An Insider's Guide To Film Set Crews

Want to know where to buy acid or how to spook the wardrobe department? Read on...
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Want to know where to buy acid or how to spook the wardrobe department? Read on...

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Over the following weeks top writers, broadcasters, TED talkers and journalists Bob Priestley & Julian Butler will impart knowledge curdled from the cream of the movie industry.

For this, the first of three articles, Director Nicky Inchcliffe (aged 13) and Producer Peter Ward (aged 66), were interviewed in their Manningham HQ near Twickenham. Inchciffe and Ward have worked in the film business for over fifty years (Peter for 49 and Nicky for 1) and throughout this time they documented their experiences in their personal bible of film making ‘The Book of Realms’.This excerpt is a guide to the colorful characters and their roles within the film industry.

Wardrobe

A wardrobe department can be found on most films sets, they are an integral part of the art of filmmaking art.

Producer Peter Ward: Insist your shirts and trousers are ironed by this lot before you go on your impromptu set inspections/firing sessions. I always ensure they strip me to my pants, freshen up my creases and leave me feeling princely, like a real big man. That’s wardrobe dealt with. Oh, forgot, get all the costumes for your actors to wear from charity shops. But never wash your actors’ clothing before or during the shoot, it’s unnecessary. Once the shoot is over pile these rags up in the boot of your Jag and leave them there until you’re producing your next film. That’s all you need, no need for poncey dressers. Anyone who says different is a gila whacker.

Director Nicky Inchcliffe: To help convince people that actors are playing the parts of other people, you make them look different in different olden and newer day clothes. The people who help them to get dressed in these clothes are what these ones are. Dressing up is fun and can confuse people. Olden days costumes feel nice against the skin but beginners in the industry often forget that costumes must not be worn when showering or eating messy Nando’s Chocolate Biscuit Stack.

Lighting

The Lightning Department on any film set capture mood and work hard to weave the celluloid illusion.

Producer Peter Ward: Oh Fucking Lighting. I love those guys. They are crucial. The true professionals. You will be able to buy Microdots, Windowpanes, Purple Oms, Laughing Gnomes, Booby Juice and Pissing Policemen from these guys. At ANY time. Whole sheets sometimes. At the end of the shoot you’ll wake up thinking you’re actually dead. Phenomenal chaps. You’ll never know how long you were out for. Lighting done.

Director Nicky Inchcliffe: When I first saw the big men with the massive lights I were frightened out me wits, but I got chatting and they were really nice. A bit mumbling but lovely. Little thrillers the lot of them. They gave me some purple pop. Soon after drinking it I had to go home. I played the piano for 18 hours straight, never had a lesson in me entire life.

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Bailiffs

 Many film productions do go over budget and when this happens the services of a debt collection agency are often required.

Director Nicky Inchcliffe: When you owe people money by lying about your accountant, these ones will come round and take your props off you. Continuity Department will have to work overtime after these ones come rumbling through and take everything away with them. But I love it when they come round. It’s exciting, lots of loud noise and shouting. The acting becomes very good and fast and action-based like a Bruce Lee has is here. It’s like someone’s crouched on a tiger and chased away the dragon. Sometimes there’s one, sometimes two, sometimes a van full, and another empty van to put all our props in. Black bomber jackets all shiny. Love ‘em.

Producer Peter Ward: Look, basically they can act better than most. Put them front of stage for God’s sake. They make great villains. Cheaper than actors and the real thing. I’m nearly done here.

Prosthetics

On set, the Prosthetic Makeup Effects Team is in charge of the manufacture of numerous important features including fake blood, burns, cadavers and big noses.

Producer Peter Ward: The guy I got in to make prosthetic genital warts in ‘Jurassic Judas’ was a disgrace and the actress had to have surgery to have them removed. So when you need genital warts in your film save money and insist that the prosthetics guy sleep with the actors and actresses and give them real warts. Prosthetics is the most honest and therefore the lowest paid job on set. There’s no room for the truth here; film is just a motherfucking illusion. Done.

Director Nicky Inchcliffe: The monsters and the gibbons and the rubber hands that you and I love, I’m afraid, are not real and have to be made in little rooms all around the country. And when the monsters and hands and gibbons are ready they are brought to set and put on the actors and no one knows they’re not real. Many beginners in this industry, when they are directing, make the mistake of thinking they are real and go off looking for monsters and disappear from the set for days and when they come back they are told that there aren’t really any real monsters and to stop being so silly.

Want to know more about special effects? Watch the making of Peter Ward’s movie ‘Kipple’:

From the forthcoming book: ‘The Wisdom of Stupidity – The people in film that make your films for you or something’. Published by Headpress Books.