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Phantom goes high definition!  
Ever wondered how musicals translate on film? Read the first of our two-part glimpse into the process of filming an EPK - or 'electronic press kit.'
Red Death - The Phantom of the Opera

It has taken significant time and effort, but at last a new EPK is in production for The Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre in London. So just what is an EPK?  An ‘Electronic Press Kit’ in this sense is the show montage film you see at exhibitions, online, digital advertising, in cinema and TV ads.  It serves the same purpose that a film trailer does, giving the audience a sense of the storyline and what they can expect from the show.

However whereas a film trailer can be edited from a vast catalogue of footage, a musical theatre EPK has to be produced from scratch. Pretty straightforward you might think. Just film the performance with the actors on stage going through their parts, you say. On the contrary! Sitting in the auditorium on Thursday 14th May 2009 while filming gets underway, it quickly becomes evident why this is such a laborious and expensive exercise.  Production of a show EPK is a major project which is not to be undertaken lightly. This promises to be a landmark day in Phantom history.

Filming within the confines of a theatre is a very specialised field which requires a team with particular expertise. David Dolman, Head of Marketing at Cameron Mackintosh Limited, confirms it has taken three years to find a suitable company who would do this spectacular production justice.  Brett, the film director, and his company, Steam, were actually already known to those at Cameron Mackintosh Limited. Brett worked with Rob Bailey who filmed the most recent Phantom EPK of the Australian production.  But don’t be misled by the term “recent”.  That was way back in 1991! This footage has since been viewed by millions of people worldwide and has become familiar as the iconic representation of the show, but it is clearly time for a revisit. Since 1991 the production has seen a major costume revamp and of course the installation of a new digital sound system. There have also been major advances in film technology, primarily the advent of the high definition format which is being used for the filming today.  It is hoped that the result will be a stunning updated visual of the show that will serve as a valuable promotional tool for the next 18 years!

The team from Steam came to see the show three times prior to filming and then met with the Production and Marketing Team from Cameron Mackintosh to discuss their ideas. This was followed by a large scale meeting with the entire Production team, including the Associate Producer, Associate Director, Resident Director, Associate Choreographer, Musical Director and Costume Supervisor. Whilst their vision for what will make the best film is important, this needs to be balanced with the requirement to ensure the pivotal moments from the show are recorded for posterity. It is also vital not to give too much of the plot away. By mutual agreement a storyboard is agreed and a date for filming set.

The process begins 24 hours before filming when the cast are called in to be recorded onstage singing the score, accompanied by the full orchestra.  Later that same evening as soon as the curtain falls on the performance the film crew arrive to set up the platform in the auditorium which will hold the “Jimmy Jib”, the swivelling crane which holds the large main camera.  As well as setting up the camera equipment an additional lighting rig is installed.  To replicate the effect of theatrical lighting on camera requires extra bright lighting.  Additional lighting will also need to be added once the filming is underway as it is difficult to judge the exact level of illumination required until the actual footage can be viewed over the monitors which have also been installed in the auditorium…

Watch out for the second instalment of our glimpse into the world of the EPK, as filming gets underway.

Posted on: 26th May 2009

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