Sunday, 29 April 2012

Stop/Eject Blog 1: "Somebody has to do it"


Hey Guys,

   It seems like forever since my last post but I have a good reason for my silence. Four days ago we wrapped on Stop/Eject after a six day shoot that felt like a month. There were stressful bits, and no one got much sleep. But it was also one of the best shoots of my life!

   The footage is looking amazing (keep checking the Stop/Eject Facebook Page for all the stills as they come online) and I can't wait for the trailer. This shoot, without a second's thought, goes straight into my top two, and not just because I finally got to stay at home and film on my doorstep. My only problem now is that I've gone from working all day every day for about two months to an empty house and nothing on my immediate schedule. Cold turkey. So I've promised director Neil Oseman that I would start doing a series of guest blogs, and I hope that these will cure me of my Stop/Eject withdrawal symptoms.

   Today I'm talking about pre-production in the Art Department, and for that I need to take us back to this time two weeks ago. Now, with all independent films - and particularly with short films - it's to be expected that tasks will have to be shared out, and that job boundaries will get blurred as it's all hands on deck. It is for that reason that two of the main set builders on all Light Films projects are the director and the writer, and that the catering on Stop/Eject was covered by the costume designer and the make-up artist.

   So you expect to have to do work out of your job description. What you don't always predict, however, is the workload that's caused by drop-outs.

Last Autumn's gravestone attempt
   Two weeks before the Stop/Eject shoot, I had a pretty long list of work left to do. I was juggling the Ashes prep with last minute S/E casting, two rooms to paint and dress, a couple of props to finish, and over 400 tape cassettes to do calligraphy on (urgh!). Not an ideal amount of work with two weeks left to go, but achievable.

   The first task was re-doing part of a gravestone set piece. Many things were rushed the first time we went to make Stop/Eject, and I'd had to make do with my first attempt, which was decent but a little untidy (right). The good thing about having to push back the shoot - although it was disappointing at the time - was the fact that we got to do everything a hundred times better. The gravestone was certainly one of those things.
   
   To help me improve it, Neil got in contact with professional production designer Ian Tomlinson, who told me that I could get a neater finish on the lettering if I printed out a stencil then engraved it into foamboard. (I'd used polystyrene for the rest, which still made good stone).

    
Step One: Carved Lettering in Foamboard

 
Step Two: Sprayed with stone-effect spray & left to dry

    After I stuck the foamboard over the original lettering, I spray-painted it with the same stone effect spray as before, left it to dry in my downstairs loo (there was nowhere else to put it!) then used a dry-brush in a darker colour to add ageing and definition to the lettering.

Step Three: Adding definition and age to the letters
 


   Both Neil and I were happy with the result, so here it is on location:

Hint - it's one in the middle!
 
   That went smoothly, and I managed to get the location painting done in one afternoon thanks to the help of a volunteer called Ellie Ragdale:


Ellie at work in the bedroom, before I decided to take the carpet up on a whim!

Mixing Paint: I wanted Mustard. The shop didn't sell it. I wouldn't take no for an answer.

The painted living room. I'll discuss dressing it in a separate blog post.


   So, with all those jobs done, and the days counting down fast, I thought that I could sit down and really crack on with the cassette tapes. I'd managed to get the time down to 5 minutes per tape inlay, so there wasn't any reason to panic yet.
 
   It was at that point that people really started dropping out of the project...

   When you're doing a job which isn't paid, no matter how great the project, there's always going to be someone who abandons it in favour of a wage. You can expect one or two at least. And when this happens, no matter how much you have on or how last minute it is, you can't just turn round to the director on the day and say, "such and such isn't here because the person dropped out," or, "it wasn't my job so I decided to put my feet up and ignore it". Particularly when it's part of your department (I was head of Production Design so anything to do with the decoration was supposed to be in my control). It can't just be abandoned when the film needs it. Someone has to do it. And, much as I dreaded it, I knew it would have to be me. There was less than a week until the crew arrived and everyone was already juggling more than their fair share of jobs. I just had to crack on.

   The first extra job I took on was the shop sign for the film's main location. Because of the nature of my job I find it hard to trust helpers, and I rarely delegate on smaller tasks, but I knew a local craftswoman who made beautiful vintage signs so I asked her to do it. She would be paid, but she offered to do it for next to nothing, and I knew she would do a great job. Then I got a call saying that she'd had to go into hospital and wasn't taking on anymore work.

