By Jack Salvadori
Have you ever dreamt of entering a big-scale film set? Wandering amongst famous actors, directors, and watching the movie as it comes to life? Well, let me tell you how to make that dream come true – without being hired and 100% illegally, of course.
Sometimes it can be just a matter of luck, other times, it’s the result of a careful plan. That being said, most of the time it’s a combination of both. What you will need is determination, guts, and very good improvisation skills.
When I read the news that Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson was about to try to change the history of cinema forever – in London – I knew I had to be involved. In fact, the actor aimed to write, direct and perform in a feature film about a disastrous misadventure that happened to him in London, 15 years ago. Since its birth, cinema belonged to the past. It relied on images that were shot months or years earlier. And this is exactly the convention that Harrelson decided to break: he broadcasted his directorial debut in more than 500 cinemas in the United States as it was being filmed in a single take on the streets of London at 2:00 AM. For the first time in the history of the seventh art, cinema was ‘live’.
After recruiting a group of four friends on a Thursday night, we headed into London in search of the secret filming location. One of the first things to look at is the presence of huge, white trucks – every production employs them as they are essential to carry all the equipment and crew, and they are very easy to spot. Security, police officers or closed streets are also a red flag, but we could not find any of these after wandering around Soho for about an hour. The internet was not helping us either, keeping any details a secret for safety reasons. As I mentioned earlier, luck always plays a big role and suddenly, we found a random pedicab that was aware of the filming location, and thus he brought us on set.
Here is the scene: Woody Harrelson desperately running, fake police officers chasing him, and about twenty crew members following them holding microphones and cables, swinging among the traffic. What could we do? We ran after them! Not only did we manage to watch most of the film, but we even ended up in some shots. Once the actor was brought away in a police car, we knew that we could not run enough to follow him and so we continued to shadow the crew. Walking next to them with nonchalance as they entered the set (a night club reconstructed inside an abandoned building), we pretended to be extras and assistants and had the chance to explore the complexity and charm of an active film set. In these cases, it’s always better not to stand still and try to imitate the actions of the crew, so we moved around some boxes. After a while, we realised that the actor was not coming on set anymore, and so we decided to continue our street chase. We rushed towards Waterloo Bridge where we spotted the spectacular ending of the movie. However, we really wanted to get closer to the actors, and as we heard that there was the possibility of a Q&A with them after the film, we searched for it in all the cinemas we could find. From Southbank we reached Piccadilly Circus, where we luckily found the only picture house in the country that was showing the film. After persuading the bodyguard at the entrance, we hurried towards the screening room… only to find that the Q&A was not happening there, but was broadcasted from the set. We all knew what to do, and at 5:00 AM we rushed out of the cinema and back to the set.
When we arrived, we entered without problems as all the security were listening to the live Q&A. Once it was over, we personally celebrated the success of the film with Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson. I had a long chat with them and they told me that when they’ll be back in London, they might come and visit us! We were even interviewed by BBC1, thinking that we were members of the production team. It was one of the most satisfying nights in our lives – a dreamlike adventure that we will never forget, as well as a game changer in the history of cinema.
Featured image courtesy of http://www.newevolutionvideoproduction.com/