Fears of a Clown

Spending 12-14 hours a day in haunted tunnels, preparing a serial killer’s lair and tying a man to a rusty counter. We were back for another week on Clownface. Read our previous posts about it here and here.

Drakelow Tunnels, Clownface

Mickey at the entrance to Drakelow Tunnels

When Producer Mark messaged us before filming even began months ago, he asked if we knew of any abandoned nuclear bunkers or tunnels that would be perfect for a serial killer’s lair. Naturally, we said yes. Two years ago, we spent a night ghost hunting in Drakelow Tunnels, a huge labyrinth of tunnels built into cliffs of Kidderminster to house the Rover Shadow Factory during the war. People died there and paranormal teams investigate it regularly. You can read our blog post about our visit here. What better place for Clownface to take his victims? Luckily, Mark and the director, Alex, loved it as much as we did and it became Clownface’s lair.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceMonday morning was a 5 a.m start for us as we had to fetch Phil (Clownface) and the mountain of food that his partner, Ella, had cooked and prepared for cast and crew. We took one look at the bags and thought ‘that is not fitting in the Mini.’ Luckily, being Tetris champions and owning a Smartcar meant we fitted everything in then headed up to Kidderminster for a 14 hour day of filming. It was cold in the tunnels. The warmest the tunnels reach is 10 degrees C. And there’s only power for part of it. As the actors would not be wearing much, we brought heat patches with us they could stick under their clothes to provide some warmth. And we brought a portable heater. We loved being back in Drakelow and between shoots and on our lunch break, we went exploring. It was weird seeing it with lights on. When we went, we were told there was no power. That was a lie. Most of the rat holes we used as shortcuts to other tunnels had been bricked up. Mostly we filmed in and around tunnel 4. One of the haunted tunnels. The room which became one of the sets is actually a room we did a vigil in.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceCat assisted the second assistant camera guy, Josh, writing down scene numbers, takes, slates and camera lens for each take. Lynx took behind the scenes photography and we both did set dressing, which is our main job on the film. As again, there were no runners who could drive, Lynx had to fetch two crew members from Wolverhampton. Having a driving licence is actually a requirement for a runners’ job so it was annoying that one of us had to constantly be pulled off set to do this. Unfortunately, there is no phone or internet signal for two miles around the tunnels, so she had to drive for a while until maps came online. Driving new places on our own really heightens our anxiety, but when the only people who can drive are the camera crew, the producer and us, there isn’t a choice. But forcing us to confront our anxiety is a good thing. Later, Lynx accompanied Mark back to the converted barn we were staying in to check in and try to cook the jacket potatoes that wouldn’t cook. We generally only use the microwave to melt our ice cream, and as they were pushed for time, only some of the potatoes cooked.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceWe finished filming at 11:30 p.m. and that was only because a scene had to be cut due to lack of time. We got back to the barn at midnight, but didn’t get to bed ’til gone 1 a.m. as we had to refrigerate the food and wash out the slow cookers. The barn had separate dorm style bedrooms, so we shared a room with the actress, Hannah, and the makeup artist, Brooke. Ours was a lovely, peaceful room.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceTuesday was a 9 a.m. unit call, so we were up at 7:30 then had to wait for everyone else to get up, so didn’t make it to the tunnels ’til 9:25. Lynx continued photographing behind the scenes then fetched Hannah from the barn at 1, while Cat was Josh’s assistant, and took over the photography and set dressing when Lynx was driving. We also helped the gaffer, Ben, set up lights, rather than just guarding them. We were in a different area today. The owner had added metal beds and bedside cabinets which weren’t there when we visited the tunnels two years ago. Lynx thought she was seeing things at one point when she saw glowing green eyes and a shaggy dog. It turned out to be one of the owner’s gorgeous Spaniels. Not a ghost dog. We finished filming at 10:30 we think but didn’t get to bed til 11:35 after doing all of the washing up, even though off set, it’s not our job.

Jay, the gorgeous Collie at the barn

On Wednesday we got up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m. to be on set by 6 a.m. We did more washing up and cleared away all the crisp packets that had been left outside. Ten feet from the bin. Seriously, even our dog knows how to pick up rubbish. We took Alex to set and were there at 6, ready to start. The owner wasn’t. Neither was anybody else. We had no phone signal to warn the others who arrived by 6:45. The director of photography, Ben T, was blasting My Chemical Romance from his car so we danced outside to pass the time. He kindly cleared his back seat of camera equipment so Alex and we could sit in. We danced to his great music and napped. Somehow, we knew this would be the best part of the day.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceThe owner arrived at 8. We could’ve had an extra two hours in bed! So not only had we been deprived of sleep, we’d also lost two hours of filming time so scenes had to be cut. We were back in Tunnel 4 today and again helped to set up some of the lights. We covered the crash mats in blankets to make a bed but then had to fetch a bed from another room and dress that instead. Lynx went to fetch the actor, Tom, from Kidderminster train station. Most of the day was spent re-dressing the bed and checking continuity. Lynx took Phil back to the barn in the afternoon then took over on sound after the sound guy left at 6 to do a night shift. Cat took over on behind the scenes photography and continued set dressing alone as well as being Josh’s assistant. Ben T reckoned we’re really good at doing sound and that we should go into it 🙂 It’s times like these that having anxiety can be a good thing. We get so anxious about getting things wrong that we channel it into being extra cautious and doing the best job we can.

