How to Sneak in a Film Set and Get Away with It

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Did you ever dream of entering on a big-scale film set? Wandering around famous actors and directors, and watching the movie as it comes to life? Well, let me tell you how to make it come true – without being hired and 100% illegally, of course. It is worth noting that Soapbox does not condone illegal activity and this article is all my own experiences and views.

Sometimes it can be just a matter of luck; other times, it’s a result of a careful plan. But most of the times, it’s a combination of both. What you will need is determination, guts, and very good improvisation skills.

When I read the news that Hollywood actor Woody Harrelson was about to try to change the history of cinema forever – in London – I knew that I had to be involved, somehow. In fact, the actor aimed to write, direct and perform in a feature film about a disastrous misadventure happened to himself in London, 15 years ago. Since its birth, cinema belonged to the past; it relays on images that were shot months, years earlier. And this is exactly the convention that Harrelson decided to break: he broadcasted his directorial debut in more than 500 cinemas in the Unites States, as it was being filmed in a single take on the streets of London at 2:00 am. For the first time in the history of the Seventh Art, cinema was “Live”.

After recruiting a group of four friends on a Thursday night, we headed to London, in search of the secret filming location. One of the first thing to look at, is the presence of huge, white trucks: every production employs them, as they are essential to carry all the equipment and crew – and they are very easy to spot. Security, police officers or closed streets are also an alert signal. But we could not find any of these, after wandering around Soho without a clue for about an hour. The internet was not helping us, keeping any detail a secret for safety reasons. As I mentioned earlier, luck always plays a big role: suddenly, we found a random pedicab that was aware of the filming location, and thus he brought us on set.

Here is the scene: Woody Harrelson desperately running, fake police officers chasing him, and about twenty crew members following them holding microphones and cables, swinging among the traffic. What could we do? We ran after them! Not only we managed to watch live most of the film, but we even ended up in some shots. Once the actor was brought away in a police car, we knew that we could not run enough to follow him, and thus we continued to shadow the crew. Walking next to them with nonchalance, as they entered in the set (a night club reconstructed inside an abandoned building in Soho), we pretended to be extras and assistants, and we had the chance to explore the complexity and charm of an active film set. In these cases, it’s always better not to stand still, and try to imitate the actions of the crew: hence, we moved around some boxes.

But after a while, we realised that the actor was not coming on set anymore, and so we decided to continue our street chase. We rushed towards Waterloo Bridge, where we spotted the spectacular ending of the movie. However, we really wanted to get closer to the actors, and as we heard that there was the possibility of a Q&A with them after the film, we searched for it in all the cinemas we could find. From Southbank we reached Piccadilly Circus, where we luckily found the only picture house in the country that was showing the film. After persuading the bodyguard at the entrance, we hurried towards the screening room… only to find that the Q&A was not happening in there, but was broadcasted from the set. We all knew what to do, and at 5:00 am we rushed out of the cinema, and ran back to the set.

When we arrived, we entered without problems as all the security was listening to the live Q&A. Once it was over, we personally celebrated the success of the film with Woody Harrelson and Owen Wilson. I had a long chat with them and they told me that when they’ll be back in London, they might come and visit us!  We were even interviewed by BBC1, thinking that we were members of the production. It was one of the most satisfying nights in our lives, a dreamlike adventure that we will never forget.

– Jack Salvadori

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