working on a film set

One of the things I love about my job is the variety. Yesterday I got the chance to have a look around the set of Ridley Scott’s new Robin Hood film “Nottingham”. I delivered my old lathe to Shepperton Studio’s and set up a bowlturners workshop for them.

The lathe will be worked by an extra in the film, I had quite fancied doing it myself but filming dates clashed with other commitments. I was very very impressed with the film set. There is plenty for the pedants to pick holes in, that type of furniture didn’t come in till 300 years later, those dough troughs are Eastern European style not medieval British etc but as Ridley Scott says he is not making a documentary it is entertainment.

I was expecting that a set would seem very plastic and false when you could see it up close but was surprised and impressed at the skill involved. The “stonework” of the castle had me sufficiently in doubt that I had to touch it before I knew whether it was stone or plaster. These wooden buildings whilst not museum replicas are incredibly plausible even close to as old buildings.

I have supplied many wooden bowls for the film and it was great to see the work of many other British craftspeople there too, rush mats and baskets by Felicity Irons and another traditional maker I didn’t know but will be looking out for.
PH Coates made many baskets and fish and eel traps

and there were other basketmakers too, including split wood baskets by Owen Jones and Lluis Grau
Then there were coracles, wool dying, a cooperage making barrels and a wooden bowtbuilders workshop. In fact it reminded me a lot of a time ten years ago when I visited the excavations at Novgorod in Russia where they had medieval layers uncovered and I was able to sit on the wooden doorstep of a house facing the river and see the axe marks where folk had split their kindling. There too each home had a trade, the same was found at Coppergate in York and in medieval London and the livestock lived in and around the buildings too.

It is possible to buy rough country antique furniture and artifacts from Eastern Europe, Pakistan and China at huge markets like Newark, the work there is often good and cheap and it would be very easy to fill a film set on a budget. This makes it all the more remarkable that the set builders here have taken the trouble to also include many items made specially by traditional craftspeople. I shall certainly be looking forward to the film.

7 Responses to working on a film set

  1. R Francis July 23, 2009 at 12:04 pm #

    coracles in nottingham?Did they fish on the Trent?

  2. Robin Wood July 23, 2009 at 12:15 pm #

    No idea if coracles were used in medieval times on the Trent, it certainly is a similar river to the Severn where they were commonly used in the 19th and 20th C. I know of a dug out boat recently excavated on the Trent.These coracles are sat beside the Castle moat not the Trent but as they say it is entertainment. I view it in the same way that I view the odd sloth creature in "Ice Age" Then again this sort of film if it is successful does inform popular belief and I am delighted that this will I hope be the first time that the standard medieval practice of drinking from bowls will have been shown.

  3. Robin Wood July 23, 2009 at 12:17 pm #

    PS certainly lots of evidence for medieval fishing being a significant part of the diet at Coppergate in York, the Ouse is a tributary of the Trent so…

  4. TREEWRIGHT July 24, 2009 at 9:15 am #

    What happens to all the props when the film is finished ?

  5. Woodland Antics July 24, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    Your lathe certainly looks at home on the set. In addition to the items you uncovered a couple of coppice craftsmen from the Surrey & Sussex coppice group have been working on the location sites (around Guildford) and the group has so far supplied many thousand chestnut palings, birch poles and hazel rods and hurdles which have been built into many of the buildings on the location sites. What an amazing coup this has been for traditional craft industries, and let's hope that it leads on from here into further films in the future.Mark

  6. Robin Wood July 24, 2009 at 10:45 am #

    Props tend to be sold on to prop houses who then hire them out for future productions.This film is unusual in the UK in having a very large budget £110m which is why they have been able to do the sets so nicely. I don't expect this sort of thing to be a regular feature of my work, but it has been fun as a one off.

  7. Jude July 26, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    Thank you, as usual, very interesting,