Monday, July 11, 2011
"Pinewood and Shepperton have seen some relatively big productions come through its gates in recent years, although few rival the scale and ambition of 47 Ronin," said Andrew Smith, Pinewood Shepperton group corporate affairs director.
There's a certain amount of romance involved in working on film I must say.. I mean, clichés aside, for six weeks - three of them on set - I've been a small cog in the machinery of the dream factory and can now officially call myself an Artiste (according to my payslip). Right now I've a bit of spare time and so I thought I'd write something up for anyone curious what this all entails..
First of all, obviously there's the challenge of getting a part to begin with, and as an extra, I did it though an open casting call way back in January 2011 or thereabouts. Basically, I turned up to a session where we were asked to sign basic agreements (mainly outlining what we would, wouldn't do, and making it clear that this session didn't guarantee work), identify if we had any specialist skills (I can kinda shoot a bow) and had our measurements and photos taken. From this, I presume the photos and data went to the film production crew and they decided which faces they'd like out of the lot, and who'd do what. Some people were lucky enough to go to a further boot camp environment to get some training on how to react and do basic performing when 'hit' etc.. basically these guys would form a class of extras that would be used for special reactions (i.e. being shot by an arrow, killed, etc).
As for me? I didn't hear much back from til May, when I got an SMS telling me how I'd been cast, what filming dates I'd need to keep clear, and a date for costume fitting. So good.. at this point, you're sort of in, and you move into the operational phase of things...
It's not as glamorous as you'd think - there's a lot of waiting, a lot of standing, and a lot of following orders. Days are long (from the moment I leave my house in Zone 4 SW, to returning : 17 hours) and can be physically challenging (wearing a heavy set of armour for the entire day, in hot sun for example). I personally like to call us paint on the canvas, because in the end, that's what we are. Important, as we help frame the main actors, and help make the scene look decent but not really important as individuals. I still dream of getting screen time, but err, yeah. I know that's not going to happen.
Here's an average day (assuming I know I'm into work that day for a 7:30am call):
- 0430 -
- wake up
- 0513 -
- get the 5:13 to Junction, and the the next train to Reading.
- 0645 -
- minibus pickup to unit base
- 0700 -
- breakfast in the mess tent. Eggs and bacon. Again.
- 0730 -
- sign in, pick up my chit sheet, work out what character I am for the day
- 0830 -
- begin costume, hair & makeup, armour, weapons
- 1100 -
- on set. Standing in straight rows, kneeling, milling about, talking
- 1300 -
- lunch on set. Eat fast, don't spill anything!
- 1930 -
- derig, get back into normal clothes, and get the hairpieces removed.
- 2130 -
- 2230 -
- Sleep.. prepare for it all over again...
Still, assuming that you're still interested...
Life on 47 Ronin
Just as a plug for 47 Ronin, so far, I've racked up 16 days on set - 7 nights (6pm to 5am) and 9 days (7:30am to 7:30pm), and while frustrating at times (that waiting gets to me - I like being in motion, and doing things), everyone has been really quite friendly, and good about it all. We haven't been treated like mindless scum (apparently it happens, extras aren't really high on the totem pole), we've been fed well, and they have taken care of us as much as they can.
There's a nice atmosphere around the place, and talking to the guys, they also say the same thing - some people have worked on other sets where there's been a different feel in the air (overly demanding extras, or really strict set protocols, etc, etc) and they don't mind the atmosphere on this one. We all would prefer more scheduling and notice, but eh, it's how it just is. The fact that when Casting calls, I tend to jump, still suggests that it's a helluva lot of fun, worth doing, and that the people are rather friendly.