Follow the progress of the upcoming Epic Australia WWI Feature Film, Beneath Hill 60 as it goes overseas and onto DVD. From the Development, Pre Production to the Shoot and Post Production up to it's release in the Cinemas and now on DVD and BLU RAY, from Paramount, from August 19, 2010.
- CREW PROFILE: Caroline Baum talks to Stand-by Prop...
- CREW PROFILE: Caroline Baum talks to Unit Manager,...
- CREW PROFILE: Caroline Baum talks to Health and Sa...
- CREW PROFILE: Caroline Baum talks to Head of Makeu...
- Caroline Baum talks to Gillian Huxley, Australia’s...
- Armistice! - Production in Townsville is finished ...
- ▼ September (6)
Monday, September 21, 2009
It’s taken me weeks to speak to Gillian Huxley. She’s always on the move around the set with too much of a sense of purpose to be interrupted. Her flicking long black plait and formidable tool belt all add to a slightly intimidating ‘don’t get in my way, I’m busy’ attitude. When she’s still, you can’t help but notice her ramrod straight posture and the fact that her feet are always in what ballerinas recognise as first position. Her journey to the film set is unconventional, to put it mildly.
The daughter of an Australian jackaroo and a Chinese nurse who emigrated from Beijing, Gillian has her father’s nomadic spirit and work ethic. Harbouring dreams of becoming a dancer, she found herself accepted into class at the prestigious UK Royal Ballet School in London, despite her considerable height (She’s nearly 6 ft tall.) When a career as a ballerina did not materialise, Gillian formulated Plan B for how to work in the theatre, though she took a roundabout way, switching from the feminine world of the tutu to the other extreme.
In order to get work as a rigger in the theatre, at 23, she went to work on an oil rig in Bass Strait to build up her experience and her hours. There were three women in the crew with forty men. Gillian’s job saw her high up on a platform above the sea, pulling hoses out as part of an operation to remove drills from the seabed. ‘It gave me the tenacity you need to see a job through to completion’ she says.
‘In ballet, the endpoint is perfection, which is unattainable and ultimately futile, so the oil rig was curiously satisfying. I’m pretty fearless by nature, so I didn’t find the height or the conditions scary.’
Once she had her qualifications as a rigger, Gillian moved into the world of theatre and rock and roll tours, becoming part of the crew for everyone from Andre Rieu to Michael Jackson on his History tour (‘He had bouncers the size of heavy oak doors’) and Robbie Williams, a personal favourite ‘ because he came downstairs and shouted us all drinks at his hotel one night’.
From stage shows to film was just one easy step. Her first film was Mission Impossible 2 in Sydney and she was soon established as the only female Best Boy in the country, working on Moulin Rouge and Wolverine and fulfilling a personal ambition to work at the UK’s hallowed Pinewood Studios on one of the Star Wars movies.
Her favourite experience on BH60 has been rigging the so-called Moonbox, creating the moonlight effect by which many of the night time trench sequences were shot. ‘Eighty feet up in that cage of light, you get so elated by the view, you are the eye in the sky.’
And the most indispensable item in that tool belt ? ‘My Leatherman ‘ she says, without hesitation, ‘although I call it my Leatherwoman.’
Sporting a tattoo of a gecko on her leg, Gillian explains him as her climbing companion and talisman. Even when she’s relaxing, it’s with a sense of risk and height. She’s currently taking flying lessons, having mastered skydiving. Rock climbing is another pursuit. ‘Being in control of where you are heading matters to me. I like fighting gravity.’ The feminine side of her nature is apparent below the surface. ‘My toenails are always painted and my underwear always matches, that’s all you need to know!’
After Hill 60, Gillian’s projects include work on another independent film, The Tree, in Queensland before building an eighty foot Christmas tree at Darling Harbour. Next year, her plans are to crack the Chinese film industry as a fluent Mandarin speaker, while working on World Expo in Shanghai. Crouching tigers, hidden dragons, watch out.
Friday, September 11, 2009
There’s a reason that Shane and his team are known on set as The Beauty Department.
They always look good. Since the shoot has turned from the early civilian family and love scenes to the tunnels and trenches, everyone who goes into the make up truck comes out covered in mud and blood. But Shane and his team? Not a hair out of place.
