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SHOOTING DAYS

After many delays and re-scheduling, I finally had the days agreed for my bit of filming on “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’. As with all filming, the shooting day starts very early and if your scene is the first to be done, then you will probably be called to be in wardrobe at around 7am. If your costume and make-up are complicated, then your call may well be earlier. On my first day, I had to be in make-up and wardrobe at 7.45am and so a car was sent to pick me up at 6.45am. You will see from the call sheet, that this was Shoot Day 129 and very near the end of the whole film’s schedule. In fact, I believe there were only 10 days actual filming left and most of the cast and crew involved were exhausted and very much looking forward to the end of the project which was due in a few weeks time.
You will also see from the call sheet, that several crews were filming different pieces at the same time. This is very common on big film sets. Usually the Director is present on the set which is the most significant of the day and features new scenes and artists. A second or third crew, maybe filming extra shots of master scenes already filmed or details previously unfinished for technical reasons and they will be working on a different Stage.


You will also notice, if you look closely at this sheet, that Rupert Grint (Ron Weasley), had to be in tutoring at 10am! A great deal of organisation goes to making sure that no-one misses much of their schooling while filming. I know that Daniel, Rupert and Emma had to attend lessons every day, and when you are the only student in the class, you have to work that much harder! While I was filming at Leavesden, all the make-up and wardrobe people were thrilled at the news that Daniel had passed some very difficult entrance exams for his next school. In fact, in order not to waste too much of their time, the young stars were not called on set until the very last moment. They all had stand ins who could be used while the lighting was completed and camera shots set up. This can take a lot of time, an hour or two occasionally and so lessons can continue while all these preparations are finished....

...I am at Leavesden by 7.20am and so have time to grab a bit of breakfast before going to the make-up department. This is the first time that I have seen all the different pieces which I will have attached to my face. The Life Mask has been used as a model to mould the face enhancing pieces.The make-up designers create many different looks for each character and Chris Columbus considers each and every idea before finally deciding on the look he wishes to go for and because of the Mask, he can see exactly how they will look from every angle and of course, each final piece will fit perfectly. In my case, he wanted to keep the appearance quite human which was an agreement made with J.K. Rowling who bases all her characters in reality and not in some fantasy land - with the exception of a few strange 3-headed dogs and other animals! The finished look for the Aged Witch, meant having 4 prostheses for my face (‘prostheses’ simply means ‘added-on bits’), a few hairy warts and mossy green teeth. I had two highlighted cheek bones, a hooked nose, and an enlarged lumpy chin. The pieces themselves were very thin and delicate because they must go under the make-up and look very realistic in close-ups. They appear just like pieces of flesh, in a sickly cream colour and in order not to damage them, they are kept in the ‘fridge until the very last moment. The heat from the strong lighting in the make-up rooms, could also make them too soft to work with while they are being fitted to the actor. Once in place of course, they will mould to the face and feel quite normal, which is important for the actor who must feel able to use natural facial expressions. Years ago, before these techniques were so advanced, you can see in old movies how some rigid sci-fi make-ups restricted the performance of the actors.
I am in the make-up room at 7.45 and sitting in a large swivel office chair. My own hair is scraped back and kept in small rubber bands around my head so that the wig will be comfortable. Then my face is prepared. The whole area is covered in a light latex and some areas are worked to give a particularly ‘crepy’look. Where the natural skin is loose, this works very well. The areas where the prostheses will go are kept clearer. Then each individual piece is carefully applied. The hardest part is to blend the edges of the false parts into the actors face and a lot of time is spent on getting this right. For this character make-up, I didn’t need conventional eye or mouth colour, so after the false pieces have set, skin colour make-up is used to blend them in. The amazing thing is, that once attached to the face, the prostheses ‘warm up’ in colour and change to take on the actor’s natural skin tones. Then the hairy warts are added - one to the side of the nose and another on the chin. Some mouth definition is needed with a black lip pencil and then the whole thing is dusted down with a powder which resembles coal dust. Finally, we try the teeth. They feel very strange and at first, I can’t really speak with them! We decide not to use fixative but they are an excellent fit and after half-an-hour, I can speak without spitting over everyone and feel much happier with them!
I’m then dispatched to wardrobe to get into the costume. Because my false finger nails are so long, and the sleeves of my jacket quite tight, I need to be dressed before the hands can be made up. I put on the black lace tights and then the skirt which is now four skirts hitched up and attached to one large waistband. It is very heavy and the dressers help me into it. Then the tight fitted jacket with attached lace fore -sleeves and finally the woollen cloak. Someone slips on kitten-heeled black shoes which seem so odd, but I can’t even see them, so I just assume they will be OK. I sit perched on the edge of a stool while the make-up girls come back to attach the false nails, make up my hands and slip on the Beetle ring. The nails are hideous and need very strong glue to keep them on! Then my hands are ‘dirtied’ to look like my face. Finally the long tangled black wig is fitted and I’m ready. We decide not to put the hat on until I am called on set. During all this time, everyone is frantically busy but great care is taken to ensure that ‘the Artistes’ are kept as relaxed and happy as possible, so the impression is that chaos is happening just outside your room! You will see on the reverse side of the call sheet, ‘PRODUCTION - Add.PA’s’ This means additional Personal Assistants. Each actor is assigned his or her own PA. They meet you in the mornings and make sure that you are in the right place at the right time, have everything you need and are escorted to your dressing room where you can read or listen to radio until you’re called to wardrobe or on set and then they will collect and deliver you wherever required. At no time can an actor be unaccounted for and the PA is responsible for your every move. They are constantly being talked to on head sets or through a walkie-talkie, or these days a mobile via an ear-piece - (although that’s used more on location sets) and their job is to liase with the second, or assistant director who is on set and will ask for actors, prop-men, wardrobe assistants or extras to be sent down immediately. Progress is constantly monitored. If an actor is not yet ready then the PA has to report in every minute or so to explain what’s happening and exactly how long it will take to get a performer on set. Time is money and all delays must be kept to a minimum, without jeopardising the quality of the filming or performance. The only place for lengthy consideration and deliberation is on set while rehearsing, or inbetween film takes to decide what was right or wrong about the last scene and how to improve it....

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