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Oops, I did it again!

Another driving-in-the-dark escapade around the M25 – in the other direction today – to make a 6.15am call time for a different scene of the same production. That’s a full hour and a half later than last time’s ridiculous start, and there was no fog. 

And – hurrah! – today I had checked beforehand:

a) exactly how to operate the headlight full-beam, and 

b) where the heater dial is located.

It was consequently a less stressful experience from a driving perspective. Although the air temperature on my journey was warmer than it had been on the previous trip, the standing around on set was considerably colder. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people in one place shaking with cold, when pretending it was a balmy September day. This has reminded me that I really should have treated my weepy eyes by now. The constant streaming from my right eye added to the condensation behind the regulation masks we all wore between takes (ie. for hours!), making a soggy mess of my face. I guess it didn’t matter – they have decided not to give me any make-up, as I am clearly radiant enough already (LOL), so there was nothing other than my own super-strength waterproof mascara to spoil.

What struck us particularly, as we were mini-bussed back to our car park in the early afternoon, was how beautiful the surroundings were in the slanty-sunlight. Lucky to be released before it got dark again – we would otherwise have missed a treat. It was just impenetrable black and muddy this morning.

Of course, I am contractually obliged to keep secret the production on which I am now a ‘regular’ (haha – twice already and next week too, regular?), but suffice to say I am VERY EXCITED. 

And COVID-tested to within an inch of my life.

SA crisis

All of a sudden my inbox has been flooded with availability requests for film and TV work as a Supporting Artist (SA). SAs were previously known as ‘Extras’ – do keep up!

Although I’ve worked on a few film projects over the past few years, these have mostly been non-paying jobs on small-budget productions – all enjoyable and interesting. I found these jobs through an agency for which I pay a small annual fee. (Here’s an example from an earlier blog)

I also joined a larger agency platform which is used by higher profile film companies and I’ve been put forward for a few jobs in the past, but never been cast. This suddenly changed last week. With just one day’s notice, I was ‘cast’ on a big Netflix production and found myself at a large studio complex being Covid-tested, then costume-fitted and hair-styled.

This is all a great deal less glamorous than some of it might sound. For example, I spent most of last Thursday morning sitting in my car in a Civic Offices car park across the road from the studio complex, between a brief visit to a dedicated portakabin for my PCR test (this was my first test administered by anyone other than myself and was far less unpleasant than I had expected) and a slightly longer period in another portakabin being hair-‘styled’ for my role.

I was also fitted for some mid-1990s clothing. My gentle protestations that ‘I would never have worn this’ were met by a reminder that I would be playing my current age and not the age I actually was in the 1990s. Of course, I should be channeling my mother – or, in this case, due to the  political leanings of my character, my mother-in-law. That made things a little easier, although I could not fully reconcile myself to the lemon-yellow anorak eventually selected. I’m pretty sure my M-I-L would have baulked at that too.

After one intervening trip for a second Covid test (we get paid for this, and I was thrilled to find that my old person’s freebie travel card got me all the way there and back for such a short middle-of-the-day visit), the day of filming arrived. I say ‘day’ – but in fact it was really still the night…

I find myself hurtling round the M25 at 4am – having risen at 02.50 in order to throw some clothes on, drink as much coffee as I felt was safe before a 75 minute drive and stuff everything I could possibly need into my battered old shoulder bag – with the dashboard temperature gauge showing a blue 2 degree reading, patchy fog looming across the lanes every few minutes and with no more than a handful of random lorries to pass. I am terrified. I do not drive in the dark. I see things which are not there, and possibly don’t see some things which are. Or so I have convinced myself over the years and this was an unplanned dramatic return to the experience.

When the call time came through for this filming, with no more than 9 hours notice, I was horrified to see that it was for 04.45. I’m not sure how many times I double/triple/etc checked the email. I couldn’t very well ask Mr J to drop me off. He may be very obliging, but that would have been pushing my luck. 

It seems that my lack of practice at driving in the cold and dark was about to catch up with me. Once I had successfully negotiated a slip-road onto an A road, I appeared totally incapable of finding the headlight full-beam. I knew where it should be, but somehow I was too clumsy to make the correct stalk-flicking motion – quite possibly because my hands were so cold by this stage due to my additional inability to operate the heater, such that the temperature gauge was quite likely correct for both exterior and interior.

The last straw was finding myself on a tiny one-way road which was apparently property of the Ministry of Defence. I had programmed the sat-nav with a postcode given to me by the production company, and the address given was an RAF base. We were told to follow the LOC-Cars signs. Frankly, these were tiny (in the pitch dark and fog of the nighttime) and easy to mix up with others saying LOC-base, LOC-something else, and I may have been deceived by one, but I made a swift right turn only to realise that the cars which had been following me had continued on the larger B-road and I was now forging my own lonely (and possibly trespassy) way across a bleak ink-black estate. Hopeless. I’ll never make it on time now, my TV career is over and I may even be prosecuted for dangerous driving (as I was still flicking the full-beam flasher on and off between changing gears with the same frozen hand, no doubt with lunatic strobe effect).

Miraculously, I emerged onto a slightly larger lane and my sat-nav, which had been ruminating uncommunicatively since I struck off the B-road (no doubt due to MoD internet-jamming), sprang back into life to announce that I had arrived at my destination – and to my confused shock and delight, I spotted a field alongside me with arc-lights, a massive marquee and a stream of other cars coming from the opposite direction being marshalled by high-vis-jacketed crew. Relief! And I was bang on time – nothing short of a miracle.

I still don’t actually know how I got there. I mean, I find it hard enough normally to get out of bed for 8am let alone not long after midnight. It is quite surreal and should very probably not be repeated. I am thinking of my motorway panic as my ‘SA crisis’ – strangely timed at a similarly ungodly hour as my many undergraduate essay crises all those years ago.

I’ll continue as an SA – it’s fascinating to watch the actors and crew at work, and a buzz to be a tiny part of it all. But I think I’ll try and choose more carefully to avoid any more horrendous crack-of-sparrows journeys.

Or maybe I could just learn how to operate the car properly.




Oh wow!

I just randomly Googled the films for which I have done supporting artist roles in the past 15 months. One of them is apparently due for release at the end of October.

And what is more, my actual name is shown in the full cast list on IMDb. I think this means I am officially an actor/artist. Beyond excited now.

Oscars next!


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