It even rains in space – The perils of writing weather on alien worlds

A lot of writers ignore the weather. It’s sunny when things are good. It always rains at funerals. These old tricks are sometimes considered a part of “The Pathetic Fallacy”.  But weather counts, and when you’re screenwriting for outside shoots it’s more than just mood.

In a few weeks, my first ever feature length film script will start filming. In Wales. In April.

To my pessimistic mind, rain is almost certain. However, rain isn’t something we’ve taken into account in the script – a script that happens predominantly outdoors.

Now, in what I would consider a “normal” production the shoot would work around the weather. We wouldn’t film when the weather wasn’t right. Wolverine 2 was majorly delayed by weather problems in Japan. Game of Thrones Series Seven was delayed because it was too warm (Winter, it appears, was not coming after all). The Revenant moved parts of its shoot from Canada to Northern Argentina to find snow.

I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.

We don’t have the option of booking indoor scenes as cover – there just aren’t enough indoor scenes. We also don’t really have the option to delay. Our actors are working for free, so are the camera wizards, directors, sound wranglers. We have permission to film for one week.

In April.

In Wales.

So, right now, I’m hastily adding “optional” dialogue and directions to our script, to be used only in the event that it rains or, for later scenes, that is has rained in the past.

These additions will live in a “Wet Weather” shooting script that only my co-writer/director (Terry Cooper) and the Assistant Director (Chris Bevan) will have a copy of. It’s “in case of emergency, break glass” territory.

I can’t reveal too much about the changes without risking spoilers but, suffice it to say, the crew have a series of tough decisions to make and weather would absolutely be a factor. It would just be too weird for them to ignore it. I’m also adding in some additional directions for the actors. Ultimately, we’ll end up shooting the version the elements allow.

The lesson? Set your film indoors.