Principal Photography I - Portugal - 2019 - Part One

Ellis J. Wells
Chronicles & Tales
November 7th - 26th, 2019
We first applied for this job back in April 2017. And now... IT'S TIME! After two years preparation we are finally doing the first part of filming in Portugal. I was lucky enough to be flown out early into shooting, along with the gorgeous Sarah and Martin; you could not ask for better travel buddies...

We rendezvoused at Heathrow for some coffee goodness, before boarding our plane. We spent a hilarious amount of time just driving round Heathrow's runway in the plane before take-off. On the flight we got this amazing Portuguese carrot cake, but unlike any carrot cake I've had in England. So moist and so orange (carrot cake here is normally brown). It was super yummy. We get collected at the airport and taken straight to set, where James and David are already into day three of filming.

First things first we get fitted for our costumes. They decide to add a second sleeve for Martin's Flavius, while Sarah looked angelic in her poetess robes. She was also introduced to the final version of her specially made cithara; and it was hilarious huge. I mean: HA-UGE! I laughed. But undaunted, Sarah picked it up and started practicing carrying it, so on camera it looks like she's been holding one her whole life. We are given time to admire all the stunning props that have been had made for filming, intrinsically detailed vases, the courtesan's delicate jewelry and Medusa inspired bracelets, James' awesome bull flagged, Declan's sword (it's so pretty); everything looked incredibly refined. I was well excited to start shooting!

Now I told you back in October, when I first saw the sketches of my outfit that I'd look good, but even I was unprepared for the finished product: my costume is GORGEOUS! I have this blood scarlet robe, an epic collar; it reminds me of a Vedek in "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine"! I'm basically a hot servant Vulcan rent boy. BWWHAHA! That's A TERRIBLE description... but it made me chuckle, so it's staying in! Like Sarah I need to start practicing with my robes, as I have this sash that is meant to hang over my right arm, but it has to become like a second skin to me, otherwise I'll be distracting in scenes if I struggle with it. Another anecdotal amusement about my costume... it's quite see-through. Most of the robes are thick fabric, but mine was this very thin woven scarlet coloured material (almost mesh like), so to counter-act this I'm given these skin coloured women's panties to wear underneath. It's a glamorous life. After our costumes are fitted, we get a tour of the facilities and just enough time to give Maximianno a big hug between shots... before it's off to the hotel.

WOW! This hotel is fantastic! My room is huge, I get this sweet king sized bed to myself, a walk in shower; I'm a happy bunny. I know I'll mostly just be here to sleep and eat but it's lovely they are taking such good care of us. The company wants us to be well rested, as the next two weeks are going to be HARD. Now once we unpacked, Sarah, Martin and I enjoyed a cheeky cocktail before the rest of the crew arrived, after filming with James and David. We all spent the evening chatting about cinema, and basically bonding, laughing... it was everything. Maximianno introduced us to a Caipirinha, the Brazilian national cocktail. AND MY GOD! It's like a citrus-y sugary Long Island Iced Tea; so tasty. Spoiler alert! Its not the last time I had this treat! We all sat down to dinner in the hotel restaurant and it was so delicious; three tasty courses that left us feeling stuffed. In our innocence, we assumed this was just an elaborate meal for our arrival night and the rest would be more subdued but I can confirm that was false.

Now I can't do a day-by-day account of filming, partly because this blog would turn into a tome that rivals "War and Peace", partly because the nature of film... it's a tad repetitive. Shoot, eat, sleep, repeat would summarize it quite succinctly. Instead, I will give you a rundown of an average day from our daily life in Lisbon, and hope you find interest in it.

  • 6:40 am WAKE UP.
    Nearly all of us need to be clean-shaven, so it's imperative we get up in time to shave, shower and be down stairs for breakfast.
  • 7:10 am BREAKFAST.
    The hotel food is gorgeous; and for the first few days, I was packing in the feast, because it was all so yummy. But, as the days went on, and my waist line increased, I scaled back. A standard breakfast for me was lots of pineapple, eggs, and two Americanos (foam extracted... I hate foam).
  • 7:30 am COACH TO THE STUDIO.
    It took about twenty minutes to get to the studio, and it was beautiful seeing the dawn light across the landscape as we traveled out of Lisbon. A lot of the actors were (sadly) NOT morning people, and unluckily for those traveling in the coach with me, I'm a morning, noon and night kinda guy. I like to think my "sunrise monologues" were a welcome treat for all. The rest of the cast would disagree. ;)
  • 8 am HAIR & MAKE-UP.
    Once we arrived at the studio those who were shooting first were rushed into hair and make-up. Those required for the following scene are told they'll be needed in hair & make-up after. For the rest, we would bunk down in our dressing rooms; go over our lines, practice with our props and costume... and play chess... lots of chess.
  • 10:00 am COFFEE.
    Daniel was the one to discover that the cafeteria we have lunch in opened for a short window at 10am, and we can buy espressos and Americanos from the coffee bar, if we so wished. He was like a ninja getting his espresso; you'd blink and he'd be back in the studio, calming sipping on the small cup as if he never left. Sarah, Martin and I soon followed suit, and on days they were required on set, I'd get their coffee for them. I believe it was David who discovered a gorgeous cafe just round the corner. Whenever our caffine cravings were still painfully high, even after our 10am break, we'd treat ourselves to another in town (and I'd buy a homemade Portuguese tart there too... nom, nom, nom).
  • 1:00 pm LUNCH.
    It was heaven; every day there was a fish course, a meat course and a vegetarian course (suitable for our vegan cast). There was this fish casserole on two of the days that was just divine; potato fish, creamy goodness. I made all the lunch ladies laugh with my broken Portuguese, verging on offensively bad. E BUTTA NUT!!!! Thank god I'm pretty...
  • 2:00 pm BACK ON SET.
    In an average day we'd get about four scenes shot, six if small, quick scenes, three if long scenes. Most of us had to wearing our costumes to lunch (appropriately protected) because we didn't have time for a full hair-redo and a lot of the costumes required going over the head, so we kept them on.
  • 6:00 pm COACH BACK TO HOTEL.
    Does exactly what it says on the tin.
  • 6:30 pm GYM.
    Luckily, the hotel had a gym too, thank goodness, as my costume (along with being see-through) shows off my arms, so I'll need to hit the weights daily to keep them looking good. I would try (and mostly succeed) in getting a 30 minute session before dinner, it helps clear my head after a long day.
  • 7:00 pm BAR.
    The hotel encouraged green energy, so each of our rooms had an option to not have fresh towels and linen that day (it was akin to a "Do Not Disturb" sign you hang on the door handle). BUT... if you chose to be green, as a reward, you got a voucher each day for €5 at the hotel bar. Now I'm a noble Eco-warrior, so of course I was dedicated to helping the planet each day for my voucher. #CaipirinhaOClock
  • 8:00 pm DINNER.
    As we were a large group we needed to come in shifts at either 8pm or 9pm. Most days I favoured 8pm. The food was always gorgeous, and varied. And the meat! Oh, it was so succulent and tender; it was always a treat going to dinner. Plus, dinner chats are the best chats, they'd get so silly. One time Maximianno and I ended up laughing about popcorn or something, and from that moment on my new nickname was "pipoca". I LOVED IT! Sounds like some adorable Hobbit in an 80s fantasy acid trip. Gentle Pipoca!
  • 10:00 pm BAR.
    I mean... it would be rude not to...
  • 11:00 pm BED.
    Alarm set, clothes laid out for tomorrow, time to get some shuteye before the 5:40am bells a toll!