Eric’s note: this is a special report written by our location scout Simen Nordskog.
Friday September 18th marked the end of 31 days of on-location shooting. During this period we’ve been to a wide variety of places covering sea, air and land. As location scout I started looking for potential locations in the spring of this year. Now, about six months later it’s with a sigh of relief that I leave the last location. Relief because it marks the end of 31 days of long hours and hard work.
However there’s a much stronger feeling of accomplishment. In February we started scouting for locations and as spring and summer passed we saw one piece of the puzzle after another fall into place. We ended up with a plan that included a one-week location-to-location trip to the western parts of Norway at the start of principal photography. When the mini-crew returned to Oslo we had eleven locations in and around Oslo on the plate.
The great span in locations has been a big challenge and a source of much satisfaction as I’ve seen the cast and crew transform these places from real life to real cinema. There are too many cool places to name them all, but one of the coolest was definitely when we got to use an actual NATO underground headquarters that was abandoned years ago, and well preserved in the 1980’s style of the film. Long narrow hallways opening up into large underground rooms looking very much like those we’ve seen in 1980-era films of the past made for difficult working conditions, but great sets!
With eight of the eleven locations in Oslo being outdoors the potential for catastrophe due to bad weather was fairly big. However we’ve been lucky and we’ve had, with only a few exceptions, nice sunny weather almost every day the last two months. Two weeks of filming on a small island in the Oslo Fjord in the beginning of september without a single day of rain is a great testimony to this.
Seeing ninjas, vehicles and props transform these seemingly ordinary places into fantastic expressions of the director’s universe has been the treat of a lifetime and has made me wake up feeling like the luckiest man alive every day.
As I conclude my work on Norwegian Ninja over the next week I’ll be pondering whether making a movie will ever be the same? Will I go on to the next project thinking: “where are all the ninjas?”
Method location scouting in Western Norway! Video by (and starring) Simen and 1st AD/Location Manager Håkon F. Sørensen.
Researching, drawing and re-drawing enables dreams to merge with fact. Or is it vice versa? Anyway, I love drawing this kind of stuff. It aids writing the story and planning the shots with other departments. Below, you’ll find some sketches for the Norwegian Ninja’s Torpedoes, Diving-suits and Harpoon-rifles.
Writing a script can be incredibly tedious, and at the end of a day, often you don’t really feel that you’ve “accomplished” anything. Horology is my favourite hobby. Not only does it produce tangible results, furthermore it involves enjoyable planning and creative problem-solving. It takes the mind off things.
I spent about six months doing this one. It is inspired by a 1950’s Officine Panerai watch. These watches were originally issued to Italian Navy Frogmen during WWII, the guys who rode into combat on modified torpedos, sent them towards their targets and swam home!
Its heart is a swiss mechanical 6497 movement. Obviously all the parts were vintageized using different techniques. The case was copper-plated by the same guy who finished the parts for the infamous “Il Tempo Gigante” car in the most popular Norwegian movie ever, “Flåklypa Grand Prix” (Ivo Caprino, 1975). Believe it or not, but that movie has sold five million tickets in Norway alone! Finally, the copper-plating was corroded using vinegar.
The watch is big: 47 mm excluding the crown. The dial features the “Norge” logo which appears on most of the Ninjas’ kit. Superluminova makes it glow like a torch! The strap was made by master craftsman Scot “Savage” in Texas, and features the historically correct sew-in “GPF mod dep” buckle.
This happened in the Bergen city (where we shot the penguins). We were in a shop looking for some stuff. This young guy behind the counter recognized us as a film-crew and asked what we were doing. We said we were making a Ninja-movie.
HE: “WOW! That’s cool! I know of a man you should talk to. He was a Ninja in the Norwegian Military many years ago. What’s his name…”
WE: “Arne Treholt?”
HE: “Yeah, that’s the guy! Treholt! He wrote a book about Ninja techniques, in the seventies. I’ve seen it. Anyway, maybe you should talk to him if you’re making a Ninja-movie”.
WE: “Yeah, thanks for the tip…”
HE: “He was a Ninja. He’s known for something else, too, but I can’t remember what it is….”
Leaving the shop, we thought: Whose reality counts?
Hi. I’m the lucky one to do the stills and behind-the-scenes short documentaries.
I’ve had a chance to peek into the pre-production process. This film is meticulous, and every detail in the film is fascinating to me. And as we all now, the devil is in the details, so I owe it to Thomas and the rest of the production crew for creating a fascinating visual world. The audience has a lot to look forward to. I can’t give away too much yet, but one funny thing I came over in the costume workshop were these split-toe shoes, or tabi. Watch out for them in the film!
As you may know, our production has for several months been present at the Wreckamovie.com (WAM) portal for collaborative filmmaking. In short, it’s a site where anyone can sign up for a project and help out with solving specific tasks, given by the film’s creators. It’s a great, real-life example of crowdsourcing. There are currently over 160 projects you can contribute to on the site! Not only movies, actually. Various series projects, comics and books have also started popping up.
I thought I’d offer some notes on what we’ve learned so far from being a part of WAM. As of writing this, there are 85 people signed up for “Kommandør Treholt & Ninjatroppen” at wreckamovie.com. Out of these, 20 or so are somehow connected to the project, so we’re left with around 65 people we didn’t know from before, who have each made a choice to help our particular project, for free. That’s already a very cool thing.
Our “wreckers”, as the site’s users are known as, come from many different countries: Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Israel, USA, Switzerland, Ireland, Ukraine, Netherlands and Poland. This means we’re getting perspectives and reactions on the project from outside its Norwegian origins – in addition to the help found in solving actual tasks. WAM is thus an early, international audience for our project – something I like a lot.
When the project was launched at WAM we were still in development and asked for help with reference material like Youtube clips and links for some specific things. A lot of good stuff came out of that, to further feed our work on the film’s visual style and VFX especially.
Then, after this initial launch, things died down a little. We had (and still have) some tasks that didn’t get any responses. I think this is directly related to how much attention we ourselves gave to the community, and the precision of the tasks themselves. For a period we had to work really hard on the final financing and development of the project, and that meant less activity at WAM on our part. At the same time, some of our tasks were quite general and wide-reaching. The lesson became: being specific helps a task get done, and you have to follow up.
One thing we’ve seen is that most of the activity so far comes from a handful of people. And that’s fine. I think I’ve seen this pattern at every internet forum I’ve ever frequented: roughly: 90% of the content comes from 10% of the community (or should that be 80%/20% to harmonize with the 80/20 rule?). This means you have to reach a certain level of community members to get the ball REALLY rolling. I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but as the project starts to grow its online presence, I think we can recruit many more members. In fact, helping us with that is a task we’ve set – and there’s even a prize!
I recommend anyone with a project they want help with to list it at WAM. It’s totally free, and the developers are very responsive if you need help or have questions. Last but definitely not least, the community as a whole is pretty damn great. There are thousands of volunteers there already, from all over the globe. With the right marketing of your project they can help YOU. Also, if you just want to chip in and use your particular skills to help someone else – browse around and chances are you’ll find a project that intrigues you.
The bottom line is a principle I think applies to all social media, whether you use them privately or as part of your business: there’s no free lunch. To get something out, you have to put something in. In our context: the rewards of using a platform like WAM regardless of whether it’s from a project manager’s side or as a wrecker will be proportional to how much effort you put into it. It’s as simple as that.