Blessed with curls a Renaissance angel would envy, Shane fell in love with the movies as a kid. Growing up, his heroes were the Star Wars characters and The Wizard of Oz. ‘I also love Esther Wlliams movies’ he says.
After graduating from make up school in Sydney he got a lucky break into the business when he was taken on by seasonned make up artist Les van der Wal to work on Babe 2- an epic shoot that lasted twelve months. ‘Because it was so long it was like an extra year’s course, I learned so much’ says Shane, remembering that one of his jobs was ‘ to put wiglets on piglets. We had to glue these hand-
tufted hair pieces on to baby pigs while they were being bottle fed.’
Shane graduated from animals to children on Peter Pan - another unusually long shoot that lasted eleven months. ‘The huge luxury on that film was that we had a full time wig-maker on the team. She was old-school, London-trained and taught me how to set wigs. You wet them and then you bake them in the oven, which is great for period dos and finger waves.’
Working on Star Wars- Revenge of the Syth was a career highlight, given his childhood love of the characters. ‘It was pretty awesome to find myself turning Anakin into Darth Vader! We didn’t use any prosthetics for that transformation, just a lot of subtle work on the eyes, shading them as he crossed over to the dark side.’
Hill 60 is Shane’s first experience of a war movie. ‘There are two sorts of mud in the film: the blue clay type which the Germans dug through and the brown that the Australians dig. We have to match the facial mud to the mud on the ground for the Aussies, but I like the blue stuff because it looks good when you add the contrast of blood from cuts and wounds.’
Like all make up artists, Shane has preferred products but they are not the ones in a traditional beauty kit. He uses a favourite brand of blood he imports from the UK. ‘ It’s from a company called Animated Extras and they offer different textures and colours’ he says, with the enthusiasm of a vampire. ‘I like it because it does not stain skin, hair or clothes and that’s really important from a practical point of view when you are having to do a quick touch up.’ He imports his wounds from a US company called Watermelon. ‘It’s latex painted into moulds and it is particularly skin friendly and effective,’ says Shane, who has to keep up with ever-changing techniques and technologies from suppliers as well as increasingly varied demands from directors.
‘Hill 60 has been challenging because the budget is tight but the film requires everything
from the fresh faced beauty of a young girl to slit throats and stomach wounds that require pump rigs. Then there’s the fact that we are working under very difficult conditions, squeezing in and out of very tight, unfriendly spaces to get to the actors . There’s just no room for all of us to be doing touch ups in the tunnels at the same time so that’s an added pressure. We’ve had to become like a rapid response team, and work in quite an organic way’ says Shane, who starts a new job on the adaptation of John Marsden’s children’s classic Tomorrow When The War Began just one day after wrapping Hill 60.
He’s in demand as much for his manner as his technique. The make up artist sees actors first thing in the morning, no matter what state they are in. Sometimes the truck is a confessional, sometimes it’s a therapist’s couch ‘In this job, you really have to love actors, make them feel safe and that you are there to help them on their journey. I often ask them how they want the atmosphere to be, whether they’d like music or not, to make them as comfortable as possible. Sometimes I am the last person they see before the camera rolls and I need them to feel they can trust me completely.’ says Shane.
Asked who he’d most like to make up he replies Angelica Huston, Jake Gyllenhal (‘ he’s hot’) , Philip
Seymour Hoffman and George Clooney.
And his favourite beauty product that everyone should have?
Nothing fancy, not a luxury brand name. Just a jar of Paw Paw Ointment.
Photo by Wendy McDougall
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Health and Safety Officer, Laurence Pettinari at the hazardous trenches at Kelso, dressed in his staple khakis.
Photo by Wendy McDougall.
From day one of the shoot, I noticed a man in camouflage fatigues who seemed to be everywhere, always watching, watching. Sometimes he’d come up behind a member of the crew and gently move them to one side, out of the shade of a palm tree.
I soon discovered that Laurence Pettinari’s job is to keep everyone on the cast and crew safe from everything from falling coconuts to explosives. He has to anticipate every danger, make a detailed report of every scene in terms of risk assessment and then make sure that the worst case scenario never happens. On Hill 60 explosives, weapons, trenches, low roofed tunnels, horses, rats, electric cables, candles, mud and water all present particular challenges, to name but a few.
One of Laurence’s early reports out at the homestead where the scenes involving the Waddell family were shot warned of the dangers of standing under palms ‘unless they have been de-nutted’. Sounds painful. ‘I’ve seen it happen to people on holidays,’ says Pettinari, who has been a Health and Safety Officer for ten years and has learned to interpret even the most benign details as potential risks.
