The First Federation Film Filming

The First Federation Film Filming

Oh, yeah, ’bout that time again, where I dip into the ol’ memory pool because of having recently done something same-ol, same-ol. In October, my daughter and I spent an afternoon helping with (and appearing in) various short bits for a film-within-a-film that several Federation types are working on as an outside project. (i.e. not associated with the Feds per se, although, really everyone there on Saturday had been associated with (and even appeared in, or at least auditioned for) a Federation Film…..) Naturally, that experience has now set the way-back machine in my mind for the end of July, 1983, and the filming of “The Five Faces of Doctor Booh.”

Come with me now as I spin the nutrasweet logo and chant “back, back, back in time….”

Read-through of the script was called for 5ish the Friday before the actual shooting day, up at Chris’ house in Libertyville. (Chris was the U.N.I.T. Irregular division head organizing the film; go here to read about how I initially got involved with it.) Being personally car-less, I had to finagle borrowing Mom’s car to get up there. (Not like there was public transport really to the wilderness known as Lake County….) Chris gave good directions and time estimates; I got up to his place at the appointed hour without getting lost.

He and his family (parents and siblings) lived in a ranch house v. similar to the one I did, except it actually had a basement. Upon arrival, I was about to head for the front door when I spotted a youth aiming for the back. Recognizing him vaguely from the one all-division U.N.I.T. meeting I had attended in the spring, I figured I might as well follow him and spare myself the awkwardness of arriving at a new place for the first time alone. The youth breezed in through the open back door and straight down into the basement.

As I followed him downstairs, Chris’ voice drifted up. “Where’s Jennifer when you need her?” he wondered.

“Right here,” I replied, reaching the bottom of the stairs in a unplanned grand entrance.

Chris was having problems with the video camera. It was a basic “how do you turn it on” sitch, so I sorted him (and it) out in about 10 seconds. Chris then went around and introduced me to people– most everyone with a big part was already there. One girl in particular was pointed out to me. “She’s going to Northwestern, too,” Chris said with a wave of his hand. And thus I met Sonora Clew.

(Yep, we’re getting to the part of the narrative where many names will be changed to protect the innocent. Or to confuse the casual reader. Those who are aware of Fed history will be able to figure out who’s who.)

Sonora and I passed a good deal of time chatting about NU. Well, all right, she asked a buttload of questions, since she was an incoming Freshman, and I answered as best I could, being that I had no experience with either residential colleges or the classical languages department. I promised her that I would be her Native Guide in September right before Chris declared we would start.

I don’t remember now if all the cast was there for the read-through. I don’t even recall if Czar Adam (the overall head of U.N.I.T.) was there. I only recall that most of the people there were at best okay and more likely lame. Still, my “acting” skills fit right in with everyone else’s, so I felt really comfortable.

The Saturday that weekend I went to Beatlefest, and lost a friend for life, mostly ’cause I backed out of staying in the hotel room with her and her friend, and, as I was the “adult”, I was the “responsible party” and supposed to “supervise” a pair of 16-year-olds. Oh, her mother reamed me a new bodily orifice, and (in retrospect) rightfully so. I spent the day digging the films and telling my new-ex-friend to buzz off. (I still feel guilty to this day.)

On Sunday, wrangling my mom’s car yet again, I toodled up to Adler Park in Libertyville for the filming. At least, I think we met at Adler; long-term memory is the first to go. In any case, we started with the 1st Doctor and worked our way down to the finale. The day was sunny and warm (but surprisingly not that hot, despite it being the end of July.

It took a long time to film, mostly because, although Chris was in charge, he didn’t have much of a clue as to what to do. He concentrated on staging the mise-en-scene while he left the actual filming to me. (Ooh, like the last time he willingly let me be in charge of anything without his personal supervision…. Not that I’m bitter or anything, even after 26 years….) Although personally I was totally invested in what was up, some of the others… not so much.

Czar Adam serves as the prime example of the problem child. He played the villain, and so popped up every so often, but not necessarily a lot in the park scenes. Nevertheless, as The Man In Charge of the Club, he felt the obligation to be there. He kept coming up with lame comedy bits involving whichever people were around, and insisting that I film them, even though they had nothing to do with the script. I obliged, because I didn’t want to piss him off, and because Chris was usually still staging the next sequence anyway.

We worked our way through the script slowly. We were filming in sequence mostly because the Spectacular was going to be edited by hooking up one residential VCR to another one, no editing controller or anything, so the scenes needed to be mostly in sequence to save time in the assembly process. The 3rd Doctor sequence took particularly long to film because a) it starred Chris, so he lavished more attention on it and b) it involved Czar Adam, so it took forever to film because of all the extra bits he kept coming up with.

We didn’t get to the Fifth Doctor sequence until late afternoon. The people playing Nyssa and Turlough, bored out of their minds and being old enough to drink, had slipped off to the Sev earlier in the day to score a little something to help pass the time until they actually got filmed. Needless to say Nyssa in particular was feeling no pain. Hoo boy, it was a bitch to get through that scene….

After finishing the Big Climax (“Five Doctors in my family, Five Doctors have I got….”), we repaired to Chris’ basement to tape all the bits
“on Gallifrey” and “In Lord Chaos’ Lair.” Because everyone was tired (and hungry), we spent a billion years on the rather few scenes. Still, we finished up, and, sleepy but satisfied, went our separate ways.

Chris and his co-writer hunkered down, and, connecting their VCRs together with a couple of RCA cables, slapped together the Monumental Production in about 2 weeks. Good thing, too, because they were done just in time to show it at U.S. 20!

(And thus you know the topic of my next stroll down the potholed Memory Lane!)

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