On day two of the shoot for “The Pit and the Pendulum – a musicabre” there was blood on the floor. My head got conked. A gash opened just below my hairline. And droplets of blood rained onto the floor of the set.
Below is the culprit that did me in. A metal helmet, the kind Spanish soldiers of the 17th century wore.
The vicious helmet was being worn by Gonzalo Trigueros, who along with Mathew Gnagy plays one of the soldiers arresting my character to bring him before the judges of the Inquisition. That’s Mathew and Gonzalo above. You might remember Mathew as one of the on screen cello players in “The Tell-Tale Heart – a musicabre“, my first short film musical Poe adaptation.
Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story “The Pit and the Pendulum” begins with the judges of the Inquisition sentencing the protagonist to death. In my film we have a prolog showing the protagonist’s brutal arrest in his garret.
It got a little more brutal than intended. The brutality’s consequences got a little more real as well.
Here I am, as seen in the on set monitor, getting ready for shooting the soldiers’ entrance into the garret. Sami Eddy is checking my hair ribbon.
This will be the last time we would be able to shoot my forehead with my hair pulled back like that. After this upcoming shot we will be required to cover up the wound on my forehead with hair strands. Luckily the plan always was for the soldiers to pull the ribbon tying my ponytail back out of my hair when they assault me in this scene.
Our one take from this angle. After the accident we would need to rethink how we shoot and edit this moment…
Me getting into character, a composer in the 17th century. We have already shot me hearing the commotion of the soldiers entering the building and coming up several flights of stairs to reach me in my garret lodgings. I know they are coming for me and I am feverishly trying to scribble a few more notes on parchment paper before I am dragged away.
The soldiers enter the garret. We had practiced this entrance plus the subsequent action of me being grabbed, thrown to the floor and kicked, multiple times. What we hadn’t done was practice it with the soldiers wearing their headgear. Turns out the metal helmet was not fitting tightly enough on Gonzalos’ head to stay put during fast violent movement. As soon as he burst through the door he had to adjust the helmet. Which basically already ruined the shot that was originally intended to flow from entrance to manhandling to kicked on the floor in one unedited take. But no one called cut – I the director certainly didn’t since I didn’t see the helmet wobble – and frankly, it all happened so fast, no one could have been expected to call cut in time.
The soldiers grab me and pull me off my chair away from the desk.
And this is the moment the helmet falls off Gonzalos’ head and hits me on the noggin.
How about a close-up? You can see that the metal brim of the helmet hits me edgewise on the forehead. Like a blunt axe.
I felt that of course, and realized what must have happened. That might have been the time to call cut since a tumbling helmet surely must have ruined the shot.
But instead I was full of the-show-must-go-on intensity and kept on acting out the scene.
Which included Gonzalo’s soldier kicking me a few times after they threw me to the floor. Stage combat kicks, naturally. They didn’t hurt.
But my head was hurting. And I was watching many droplets of red fluid drizzling off my head and onto the floor.
My first thought was “I hope the camera is not catching that”.
At that point Mathew and Gozalo noticed something was amiss…
At first there was a lot of blood. On the floor. Dripping profusely from my forehead. I worried about getting it on my costume.
Plenty of paper towel was pressed against my head. As is common with these kind of head wounds, it started with a lot of blood, but it also soon stopped bleeding, at least as long as I kept a wad of paper towel pressed against it.
Five to ten minutes later, the bleeding ceased, I thought maybe this isn’t as bad as it first seemed? But Henry Borriello, my co-producer, and Charlotte Purser, my assistant director, both insisted I had to go to the closest walk-in clinic to have my head looked at.
I resisted. We have a movie to shoot. We can’t just stop. However reality prevailed. That cut on my head was going to need far more attention than a band-aid. Henry accompanied me the closest City MD.
I waited over an hour in the waiting room before I was finally seen. Before I’d left the set, Charlotte, Jason Chua, the cinematographer, and I had looked at the take and determined which parts of it would be useable, and how we could reshoot the soldier’s entrance and my being thrown to the floor in a way that could cut with the useable footage. While Henry and I were cooling our heels (and pressing tissue paper wads against my forehead) at City MD, Jason and Charlotte could shoot the soldier’s entrance and other close-ups of the soldiers busting up the garret apartment without me.
Hopefully this wouldn’t throw us too much off schedule…
I was hoping to get some sort of crazy glue to keep the wound closed, so as to have the least amount of distracting unfilmable elements on my face, but the attending physician used these strips instead.
All in all five of these strips were put over the wound.
The attending physician told me that these bandage strips would need to be left alone until they fell off on their own, probably after a week. I was wondering how we would be able to shoot around this white patch on my head over the next week.
The physician also recommended I get stitches. Otherwise there would be a greater likelihood of scarring. But for stitches a specialist would need to be called in and that would take extra hours. I didn’t have extra hours. I’d already lost too much time. I would have to take my chances when it came to the scar.
I returned to set and we continued shooting the scene. I was thrown to the floor again, and had to pretend to be kicked. The motions were violent enough for the wound to bleed again a little underneath the bandage strips.
However, that bit of blood helped darken the white strips in such a way that made them blend in a little better with my skin and hairline by the next day.
Which allowed us to conceal them better during the following seven days of shooting until the bandage strips finally came off. I doubt they will be noticeable to anyone watching the film, even those of you reading this blog post and looking out for them.
Case in point: I posted this picture the day of the accident. The bandage and wound can be seen in the photo but would they be recognized as such unless one knew what had happened? More likely they’d be mistaken for errant hair strands and reflecting light.
And my scar? Sami recommended treating it daily with Vitamin E oil. Three months later it is visible but hardly. I had to take a lot of selfies and get the light just right before I managed a pic that shows it off well enough.
There it is, the diagonal line coming out of my hairline in the center. My forehead’s frown lines make much more of an impression.