The Secrets of Filming on a Sailboat: The Mercy (2018) #ColinFirth #RachelWeisz Movie Director Talks about Filming the Story of Donald Crowhurst at Sea

7C6A9638.CR2The logistics of shooting out at sea both in the UK and Malta were a constant challenge. During the UK shoot, aside from shooting Crowhurst’s departure from Teignmouth, production moved to Portland in Dorset where the unit battled weather, tides and long hours out at sea.

Producer Pete Czernin admits that every other producer he spoke to said, “Don’t go near the sea”. Malta posed its own challenges because of the heat and length of the shooting day out at sea and “endless problems with the horizon and seeing the land, with other boats passing so you’ve got to make sure you’re far enough out at sea”. “On top of that we were shooting on film so magazines would run out while we were out there so we had all the logistics associated with that but I think Portland and Weymouth was the biggest challenge because of the wind, changing weather and waves. Then there’s the fact that the crew need to eat and go to the loo. It was kind of bonkers and very difficult. I don’t think I’ll make another film on the water in a hurry” confirms Czernin.

In Malta, numbers were limited to eight people on the crew catamaran, when normally you would have around 30 shooting crew. The camera department were on a separate boat, as were hair and make-up there was a main boat for director James Marsh, a safety boat, three or four ribs, then a runner boat. When you’re shooting an eight or ten-hour day, three or four miles offshore everything the crew requires has to be on hand, hence the need for the ‘mothership’ as it became known. This large motorboat had amongst other things, essentials like toilet facilities and drinking water. “You can see why a lot of people don’t want to film at sea” says Jim Dines, “but you do get such a better image, the movement and the whole thing feels much more real”.

When asked what his thoughts were on filming at sea again, director James Marsh responded quite simply by saying, “Well, just not to do it again because it’s a foolhardy thing to do in a way. I can see why people want to shoot films in the controlled environment of a tank where you can very easily control the movement of the boat. But, the actual motion of the boat and the experience of shooting with Colin on the boat was so important to the texture of the film.”

Marsh worked with French cinematographer Eric Gautier who was also insistent on shooting it for real on the ocean. “The experience is more like a documentary because it’s a minimal unit and Colin. It made the collaboration with Colin so interesting because there were no other actors involved. It wasn’t easy. You’re stuck out there so you get a small sense of what Crowhurst went through, but it’s an amateur’s vicarious thrill compared to what he was doing”, concludes Marsh.

The above text and photo were taken the StudioCanal UK press assets and production notes.

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