   This one certainly wasn't anyone's fault, and it wasn't too huge a task, so I grabbed by brother's old warhammer board and a paintbrush and made the sign. It was easy but it was frustrating because I knew that I wasn't the best person for the job and, due to the other woman's calibre, what I turned out could only be second-rate.


My finished sign for the Shop Set, in my living room

The Shop Sign on location in Matlock. Photo: Paul Bednall.


      The next problem came when it was time to build the film's all-important alcove set. We'd advertised for a builder and had a decent amount of replies, but some weren't qualified, some didn't respond to our replies, and others showed genuine interest in the job and sent us a couple of emails, then changed their minds. I managed to contact a few local people I knew and had a few offer to build it with my help, but out of them some were busy on the day and a couple became oddly aloof and stopped replying to me. The only person left to help managed to stay long enough to help me fetch the materials I needed (thanks Steve!) but had to go at lunchtime due to a prior commitment.

I ran out of hands!

  This left me, alone in my Dad's cramped garage (moving into the kitchen for space when needed), with his power tools at hand but no will or clue. I'd only ever decorated a set before; I was trained to design them, even technically, but I'd never wielded an electric saw in my life!


   But what I've learnt is that it's amazing what you can do when you try. Luckily I only had to build a wooden box-type thing - albeit ones with panels made out of antique doors - and it wasn't anything more complicated than that. Plus my Dad helped speed things up by cutting a few pieces after I'd measured and marked them. He was also around to get these photos of me at work.
 
Receiving 'help' from my Dad.



  Instead of two days, the set ended up taking five, during all of which I was thinking about the looming tape cassettes, and wondering when on earth I was going to get them done. My morale was also starting to get pretty low - the garage was cold and I was up until 1am every morning with only Soul Searcher and American Beauty on my laptop to keep me going.
  
   Was that the last of the drop-outs? Of course not. We were supposed to have someone build us an ornate, carved wooden arch to go at the front of the alcove set. I'd given the guy the job then he'd sent me a quick concept sketch and I'd even spoken to him on the phone, where he sounded enthusiastic. With less than a week before the shoot, I called him twice to three times a day. every day, and even left him messages, but I never heard from him again. Although it was disappointing, this was one part of the set we decided we could do without.

   In spite of the odds, by the time the crew arrived there were three completed sides for the alcove, all of which featured heavily-screwed wooden frames, antique doors, and stained hardboard surfaces. Just like that, I'd built my first set.
 
The first assembled wooden frame with antique door panel.
The second frame in progress, in my kitchen because there's more space there.
Staining the second panel. Note the Ashes bed stored at the left.
The finished sides at 1am the day the crew arrived.
    From that point onwards, I wasn't alone anymore. The chivalrous Gaffer-turned-handyman Colin Smith built the roof for me, and made sure I had all the pieces I needed to make a basic wooden arch for the front. Then the lead actor Oliver Park joined in too, by staying up with me and helping me paint the last couple of pieces. He even played Aerosmith on his phone to keep me happy. It may be an old-fashioned sentiment, but I think that men are wonderful things!!

   By the time the shoot was underway, I'd only managed to do 100 tape cassette inlays. I tried to fit in more where I could but I was needed on set most of the time (and loved being there), so I had to pull an all-nighter to finish them off. I was already shattered by this point and I even blacked out a couple of times, but it was worth it for the satisfaction of getting my work done. However, I never want to look at another tape cassette for as long as I live. Not even my Jimmy Nail one!


Sophie x
  

Sunday, 8 April 2012

The (almost) full list of Costumes and Prices, 2012

Hi Guys,

   For those of you who haven't spotted it, the Costume Advert that Light Films Ltd created for me is now online, and definitely worth a look:


   I'm very happy with it. Not only is it chance to give my costumes some limelight, but it's a great little film in it's own right, and it showcases an array of talent: camera operators Tom Wadlow and Chris Newman (the latter who also edited and colour-graded the film), make-up artist Deborah Bennett (who also did the hair), and models Halo Haynes, Lozzi-Beth Godfrey, Paige Keeling & Sam Tansley.

