Clowning Around

Late nights, early starts and exposing our arses on film. We were back working on Clownface.

We’ve been away at horror conventions/literary events every weekend since 23rd September, so haven’t had much time to blog. And we also returned to Clownface for two days.

Clownface

us with Clownface aka Phil

Unfortunately, a lot of crew and extras dropped out last minute, so the crew consisted of the director of photography, Ben, his assistant, Rich, the sound guy, Barrie and us. And yet, it was the smoothest shoot yet. We arrived at 1:30 p.m. on the Thursday, ready to dress the set for a party scene. Unfortunately, as the fairy lights kept getting moved around, nobody knew exactly where they were supposed to be and nobody had taken continuity photos. (That was one of our jobs on the August block but we couldn’t make it to the block at the beginning of October.) We used footage from the film to guess the location and exact angle of hanging and we think we got it right. We also spread sequins everywhere, hung silver shredding from light fixtures and lamps and covered a table with empty bottles and cups. For people who have never been to a house party, so got our ideas from TV, we think we did ok.

We reprised our role of second assistant camera (operating the clapperboard) and also our least favourite role of guarding the floodlight. This time, it was out in a dark country lane. Standing a goth in a dark lane was never going to be a good idea, but luckily Rich had a high-vis jacket so Lynx wouldn’t be run down by passing motorists. Our mum’s Mini, Mickey, was parked outside the cottage’s front door so is on screen for most of the exterior shots. He didn’t complain about the length of shooting time, and didn’t once demand makeup. He was a true star. The lead actresses, Hannah and Abi kept everyone entertained between shots by doing a brilliant rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody in the back of the car.

Clownface

guarding the light

Then we had our first experience in front of the camera – as extras in a party scene. So as Cat was operating the clapperboard, she had to wait outside, shivering in her finery, work the clapperboard then run in and take her place as an extra. Then the director, Alex, asked for volunteers to do stunts. Naturally, we volunteered, as did a couple of extras. The producer, Mark, chose us because we do gymnastics and as Mark put it, we’re great at falling over. You only have to watch our Calamityville episodes to know we’re well practised in the art of tripping. The scene involved party goers fleeing the house and we’re so drunk, we trip, landing on a crash mat. Abi then helps us up and half carries us out of shot. Alex wondered if they should get Phil (who plays Clownface) to teach us how to fall, as he’s a stunt guy. Mark assured him we knew what we were doing. We did it perfectly. Apparently, it looked very realistic. There was one problem:

Short dresses and fishnet tights.

Yes, the rest of extras ran out to exposed arse cheeks and lacy unmentionables, take after take. It’s a good job we’ve been keeping up with our squats. Then the scene had to be shot from behind. We tried to argue that it was unnecessary, but we were outvoted. This time, our arses would be immortalised on camera. Even worse, was when they shot a close up. Fortunately, we started off lying on the mat, so Abi kindly adjusted our dresses to make sure there was one shot where our dignity wasn’t sprawled onto the gravel next to us. Luckily, we only got minor injuries – Cat consistently landed on her pre-injured scaphoid bone (she kept falling over in woods and landing on it. Proof we were perfect for this role) and Lynx took the skin off her elbow in the same place every time and finished the shoot wearing a Paw Patrol plaster. But it shows our falls were identical in every take. You usually have pay a lot of money for that kind of professionalism.

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Cat with her sound equipment

The next scene was shot outside, so Lynx was again on light-guarding duty, operating a large LED light. It was freezing, so between takes, we wrapped the actress, Leah, in our coats so she wouldn’t get too cold. Clownface kept us entertained by doing impressions of Mark Hamill as The Joker. As we were working through the night, lunchtime was 11 p.m. As there were no runners, we had to fulfill that role so spent our breaks doing all the washing up and constantly sweeping up all the grass that got tracked in from outside. With about 16 people on site, there was a lot of washing up.

We were extras again in the next party scene. Mark asked us what we usually do at gatherings. Our answer of ‘sit in the corner with the home owners’ pet’ wasn’t helpful. There were no pets. Instead, we stand in the doorway, blocking it, then walk in front of the camera. Alex wanted us on screen quite a bit. So not only did we get to work on our first horror film, we got to be in it too. And we feel it adds a bit of realism to it. All the actresses are stunning so the film needed some regular looking people to balance it out.

