heady heayd heayd heayd heayd heayd heayd
"OK guys, we're ready for another take," I said loudly, in my best movie director voice. No-one moved. The children were arguing about the finer points of their costumes and negotiating lines. The cameraman was trying to recapture the dog, who had seen a squirrel. What was that adage about working with children and animals?
It was a rainy day and we were halfway through a project: making a movie. My brother's family was visiting so we had plenty of cast members, including four kids aged seven to 12. After lots of negotiation we opted for a basic mystery, no murders.
The children were allowed to choose their roles. The girls wanted to be evacuees during the Blitz. The boys wanted to wear black, run around and shoot people. We told them they couldn't shoot people, but we would write them in as burglars.
Our plot took place at a Westcountry house (courtesy of my mother-in-law) where the girls had been sent during the war. It was the home of Lady Fifi Blablabla (not my mother-in-law), who was a bit crazy and never left her chambers. The butler (my husband) showed the girls to their room, where they placed their prized possession: an old wooden box.
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After they left for supper, the burglars snuck in and looted trinkets, including the wooden box and an army bugle. But one couldn't resist the temptation to blow it, and the robbery was foiled! In their escape, the burglars dropped the wooden box, dislodging from a secret compartment an old photo of the girls, inscribed: "The darling nieces of Lady Fifi Blablabla."
They were family! This gave them a claim to the estate, as outlined by its lawyer, Helen Probono (my sister-in-law). If a will couldn't be found in the next few days, Helen would have to choose who inherited the estate. The other candidates were Barney Oates the stable man (my brother), who wanted the grounds for his stud farm; Petunia Blablabla (me), the loopy gardener who wanted it for her specimen hydrangeas; and James the butler.
Petunia gives the girls a clue as to the will's whereabouts: a secret closet in the library, inside a precious Grecian urn (made of papier mache). But when they open the closet, out jump the burglars, with the urn! The chase is on! They run this way, then that way! Finally they are caught by Barney.
The will is read, classic mystery style, to all the characters. It turns out the entire estate was left to the dog, Pirate. (Anticlimactic, but that's family drama for you.)
We've observed professional companies filming before and marvelled at how long everything takes, and how many crew. I did get an insight into why, with two of my actors changing their costumes (again), a third rewriting the script, the cameraman in the loo and the heir-apparent dog halfway across the field.
The end result was worth it though. Now we just have to figure out how to get it on a DVD. Where's our post-production crew?