Principal Photography II - Poland - 2022

Ellis J. Wells
Chronicles & Tales
March 5th-11th - 2022
To quote Rachel Green from "Friends": it's the end of an era!"; and what a journey it has been! From our initial applications way back in May 2017, through in-person auditions, getting to the final round, into rehearsals, Portugal, VO work, a global pandemic... and now our final lap in Poland. I should prefix all of this saying a) these thoughts are purely from an actor's perspective on the project, the post-production of editing, colour grading, adding CGI, will be a monumental task b) even for the actors... it's not “done completely”, merely principle filming wrapped. Maybe, some actors will still have to do ADR - Automated dialogue replacement - , and then we will have the press releases, interviews, etc. Nevertheless, for now, it feels like a conclusion to the bulk of our (i.e. actors) participation.
Now to Wroclaw, Poland... the process, in many ways, was very different from Lisbon, Portugal. We have lived with these roles (and these lines) for over 4 years. We know these characters; we know how Maximianno wants our characters to unfold on screen. We have worked and tweaked and refined our performances repeatedly over the years, so actually very little of Poland's filming involved any kind of delay or multiple takes due to performative elements (minus my "hear you, master steward..." which for some reason I could never, ever say right first time, ha).  This allowed us to bomb through scene after scene, which is no easy task. Many days were exhausting, but also covering a colossal amount of pages in the script.  Kudos everyone, that is not easy to accomplish!

It's hard to really detail each day specifically, as it all blends into one. The routine was so structured, I stopped even registering what day of the week it was; merely 'yet another day'.  Moreover, I wasn't on set to see most other people's work, unless I was in the scene (at which point I'm, selfishly, focusing on my own acting).  Things that stick out: having cried successfully in my final scene for every rehearsal over two years and during the VO session in November... I had a 'struggle bus day' and only managed about three takes with tears.  BOO!  But luckily made up for it (unexpectedly) in the “proposal scene”.  The tears, they did a flow, unaided!  I did my solo monologue in three takes!

Then one very amusingly frustrating day where periodically other cast members would come into the green screen studio, and have to lay on a couch while Martin - Martin South - role: Flavius” - and I fed them food and gave them drink.  In addition, while these pick-up shots aren't necessarily fun to do, or why we got into acting, they are needed for the editing dynamics. While my heart goes out to them for the end result on film of luxurious comfort is rarely what actually happens on set... ultimately... when they entered that boiling hot studio Martin and I were already there, and when they left, Martin and I remained for the next one. I'm so sorry you had to all lie down and be fed a midday snack by servants. Ain't nobody writing a tragic poem about your agonies that day!  HA-HA!  I only say this as a (hopefully interesting) window into inevitable frustrations that can happen on set (on all sets) but ones which we are all professional during, and power through without descending into arguments.  Sometimes in this industry you just have to shut your mouth, and go to a happy place in your mind (otherwise nothing would ever get done).  Just beware those who get to write a blog after the fact... because they mention such things... hee-hee. (Love you all)

Now when I did my Lisbon post, I chronicled an average day, so thought I'd do one for Wroclaw.


