France Location Day 4: The

France Location Day 4: The big day, by default. We still have to shoot the major locations: the Crater at La Boisselle and the Thiepval Memorial itself. In addition, we need to pick up more montage dialogue in town. Iíd say the weather was perfect, but for production, ìperfectî means ìthe same the whole time,î and it most certainly was not that. It was brilliantly sunny, no clouds, and slightly cold.

Lochnagar Crater: We jammed over to the crater, where weíd also planned to shoot scenes with neighbors of the crater itself. There was a bus full of students when we got there. (Weíd joked earlier that Wednesdayís School Group Day at these places; it ainít funny.)

Shots 51-57 went really quickly and well. The sun was actually great. Glidecam worked well, and we got fixed position shots as well. The ground was extremely slippery and chalky (actually, it was chalk.), so we decided against climbing down into the crater to shoot up. Instead, we just did some lines up top. (After typing ìshoot up,î I had to make a cheap joke about doing lines. This will go down on my permanent record.)

While we were shooting on the edge of the crater, a pair of French fighter jets suddenly flew just overhead. They continued to circle for about half an hour, flying in and out of the storm clouds that were moving towards us. Iíd never known what a flashback was like, but the sound of those jets put me straight back in New York in the days following the attack. It was wrenching. After almost six months, Iíve been able to not think of the attacks every time I hear a regular plane. Can we ever know in advance the triggers for our memories? Does knowing them help ease the shock or the surprise? How many Proustís madeleines are lurking out there for people in New York?

Then Ken, the caretaker arrived from Dover, along with a writer friend. They hit their lines and then some, adding details of the bombing and the first morning of the attack as well as how the memory of the war stays alive in England. ìEvery family was affected directly,î Michael said, ìso even three generations later, people have a personal connection to what happened.î This relation between who a memorial is made for and its efficacy seems important. They also talked about the places that remain unaltered, like Lochnagar Crater and the nearby battlefield known as Glory Hole. As time passes, they become rarer and rarer, and gain importance as reminders. During their scenes (58-61) an icy storm broke; huge black clouds approached the camera rapidly, as if on some cue (donít look at me). Within ten minutes it was over. This is going to be a pain to edit.

Albert: With the light back and the sleet gone, we headed back to Albert to pick up some insert shots and more dialogue scenes (36-39). Got some solid stuff; replaced the boulangerie with a Coke machine for scene 37. Lunch and some insert shots of the sky.

Thiepval: It was around 4:30 when we got to Thiepval. The sun was low, with strong shadows across the lawn. People have commented before how the memorialís scale defies photography. Weíll see if lone figures walking toward and around it help. There was some kind of emptiness, though, in the place. Itís got a very transparent, old-fashioned sense of awe-inspiration, but I confess itís hard to tell if itís really moving. While we were there, a couple of cars pulled up, people got out, walked maybe 30 meters down the approach (still a good 150m away from the arch), and went back. Just checking it off their list, I guess.

We got a variety of Glidecam shots, following the man around the place, and some fixed shots, too. Good, but we were losing light fast (another cloud bank took at least 30 minutes off our usable light). The last driving/approach shots ended up too dark to ever match the scenes at the monument. They looked beautiful, but again, unusable. The running joke was, we were shooting for the dream sequence, where nothing needed to match or make sense. Shot didnít work? Itís for the dream sequence. It was a rushed, hectic end to a very good day, and was the effective end of the location.

Since 2001 here at, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting that time.

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first published: February 27, 2002.

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