Thursday, 17 May 2012

From Billywood to Hollywood

As a humble, independent filmmaker, it came as something of a... well, rush to get to spend a couple of days on the set of Rush, Ron Howard's film about the rivalry between Formula 1 drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda.  Myself and fellow co-director Chris were selected to be extras as the production shot scenes at Cadwell Park near Louth.

Ron Howard had previously visited Lincolnshire a few years ago filming scenes for The Da Vinci Code in Lincoln Cathedral.  The two films of his that I regard with the most fondness however are Willow and Splash, two of my favourite childhood films.
Ron Howard on the set of Rush.
On our first day at Cadwell park, which started at 6am, we were dressed in authentic 1970s clothing, put into make up where I was adorned with a rather expensive wig that gave me the healthiest locks of hair since my university days, and then ushered to set.  We were on the first unit, and although it appeared that the main cast had finished shooting their scenes, the big guy himself was still around, coordinating the shooting with Oscar winning cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle (28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire). 

Our mission as extras was to stand by the side of the track in our groovy outfits as we cheered on the Formula 3 racing cars. It was something of a role reversal for Chris and I, especially as our last filming work on Shadows of a Stranger had been to film extras.  This time round we could look at things from the opposite perspective.  Their resources were much more extensive than those of Billywood studio: the mass of trailers and trucks in the car parking area, the vast stocks of props and costumes, the massive crane sitting on the back of a truck.  Ron even had a helicopter at the ready to film some aerial shots. 

The one similarity I noticed between our productions was that we both had very similar caravans on set - ours was the only amenity we had besides the rural, dusty barn where we'd built our blue screen studio (and a butt of many jokes)... theirs was a throwaway background prop to help with the 1970s setting.  Of course this didn't stop me pointing out this caravan to Chris and saying "See!  Even on the Hollywood shoots they have these types of caravans."  I think I've been vindicated.
The Billywood caravan which continued its career in the entertainment industry when it was sold to a recording artist.
So it was a very exciting two days for the both of us.  I found it fascinating watching the process of high budget filmmaking unfurl first hand, and it was a humbling experience being on set with one of the biggest directors around.  On a tea break between shots, Ron wandered through the crowd of extras huddled in the woodland, trudging through the mud to get himself a coffee (and then another), mucking in like everyone else.  As one of my fellow extras also remarked, it's strangely one of my overriding memories at Cadwell, a small detail that impresses alongside all the great films he's made.

Oh yes, and right at the end of our time there Willow himself turned up (Warwick Davis) to see his old friend - the cherry on top of an amazing two days.

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