Friday, 25 May 2012

Hollyoaks Enchanted Forest Promo

At the start of this month I somehow managed to get myself working on the latest Hollyoaks promo and not just as a runner but as a set dresser, you know like a proper person's role where you get more exciting tasks to do than fetching tea for people who are too lazy/busy to do it themselves. I'm not quite sure how it all came about to be honest, I think a bit of shamelessly plugging myself on Twitter and Linkedin helped but to cut a long story short I was head hunted by a lovely lady called Emma Carroll who owns her own prop house in Manchester. She got in contact with me and asked if I wanted to be a set dresser on a Hollyoaks promo and obviously I said yes.

We were filming in a wood in Formby (just north of Liverpool) and it was the craziest and most exciting two days of my life. I have never worked on such a large production. As we pulled up at Unit Base on the first morning, there was a rather large car park packed full with vans and lorries and then at the location base we took up a whole field with other vehicles. There was a carousel and catering vans and huge marquees to eat in and coffee vans that made real coffee and golf buggies with trailers to lug all our gear on to set. The call sheet went on for nine pages and it was just a never ending list of names and contact numbers. This is how I always imagined what working in Hollywood must be like, not a one minute trailer for Hollyoaks!

If you haven't seen it yet watch it now and then I shall carry on with my tale...

So I was a key player in dressing the first scene with the tents and the bluebells, the smashed up living room scene, the lit up tent scene and I spent a good three hours or more in a field planting all of those poppies, buttercups and wild parsnips on my own. I had people walking their dogs commenting on the fact that they got very confused as they had never noticed poppies in that field before, that is until they spotted me hiding behind a clump of grass forcing them into the ground. I thought that if I could fool the locals into thinking they were real then surely that can only be a good thing...some of them even suggested I should leave them in after we had finished because the field looked much prettier than it did before.

There were about eight people in the art department alone and I loved working with every single one of them. We made a nice little happy family and they were all highly professional with so much vision yet so down to earth and they accepted me straight away and just let me get on with the things I was doing. The food from the catering van was possibly some of the nicest meals I've ever eaten and although we were on set for over 17 hours on the day we were shooting (we also had a day to prep the sets and a day to take it all down again) we always had enough food in our bellies to keep us going.

I can't begin to put into words just how much of an amazing experience the whole thing was. Not just being on the set of something as huge and visually stunning as this but to actually be dressing the sets for it as well was something that was just one big pipe dream for me up until very recently. The day after we wrapped I think I was awake for a total of six hours. I woke up at around 2pm to find that I physically couldn't move as all the muscles in my body had seized up, I went into the living room to say hello to my flatmate, had some breakfast, had a long hot soak in the bath and then fell asleep on my bed again with my towel still wrapped around me. It was a gorgeous day and I managed to miss all of it! Personally I'm not into running or going to the gym (you really don't need to be if you work in this industry) but I can only compare it to how it must feel to finish a marathon. You're physically and mentally exhausted, your body feels like it will never work again but you really can't beat that rush of pride and achievement.

For more news on this promo and to see a behind the scenes video (that features more of my poppy field and other exciting things) go to the Hollyoaks Blog. I also fully intend to put up some photos either this evening or sometime tomorrow so be sure to check back soon!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Carry on Temping

I'm at a tricky stage in my freelancing career where I'm starting to get my name known by production companies in the North West and people are asking for my assistance on set and in the production office. Unfortunately the jobs aren't for long enough periods for me to pack in my temping-on-the-side just yet. The trouble is I get bored easily when I'm not working and also slightly panicky so if a temping agency phones me during a quiet period asking me to work I will instantly say yes.

At the moment I'm in a period where I'm temping for a couple of weeks to tide me over until I journey down near Luton for 10 days to run around Whipsnade Zoo with a bunch of overly excitable kids as part of an event put on by the guys from Aardman (read more about that here). Originally this temping contract was only going to be for a couple of days which is exactly what I wanted but then it got extended and extended some more and now I'm here for a whole 3 and a half weeks (and dashing around the country on Saturdays to work on Dickinson's Real Deal). I do this until the 30th May then I travel down south on the 31st, pick up a hire car and work for 10 days solidly missing all the Jubilee bank holidays as I go. It works out that I have just 5 days off in the period between 3rd May - 10th June whereas most people with normal jobs will have had a total of 15.

I need to get me some of these mittens made by Jennifer Westwood
I'm not complaining and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's really nice to be busy but what started as temping for a few days to stop my brain from shutting down completely between freelancing jobs has snowballed out of control and I'm left feeling that perhaps I should start saying no to these pesky temping agencies that phone me up to work all the time. The major down side is that I've had three production companies phone me in the meantime asking if I can do ad hoc days of work with little to no notice (one phoned me up at 09:40 one morning asking if I could be in Liverpool by 11am!) and I've have had to turn them all down due to me not keeping myself available for such eventualities. If the work had been longer than a day I would obviously pack in my temping job in a flash but this particular agency has been very good to me in the past and the people I'm working with at the moment are all very lovely. I'm always the first person they ask for when they need a spare pair of hands so I don't want to piss them off by leaving them stranded because they will just go out and find another favourite temp and when I'm going through another dry work patch they won't be there to help me out with my rent and my bills and more importantly fuel my alcohol and cigarette addictions.

When I finish my manic working stint in a month's time I'm having a week off and bumming around London for a bit. Hopefully by the end of this spell I will have sorted myself out and shall rise to greet the dawning of a new which my tv and temping work come together in a great and glorious future!*

* Obviously I would rather be in a position where I can ditch the temping altogether, I just really wanted to throw a Lion King reference in there.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

My First Ever Invoice

On Friday I created my first ever invoice for actual paid work within the industry. I almost feel like an adult who trades her services for a monetary value or something ridiculous like that and it feels absolutely bloody a-maze-ing! After four years of earning very little in this industry I was beginning to think that being able to make a living from working in the biz was a complete and utter myth. Now I have a bit of paper (which is hopefully the first of many) to tell me that it can actually be done. I think I might even frame it and put it up on the wall.

As super temp of the century (these are other people's words, not mine) I have seen and churned out a fair few invoices in my time. It is a boring and monotonous job and not very fun at all, especially when you get to see how much companies charge for their services in comparison to how much they give you in return for being their slave girl. However, when you're creating invoices for yourself, it is a rather daunting but exhilarating task, especially if it's on the back of your first properly paid freelancing gig within the industry you actually want to work in. Anything could go wrong, you're calculations could be out so you double and triple check just to be on the safe side whilst all the time thinking "I can't believe I'm actually being paid a decent wage for this". Then there's the issue of how to plan your referencing system. Even in my long and wonderful years of admin based roles, most of the time I just have to make do with whatever referencing system is already in place but when you have to start one from scratch it's a whole different story. Then there's the layout to think about and the potential typos to avoid and the formal business lingo you have to adhere to and a million and one other things that you've never really worried too much about before when churning out invoices but when it becomes personal then it can take hours to do just the one.

So now my first ever invoice has been typed up and sent off and I feel a little throb of victory coursing through my veins at the whole process. All I need to do now is wait to be paid and then have a nice long chat to Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs about how to deal with tax and National Insurance issues which I am not looking forward to. Things like that confuse the hell out of me and I'm just very glad that it just so happens that my first paid solo freelancing gig happened after April and not before.