PUNCH-UP’S, EPILEPSY & RUSSELL BRAND’S ESPRESSO – MY TIME ON A FILM SET

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Back in the summer of 2009 I was made redundant from my boring but sociable office job, working at insurance company Norwich Union. I had no new job lined up so decided it would be a good time to try my hand at working on a film set. Not easy work to get, but my friends sister was/is an assistant director on some pretty big productions. After some pleading she said she could get me some work as a runner on a new film in London. I leapt at the chance to have this experience, especially after visiting the set for Lesbian Vampire Killers earlier on in the year. I mean, that film was terrible, but it was still good to see what goes on behind the camera.

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Enough said about this one the better

The new movie sounded much more promising. It was to star Russell Brand and Jonah Hill, and was a follow up of sorts to Forgetting Sarah Marshall. It was to be named Get Him To The Greek and was shooting in various places in London. I made arrangements to stay with a friend in East London, and would drive myself to the set in the middle of London. All good, all very exciting!

The first morning I had to be on location for around 7am if I recall. Now, here’s where things started going awry. I suffer from epilepsy and am on medication. If for some reason I don’t get much sleep, and am a bit stressed out, coupled with not taking the medication? Let’s just say the outlook is grim. And so it was. I woke early, was playing with my phone when the next thing I know I was on the floor wondering what was going on. In the course of my seizure, I had managed to burn a nice big hole into my big toe on my right foot, courtesy of the friction from the carpet. Nice!

Despite this painful set back, I didn’t want to let my friends sister down, so I drove into London for 7am and joined up with the crew. They were all veterans I imagine, and had little time to bother with a low-down newbie runner like me. I was handed a radio and told what to do. No time for pleasantries when a movie is being made.

The first scene to be shot was a jog in the park with Russell Brand and Jonah Hill. It was probably only in the film for a matter of seconds, but it took all morning to shoot.

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St. James Park, London

This was my favourite part of my experience, because I got to meet some of the extra’s who run, walk and cycle by in the scene. They were mostly veterans who have done that sort of work on loads of features and TV shows. They knew the score. They knew the endless waiting around, repeating what they have done numerous times, standing at the back of the queue for the catering van. And they were happy to chat to me about all of it. They were really nice, which is more than I can say about the food, which was terrible. I don’t know what Brand and Hill ate, but I’m guessing it wasn’t the same as what I had.

During a break in filming the scene, I was asked to go to a nearby Starbucks to get Russell Brand an espresso. This was agony on two counts. One being the blood from my toe was starting to stain my white plimsoll red and making it hard to walk, and the second being that I hate coffee and hate Starbucks and had, up to that point, steadfastly refused to visit one. There’s no business like show business though, so I ended up getting Russell Brand his coffee, to which he politely thanked me.

As I, and the day, limped on we pitched up at Trafalgar Square, and this is where the action really turned up a notch. The scene in question was supposed to be Brand cavorting on the edge of a fountain with some football fans. I was stood over the other side of the Square, when there was a commotion. A man ran from the fountain, followed in hot pursuit by Russell Brand. This wasn’t in the script. It turns out this guy had pushed Brand into the fountain! Now, I’m not a big fan of Russell Brand so I thought this was pretty funny. His big bodyguard didn’t though. He grabbed the guy and hauled him over to where I was standing and proceeded to punch him in the face! Now, Russell Brand’s security guy isn’t someone you want to get punched in the face by, but the guy took the blow pretty well before being carted away.

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You don’t want to get punched by this guy!

Now, get this. For those of you wanting to work in the film industry. There is a law that says if filming goes into the next day then you get paid for that day, no matter what time filming finishes. Great huh? So, in this instance, we wrapped shooting in Trafalgar Square about half past midnight, meaning I got paid for the whole of that day as well! So, despite a very long day, I actually got paid for two days that day. Mind you, walking around with a hole in your toe isn’t much fun so it was only a small consolation at the time.

The next day there was more shooting in and around London, a couple of scenes which I don’t think even made it into the movie by the end of it. By the end of the second long day, walking around London and standing on my battered feet all day I had enough. I’m sad to say I headed back home, much to the annoyance of my mates sister. I feel guilty about leaving after three days, but I could barely walk any more and wanted to get home to my wife and look for another job.

The experience was absolutely amazing, and if I lived in London would definitely be something I would persue on a full-time basis. The days are long and it’s unglamorous work but you get paid OK, and it sure beats sitting in an office.

And for those of you who haven’t seen Get Him To The Greek, don’t bother, it’s shit! Haha

Tom

About thomasjford

I like Movies and Music and most things popular culture.

10 comments

  1. What a great story! Sorry about your toe; the film had its funny moments, but not sure it was worth your pain and aggravation. A unique experience I bet you wouldn’t trade. Fun post. 🙂

    • Too right Cindy. I would have loved to work on the film longer but due to various circumstances I wanted to get home. It was a great experience though!

  2. Great story…and I agree with your assessment of the movie. As a huge fan of Forgetting Sarah Marshall I had at least moderate expectations that Get Him To The Greek could be decent. No such luck. At least it was fun behind-the-scenes.

    • Thanks for reading Rich. It was certainly an eye opener! I’d love to do something like that again, but you have to really live in London.

  3. Wait a second.. You DON’T like Starbucks? 😦 Why? 😦
    Your story is easily better than the movie 🙂

  4. I may disagree with your coffee bashing but I am extremely jealous about your time on set! Minus the toe injury of course!!

    • I would recommend it to anyone who gets a chance to do it. It’s a shame I couldn’t capitalise on my opportunity and make something out of it, but like I’ve said, if you don’t live in London then it’s pretty hard to find a job like that.

  5. Ahahaha your story is hilarious!! Nice to see the un-glamorous side of a movie, for once. Didn’t know you have epilepsy – I definitely imagine that would complicate a thankless job like being on a film set all day. And your poor toe!! Yikes. I actually thought “Get Him to the Greek” was a super hilarious movie, but I understand why it gets shit on all the time. I am 100% with you about Starbucks being evil, though!!

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