More About My Life In Films

Here is a further instalment of the continuing saga of my relatively brief experience working in the film industry, carrying on from my gazing in wonder at Jeanne Moreau’s feet elegantly clad in battered old gymn shoes as she busily worked away at seducing one of her guards officers in the filming of Catherine the Great. (follow this link to discover what that was all about).

I finished that post by mentioning the fact that I was also on the sound stage of the filming of Half a Sixpence, starring Tommy Steele (now there is a name to conjure with!!   Remember him?), and much as with the Catherine film, I spent my days being “on call”, which meant effectively doing nothing all day long….    The only thing worth mentioning about the set of Half A Sixpence was that they had constructed a vast old fashioned Sea-side pier, with a full size, fully functioning roundabout on the end of it, and surrounded all of this with a sort of fabric back drop that went around the end of the pier, was about 40 feet high and consisted of a gigantic colour photo of the sea and clouds…  All of this having been built in order for them to be able to film a dance number lasting all of three minutes on the pier…


Exciting stuff I think you will agree..

Money no object

On the topic of expense, I was continually boggled out by the way that money was thrown around in film making.  As an example of this, while I was there they were making some film or other about spies, and in it a Rolls Royce has to be blown up (no idea why, or even what the film was called).   So rather than doing what you or I would probably do, which is to go out and buy an old non-working Rolls Royce, they instead bought 4 brand new, never driven Rolls Royces, and then one by one, using different camera angles, blew them up on the back lot of the studio…

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I Discover The Reality Of Working In Films

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.

Not really a high degree of involvement in the actual film, sadly.

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.

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