We finally finished filming at 5:30 a.m. and set up our airbeds on the living room floor among the camera equipment and cases. All the beds were taken. We had a good five hours’ sleep and were up at 11, cleaning the cottages with Mark and doing yet more washing up before everyone else got up. Lynx made a trip to the co-op to buy more Red Bull then we started preparing for filming. We covered windows in tin foil, as the scenes were meant to take place at night then we got to stand in for Hannah and Clownface, by Cat chasing Lynx up the stairs, so Ben could get the lighting and camera angle right. That was a fun piece of unexpected exercise. Again, we spent our time between scenes washing up.

Most of the shooting took place inside, which was nice and warm. Although the small bedroom provided some filming problems. The scene there between Hannah and Clownface was incredible. It was so realistic. Hannah is an fantastic actress and it really showed in this scene.

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Lynx in her high vis vest

The sound guy had to leave at 7:30 p.m. which meant we had to take over sound. He gave us a crash course but had to leave before supervising us. We panicked and didn’t want to do it, but we had no choice. There were no other crew members. It turned out to be easier than we feared – like the clapperboard was. The final shots were outside. It was freezing! As Lynx was put on light guarding duty in the middle of the lane again and Cat was on sound, there was no-one to operate the clapperboard. In the end, we roped actress Leah into using it and Cat taught her how to do it. We were glad our mum insisted we take our big coats, even though there wasn’t room in the car.

We wrapped at 11:45 p.m. and helped Ben and Mark load their equipment into their cars. We cleaned one of the cottages and did the last load of washing up before heading to bed. We had to be up at 6:30 a.m. for Birmingham Horror Con and managed to clean the other cottage before we left. We had to make a quick stop to buy Red Bull as ours had vanished. We got to the horror con at 8:20 a.m. The security guard said “you’re a bit late aren’t you?” Us ” we had to buy Red Bull.” Yes, that is more important. Never mind Clownface killing people in gruesome way, us without our morning Red Bull is true horror. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

If you want to hear us recount our adventures and talk about all things horror, don’t forget to tune into our radio show, The Graveyard Shift, every Friday 7-9 p.m. on Vitalize Radio.Clownface

Clownface

We’ve spent six days watching a man in a clown mask kill people. No, we weren’t taking part in a brutal murder, we were working on an indie horror film, Clownface. It’s now on Kickstarter, so you can back the project here.

Watch the trailer. Facebook. Twitter

The closest we’ve ever got to a film set was filling in and sanding down screw holes in a cave set of Sherlock. So we were surprised anyone would want us anywhere near their film. We were initially hired as runners but then got promoted to costume and set dressing. Basically, there was a goth character who was our size and somebody had to provide the costume. Goth clothes aren’t cheap so hiring goths for the costume department is a great money saver. On the drive up, we happened to read the call sheet and discovered we were also down as hair and makeup. We laughed. Our hair can best be described as ‘low maintenance’ and as we’ve had short hair since we were 8 and haven’t visited a hairdresser’s since we were 10, we have no idea what to do with it other than dye it and spike it up. Our look is best described as ‘dragged through a hedge’. As for makeup…we hardly wear it and we can’t do any of that fancy shit where you use contouring, highlights and shadows to make you look like a different person. We were dreading this role.

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sheltering from the rain with Alastair, Ben, Rich, Laura and Alex

The director, Alex Bourne, kindly put us and five others up in his one bedroom flat. Jack and Laura, who you may remember from our ghost hunting/urb ex adventures, joined us. It was a bit of a squish but we all fitted. We never sleep well in new places so after a terrible night, it was a 7 a.m. start as call time was 9 a.m. If we thought eight people in a one bedroom flat was a squish, it was nothing compared to when the rest of the cast and crew arrived with the camera equipment. Our first thought was of escaping, but it wouldn’t make a great impression, and jumping out of a first floor flat window is never a good idea, so we fought our natural instinct to flee. Everyone was given a 330ml bottle of water with their names on and were told to keep hold of it and refill it, as if it got lost, it would not be replaced. We laughed. Turned out, it wasn’t a joke. We were glad we’d brought a week’s supply of Red Bull and our own water. We shared our Red Bull with Alex and Phil, who played Clownface. You have to keep killers happy. We’ve seen what he can do with a knife and some creativity.