Drakelow Tunnels, Clownface

exploring with producer, Mark

We got back to the barn at 7 then went to Sainsbury’s to get ice cream. We only got internet and phone signal when we were driving so we took the opportunity to contact our mum and sister while sat in Sainsbury’s car park. We did more washing up before going to bed then Mark took over washing up duties. We swear the washing up breeds when our backs are turned. We should start charging for cleaning duties. Those who refuse to wash up have to pay us £1 per plate and 50p per mug and piece of cutlery. During this week, we could’ve bought our hearse with the proceeds. And had change left over for a coffin.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceThursday we got up at 4:45 but had to wait for gaffer Ben C and Alex, as Ben C had the keys. So at 6 a.m, we were doing flexibility stretches to pass the time. Yoga at 6 a.m. Next we’ll be going on retreats. We moved everything out of the storage cupboards and took the lighting equipment and our prop box to the new set: Clownface’s lair, which was in a rusty industrial kitchen. We were in our element set dressing this with our creepy props and torture tools. That was our favourite part of the entire film. Lynx took over on sound briefly for the afternoon while most of Cat’s time was spent blowing out and relighting the tealights on set. She’d be told to blow them out then relight them almost immediately. This happened a few times and she was tempted to start setting people on fire. People burn longer than tealights, though they’d have to film without sound, as this scene didn’t require agonised screaming. Then she was told to clear the front bench for a killing scene, so she did. Then immediately got told it should’ve been the back bench. So she had to use the continuity photos on her phone to re-dress the front bench exactly how it had been. After rehearsals, they decided it should be the front bench after all. Again, people were lucky they were not set on fire. We had a whole range of torture tools. It is not wise to piss off the props women. Josh was impressed Cat managed to keep up with the note taking whilst constantly dressing the set and tending to the candles.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceWe got to shackle Clownface and tie him up. He insisted it was done properly. In between takes, we were throwing his dressing gown on him to warm him. We also got to briefly be makeup assistants. Filming finished relatively on time. Our evening was spent doing *drum roll* yes. A shit ton of washing up. Where the fuck does it all come from? There’s 16 people, not 1600! We retired to our room at 9 to do flexibility stretches and hide from any more washing up, but that meant Mark did it in our absence. We’re so glad there’s only 3 humans in our house. And we have a dishwasher. Plus the residents of Casa Raven know how to use water and a sponge.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceOur last day, we got up at 4:45. Unit call was again 6 a.m. We knew no one else would be up early but we also knew there would be yet more washing up to do. We were right. This was despite us doing 3 or 4 sinkfuls the previous night and Mark did more than us. And there were countless beer cans scattered everywhere. Ten feet from the recycling bin. Checkout was at 11, so we couldn’t leave until the barn was clean and tidy. Us and Mark were sick of the constant washing up. Then we discovered someone had drunk our soya milk, leaving us with none for breakfast. That was it. Cat ended up yelling at people after overhearing that we should apparently be doing stuff as everyone was late. Think tiny Welsh Hulk bollocking a room of men. Not even sorry. We should’ve unleashed the Hulk earlier. Lynx then got sympathy hugs from Josh, Alex and Phil. So due to the clean up, Cat was late bringing actress Dani to set. Lynx and Mark stayed behind to clean the barn and throw late risers out. On route, Cat was sent to fetch gaffer tape, only for people to be angry that the actress was  late to makeup. Then don’t send the actress’s driver to fetch gaffer tape, knowing the actress was in the car! Lynx yelled at people for that, defending Cat who still wasn’t back. The logical thing would’ve been to get Cat to drop the actress off then send her to fetch gaffer tape. But logic was clearly having a lie-in that morning.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceWe were back in the original set so moved the bed back in and dressed it. We had to do a lot on continuity and blood clean up between takes. And hold a ladder so Ben T didn’t fall off and die, or more importantly, break his camera. There was enough time to film a scene that got dropped from the previous day. After we loaded the car, a police car drove in. Us and Phil went over to speak to the officer. Apparently it was unusual for the blast door to be open at that time. We told him about the film and assured him that the death scenes and blood were not real. He looked at Clownface’s makeup and asked if he was a victim. We replied “he’s the killer!” You know it’s a proper indie film when the police stop by. We drove Phil home then returned to Casa Raven, regretting that the next day, we would be doing an hour’s polefit lesson, followed by an hour and a half polefit workshop then driving to Hastings for an overnight ghost hunt. Providing we could stay awake.

But despite the rage we unleashed on Friday, we did enjoy working with everyone. Again, we were amazed at how excellent all the actors are in their roles. Their emotion is so so realistic, take after take. We cannot wait to see the finished film.

Oh and we got some good news: our travel article about our misadventures in Paris won second place in Writing Magazine’s travel writing competition and our burlesque ghost story has been shortlisted for an anthology. On Saturday we start working on Dave’s Emoji of Horror film. We’ll not only be crewing it, we’ll also be acting in it. Then in Spring, we start filming our own film! The Black Kiss. A story from our Romance is Dead trilogy. We’ve already written the script and started collecting props. Not that we’re excited or anything. So our writing career has taken a bit of a curve at the moment and we’re thoroughly enjoying the new challenges and experiences. And for these two films, there will no more washing up!Drakelow Tunnels, Clownface

 

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.

Clownface

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.

Clownface

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