Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Madhouse diaries : Living on a film set


As I told you a few weeks ago, a new film about Operation Dynamo and the Evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II is being filmed in Dunkerque by Hollywood hotshot Christopher Nolan and the Madhouse kids were over the moon to learn that Harry Styles would be in it (along with Tom Hardy, Kenneth Branagh, Mark Rylance and numerous ... ahem ... proper actors !). Well, after a day tracking down Harry in Dunkerque on Monday - we managed to see him twice, but only in his car with blacked out windows so the kids are on a mission to meet him "for real" before the end of filming ! - I decided to go and check out what the rest of the team have been getting up to at the beach, where most of the filming will be done. To say I'm impressed at the attention to detail is an understatement. The first thing to arrive a few weeks ago were these big containers along the beach, which we've always been convinced were full of props.


Well, yesterday I had a sneaky peek at one that had been left open and stifled a giggle when I realised that it's more teabreak central, with snacks, drinks and kettles on hand for the set designers !


This intriguing piece of partially assembled set has been on the beach for a week or so.


Any ideas what it will be?



Well, I'm pretty sure it will be one of these. They've turned the Kursaal, our big concert/exhibition centre, into a 1940's factory for the purposes of the film and it looks amazingly realistic. If you didn't know, you honestly wouldn't.



There were an army of workers giving the metal and paint an authentically distressed look so that it looks old and tired, rather than brand spanking new.


It's been a hive of activity for days and this is just one small part of the set.


It looks like they're testing out the lighting now too, possibly for the nocturnal shots that are scheduled next week.


As I walked further along the prom, I kept looking at things thinking "is this new or does it usually look like that?" which just goes to show how realistic it all looks.



 Lots of things have "film set - do not touch" signs on them, which is what makes them stand out. I looked at this lamp post and couldn't see any difference to usual.



Then I saw these guys wheeling some of the wooden embellishments along the prom and realised that they've added forties style bases to the existing lamp posts.


Other things, such as these concrete benches and the palm trees in giant flower pots, have been deemed too modern and are being removed.


Three roads and part of the prom that will be used for filming are being revamped with bay windows and porches being added to the buildings. The shops and restaurants will have to close for a few days but they are being paid for the inconvenience and I'm sure they'll think it's worth it once they see their premises immortalised on the big screen.


This is what they look like when they're pretty much finished. Again, all the locals are trying to work out which shopfronts have been changed and which ones haven't !



One of the props - a wartime information board - was waiting to be added. The attention to detail is incredible and I really can't wait to see when all the finishing touches have been added.


This man spent the best part of an hour at the top of the flagpole faffing about.


I chatted to some people sitting on one of the few remaining benches and we couldn't work out if he was trying to put the flag up or take it down. The colours looked quite faded though so we decided it was a prop. It turns out, he wanted the flag to go right, not left, but the notch on the top of the flagpole was in the wrong place. I know I said the attention to detail was incredible, but would anyone really notice in the film ?!


Other props are lying on the beach, waiting to be used. No idea what these will be.


I was intrigued to see lorry loads of sand being delivered in piles along the prom.


It made me laugh because there is all this sand on the beach just a couple of metres away ! Having seen the photos from the set today, this has now all been made into sandbags and placed around the bay windows that they were installing yesterday.


Given the huge amounts of expensive looking photgraphic equipment, I guessed that these guys must be part of the crew. The one on the left was looking at the horizon (the landing jetty) as if he was waiting for something.


Sure enough, minutes later, thick black smoke starting pouring out of the end of the jetty because they were doing smoke tests. Apparently there will be big explosions and bomb scenes in the next few days so they will be sounding a siren just before each time so the local residents know it's not real. The school I teach in is only a 5-minute walk away so I'm sure we'll hear it quite regularly.


As I walked back up from the seafront, I saw a load more lorries unloading props and pieces of set. It's amazing to see how much stuff is being brought in.


The smoke was rolling across the beach thick and fast by now.


It was quite ironic to see the Allied War Memorial wreathed in smoke from the reenactment.


And also a fitting reminder that the film is all about honouring the hundreds of young men who lost their lives fighting for their country or trying to save them during Operation Dynamo. Try telling that to the legions of Directioners descending on Dunkerque at the moment though !

16 comments:

  1. All sounds truly exciting, Cheryl - I think I'd be more into meeting Mark Rylance than Harry though. I look forward to hearing and seeing more about how the film crew are changing your local neighbourhood :)
    Special Teaching at Pempi’s Palace

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    1. I'm pretty sure he walked past us when the girls were waiting for Harry outside of the hotel (they're all in the same hotel) - none of them batted an eyelid and he had a little ironic smile on his face !

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  2. How exciting, i've enjoyed reading about it.

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  3. How very exciting. Hope the kids manage to complete their mission to meet Harry

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    1. Sophie got a quick photo as he walked past to get into his van, but she's on a mission to get a hug and a proper photo with him !

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  4. What a great fun day out did your children meet the actors in the end๐Ÿ˜ƒ

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    1. My daughter got to touch Harry's arm so she was ecstatic !

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  5. What a great fun day out did your children meet the actors in the end๐Ÿ˜ƒ

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  6. Oh wow! How exciting! It sounds like you had a fantastic day x

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  7. It'll be interesting to watch the final film!

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    1. I'm really looking forward to it - it's fascinating seeing it brought to life in front of our eyes :)

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  8. As someone who lives in industrial South Yorkshire I can say those factories look very realistic! I've always wondered if film sets had to take over towns for several days in order to do filming.

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    1. While my daughter is staking out Harry Styles, I'm finding it fascinating visiting all the areas where they're preparing for filming. They've been working on the set for about a month now - mainly the factory part and the pace has really picked up over the past week. For the 5 days of filming (starting tomorrow), people have to stay out of sight (there will be staff around to accompany them out of their homes as needed) and the seafront shops/cafes will have to close for a few days but the homeowners and businesses are all compensated financially.

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  9. Wow! You are so lucky! I wonder what the sand was for....

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    1. It was for sand bags - see part two ! : http://madhousefamilyreviews.blogspot.com/2016/05/madhouse-diaries-dunkirk-steps-back-into-wartime-chistopher-nolan.html

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