The first scene was shot on a street. As the character we were dressing wasn’t needed until later, we had nothing to do except stand around looking creepy. That skill actually landed us a part in a play a couple of years ago. The second assistant cameraperson (AC) couldn’t get there until after lunch and the Director of Photography (DOP – cameraman), Ben, needed someone to operate the clapperboard. Our fear of getting it wrong was overwhelming, but we couldn’t say no. There was nobody else. Jack and Laura were being extras so it had to be us. Fortunately, Ben was lovely and patient as he explained what we had to do and assured us it didn’t matter if we got it wrong. There’s more to operating the clapperboard than just snapping it shut. We had to write the slate number, which changed every time the camera angle did, the take number, scene number and which camera lens was used. Then write notes on it. One such note was: “Fucked up. Ignore clapperboard.” Now we’re glad we had to do it because we learned a new skill and experience. We also learned how to hold a reflector board to help keep sun off the actors’ faces. Who knew polystyrene could do such a technical job? While Lynx filled in the role of 2nd AC, Cat cued in the actors then had to hang on to Ben as he ran down the street filming, to make sure he didn’t fall flat on his face. We are not the best people for this role – we trip over all the time. Especially when there’s cameras involved. Luckily this ended well.

After that, we reverted to our original role as runners to fetch the second AC, Suki, from Wolverhampton. We had no idea where Wolverhampton was or how far from West Bromwich it was. We hate driving new cities for fear of getting lost (panicky meltdowns aren’t as funny when you’re on your own) and this time, Lynx would be on her own without Cat navigating, as Cat was operating the clapperboard. Though to be fair, Cat doesn’t always pay attention to SatNav, so there might have been less chance of Lynx getting lost. To say she was anxious would be an understatement. But again, there was no choice. And we have to say, Wolverhampton, West Bromwich and Birmingham, sort your road systems out. They’re not easy to navigate without a co-pilot when you have to check SatNav to make sure you’re following it correctly.

Clownface

filming isn’t always glamorous

After lunch, which Lynx spent driving to Wolverhampton, it was time to meet our goth character and kit her out in our clothing and makeup. Fortunately, her makeup is supposed to look a mess. It was unintentional, but worked out well. Dear filmmakers: if you want your actors to look like drug addicts, give us a call. We have the talent. Fortunately, the actress, Leah, was lovely and it was a pleasure to work with her. And she didn’t mind the “Bollocks, it’s smeared all over your face.” The main actress, Hannah, had lovely eyeliner flicks. We took one look at her perfect makeup and hair and asked her to do her own. This scene was shot in the park. Leah asked us to sort her hair so it would stop falling in her face. We had no pins so slapped a load of wax on it and stuck it to her head. We could totally be hairstylists now! We later moved to the street and while Lynx took Leah and lead actress Hannah, back to the flat for a costume change, Laura and Cat stood in for them to trial camera angles. Having a short goth stand in for a short goth character worked well.

That evening, we caved and fled the flat. Everyone was really nice, but we spend all day on our own with our animal army, so we find being around a lot of people overwhelming. We need time to be alone to able to function. Being alone is like being able to breathe. When we worked in our mum’s school, we’d take regular trips to the art storeroom to recover from being around people for an extended period. So we spent Monday evening in Tesco with Jack and Laura until everyone had gone home. Plus we wanted vegan ice cream. Everything is better with ice cream.

On our second day, we again fulfilled the second AC role until early afternoon when Lynx fetched Suki to take over. Today, we were in woodlands, which made us happy. There were ducks, moorhens, baby moorhens, giant cygnets and dogs to keep us amused. If we can’t escape people, having animals around helps keep us sane. We again operated the reflector board, took photos and Cat had to guide Ben backwards through woods and make sure he didn’t fall over. Again, we’re not suited to this role. Cat has fallen over so many times in the woodlands where we walk our dog, that she’s damaged her scaphoid bone. We also learned how to do an ‘end board’ with the clapperboard for the scenes without sound. Basically, at the end of the scene, you hold the clapperboard upside down then flip it the right way. Lynx practised the flipping but every time Alex yelled “cut” Ben switched the camera off so none of her end boards were filmed. Cat’s one attempt was, but only because she threatened to kick Ben if he switched his camera off. As Leah wasn’t needed until 9:30 p.m, we resumed our runner roles by driving Alex to the next location with the camera equipment. Nobody believed the equipment would fit in General Pinkinton, but he proved them wrong. Lunch break was spent moving from the woods in West Bromwich to the cafe in Wolverhampton. It didn’t serve vegan food. Our lunch consisted of a bag of crisps and a tangerine. We were again glad we packed our own.

We weren’t needed for set dressing, apart from moving some tables and chairs around and tidying up, so we spent most of the rest of the day reading and standing outside in an alley of sorts. This was definitely the boring side of filmmaking. We don’t cope well with boredom. We like being busy, so being runners is the perfect role for us. We dressed Leah and did her makeup. This time it smeared all over her face and we only had wet toilet paper to get it off. This made it worse, so we covered some of it with foundation. Again, her messy look and the night time shooting saved us. Makeup is definitely a department we’d gladly give up.

