25, 2005. Roman watchtower, Bunnik, The
least nobody had to act like they were
by Marc Sanders
the first scene of a film is a very special
moment. Months of preparation and hard work
finally gets to be rewarded, that is, when all
goes well. Today we shot the scenes of Roman
auxiliary soldiers shivering in the winter cold
at a frontier outpost of the Roman Empire. We
tried to capture the desolation and loneliness
those soldiers must have felt here at the edge of
found a perfect location in Bunnik, near Utrecht,
at the site of a 19th century Dutch fortress
called Fort Vechten . Okay, that has nothing to
do with Romans, but at this same spot once stood
a Roman military camp called Fectio. To
commemorate this Roman heritage, a reconstruction
of a Roman watchtower was built here last year.
Having obtained permission to shoot some scenes
here, we first began stripping the tower of all
modern objects, like the iron fence around the
banisters. Then we needed to turn it into a place
that seemed permanently inhabited. Finally a
light beacon, specially made for the film, was
installed at the side of the banisters.
Meanwhile, cameraman Victor operated the crane in
order to reach the same level as the soldiers.
Several angles from which to shoot the scenes
were investigated. And while the catering kept
pouring hot coffee and tea to keep us all from
freezing, the first extras had changed into Roman
military outfits and were ready to go to make up.
These extras are members of the Gemina Project, a
historical re-enactment society dedicated to
reconstructing Roman armor and equipment. Without
their help we wouldn't have had the most accurate
Roman outfits ever seen in a movie. The first
scenes were done very rapidly. It took three
shots to cover the two soldiers freezing their
butts and looking completely bored by their dull
routine. The next scenes were more complicated:
The enemy is approaching. The watchtower is in
full alert. Roman archers appear and the
artillery crew is preparing the ballista to shoot
several leathal arrows towards imaginary Germanic
warriors running towards the Roman frontier
outpost. While arrows are being fired, another
soldier carrying a burning torch runs along the
banister towards a light beacon in order to alert
the other Roman outposts of the danger at hand.
He lights the beacon and the camera focuses on
the growing flame. Cut! In less than three hours
all shots were covered and everybody ran for the
cantina to get warm soup and sandwiches. Today
was the first time most crew members actually met
each other. The atmosphere was jovial and
relaxed. A taste for more, that's for sure.
Thanks to all the volunteers without whom we
never could have achieved this authentic\par look
of a distant past.
more about the project on the official website: http://www.phalera.com/
Defending the tower.
Call for help - lighting
Jos installs the beacon.
The metalwork has been removed to gain historical
Preparing the banisters.
The set - it was very cold for both actors and
Cameraman Victor operated the crane.
angles are investigated.
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