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The making of The Prophecy

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At BIAFF 2013 XDL Films won 5-Stars and The Best Club Production Award for The Prophecy.

Still from 'The Prophecy'.  The Prophecy is the third film that we have made featuring the George and Doris characters and it all came about when we needed an idea for the Strathclyde Film Event, an inter-club competition organised by the Scottish Association of Moviemakers where the entries have to be made to a set theme which, in this case, was “Just a Minute”.

Avoiding the obvious options Pat Mahon suggested the Mayan prophecy about the end of the world as a possible subject and this immediately had us speculating about what George and Doris would do in their final minute on Earth. The clear answer was that they would enjoy one last digestive biscuit as their fondness for these has been a running gag since their first film, The House Sitters.

Our main problem was how to tell the story yet keep it within the confines of the George and Doris domestic format. The answer came in a new character, Ruth, their niece. Like drama, comedy needs an element of conflict so we decided that Ruth would be an annoying individual who seriously irritates George. We decided that Ruth was working for the government and would be someone who has been promoted well beyond her level of competence and hides her lack of practical experience or ability with excessive jargon or “management speak”.

We spend a huge amount of time working on our characters and scripts and they often go through several re-writes before we are happy. We were conscious of the fact that this was a very wordy script but that was the nature of the story. We knew that we could get some good visual material out of George and Doris’s reactions to Ruth’s increasingly outrageous pronouncements, that we could also insert some visual humour with the TV news channel and that the end sequence was essentially visual so weren’t too concerned about it.
Still from 'The Prophecy'.
Still from 'The Prophecy'.
Still from 'The Prophecy'.

Although the story centres around the three main characters there is a fourth person, Wee Sadie, who we never actually see. The off screen character is a common dramatic device that is useful in providing a sense of a world beyond the basic set up and also as a means of conveying information about the plot.  Wee Sadie was the catalyst for plot of The Antique Dealer, the second George and Doris film and she is referred to again in The Prophecy but I doubt if we will ever actually see her.

When we were satisfied with the script we got together with the actors for a read through to see if anything needed to be changed and we got some very good contributions from the actors which we incorporated. Once the script was “locked” we kept to it pretty faithfully, mainly because Ruth’s dialogue was so intricate that it couldn’t really be changed. However we are not averse to improvising and one of our ideas during filming was the synchronised leg-crossing which usually gets a laugh.

Most of the filming was completed in a day and we worked through the script in sequence. We filmed in HD and varied the lighting between the three main scenes to differentiate the different times of day.  We’ve been asked about the number of packets of digestive biscuits we used and the answer is not that many. Pat bought about a dozen packets and also got hold of an empty carton which we padded out with other things to make it look full. Some packets were, of course, filmed twice.
Still from 'The Prophecy'.
Still from 'The Prophecy'.
Still from 'The Prophecy'.

For the newsroom sequence Pat persuaded his daughter, Kelly, to play the newsreader and he filmed her against a green screen and then incorporated the other visual elements during the editing process. We’ve had one or two comments suggesting that the newsreader seems too young but the sub text of this scene was that this was a very low budget 24 hour news channel, run on a shoe-string by people who employ presenters fresh out of College prepared to work free for the experience. 

The tin-foil idea was meant to be typical of the sort of nonsense that Governments put out in the hope of reassuring people and avoiding panic. That led us neatly into the jokes about there being insufficient tin-foil to go round an increasingly obese population and the government sponsoring slimathons – an example of one gag leading into another. Incidentally, on the date of the actual prophecy we were astonished to see on the news two guys in France who had also wrapped themselves up in tin foil thinking that at the key moment they were going to be whisked away in an inter-dimensional vortex – so maybe it wasn’t quite as far fetched as we thought!

We wrapped Helen in yards of tin-foil but she became so hot that we couldn’t leave her in it for long. Unfortunately we were unhappy with the original scene as shot but she was quite willing to come back to do it again for the sake of the film.
Still from 'The Prophecy'.
Still from 'The Prophecy'.
Two stars of 'The Prophecy'.

We’ve been thrilled with the success of this film and delighted that audiences seem to enjoy it. George and Doris represent the voice of reason and common sense in an increasingly crazy world and I think that people can relate to that. We intend to make more in the series but only if we can come up with good enough stories.

Brian Saberton FACI, 28 April 2013

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Page updated on 29 April 2013
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