   Although it's great to have another film 'under my belt', this film is an advert and therefore has a specific purpose - to bring me in some more costume work! So, to tempt any potential buyers who are reading this page, here is a list of my most popular costumes and their prices.

(Note: Deposits cover damage or cleaning costs. Always check with me for sizing specifics before renting one of my costumes - I once had to go to a party in a dress which I thought would fit me, and it didn't, so I wouldn't want the same to happen to you guys!)


THE "SATINE" GOWN


 Inspired by: Moulin Rouge! 2001
Seen in: The Opening Night, 2010
What you get: Fitted red satin lace-up bodice and skirt with a 'butterfly' train.
Available to rent: Size 8-10, £30 per day (plus £20 deposit)
Made to Measure: £100 plus materials.
The original dress (pictured) is currently available to buy on Etsy.



THE "MARIANNE" ENSEMBLE


Seen in: The Opening Night, 2010
What you get: boned lace-up velvet bodice with feathered shoulder detail, bustle skirt, lace-topped gold gloves, beaded choker and hat with buttons and feathers.
Available to rent: Size 8, £30 per day (plus £50 deposit)
Made-to-measure: £150 plus materials.


THE 'BELLE' GOWN


Inspired by: Disney's Beauty & the Beast, 1991.
What you get: Satin and chiffon dress featuring a boned bodice.
Available to rent: Size 8, £30 per day (plus £20 deposit)
Made to measure: £80 plus materials.
I'm also happy to make a child's version of this, with a shorter hemline, strapped shoulders and no boning.


"RED RIDING HOOD" CLOAK & GOWN


What you get: Edwardian-inspired ivory gown with boning, sheer layers, and draped lace bolero sleeves. Wine-coloured velvet cloak with black satin lining, and an organza rose trim with white faux pearls. Belt only supplied with rented costume.
Available to rent: size 6-8, £50 per day (plus £30 deposit)
Made to Measure: £150 plus materials.
Cloak and dress available to rent or buy separately - contact me for prices.


THE 'EMILY' ENSEMBLE


Inspired by: Tim Burton's The Corpse Bride, 2005
What you get: Lightly corsetted gown with a long distressed train. Dip-dye effect on the train, and a mix of hand-dyed lace layers on the bodice with a cut-out detail to reveal the wearer's robs on one side. 'Swirl' effect done by hand with fabric pen. Also includes glovelets, distressed veil with a rosey trim, and bouquet.
Available to rent: Size 8, £40 per day (plus £30 deposit)
Made to measure: £150 plus materials.


THE 'PHOENIX' COAT & BODICE


Inspired by: X-Men: the Last Stand, 2006
What you get: Wine-coloured taffetta coat, unlined for a lightweight panelled skirt which catches the breeze, and with flared organza cuffs. Lightly-boned matching bodice with front belt and lace-up back.
Available to rent: Size 8-10, £20 per day (plus £10 deposit)
Made to measure: £50 plus materials. (On request, I can also make the full costume - including trousers and top, and a more heavily-corsetted bodice. Contact me for details.)


'DORIAN' COAT & WAISTCOAT


Seen in: The Opening Night, 2010.
What you get: Black brocade coat with red taffetta lining, thick printed waistcoat and two-tone jabot.
Available to rent: Men's size small, £30 per day (plus £30 deposit)
Made to measure: £80 plus materials.


 THE 'MARIGOLD' DRESS & EARRINGS

What you get: Corsetted bodice with lace-up back and printed fabric on the pleats and collar. Skirt with fringed apron, waterfall-style chiffon bustle, and train. Square-cut matching earrings also available.
Available to rent: Size 6-8, £40 per day (plus £30 deposit)
Made to measure: £100 plus materials.



   A lot of these costumes feature vintage materials, so I cannot guarantee that reproductions will be identical, but I'll get them as close as I can. I also have lots of other random costume bits and pieces in storage, so feel free to contact me to see if I have anything specific. For example, I do have a few genuine vintage pieces which area available to rent.

   I can make also something new if you have a design in mind. This could be a variation of any of the above, or I can recreate ANY movie costume for private use. Costs for original designs are worked out depending on the project. The more challenging, the better!

  Right, I have two films that need to be ready to go within less than a fortnight, so I need to get back to work. Please get in touch with any costume questions.


Sophie x