‘When we were scouting locations for Eucalyptus (the aborted Australian adaptation of Murray Bail’s novel) one of the dangers we had to note was the risk of falling branches in high wind. They are not called widow makers for nothing.’
‘Luckily, we’ve had no close shaves on this set apart from one incident with an untrained horse which panicked when blinkers were put on it. No one was injured, though the horse gave everyone a bit of a fright.’
He describes the Kelso trench location as ‘tough and dangerous but at least it was contained. Everyone had headlamps or personal torches so they could see where they were going during night shoots. Explosions are always a worry, no matter how much testing you do,’ says Laurence, who briefly considered a career in the military before discovering that he could enjoy the thrill of combat without the fatalities, in the film world.
In the studio where the tunnel sequences are being shot ‘dehydration is an issue as the days get warmer now’ says Laurence who experienced intense forty degree-plus heat shooting out in the desert near Winton in Queensland on the road movie Gone. ‘We had cool rooms set up and I got everyone tuned in to drinking miso soup and tea as part of the strategy for maintaining body temperature. You take a leaf from other cultures like the Japanese and the Indians when it comes to extreme conditions.’
A tidy Virgo (his description) Laurence lives on the Gold Coast. So far, his career highlight was spending six months in Port Douglas working on The Thin Red Line (‘Five day weeks- bliss’ he says, referring to Hill 60’s more arduous six day week schedule). Another highlight was working on Matrix 2 and 3. ‘Those were huge units with lots of rigging and flying so very challenging in terms of stunts. But with 1500 people involved, you just can’t hold everyone’s hand,’ says Laurence, before lugging a fire extinguisher on to the set.
When he’s not watching over other people’s safety, Laurence relaxes riding motorbikes and submitting to the ‘controlled pain of Japanese style contemporary tattooing.’
At the end of the first week of the shoot, my husband (screenwriter and co producer David Roach) came home clearly very impressed with the remarkably competent women on the set.
‘What am I, chopped liver?” I thought to myself.
Just exactly what kind of competency did these women have?
‘Oh you know, they fix generators, they climb rigging, they drive trucks,’ he said with undisguised admiration.
So I decided to go and check them out.
And sure enough, they are Hill 60’s Secret Weapon.
Leader of the pack is unit manager KIM GLADMAN , aptly named because she is always cheerful, no matter how tough the conditions. A self-confessed nurturer whom others call Earth Mother, you‘ll see Kim sweeping floors in punishing heat, happily cleaning toilets in a dusty paddock, doing anything that needs doing around the place to keep it ticking over smoothly. She is the only female unit manager in Australia and while her work uniform is shorts, boots, and a number 55 Rough Rider Akubra she replaces every year, she wears a different pear of earrings every day ‘as my one concession to being feminine.’
Her most important equipment on set is the coffee machine on the back of one of her trucks. ‘That is top priority’ she confirms. ‘Without that, the shoot would grind (forgive the pun) to a halt. She gets her coffee from a company in Albany called The Naked Bean and makes a mean latte.
Kim started in the film business twenty years ago as a driver, having grown up on the family gold and sapphire mine near Cooktown. (Her father, Graeme ‘Snowy’ Bostock, is Hill 60’s on set security guard.) Growing up around machinery from an early age, it was inevitable that she would end up driving trucks. ‘The mining industry likes hiring women because we are generally gentler on the gear, there’s less wear and tear,' says Kim who enjoys a bit of bush mechanic tinkering with engines.
In 1993 a film called The Penal Colony, starring Ray Liotta, came to the Atherton Tablelands. The production company used skips hired from Kim’s father’s business. ‘I had to empty out the rubbish’ says Kim ‘and when the unit manager, Tic Carroll, needed a driver for one of the trucks back to Sydney, he asked me and gave me my break into the business.’
Now Kim’s company, Ironbark Holdings, owns 8 trucks that she and her husband Ron built together, including Hill 60’s make up and wardrobe trucks.
