Getting the set finished

Home. K-Stage, Shepperton Studios. Where the tea urns never run dry and you're always no more than two minutes away from industrial strength solvents or a plate of chips. The Sarang set construction period was a really interesting time for me. Seeing this place become real that I had constructed in my head was such a weird thing it's hard to describe. The final set was so close to my designs that it was like being inside my own head. I know this might sound a bit arty and wanky but it honestly did.

Duncan and I would visit the set whilst it was under construction a couple of times a day and sometimes spend all day in there if we were needed for anything. As the base became more complete there were endless little tours checking out where we were going to site monitors, light boxes, could we get some dolly track in here, a light in there, etc. The construction crew would play old school dance music really loudly from a ghetto blaster at the side of the studio whilst they worked giving a tour of the studio a weird party vibe.

One of the things that really surprised me was how much paint the construction crew got through. The set would be sprayed and it was closed off in sections with transparent plastic sheeting as this work was underway. It looked just like on the TV show Dexter when he's doing his murdering business. We had this thick brown paper on the floor, which was supposed to keep the place clean, but was really annoying and slippery to walk on. It's funny how you come to associate things together as now, whenever I hear thick, brown parcel paper being wrinkled it takes be right back to walking around the base with a pencil in my mouth drawing little marks on the wall where I wanted graphics to go. 

Gerty wasn't the only robot on station in Sarang. R2D2s little brother used to show up on the set and just stand there, staring into space. I guess it's tough trying to break into showbiz when you're got a more successful older sibling.

In the pic below you can see a chat occurring around the comms console. You'll see the overhead lighting recess areas are covered in transparent plastic.

When we were shooting, these areas were covered in a couple of stepped layers of tighter fitting film to diffuse the light and had light-boxes mounted above them. One afternoon whilst we were shooting, quite a loud buzzing kept interrupting us. It would stop and start and we had to stop shooting to locate the sound as it was interrupting takes. After ten minutes of scratching our heads we realized a fly had become trapped between the plastic layers and was slowly cooking to death in the trapped space. Occasionally it would summon the will to live a little longer and make another noisy but futile bid for freedom. We couldn't get to the fly to either release it or put it out of its' misery, so we had to keep shooting with the threat of interruption and hope the fly died sooner rather than later. Turned out it took a couple of hours to bake his little insect brain. Cheers Mr fly, you really slowed us down for an afternoon with all your noisy dying.

This is the padded bulkhead sections before they were moved into the set. You can clearly see on the floor the areas where various bits and pieces of the set have been sprayed white before they got taken into the main set. There was loads of spraying going on throughout construction and the whole set got painted time and time again. Like my lungs.

This is the poly-board layout that was put together by the drawing team prior to construction. I've always loved these little models and it pains me a bit that they are so temporary and fragile. It's essentially a paper model held together by pins so it's really delicate. These things are always falling apart in the offices from everybody poking at them. Probably got binned ages ago.

The Infirmary overhead section was suspended by chains and used to drift and sway if it was touched. It used to be pretty annoying sometimes as it had quite a bit of inertia so if it got knocked it'd take a while for it to stop moving.

One part of the set that still annoys me is the harvester-interior section. I'd always wanted this to be "more", and generally have a more cool stuff going on but in the end we could only afford a little three-wall-and-door type set. It's actually the reverse of the Airlock door and we doubled it up in the film. When you see Sam leaving Sarang at the beginning of the film to get in his Rover is this same door as when he's inside the Harvester. The tape over this door is restricting access as this door was one of the main ways into the set. We'd enter through here in the morning and stay in there until lunch, then back in again for the afternoon. This door was one half of the tiny airlock room, which had a door at each side with the pressure suits hanging left and right. If the set had just been sprayed and was slick with wet paint we'd have to tape areas off so that people didn't keep walking through. They did anyway. Nobody used to obey signs and notices like this. When we were shooting, Sam used to hide in the airlock and close both doors smoking rollies, which was properly naughty of him. Funnily enough, I only ever caught him doing this as Sam 2. Thinking about it, it might have been Sam in character. I'd never made that connection until I wrote it just then. You'll see R2D2s little brother edging into this shot again. He's so attention seeking. I think he might be on drugs.

This is what the Sarang set looked like under the studio lights once everybody had gone home. It was pretty spooky and really quiet and still. I used to like wandering around the set when there was nobody else there and just sitting in the corridor nice and still and zen. It was really peaceful and a great place to get away from the pressure for a little while which was weird as this is technically right in the middle of it.

This is as close a picture as there is of the entire Sarang set and I had to lean right out over the scary gantry to take it (which is why it's as a bit of a rubbish angle). You can see here how the Monitor Room tower was up on scaffolding hanging off the end of the main corridor. We built the decking around it to provide access to the outside of this part of the set as there was all sorts of electrics for lights and monitors up there. I always found this part of the set pretty annoying as if you were inside the tower and somebody was outside working the monitors, the walls were that thick that if they were crouched right down you had to shout really loud for them to hear you. I spent a lot of time shouting instructions to people across noisy sets on Moon, as it could be a very noisy place to work. In the top-right corner you can see a part of the clone-room food-storage wall leaning against the edge of the set next to some smaller scale bulkheads for the forced perspective set that are being worked on. You can see here how the main corridor ceiling was hung from chains from the roof.

The Return-Vehicle room and the Infirmary both had open ceilings that were never covered. The Return-Vehicle cables that were hanging down were actually cables from one of Gary Shaws' old Motion-Control rigs that he had knocking around in his garage.

Do you like biscuits? Of course you do, who doesn't? We ate quite a lot of biscuits for Moon and as our budget was so absurdly tight I'd go around and grab all the little plastic trays out of the bins and use them as set dressing in our Moon base. If you look closely you'll also see printer cartridge boxes and Ikea knife-and-fork trays. The trick is that if you can apply this stuff with some sort of an eye for balance and form, when you paint it all the same colour if just looks like a new, cohesive thing. It honestly makes me cringe telling you all this sort of stuff. Bear in mind that I've been trying to make a science-fiction film since whenever and it's not been an easy ride. Of all the types of film to make, an Independent British Science-Fiction film must be the hardest. But we managed to pull it off. In my head I always imagined this moment to be a bit grander but here I am talking to you about how we stuck some biscuit trays on a wall and painted them white. Go Team Sci-Fi!!