Friday, August 9, 2013

Going to the Movies

Remember the final quip in my last post, the one about Hollywood calling? Well, Hollywood didn’t call, but the Sussex version of Hollywood did. While wandering through the mall last Sunday, I was approached by a woman who I thought might be a marketer or member of a religious cult, but instead it turned out she was recruiting extras for a movie being filmed just outside of town.

After a quick look at my social calendar, I found that I was free pretty much forever, so I signed up.

And that was why, the following morning, I was up early, showered, shaved, in my suit and standing at the bus stop battling flashbacks of my erstwhile days of gainful employment.

The scenes I, and my fellow suited-up recruits, were to be extras in were being filmed at South Lodge, a beautiful and exclusive hotel just south of Horsham. Fortunately, we were all required to be in business attire, so we blended in and were occasionally mistaken for paying guests, unlike the film crew who scurried around in shorts and tee shirts.

If you want to know how POSH South Lodge is, this is the Men's Room
Just imagine what the rest of the place looks like
They had wanted 200 extras for the conference scene, but were only able to scare up about 120. My guess is they had trouble finding 200 people who had nothing to do all week but still owned a suit and could pass for an executive instead of someone showing up for a court appearance. As it was, many of the people there were either in business for themselves (and therefore had an understanding boss) or had taken the day off just so they could be in the movies. I was one of the few there who simply didn’t have a job.

If you enjoy standing around waiting for hours on end,
you could have a career in the movies.
The back of South Lodge; very nice. They filmed a few of the scenes here.
During one of the many, long breaks in the conference scene.
These are the main actors, Nicholas Day and Mark Dymond.
Me neither.
Filming the scene with lead actress Georgina Sutcliffe, in the back of
South Lodge, with a table of unsuspecting, actual guests in the background.
But we made convincing airline executives, even off-camera, as people milled around taking into their iPhones or checking e-mails on their Blackberries while I stood there with my £9 burn phone, trying to get a signal so I could see if my wife had texted me about when she might be home for dinner.

Then it was show time and we all had to put away our phones and try to pretend to be the type of person who would deny our mortgage application. So we sat, pretending to be at a conference, but not allowed to act as if we were at a real conference by dozing off, then sneaking out early to hit the hotel bar; we just sat and looked respectable.

Some of us were needed for additional shots and I managed to get myself drafted for the full four days. It was really interesting, and exciting for the first day or two; after that it was sort of like a job, but with really nice people. All the member of the movie crew, from the producer on down, were splendid, and because it was a low-budget production and we weren’t getting paid, they went out of their way to make the processes interesting, by explaining what they were doing and why.

Tristan, the Producer/Director, explaining the ins and out of movie making. 
A few of the things they told us—not because they thought it was interesting, but because we needed to know—were: do not look into the camera, do not look at the actors, mime your conversations and keep absolutely silent because the microphones picks up everything.

The last instruction, of course, is why directors always yell “Quite on the set!” whenever you see a scene about filming a movie in a movie, and allow me to assure you, in real life, they really do.

As the days wore on and they began filming smaller scenes, they needed us less and less and herded the few of us that remained into an area where we would be out of the way but could still watch the helicopters land (there are helicopters in this film, oh yes!). Then a rabbit hopped out onto the expanse of grass and sort of flopped over.

“I think it just died,” said the woman next to me.

We watched it, and it didn’t move and then I began to worry that the helicopter might land on the body and how would that look in the movie? The helicopter was not due for another 20 minutes, so I walked out onto the landing field. The bunny, indeed, looked dead, but as I got closer I saw its sides huffing and its nose twitching. It was gaunt and mangy and didn’t look long for this world, but it was alive and obviously needed, well, something…if not medical help, then at least it needed someone to remove it from the field. Neither of those people, however, were me.

So I started back toward the group and noticed they were all at gathered at the edge of the field now waiting, presumably, for me and my report about the bunny. I didn’t want them to have to wonder so I shouted to them: “HE’S NOT DEAD, BUT HE DOESN’T LOOK TOO GOOD!” Then they began frantically waving their arms and making the universal “SHUT THE FUCK UP!” gesture at me, and a few seconds later I heard the director yell, “CUT!”

So, if you get a chance to see the movie A Dark Reflection, and during a critical scene you hear some muppet in the background shouting about someone not being dead, that would be me.

Georgina watches the first helicopter arrive;
not a rabbit in sight.

PS: The rabbit hopped away shortly after.


  1. Leon W6:09 PM

    I love a movie with a rabbit sub-plot.

    1. My movie credit should be "Bunny Wrangler" ;)

  2. You must let us know the name of the film when it's released! I once tried to rescue a rabbit in distress. It was sitting in the middle of the street looking confused. I took a jacket and picked it up and took it to a vet's office. He handed the jacket back to me and it was literally crawling with fleas. You might have been hard-pressed to convincingly act like a mortgage officer if you were infested with biting bugs!

    1. The film is "A Dark Reflection" and I'll be posting about that more in the future. It's a small (very small) independent company so the movie won't premier in major cities or get a lot of press. Of course, the cast and crew are hoping otherwise, and you never know.

  3. Nice one, Mike! This could be your second career....

    I might have to catch this movie, just to see if I can spot someone I know.


    1. You'll have to look quick! I would have said you would not be likely to find it playing anywhere, but if you're in the UK next year, it may make the rounds. It's due out next summer.