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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Working At Shepperton

Last Friday, I got to work at Shepperton Studios. It was the first time I have worked on a studio sound stage. Up till now, I have always done shoots on location. The only time I have been to studios is for costume fittings. Shepperton is one of the most famous studios in Britain. It has a history in film making that goes back to 1931. Some of the famous films to be made at Shepperton include, "The Day of the Jackal," "Alien," and "Gandhi." One nice thing about Shepperton is that it's only two junctions from Bracknell, on the the motorway, so it doesn't take me long to drive there.
I had an 8AM call time, but arrived early, to take advantage of the free breakfast. For me, breakfast consisted of a bowl of Frosties (known as Frosted Flakes, in America) and two slices of toast. As a beverage, I selected a fruit juice blend. A fellow I worked with on the "Texas Oil Refinery Disaster" episode of "Seconds From Disaster," recognized me and said hello. It was nice to see a familiar face. He and I have the same agent, so it's not surprising to run into each other on a shoot. After breakie, the Third Assistant Director (AD) led those of us who were background artists for the shoot over to wardrobe, and hair and make up. An attractive brunette from the costume department checked me over to make sure I was wearing the exact outfit I was supposed to have on. She compared my appearance to a photo taken at my costume fitting, the day before. Once I passed her inspection, I was directed to the make up artists. They didn't do anything with my short hair, but did apply anti-shine and powder to my face, so my skin wouldn't be so shiny under the lights.
After passing through wardrobe and make up, I was taken to the sound stage where we would be working, that day. Along with my fellow background artists, I was seated in a quiet corner of the stage, where there were chairs for us to sit on. Bottled water was also provided. A famous actor once said that acting is mostly waiting. We sat there for hour after hour. It was cold on the stage and a runner brought a couple of us cappuccinos, with a hot chocolate for me. The camera didn't even turn over until 1PM. The first scene involved only the principals and after a few takes, it was time for lunch. We marched back over to where we'd had breakfast and joined the queue at the catering truck. When it was my turn, I opted for the Thai chicken kebab, with rice.
Lunch break was an hour and once it was completed, we headed back to the sound stage for more waiting. One of the runners asked us if we were available to come back on Saturday. Several of the other background artists grumbled at this, but I cheerfully said, "I'm very available." I liked the prospect of working on Saturday, as I am off from the restaurant on the weekend, anyway, so it would be a chance to earn some more money without taking a day off from the kitchen. After finally using some of us for a few takes at the end of the day we were wrapped and told we wouldn't be needed on Saturday, after all. The Third AD did say we might be needed sometime the following week, but our agents would contact us with the details, when those were finalized.
It was after 7PM as I made my way home. I was surprised at how little we'd done, after a ten and a half hour day, including paid overtime. Most of the time, we were drinking, eating, sitting, sleeping, reading the paper, playing sudoku, and chatting. What a way to make a living. Because of confidentiality agreements, I can't reveal any details about the film we were working on. To outsiders, film making seems like an exciting, glamorous business. That is it's public face, once the product is finished and in cinemas. The day to day reality can be a little dull. The hardest thing is not to die of boredom. Still, it's easy money and beats the hard work at the restaurant. I got to talk with several of my fellow background artists and might have made a few new friends. All in all, they seemed a happy bunch, even if bored at times. I have an advantage over most of my background colleagues, because I never feel bored. So long as they provide us with free food and drink, and a place to sit, I'm happy.

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1 Comments:

Blogger lisa said...

hi. i'm applying for a runner job at shepperton studios and i googled it and this post came up. i REALLY want the job so i just wanted to know if you have any tips whatsoever. i'm an american in the u.k. too btw! thanks

10:53 AM  

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