From volunteer to movie star

Location Spectrecom Studios | Mood High on green paint | Date 28 November 2007
Author (full name): 
Sylvia Wroblewska
Spectrecom Studios
High on green paint
"Rolling... and Action!"
28 November 2007

I can't ever imagine anyone writing a sufficient job description for a Production Assistant. In the 9 months I've been with Spanner Films, I've been a volunteer, an office manager, an accounts assistant, a cook, a courier, a cocktail waitress, a make up artist, but today was officially the strangest working day (to date) of my time at Spanner.

Last week Producer Lizzie mentioned that Animation Director Martyn needed to shoot some footage in a green screen studio for the animated 2055 devastated world sequence. We needed to find half a dozen tall and skinny people willing to walk around a studio looking depressed for a few hours. Sounded easy enough.

Lizzie stopped talking, but was still looking at me, well, more like my lanky, skinny arms. I realised then that I didn't have to look far for 'Skinny Refugee Girl #1'. Damn. Soon after, our dainty Archive Researcher Beth walked into the room and was immediately cast as 'Skinny Refugee Girl #2'.

Futuristic refugees - no costumes 2: Five of the futuristic refugees before their costume fitting at the green screen shoot. Note how skinny they are to reflect the hardship of finding food in our apocalyptic 2055 setting. Date: November 2007Location: Spectrecom Studio, LondonCopyright:  Spa

  Sylvia Wroblewska (Production Co-ordinator) making detailed costume adjustments before shooting could start at the green screen studio.  Not quite sure why we decided that turbans would be de rigeur for refugees in 2055 but with Sylvia's nimble a

Pre-refugee shot.

  Sylvia and Lee dressing as refugees.

The past drama filming that we've shot has taken place in the front room of Franny's dad's flat, using Mr Armstrong's lights and a (very) second hand blue screen smelling of moth balls. But thanks to a one of our keen volunteers Christiaan (who also happens to be the studio manager of Spectrecom Studios in Greenwich) along with a couple of DVDs and a box of nice chocolates, we had ourselves a proper posh studio for the afternoon.

Our next job was to find a hand full of 'Refugee Kids', so we did what Spanner has done on every other occasion, (no, we didn't go with Franny and Andy in) we nicked our mate's kids. Alfie and Louise kindly agreed for us to borrow their offspring Alistair, Oochella and Zac, for the afternoon.

Refugees in costumes   Martyn giving kids composition lesson

Once we reached the studio, myself, Lizzie, Martyn and Animator Greg go to work with the superb crew at Spectrecom Studios, setting up lighting, props and last minute faf.

Due to the customary central London traffic, Beth and the kids were running late, so the crew spent the first hour filming me waddling in front of a green screen looking cold and depressed. Eager to get the shoot under wraps, we needed to find a few refugee boys. Studio Manager Christiaan was cast as 'Refugee Boy #1' but wasn't available until later in the afternoon.

Lizzie searched the studio and discovered carpet layer Lee who was immediately dragged in front of the camera to play 'Refugee Boy #2'.The shoot went down a storm. Martyn and Greg were happy with all of the shots; the kids were hungry for dinner and the adults in need of a stiff drink.

So now sitting here in the studio while Christiaan touches up the stage with green paint for tomorrows shoot, I thank myself for never taking an interest in acting. Being in front of the camera scares the shit out of me. But then again, we will all eventually be animated and unrecogisable, so I may just secretly pause the 0.03 of a second I’ll be on screen and watch my mother burst of pride.


And here is the finished product:


The Arctic Shanty Town shot is the final sequence in a series of stylized representations of the devastation expected in 2055, including London underwater and Las Vegas buried in the desert, and culminating in a shanty town in the arctic, near to "The Archive", somewhere off the coast of Norway.

Original photomontage paintings were created by Animation Director Martyn Pick, and then VFX Supervisor Gregory McKneally (The Photon Shepherds) cut them up and placed the elements in 3D space to create a rough version of the scene in After Effects. Then our acting finesse was inserted and used to populate the devastation scenes and the shanty town. Once the basic camera movement and layout was in place and approved, Compositor Marc Knapton took over the shot to finesse the details of the bear, the ocean, the villagers and the everpresent mist. The sequence was then passed back to The Photon Shepherds team to be integrated with the live action water and CG tower shot which follows.