Clownface

guarding the light with Nathan

As there was nothing for us to do (the location was too small for unnecessary crew to be there) we spent the next couple of hours guarding a floodlight in the alley to make sure nobody knocked it over. We were cold, bored and hungry (the chip shop next door cooked their chips in with the meat so we couldn’t eat there, and sorry Mark but hummus sandwiches?…um, no. We have it on good authority that not even lesbians eat those). Nathan, the assistant producer, kept us company on our light guarding mission. But then we got to do another job – guard the floodlight out the front of the location and make sure pedestrians didn’t fall over the cable. It’s a glamourous world. Finally, we were allowed into the warmth. For all of three minutes when we were summoned for another job. Guarding the floodlight out the back. Will, we like you, but at that moment, we were ready to lynch you.

Finally, filming finished at midnight. Our enthusiasm had been replaced by hunger headaches and we point blank refused to ferry anyone else home. It was unprofessional, we know. But we were the only ones who hadn’t eaten. We were on the verge of collapsing. That and we have a Smartcar, so one of us would’ve had to beg a lift off someone else. We loaded our car with equipment then kept trying to persuade the cafe owner to let us tidy up or wash up. He was having none of it. Then they closed the road we needed to get back to West Bromwich. Fortunately, Lynx’s daily drive to Wolverhampton meant she could direct Cat to the city centre where SatNav finally stopped trying to send us down the closed road. Damn it, Helen, we were just as tempted to drive through the cones as you were, but Wolverhampton loves its speed cameras and we can’t afford a fine.

We made it back to the flat at 1 a.m. to find we were the first to arrive. And we didn’t have a key. To say we were pissed off is like saying an erupting volcano is only a bit of ash. We’ve never been so glad to eat a bowl of cereals. Then the toilet paper ran out. It was a tense night.

Wednesday we were back in the woods for a Clownface killing scene. Lynx had to take the sound girl to the train station then fetch Suki so didn’t get to the woods until after lunch. Cat got the glamourous job of squirting water on a tree to make it look like someone pissed on it. This got dubbed ‘the piss take’. Lynx had made the realistic looking urine from water and a teabag. Cat then operated the reflector board. We didn’t have much to do that day, but we did trample down holly and bushes for Ben to stand on that patch. Part of our job as Costume was taking continuity photos so if the actors changed, we could make sure everything was put back right, including wisps of stray hair, whether their collar was up or down and even the pattern of blood on Clownface’s arm. We also took a lot of behind the scenes photos. Not our job, but considering we took 1000 photos on a five day stay in Paris, not taking photos is an alien concept to us. Clownface kept us entertained by dancing between takes. We also brushed down the victim as they kept resetting the scene.

us and Jack having fun in the playground

Then there was a 3 hour break for the victim to have prosthetics done. To our logical brains, it would’ve saved time if the prosthetics were done while other woodland scenes were shot then cleaned him up for his first scenes. But the film world is incredibly illogical, which hurts our brains. Lunch was more hummus sandwiches. We helped ourselves to some strawberries and congratulated ourselves for bringing our own crisps and chocolate. Us, Jack and Laura used the time off to escape being around people. Working 12 hour days with no lunch break to escape constant human company was starting to drain us. So we went to the awesome children’s playground that was the other side of the park. After playing on the roundabout, we spied the fireman’s pole. You know how obsessed we are with polefit. We couldn’t resist. Cat did a Kitten spin followed by a Genie spin. Lynx did a Back spin then a child’s voice on the platform above the pole said “Can I come down now?” *scowls* damn it, kid, we were being impressive! Some people have no respect for sport.

We still hd a couple of hours to kill, so we sat on a bench, refusing to rejoin the others. Alastair, the behind the scene photographer found us and interviewed us. The interview had to be paused four times for us to pat passing dogs. Well, it was paused for them to pass. We insisted on patting them. We then bumped into Ben and 1st AC, Rich, so the six of us went for a walk.

The woodland scene overran by two hours so the final scene back in Alex’s flat was cut. We were secretly pleased and paid a visit to The Veggie Chippy in Birmingham. Delicious vegan chips and a range of vegan pizzas and vegan meat. They even said if we phoned an order in, they would bring food to the set if we finished late. We can’t recommend them enough. You get so many chips for the price. We paid another visit to them the following evening.

escaping people at the dinosaur exhibition

Thursday was a day off so we went to Dinosaurs in the Wild in Birmingham’s NEC. We were the only ones without kids and were the most excited. It was fantastic. Then we sat outside in the picnic area, relishing being alone. Apart from the crying, screaming kids who were ruining our tranquility. We were about to leave when the kids left, so we stayed an extra twenty minutes to make the most of it. When we returned to the flat, we were once again, locked out. So we went to Tesco and bought some snacks and drinks for the cast and crew cos we felt sorry for them. Who knew Mini Rolls could bring such joy to people?

