he begins. I just nodded and smiled and regretted not bringing presents.

I am always amazed at the amount of people needed to make a project work and how hard these people have to work. Particularly tricky was the news that Diarmuid (yes, the guy who gave the ‘David is psycho’ note all that time ago) had taken to sleeping under his desk because he didn’t have time to go home at night. Now I occasionally fall asleep in front of my computer but my computer is in my house. I felt both amazed and incredibly guilty that people were working that hard on the film.

The third is, Ivana said we were allowed to celebrate. The film is going to get made – all the contracts signed, sealed, delivered, we’re go. I’d been waiting two years for this news, so we high-fived. Twice. It was good.

Director’s Diary, Part 1: Tom Harper on The Scouting Book For Boys

Director Tom Harper shares his diary from the production of The Scouting Book For Boys

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Saturday 07 June 2008

Recce to the Suffolk and Norfolk coastlines. As some of our finance is from Screen East we need to film in what they call Objective Two areas in the East of England. This drastically limits where we can film, but I think there are enough interesting locations within these areas to make the film work. Not as good as the perfect caravan park I wanted to film in Wales though. Ugh, it breaks my heart. It absolutely pisses it down the entire time and the sun only comes out when we head for home. Still, according to recce rules, this means we’ll have a sunny shoot.

Tuesday 09 June 2008

Andrea Arnold’s film has been pushed another 3 weeks which means the dates will clash and Robbie Ryan, the director of photography, is unlikely to be able to do our film. This is a real blow, as his style would be perfect for this film.

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Sunday 15 June 2008

Keep hearing about small British films that die a death and never do any business, and keep thinking about how to overcome this. Often come up with rash ideas such as freezeframes, or playing sections backwards. Read a blog from Jurgen Wolf that says, “When you brainstorm, take your ten most radical ideas and tell yourself that they are ‘normal’ responses that you now want to get beyond by thinking even more radically. By expanding the boundaries of what you will allow yourself to think, you may hit on a better solution.”

Saturday 05 July 2008

We are pushing two weeks. It saves us cash as the caravan park is cheaper and means we can keep Robbie. Great. Had an amazingly exciting day today. Think I have cast most of the roles. Seeing Susan Lynch and Holliday Grainger read together in a room was electric and inspiring. I have been really struggling with the casting of Emily. Usually I don’t find making decisions too difficult as I always fall back on instinct and fight for it, but up until now my instinct has really been split. Today Holliday Grainger came in and just blew me away. It was brilliant to watch. And Tomo just gets better and better every time I see him. I couldn’t ask for better.

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Thursday 24 July 2008

On a recce with Jack. Have spent time staying in a caravan. Have also realised that, when peopled, these caravan parks have an atmosphere that is much more right for the film than the caravan park in Wales. There is something about English seaside resorts that you don’t get anywhere else.

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Wednesday 06 August 2008

“If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange those apples, then you and I will each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange those ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” George Bernard Shaw

Monday 11 August 2008

Official preproduction has started. Wooohooo! The film has been so long coming that I’ve done loads of my prep already and am sort of twiddling my thumbs waiting for the shit to hit the fan. Which it inevitably will.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Costume tests. Makeup tests for freckles and fake sunburn.

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Sunday 24 August 2008

We went on a preshoot this weekend to make the most of the bank holiday crowds. Got some great footage in the caravan parks. Pissed it down on the Sunday morning and thought we weren’t going to get anything of people on the beach. This would have been a real wounder as it was our only opportunity to shoot during the holiday season. At 15.00, with the weather forecast not giving us any hope of improvement, we were about to give up and go home. And then the sun came out – as did the hordes of beachgoers.