Filming at a random house with random people

Fig Rig, a camera stabilization device for smaller film/video cameras, designed by film director Mike Figgis.

Did you know that? I didn’t until today. When I first saw it come out of the equipment bag in the random little house in Woolwich, I would have sworn it was something to do with driving. As it turned out, I was on the set of a short film, so I knew it had to do with filming.

The day began at 7am on a Saturday morning. I rushed along to the tube station (Regents Park, and what an empty platform it was!) changed at Waterloo and got a train from London Bridge to Woolwich Dockard. That in itself was an experience. I’ve never been outside of Central London on my own before, unless you count a few trips to Barnes and one brief trip to a Waitrose. I’d forgotten about those, so this morning it still felt like my first trip outside of the centre.

When I got to London Bridge, I had no idea where to go so I rushed along following signs. I had just 8 minutes to get from the tube to the platform I needed. I didn’t even know which platform it was. Two trains were leaving at 8.08, from separate platforms (which had different entrances). A lady told me it was platform 1, so I listened to her and went to the barrier. Not before asking if I could use my Oyster Card. I didn’t realise how far out of the centre you could go on those things.

So I sat on the train eating Coco Pops out of a plastic bag that they came in in those little cereal boxes, coasting along through London and I pass by a cafe called Cat and Cucumber. What a wonderful name. It made me think of Alice in Wonderland or something.

I arrived at Woolwich Dockyards, I made my way from the station to the house we were filming in and I knocked on the door. A random guy answered. I assumed I was to be expected so I sort of half stepped inside as he was questioning me as to who I am. Then I went inside and sat on his sofa watching the end of Thor with him when I didn’t even know his name. I’d never met him before and as far as I knew, the house belonged to people I don’t know. A little scary but also, really not.

Once everyone had arrived we got started, and the day turned out to be something completely unexpected. I didn’t really know what I was expecting, it’s very hard to know if something is to be expected under those circumstances.

I was the sound lady for the day. I’ve barely even looked at a boom/mic before, I have used one in the past and done a little filming, so I’m not a complete stranger to the situation. I am, however, very new to sets. I’ve only been to one before and for the majority of that I was sat in a different room watching clips they’d shot on previous days.

I learnt very quickly that sound people get everywhere. We’re talking about back seats of cars, crouched on the floor, or even stood round corners. I rather enjoyed lying on the backseat of a car watching the action happen before my very eyes. Seeing something being filmed is generally rather interesting. I know some people find it boring, to see the repetition of lines and scenes, but there’s nearly always something interesting in the way these things are done. Whether it’s a seatbelt not working, someone messing up their lines, or a random stranger walking past in the line of the shot.

So, that fig rig I mentioned earlier. I got a couple of photos of it without the camera. Instead, you get the random faces of a guy called Jamie who was one of the stars of the film. He’s a lovely guy who stepped into the role at the last minute, and quite frankly, has kicked butt. Both the actor and actress involved in today’s filming were fantastic. They delivered on their lines, they got along well but were still able to act to the contrary and they made the whole day so much fun. Very, very funny people, even if they weren’t always intending to be.

I also got a free lunch – who would say no to that? Thanks Mr Director!

You know something else that is fun about filming? Setting up a room to look just right. We were using someone’s bedroom and as he is a friend of the production crew, it was more of a favour than a paid requirement. Yet we got to go in there and move some of his things – mostly a couple of dozen pairs of shoes and his duvet covers.

I’ve definitely learnt a lot today – how much fun film set can be, the process of shooting (Camera Rolling, Sound Recording, Scene 5 take 2, Action) and how to use some very interesting and useful equipment. I learnt a little bit about ISO, how to use a microphone thing that attachs to a boom/mic and a couple of other things besides.

Most of all, I just really enjoyed spending time with some lovely people, doing some fun and productive and having a good time whilst doing it. I’m only sad that I won’t be helping again tomorrow. I cannot wait to see the final edit!

Here are a couple of photos from the days:

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The Script!

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The sound equipment!

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And again…

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Jamie with the fig rig.

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And again…

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