5:50am WAKE UP: 
Not only was I back to being very clean-shaven, but I had to now wash and blow-dry my hair everyday so it sat just right. I must confess: I've actually never used a blow dryer before in my life. Took some practice, eek!
 Honestly, this was the best hotel breakfast platter I've ever had.  Devil'd eggs, fresh mackerel, juicy tomatoes and mozzarella, fresh pineapple, beautiful yoghurts with pomegranate seeds... ugh, I could go on.  I ate lots and didn't even feel bad about it, it was so yummy each and every morning! In addition, Emanuela would be sporting yet another fabulous jacket for me to adore upon every breakfast!
 A beautiful journey through the heart of Wroclaw.  The graffiti of the city really gave such a feel for the artistry of the community; I'm a Bristol boy, so we love our graffiti.  James - James Reynard - role: Timon of Athens - had his usual seat, behind the driver, by the window... every... time. HA! He's a creature of habit, and I love him for it.
7:45am HAIR & MAKE-UP:
Unlike Portugal, which at times had such a colossal cast in the studio filming, most days here only had about 5 of us on set at any one time; so the process of getting ready was somewhat easier (in the sense of it was obvious who was up first and what scene we were doing).
1:00pm LUNCH:
We ate lunch in this giant conference room meets cinema, with the table laid out in a semi-circle. It was very, umm, Bond-esq. Basically, it felt like we were Spectre about to ask the world on a conference call for "ONE TRILLION DOLLARS!"
2:00pm BACK ON SET:
Unless you are James (poor thing, he is in every scene, pretty much) if you had a heavy morning of shots, you often had a lighter number in the afternoon (and vice versa).  I had a couch in my dressing room, but so often actors were arriving (having gotten up very early for the flight, or arrive very late the night before) so most people used my room for a power nap.  I was relegated to walking the halls. WAH! But it was lovely, because I adore the cast so chatting to all of them between filming is an endless joy.
 Does exactly what it says on the tin.
7:30pm HOTEL:
Time, it has passed since Portugal... and I had one too many grey hairs now (for 'young' Lucilius).  So I had hair colour sprayed and combed in each day on set, which meant when I got back to the hotel I had to wash it out (or I'd end up with brown pillows, what would the cleaning staff think?). Then once ready, I'd go knock on Martin's door, and we'd head down for a pre-dinner drink. I managed to work my way through the entire cocktail menu in my 6 days, and I'm not ashamed to admit it.  My favourite was called 'a sweet boy', which was Bailey's, vodka, cream and something else (I forget); also they used hollow pasta as straws, which was both bonkers and genius. Very eco-friendly, so I approve.
8:00pm DINNER:
 Much like the breakfast, dinner was a feast.  Usually the appetiser was a yummy soup, and then the main.  My goodness!  Squid ink pasta (a particular favourite of mine), succulent pork loin, perfectly cooked fish, tender chicken on a bed of vegetables... oh, yum yum yum! Every night was a joy.  Happy-happy Ellis turned into fatty-fatty Ellis.
10:00pm BAR:
 I mean... it would be rude not to...
11:00pm BED:
Alarm set, clothes laid out for tomorrow, time to get some shuteye before the 5:40am bells toll!

Other than that, a few non-filming related moments stick in my mind.  An incredibly long session in Emily's - Emily Carding - role: Praxilla - dressing room, where we discussed Star Trek for near 3 hours (Martin lasted about one, then abandoned ship). Creating lists of our "Top Ten" favourite characters across all the series #TrekkieNerds. Daniel - Daniel Johns - role: III Councillor - had arrived a day early from his train journey across Europe (treating us all to his photos on the way), so he used his first day that to explore... and very kindly bought me my Starbucks mug that I like to get from every country I visit. I have quite a collection, and yes I have a Lisbon one from last time we were filming too (thank-you David - David Sayers - role: Apemantus - for buying that one); and very specially Martin, Robert - Robert Boulton - role: Titus, Saul - Saul Marron - role: Hortensius - and I got a day off at the very end, which was an incredibly unexpected treat. We spent it exploring the streets of Wroclaw, taking photos of all the iron gnome statues (it is called "the City of Gnomes"), going to a museum bursting with iconography, eating a classic Polish donut, buying souvenirs and just having an absolute blast.  In addition, we ended up at a registry office, thinking it was a museum. None of us accidentally married each other, thankfully. HA!

Now to the final thought of this entire process: would I change how this all unfurled?  It was five years! I'm guessing, for everyone, this is the longest project any of us have been attached to, and there is an understandable feeling of wanting to close out this chapter. I loved my time touring Italy recently for 6 months with "Pygmalion", but by the end, I was ready to move on.  Misanthropos is 12 times that length as far as the Principal Photography is concerned! But would I change how this went?  Of course, I'd want to spare everyone the horrors of Covid, and the stresses we all went through, but having now lived through it all, would I change it?  Truthfully... the answer is no. For five years I got to work and learn from the most wonderful assortment of people; watching such gifted actors performing Shakespeare beautifully. I got to follow their careers, and was so proud at all their accomplishments: Robert's award winning play, Saul's TV series, Declan's countless films, Emily's books, John's audio dramas. For five years I was paid to hang out with these incredibly talented people who have become very dear to me, many of whom I count as wonderful lifelong friends now. I was flown to Portugal and Poland, two countries I'd never been to before. I tasted wonderful new foods, and was introduced to new cocktails (shout out to the joy of a Caipirinha; thank-you Maximianno for that joy). I got to do Shakespeare on film! A treat even veteran actors never experience. It's been a wonderful five years and I wouldn't change it for the world... well... maybe I could have done without so many grey hairs. I am not ready for my close up, Mister Cobra! To the Botox mobile!

Here “endeth” the II Principal Photography Chronicles.

“Gentle” Ellis!