EXCLUSIVE Shooting Dogs scene preview this week.
At the end of this week, we will be streaming a scene from Shooting Dogs on the blog.
The specific scene that has been selected comes at a pivotal moment in the film where Joe (Hugh Dancy) encounters the Interahamwe militia at a roadblock. Director Michael Caton-Jones carefully constructs the scene to augment the tension and impact of this compelling scene.
In the run-up to the exclusive streaming, we will be deconstructing the scene itself and looking at its specific directorial elements in more detail.
We will be posting diary entries from the film's cast and crew that talk of their individual experiences of shooting this highly sensitive scene. Extracts from the original script, Michael Caton-Jones' sketches of the filming process and on-set photos will also be posted in the run-up to the streaming of the clip.
Make sure you keep checking back to see when we will be showing the clip.
To begin, here is Producer David Belton’s diary entry from shooting that day:
August 10th 2004
We’re filming outside the school in a district of Kigali. It’s the roadblock scene where Joe and the BBC reporter, Rachel and her cameraman, Mark, are pulled out of the school truck and held at gunpoint. It was always a vital scene for me and certainly for David Wolstencroft, our screenwriter. It is here, mid way through the drama that Joe has to confront the reality of what is happening in Rwanda – that there are events going on that are far beyond his control. It’s a moment that many people I know have faced – when all the moral and emotional compass points go awry and we are left floundering, not knowing which way to turn and, crucially, not knowing what will happen.
To me it was always important because it neatly skewered the western arrogance that exists: that somehow we in the West can provide solutions and that our method of fixing things always works. The reality is different and in 2006 we see it every day as we read in our newspapers about Iraq, Darfur, Iran and Afghanistan.
It’s a personal story too since the roadblock happened to me back in 1994. We were pulled out of our car and held at gunpoint and, helpless, we watched a man being dragged away and butchered.
David Wolstencroft is a natural and very gifted writer. Action flows off his pen – or his keyboard - and he has written a scene that is fluid, that builds and never shows off the cleverness of writing a scene like this without resorting to melodrama or glamorising it. Most important, it feels true.
And I sense that Michael Caton-Jones has been looking forward to this scene. As we stand and gather at the beginning of the day there is a spring in MC-J’s step. It’s almost as though this is a chance to show us all why he’s doing this film – how he can extract the absolute maximum from a scene. We are a small budget feature and Michael, often used to bigger spends, has had to hold back on many occasions from where his natural instincts would want to take him. Not today. Today, he’s really up for it – ready to show what he can get out of a single scene.
And sure enough it becomes clear that Michael will shoot more “slates” (effectively different angles and “takes”) than any single scene up to this point in the shoot. He cajoles the cast into some great performances. Hugh is brilliant – allowing himself to be thrown around by the militia as they pull him out of the car – a look of increasing bewilderment and fear etched across his face, take after take, hour after hour. Nicola is a stunning actress, always holding something back in her performance, utterly believable and brilliantly playing against the tiresome movie cliché of a macho journalist – she’s playing it scared-but-trying-to-be-in-control which is at it should be. And Jack surpasses himself as he and a Rwandan actor struggle over the camera – it becomes more and more improvisational, more and more believable, a series of electrifying takes. Kennedy, our Tutsi victim, is equally believable, on his knees, quietly trembling. His performance drives home the terrible reality of 1994.
The other Rwandans excel themselves – several of the cast submerge themselves into their parts as interahamwe killers and yet as soon as the take is over they rush over to Hugh or Nicola and check they haven’t been too rough on them. It’s endearing and funny and as the sun creeps round the valley and Michael relentlessly pursues the scene until he is sure he has got all that he wants, there is a real energy and passion from all the cast and crew. A day when the story and the all the people involved in it become so focussed that the movements, the direction and the performances seem to flow. Even the first assistant director, Mark, seems more relaxed today. It’s been a very tough job for Mark – with limited resources he has galvanised the crew and the extras and given Michael many options to keep this film cinematic – to never let it disappear into smallness. But today the only worry he seems to have is getting the scene finished on time. I think – as we all do – that we won’t get it all today, that we’ll be back tomorrow. But that’s fine. More important than finishing the scene is giving Michael everything he needs to put together a fundamental moment in the film. It’s a morale boost for the film – a pivotal moment in the shoot and worth overrunning for.
But it’s also a tough day for lots of us. Somehow, typically, it’s hotter than usual and our extras are bravely working in the heat of the day – as interahamwe pacing around the roadblock or as bodies lying on the dirt road. We rush around with umbrellas and cups of water – I seem to spend a lot of time ordering more 10 litre kegs of water to keep our extras hydrated. But they never complain despite the harrowing nature of the scene. I watch the first take of Kennedy’s death and then decide I don’t need to see this any more. Too many memories. I go for a walk.
In the distance, over in the fields is a small group of boys, playing football but with half an eye on what the film crew is up to. I sit down and watch them and after a while we get chatting. I tell them in my awful French what we are doing. One of the boys, Laurent, tells me he is fourteen and that one day he wants to be a doctor. We talk about school and how crap it is doing homework. He wears an old tattered shirt and a pair of shorts that, I would guess, were worn by his three older brothers before him. He is funny and very bright. I think about President Kagame’s desire to see children like Laurent succeed – that Rwanda’s future can only be safeguarded by education.
Laurent asks me if he can be an extra in the film. I tell him he has to turn up at half past five in the morning and hand a note I’ll write for him to Hope the casting director. It’s good money for his family – twelve thousand Rwandan francs – twenty dollars, more than a weekly manual wage in Kigali. I hand him the note and tell him he had better not come on a school day. He frowns at me disapprovingly. Of course not, he says. The boys rush off with their filthy old football and I wander back to the set.
-David Belton (Producer)