Sherlock on the Fiddle
It’s weird being in a flat that you recognise off of the telly. Especially when that flat is 221B Baker street, belongs to Sherlock Holmes and is basically a life sized doll’s house, on scaffolding in a hangar, in Cardiff. It’s like Sherlock Holmes goes 3D interactive. You can walk through it, pick stuff up, sniff things, walk behind things. You don’t because that would probably make important people shout at you. But you could.
Benedict had a week, and made a surprisingly good sound. I have no doubt he would be a good violinist if he had the inclination.
I get the shooting schedule through. Violin is needed from Tuesday- Saturday- so I head down to Cardiff for the week.
I’m called for 12.30 on the first day- but I am woken by a phonecall at 8 asking if i can be there in 20 mins.I say yes of course and then scrabble around frantically trying to a) wakeup b) get dressed c) wake up.
I go and stand on set, (ie in Sherlock’s living room/hallway or kitchen, 221B Baker Street) when he’s doing a scene with the violin in as he sometimes has questions between takes.
Amazingly, they are also shooting scenes which don’t involve the violin (IMAGINE!?) during which, I sit around watching the monitors and getting to know some of the cast and crew. I also get into a bit of a loop with Martin Freeman -who plays John Watson: He is the master of comic timing and understatement. He has an exceptionally expressive face, which you’d know if you’d seen him- which of course you have- he’s Martin Freeman for god’s sake. What’s wrong with you???
It’s a very long, demanding scene (as many of them are) with a lot of violin, and his playing is interrupted frequently. Sherlock is meant to be composing the music he’s playing as he goes along- so he breaks off mid phrase to write some of the melody down, then re-starts, then breaks off to swerve a question from Watson. So I need to see him; to play when he lifts his violin up and stop when he stops.
But Benedict also needs to see me; to copy my bowings and to ghost what I’m doing. Between us we decide that the best way to do that is for me to be outside the window (which he will look through)- my back to him while watching a monitor of what he’s doing in the scene. I have headphones on to hear the cues too. We try it. I am too low, Ben can’t see me. They put me on a scissor lift. Too low. They raise the scissor lift. They put one, then two boxes on the scissor lift for me to stand on. This works although I feel slightly precarious because the guard rail is now below my knees and the “baker street’ backdrop in front of me is moving in the wind- messing with my head, like an evil balance prankster ghost, and throwing me off balance.
backdrop and lift
I watch Ben on this monitor while he watches me through the window.
I gaffer tape the music to the monitor. They are recording the sound. It’s quite scary as I could conceivably balls up the takes. Occasionally Benedict knocks on the window to ask about hand positions. Given how much else he has to think about while playing an instrument entirely alien to him (his multitudinous lines, which hand he uses to point, being on is mark) he does remarkably well.
As with other scenes they shoot many different angles.
Even though I am watching him, watching me, watching him and concentrating…and we’ve been doing the scene for a while and I’m standing on a high thing with wobbly walls, trying not to fall off.. even given all of that…when it comes to the close up of Sherlock’s face when he’s playing this sad theme- he looks so forlorn and so deep in his own sorrow that I get overwhelmed with sadness and fill up. That’s good acting that is.
I tell him afterwards that he made me cry. He beams…. Pfft. Actors.
The next day and Benedict has asked for a lesson in his trailer before going on set to film a scene where he plays Auld Lang Syne . We never managed to practice this one before as there was so much else to do. Hand positions, bowing straight, stance etc. And he only needs to be able to fake it too- it doesn’t have to be pitch perfect. But it does. Because he’s Benedict.
I am stunned as Ben picks out the tune himself- I give him a starting position and a finger (oh hush) and sit aghast as he picked out the notes He had pretty much nailed it in ten minutes having only had three proper lessons- none of which was on the tune. We’re so excited, we spontaneously high five (something which I doubt either of us would normally do) and I decide he is something of a genius.
My bit done, I creep out…the rest of the cast and crew still have 3 weeks’ shoot left. (Some of which get interrupted by riots in London)
Once the edit is done , David Arnold and Michael Price set about writing the score. They also check the violin scenes for synch as there was no playback on set - that would have compromised the fluidity between dialogue and music. (My previous recordings were more as guides than the final thing). Some of the shots now cut between beginnings and ends of songs, and they look very beautiful but the songs still have to sound as the songs themselves. So I re record the pieces. It’s a balance between keeping the tune as close to the original as possible, and back- matching the bowing, so I adjust my playing to fit with the picture as best as possible.
I am so grateful to have been a (tiny) part of the second series of Sherlock, having enjoyed the first series so much as a viewer.
I watched Scandal in Belgravia all the way through for the first time last night when it aired on BBC1 and was so glad I hadn’t read the script properly beforehand. It was a real treat to see it and without knowing what was going to happen next.
It also means I get to read the script now, with a cup of tea and some slightly stale mincepies.
Happy new year!
Edgar Allan Poe
H. P. Lovecraft
All the best sick fucks are from New England.
It’s something people are so powerless over, and so often they want to make it your fault. It’s nobody’s fault. I started thinking of suicide when I was 10 years old—I can’t believe that that’s somebody’s fault. Like, “Oh, you’re just an attention getter.” Mental illness isn’t seen as an illness, it’s seen as a choice.
I have a joke about how people don’t talk about mental illness the way they do other regular illnesses. “Well, apparently Jeff has cancer. Uh, I have cancer. We all have cancer. You go to chemotherapy you get it taken care of, am I right? You get back to work.” Or: “I was dating this chick, and three months in, she tells me that she wears glasses, and she’s been wearing contact lenses all this time. She needs help seeing. I was like, listen, I’m not into all that Western medicine shit. If you want to see, then work at it. Figure out how not to be so myopic. You know?