Friday was a much shorter day. We were back in the woods. Lynx went to Tesco to fetch cleaning supplies then we removed all the bird poo from the benches the actors needed to sit on. We were asked to be extras to walk past in the background but the scene was cut due to timing. We haven’t seen the footage but we’re positive our walking was Oscar-worthy. We wanted to steal someone’s dog for the scene to add authenticity. We hadn’t long started when torrential rain stopped the filming. We quickly put Hannah and Second Assistant Director Jess in General Pinkinton, while lead actor Richard sheltered in another car. Us, Alex, Laura, Ben, Rich and Alastair, all sheltered under the polystyrene board which was protecting Ben’s equipment. We got soaked. The rain hammered down for about half an hour. Every time it looked like it was stopping, it started again. Quitting and going home was looking very appealing. The only thing that made it bearable, was knowing we had vegan cupcakes from The May Bakery waiting for us. Eventually it stopped raining and the sun came out, but we were already wet. Everyone got to leave early today. Just as well, because we had a 10 a.m polefit lesson the next day and needed some sleep. The mood was brightened by a chocolate lab puppy called Maggie running into the set. Every film set needs a puppy to cheer up the cast and crew.

The following Tuesday, we picked Jess up and drove up to Wolverhampton for the mid-week shoot. We were all staying in Jess’s friend’s house, where filming would take place. We went to Nando’s on our own for the first time in an unfamiliar city. *Slaps bravery stickers on selves.* Helen tried to send us down a bus lane, but we were wise to her games. Unit call time the next morning was 8 a.m. This time exists for starting work? Grumbling, we went to bed at 11:30.

We were up at 6:30 and an hour later, went out to buy breakfast and lunch for everyone and ended up going to a few shops to get everything. The cast had requested Cornflakes and Mark insisted the Rice Crispies were a good substitute. Our response of “they asked for Cornflakes, they’re getting Cornflakes,” was swiftly followed by “No-one eats fucking Rice Crispies!” In fact we know of only ONE creature who eats Rice Crispies – our duck, Peking. This time there was a runner but she was two and a half hours late and then went home a few hours later. So we again took on the role. Today we were classed as ‘Art Department’, meaning we were in charge of set dressing. We’d brought ornaments and props up with us, including some of our weapons collection and dressed the set ready for filming, taking continuity photos every time something got moved. Alex had tacked newspaper articles to the wall and when we came to take them down (and later put them back up in exactly the same place), our pixie height worked against us. Part of our job also involved carrying a heavy chest of drawers in and out of the room every time they needed to change camera angle to shoot from the corner.

After lunch, we did the washing up then were about to set dress the hall, only to find it had already been done. This is what we were hired for so we were a little narked. It looked staged. With permission from Alex, we took everything away. We left a row of shoes lined up and draped a scarf and some jewellery over the bannister post. That’s what our bannister post at home looks like.

Most of our time that day was spent reading, apart from carrying furniture and tacking up scarves that kept insisting on falling off the walls. However, when filming wasn’t been done in that room, the scarves stayed up. Bloody typical. When filming was over, we packed everything up, ate our ice cream, tidied the kitchen and did some more washing up. We left an hour early and took Jess home.

Our first experience of working on a film has certainly been interesting. Cast and crew were incredibly lovely and made us feel very welcome and treated us as part of the team, not newbies. We’ve learned so much (bring your own food and drink) and have really enjoyed seeing how a film is put together, what the different departments do, how much is involved in even the shortest scene – a two minute murder scene took several hours due to all the angle and POV changes – and that we can read a Game of Thrones book in a week when things are slow on set. For people who like being alone and like working alone, we’ve learned that we’re good at following orders and doing what needs to be done when it needs to be done. We can now do the role of runners, set dressers, costumes (well, goth costumes), we can operate the clapperboard and reflector board and we’ve learned to speak up when we don’t agree with something. (No-one. Eats. Rice. Crispies). That’s a huge thing for us, especially with people we don’t know. Whilst we wouldn’t want to do this full time – the waiting around would drive us insane – we had a lot of fun and can’t wait to do the next block of filming. Just please don’t put us on makeup.

Clownface

hanging out with Laura and Jack on set