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This July, multi-talented actor, director, writer and Into Film Cymru Ambassador Celyn Jones invited members of our Youth Advisory Council and Young Reporter programme to visit the set of his new film Six Minutes to Midnight. The lucky invitees joined Celyn and the rest of the crew one sunny day in Penarth, south Wales, for this exclusive, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Below, ~YAC member Owain gives his impressions of his day on a major film set.
This was our first experience of being on a film set, and we were welcomed with enthusiasm by Celyn who introduced us to the various departments. We briefly met with the hair and make-up department where they had been tasked to style the actor's hair authentically to mirror the film's setting, the summer of 1939. We felt out of place in our contemporary clothes while engulfed with authentic scenery, make-up and especially the clothing of the actors, who we saw sitting around a large table eating breakfast before shooting. It was as if I had stepped back in time.
We were escorted to the director of photography's booth where a monitor had been set up in a dark black tent and we met cinematographer Chris Seager. We stared in awe at the monitor as he explained the innate importance of the opening shot and how it sets the tone and captures viewers' intrigue for the remainder of the film. Also, he described the importance of continuously shooting it to achieve the perfect composition.
I was thrilled to meet the director, Andy Goddard, because I'm a massive admirer of his work on several Marvel Netflix television series and the previous film he and Celyn made together, Set Fire to the Stars, which Andy and Celyn were delighted to know I was a fan of. After a brief talk with the film's producer Andy Evans, he unexpectedly bestowed responsibilities on each of us with an assigned department. As I am a keen artist and studying art in school, I was entrusted with a role in the art department.
I was ecstatic to have this opportunity. I met with several members of the art department who were incredibly insightful and helped me understand the intricacies and the hands-on approach that their work requires during filming. My first responsibility was to set up a coconut stand to invoke the feel of a fayre from the late 1930s. I was made to focus on the way the stand was positioned and what colour scheme and images were used. While Andy Goddard was blocking a scene with extras and Eddie Izzard, I was encouraged to watch what was happening and be aware of what was said by the director. As the scene involved a stunt where someone had to fall over, we had to assess the safety of the cast member and therefore whether any props had to be moved to ensure this.
Once the scene had finished blocking - which was to be the first scene of the film - we went on to move props and lay out deck chairs. On either side of the long pier, we spread out the deck chairs proportionately to avoid any continuity errors and to ensure a visually pleasing set piece for the audience. However, even though the props were in place and the scene had been blocked, we had yet to consider the movement of the camera. Therefore, the camera was introduced and all deck chairs on the left-hand side of the pier had to be relocated to make room for its path.
The members of the art department made me aware that because the camera was only shooting from one side of the pier, this meant all the props (not just the deck chairs) on the left-hand side were not going to be seen in the finished film! The director informed us that many of the shots would be close-ups of the actors and Eddie Izzard meaning their faces will fill most of the frame.
To fill the areas of the frame devoid of props we sorted out the props of the left-hand side and meticulously placed them on the right to ensure that they were seen as the actors ran past them. While moving these props, we kept in mind the blocking process we witnessed earlier in order not to affect what had already been decided.
My experience on set gave me real insight and was an eye-opener about the ever-changing and collaborative process of making a film. Nothing can be set in stone before filming has begun, as many variables and outside sources may impact the finished product.
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