Late October, there was a call out for riders with cruiser type bikes, to appear in a feature length film. A few of us turned up for a casting, where a photographer took pics of us, to forward onto the director.
In the end Jane Everett, Simon Rampkin, John Knott, Benn Moffat & Fleur Albrecht were selected. A few weeks later, we meet on a very early, mid November Monday morning, at South Mimms to leave at 07:00. A quick hop on the M25 & off a few junctions later towards Chingford. I was leading so an ideal opportunity to ride up through Epping Forest, to admire the autumn colours.
The days filming of a wake, was based in a pub, which they had booked out all day. There we meet up with a handful of other bikers, all showing off their pride and joy cruisers.
The set manager indicated where they would like the bikes positioned, to be in shot. One lucky biker, award winning owner Jane, had hers parked up next to the “hero” bike, a Triumph.
We all sloped off round the back for COVID testing, brecky rolls, hot drinks & a checkout by makeup. The rest of the morning shift was spent sitting around, out of shot, shooting the breeze, drinking tea & trying to keep warm.
We slowly got used to the instructions from the floor crew, when we had to be quiet. They did run throughs & takes, we were never quite sure when they had finished each shot. We had a very strict “quiet on set” lady who shushed us at any opportunity.
Hot lunch was provided along with crisps, biscuits & desert. Once all the crew were fed, we decamped into the pub. At least this stopped us dying of hypothermia, a dry day but cold outside.
Late afternoon we were “on set” being filmed. They had set up a buffet for the wake. Some of us had to walk across the set, some outside having a sly fag, JK standing at the bar, next to the lead male.
He with the “hero” bike is Tony Pitt’s. He is mostly known for playing Archie Brooks in Emmerdale, Peaky Blinders – Inspector Moss, Jamestown – Massinger & Line of Duty – Hargreaves.
The leading lady “Sue”, who the film is named after “Sweet Sue” is Maggie O’Neill. She’s known for her television roles in Peak Practice, Shameless and EastEnders. In 1986 she appeared in the music video for Simply Red’s single Holding Back The Years. In 1988 she appeared in the film Gorillas in the Mist.
The other lead female on set with us was Hannah Walters, known for playing in C4’s – This Is England & in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. She also played DC Megan Riley in Whitechapel.
Directed on proper film, not digital, by Leo Leigh, son of Mike Leigh & Alison Steadman, for BBC films.
After a 10 hour day we were dismissed. We bonded with some of the other bikers, who we’d added to our WhatsApp group to keep them in the loop for the next round of filming.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, ACTION Day 2
Day 2 for us, unfortunately this came with a horrendous start time. Some of us were up before 4 a.m. to meet up at South Mimms services, to leave at 5:30. Our gang now included a couple on their Harleys. They appreciated the group riding round to Brentwood on the M25. It was dark, a bit nippy but thankfully the traffic flowed nicely without any holdups. We called in at the filming location, by 6:15, but we’re then directed off to a local scout hut to twiddle our thumbs, breakfast baps, hot drinks & a COVID test.
After whiling away a hour or two, a quick decamp to the cemetery for a run through for the group scenes. We provided the motorcycle funeral cortège, following the Harley hearse combo, with “Pete” inside. Driving very slowly through the cemetery, with our hero nestled within our midst. So many takes & retakes, having to get the spacing nice & tight between all the vehicles. Then another shooting section with us in convoy, again needing quite a few retakes.
Once that was “in the can” (picking up the lingo now) we were now on foot for the grave side scenes. Somehow, I ended up with a speaking part. A tot all round of a JD prop drink, a toast and Benn with 3 others lowering poor Pete, into the ground. This scene was redone so many times, from different angles, with me, who only had one line to speak, almost getting it wrong each time. I did feel sorry for the guys lowering Pete, as the props team had heavily weighted the coffin, making it a good work out for them.
Finally, by 3:30 it was a wrap, our services no longer need on set. I was anxious to get our crew back on the 25 & homeward bound before the Friday commuters had a chance to mess it up.
2 very long 10 hour days, but on reflection well worth it. We experienced an environment that we are unlikely to be exposed to again. Most of the time on day 1 was spent sitting around, chewing the fat & being paid to drink tea. I felt sorry for the production crew, who on our last day I counted 30 of. Not sure what there rolls were but they were very professional, obviously loved the film industry & made us feel very welcomed.
Our closing chat amongst the RoadRunners revolved around what to wear for the opening night, taffeta or leather ?