It’s a wrap!

After almost three years of creation, planning and production, we have finally shot all the material for The Ditch.


It feels a bit strange writing that. Sheena and I still can’t quite believe it’s true, even though it’s exactly what should have happened and shouldn’t be anything remarkable. There have been so many times over the years that it’s seemed like an impossible task, a mountain too high to climb – too expensive, too complicated, not enough people, not enough equipment, a story too reliant on good weather, or on the audience’s ability to grasp the subtext. But all of those doubts and difficulties have just melted away.


The shoot itself went remarkably smoothly, thanks to an excellent team. Every department, from cast through to camera, lighting, makeup and sound came together efficiently and co-operatively to make this shoot a pleasure. It wasn’t all plain sailing – no shoot ever is – but I was amazed at how the production just seemed to flow and things just happened the way they were meant to. I suppose this is partly good planning, but it’s also about goodwill. Everyone in the team wanted things to go well, of course, but it was remarkable how much goodwill we encountered from other people as well – the staff at the hotel were fantastic, the staff at the pub where we lunched were really friendly and even some of the horse riders passing us on Wimbledon Common gave us a friendly nod. It was like a perfect storm, only in a good sense – everything coming together in just the right way to make it all work.


This isn’t the end of the road, not by any means. There’s the edit to do, the music and the sound mix, the grading and the final output to digital movie files, Blu-Ray/DVD, etc. Not to mention the festival submission paperwork and publicity material. In some ways, once the camera stops rolling that’s when the real work begins. But this is a major step forward and it’s such a wonderful thing to have got this far at last.


There’ll be more news as we go along – we hope to have everything complete by the end of September. But we’ll keep you posted along the way.


Why does it always rain on me?

Last September I was sitting at my computer, right where I am now, flicking through a number of online weather forecasting sites – the BBC, the Weather Channel, the Met Office, Weather Online, Metcheck, etc, etc. and they all showed a consistent prediction – heavy rain for Saturday. It was to be the first Saturday of our shoot. The summer had been unusually good by recent standards and of course we had all been hoping this would last. And so it did… right up to the week before the shoot. Then things went downhill suddenly, the prelude to the wettest winter on record in the UK.

As you will know if you’ve been keeping up to date with the saga of The Ditch‘s production, we had to cancel the shoot at a couple of days’ notice. Then we went into our holes a bit, engaged in other projects or in our real lives. After a little while, Sheena worked out how the film could work if we moved the action indoors. It meant a completely different story from the one we had set out to tell; but this new story was closer in many ways to the idea we had hoped to bring across in our original script. And it meant we could set the entire thing in a hotel room – problem solved!

Well, nearly. Truth is, there was just one thing missing. We hadn’t actually filmed a ditch, and the film’s title is… So we found ourselves a ditch, and it was very conveniently located, much more so than the one we had originally planned to use. It was even more ditch-like. And it’s the ditch you’ll see in the film. But of course it means at least one exterior sequence still needs to be filmed.

So, once again, I’m looking at weather forecasts and seeing the same thing – a lovely spell of weather, which we’ve been enjoying this spring, brought to a sudden end by showers, cloud and thunder. The exterior shots we were hoping to get this Saturday will almost certainly have to be postponed. However, Sunday looks a lot better and we hope to catch them then.

Thank God for weather forecasting and thank God for creative ingenuity! (Not necessarily in that order.)

By Monday it should all be done – at last! We’ll let you know how we get on via Twitter (@onthetrainprods) and we’ll post an update to this blog as soon as possible.

Shooting starts again in a week!

Yes, at long last, in just over a week we recommence filming of The Ditch. We are fully crewed again, and raring to go!

This has been an incredibly long haul for a short film – most shorts are shot over a week or so, not over two years. In our case we were hit with a huge dose of bad luck: unable to use the location beyond a certain time, hit by bad weather, continuity issues, having to deal with complicated logistics on a tiny budget… But, with a bit of ingenuity and a lot of pulling together, we’ve put all that behind us and the story will all be in the can by the end of Sunday 25 May – no matter what!

Back from the dead

Good news! The Ditch is back in business!

Of course we were never really out of business – production was only temporarily halted last September because of the rain. Sheena has now rewritten the script so that the action takes place indoors, and we actually think it makes it a stronger film. It means that we can use all the stuff we’ve shot and, although we have had to change the order of events in the story, it’s much closer to the mood and style we originally hoped for.

Shooting takes place next month, and we’re getting everything together for the last stage before we go into post-production. So it’s very likely that you’ll be getting to see the film this year! (Remember if you donated £10 or more in last year’s highly successful fundraising effort, you get to see the film first – it’ll be just after the cast and crew screening; all dates will be announced in due course.)

We’ve not been idle these months. Sheena has been working very, very hard on several productions with her company Drunken Chorus. These have included live performances at the Battersea Arts Centre, the Rich Mix venue and pubs in the City of London and Croydon, as well as performances in the north of England. Drunken Chorus, which has secured Arts Council funding, has a number of projects in the pipeline and has come a long way from its early days. Henry has been making music videos, and as I write is about to co-direct the videography at Adam Ant’s 2014 live tour show in Hammersmith. And me, Stephen? Writing, mostly, and researching. And blogging, elsewhere. Life doesn’t stand still; it’s alarming how quickly the last seven months have gone.

Anyway, it’s going to be great getting the team back together, though inevitably there have been a few changes in personnel because of availability. More about that as we get closer to the date. In the meantime, we look forward to keeping you up to date with how things are progressing!

Something scary through your letterbox…

I’m delighted to announce that, after a series of journeys across London and indeed the UK, we have a whole set of signed posters ready to send out to our most generous donors – and also some concept art for those who gave especially generously.


Signed by both members of the cast, and by both producers as well as (of course) writer-director Sheena Holliday, the posters are A1 sized and very much a limited edition! The concept art is, as you know, by Olympics 2012 artist Adam James and comprises four A3 sheets in full colour.

So look out for these arriving soon, you very lovely generous people!

(NB The posters aren’t really all that scary. Unless maybe I slip a spider into one of the tubes or something…)