Many year ago I worked for a while in the film industry. Having just left art school I was at something of a loss as to what I should (or could) do to earn a living.. I knew all about making sculptures, but not much about anything else, so I had a problem, obviously.
However, a mate of mine who had left art school a year earlier than I, had found his metier working as a model maker in a film studio, and he kindly offered to see if he could get me a job in his studio. Obviously the idea appealed to me enormously. Working in films??? Me? Wow, I thought, this will be great! Rubbing shoulders with film stars, famous directors and so on…. Wild!
Well I am here to tell you that it wasn’t great. As far as excitement went, it was much the same as the sweet factory I worked in.
The studio I was going to work in was the famous Shepperton Studios, where among other good or lousy films, all the James Bond Films had been made, so as you can imagine, my hopes of having a romantic and exciting time were very high indeed. But it was not to be.
I duly pitched up at the main gates on my first day, and was greeted civilly enough by my new boss, and taken off to what was to be my work place there. A shed at the back of the studio, in which a number of other guys (including my mate) also worked away merrily.
My work was as a Model Maker, which I had imagined meant that I would be making all manner of highly detailed models of cities, space ships or who knows what other amazing objects. Well in fact, what it actually meant was the following…. I had to make extremely accurate short lengths of ceiling mouldings in clay, which were then taken from me, sent to the mould makers shop, where fibre glass moulds were made from my master, and then lengths of the ceiling moulds were produced by the plasterers, sent to the paint shop and painted, and then sent on to the scenery builders, who would fix this ceiling moulding in place at the top of the walls of the set that was being built for a film all about Catherine the Great.
This was merely the first of a whole string of disappointments I suffered about the world of film making, and the following weeks did nothing to dispel my disappointment about it all.
Every day I worked in that shed was much the same, only the things I made changed a bit… So instead of making ceiling moulding, on another day I would be told to make a section of skirting board, or a length of decorated moulding to go on the door of a cupboard.. and so it went.
One of us got to make a very amazing full size imperial eagle, which I was very jealous about, but he was a guy who had been working there since the days of silent films (I felt), and was thus the senior worker among us modelmakers. As was often the case in Britain in those days, length of service was judged to be more important than skill, so whilst this old fellow was competent enough, he was definitely not the best modelmaker there, but because of his length of service, he got any good jobs that might come along.