Kim’s biggest gig so far was working on Baz Luhrmann’s Australia. “I was second in command on that, with forty five trucks at base camp. I ran the set in Bowen, then Darwin, then Cunnunnurra and I had to provide shade, water and toilets for everyone. It was massive. I love the big productions like Mission Impossible 2 and Wolverine,’ says Kim who loves logistics and admits that at home she is a fierce list maker and neat freak, which can’t be easy as the mother of four children under the age of thirteen (two of whom accompanied her to Albany for the recent shoot of Tim Winton’sLochie Leonard, where they were extras).
Fool’s Gold, a romantic caper starring Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey presented special challenges.‘ We were on water virtually the whole time for a fifteen week shoot. We slept on cruise ships off Lizard island and had barges of food, and had to freeze all our rubbish and take it off site.’
Phil Noyce’s The Quiet American was the only time when she’s cried on set
‘ because suddenly I could not communicate with my crew, who were all Vietnamese and it was terribly frustrating, as we did not have enough interpreters.’ she says.
And the film she wishes she’d worked on ? ‘Braveheart!’ Kim says, without hesitation.
‘I’d like to work with Mel just once, so I am holding out for Mad Max Four!’
As if all this were not enough, Kim has a hydroponic lettuce business and a barramundi farm above Port Douglas, where she and her family live on one hundred and fifty acres. To relax, she loves taking the children camping at Lake Tinaroo. ’ We catch yabbies and cook in camp ovens. I love teaching the kids that stuff, it’s the nurturer in me coming out again,’ says Kim, who is looking forward to going home for a few months when Hill 60 wraps. ‘I never know what the next job is until the phone rings’ says Kim, before being summoned to go and check out a power problem. Before I know it, she’s round the back of a truck, checking cables and the generator. All is right again within minutes.
Competent. It’s the understatement of the year.
Thursday, September 3, 2009
You don’t want to get in ‘Ado’ Ogle’s way on set. As the eyes and ears of the art department on set, she moves around with a sense of urgency that never slips into panic. Her job is to anticipate every item that the director will want to see in shot and to make sure it is ready- from a shovel to a gun to the nightmarish challenge of making sure the hundreds of specially made double-wick candles used to light tunnel scenes are all matched up from shot to shot. ‘I can’t tell you relieved I am when we are using electricity!’ she says with feeling.
With ten years as a horticulturist and sales rep for a nursery, Ado had a truck licence which came in handy as a way into the film business: she started out driving unit vehicles in 1997. ‘My first film as stand by props was a low budget Australian film called Angst. It was aptly named because I was a nervous wreck on it!’
‘My job means I am the front runner for ten or eleven departments, who can all be saying or wanting different things at the one time. You have to be able to cope with a lot of pressure and be obsessively organised and one step ahead, in all situations.’ Which is not so very different from the world of the military. She regards the atmosphere and
team spirit of the Beneath Hill 60 shoot as unique. ‘People have offered to help each other in ways you don’t often see on other shoots, perhaps because we’ve all been stuck in the same hell-hole conditions in the trenches and the tunnels. There’s a very special bond with this mob. I’ve never come across anything quite like it. We’ve all endured the mud together, and the awful claustrophobia of the tunnels, the rats, and we all know it’s nothing compared to what the real soldiers had to deal with.’
Her personal career highlight was another military project, the mega US TV mini series Pacific, shot around Port Douglas and to be screened next year. ‘There are not many women who do this job, maybe four in the country. I had a team of five blokes working under me, carpenters, painters... but also scenes involving five hundred men running across an
airfield , lots of testosterone and aggression and a US military advisor who treated me a bit like a nobody until I acquired the confidence and authority to step up to him and say ‘Look Captain, this is how it is.’ That was a real turning point for me. This is a job where you are continuously having to prove yourself and earn respect every day.’
Not surprisingly, Ado admits to finding it hard to relax at the end of a day of being keyed up on high alert. ‘It’s hard to wind down. I have a beer and shower, but on these night shoots, you never really sleep properly when you get home at six a.m. I love swimming and surfing, but there’s no surf up here and no time anyway.’ says Ado, who was captain of the crew team at a recent cast versus crew cricket match but was forced to retire early with a recurrent hamstring injury that occurred on set in the second week of the shoot.
She’s loving the Townsville climate. ‘I prefer to work in the warm, although I am a snow and ski freak. My next job has me up here till Xmas, working on the Sea Patrol TV series at Mission Beach and that suits me just fine.’ Art least on that job she can be pretty confident that she won’t be wrangling candles.
Ado setting the props at the Waddell Homestead.