Tuesday, 26 March 2013

#Setlock - A Night of Adventure

[With newly added pictures, taken before Benedict's request.]

Wow! Last night was amazing. We'd heard Sherlock was filming in Bristol (an hour's drive from Cardiff) and as we were becoming rabid with excitement (they'd been filming for a week, and other than a small scene in Grangetown that we missed, we hadn't really heard much and being still pretty new to set reporting, I wanted to earn my Sherlock cap.) We drove down a little after midday to see what was happening at Portland Square (like Doctor Who? It was where some of the scenes in the Christmas Special were filmed, have a look here.)

Not much (was happening), if we were being honest with ourselves. There were some buffet tables out and little white, ball-shaped lanterns strung up from the trees in neat squares. They were obviously going to be setting up for a while. So being seasoned set reporters we buggered off to the nearest pub. And then we speculated madly. There was food, there were pretty lights, it was set up in a beautiful green park in front of a church, one of the key words announced was 'Wedding' - clearly they were setting up for a wedding reception! Maybe it would be John Watson's! We'd find out who his wife was! Cue much excitement.

Then we went outside and saw a massive bonfire. Not the usual kind of festivities at a wedding. We had to dump that idea. So sorry if we confused you a little on twitter at the time. The bonfire was constructed of a large metal cone-like frame and then they layered old furniture (wooden table tops, old chairs), dismantled wooden pallets and twigs until they had created an impressive bonfire. And if we were suspicious before, spotting the Guy (readily stuffed, sitting on his own chair, wearing a hat.) on the ground was enough to confirm this was likely to be set on November the 5th: Bonfire Night!

More fans were turning up by this point, although we were still quite few in number. The lanterns had been moved so they were strung along above the food tables. At this point we moved the car to an empty parking space in Portland Square because - to be honest - it was horribly, horribly cold and the idea of being able to sit inside at the quieter moments, but still be able to catch the action in the rearview mirror, greatly appealed. I fell asleep on the pavement wearing my boyfriend's coat watching Doctor Who; I wasn't going to be so abysmally prepared this time.


Benedict Cumberbatch's stunt double.
Extras began to arrive. Cars and cars of them. Normal looking 'Londoners' wrapped up for the cold. By the end there must have been 100 extras or so - including children. It was obviously a massive scene. The extras stayed in the church when they weren't needed - somewhere to keep away from the 'Spring' elements.

Eventually the main cast began to arrive. Or their stunt doubles did! First to appear was Benedict's stunt double - oh, and Amanda Abbington! Who is she? Well, she's Martin Freeman's wife. And when you hear 'Mary' mentioned on set, you can only assume she's Watson's as well!

Skip the waiting around and they were finally ready for action. They assembled the extras in a massed group in front of the bonfire - lots of sparklers, glow sticks and torches around for them. The bonfire was lit on several different gas vents situated around the bonfire. Cue the gorgeous Danny Hargreaves (of Doctor Who fame) running around shouting "Gas One! Gas Two!" "Danny, gas four hasn't lit!" "Gas Four!" etc. Once it was lit the bonfire was gorgeous - and best of all, it was warm. The extras started to chat and mill around and then the scene began. Sherlock runs through the gates of the park, followed by Mary. He's panicked and shouts "Move! Move!" to the crowd as he pushes his way through. He arrives at the bonfire and looks down into the burning wood, looking worried.


At this point all the ruckus about not posting pictures started. If you've followed the #Setlock tag on twitter then I'm sure you're aware of it. If not then the basics are that Benedict asked a friend/crew member to tweet that they had a big, dangerous scene tonight and would prefer pictures not to be taken. Hence why there are - unusually - no pictures on the blog today. We did have a few taken before twitter was asked to stop, but I can't upload them anyway as my computer is in for repair. Yes, Benedict was as gorgeous as ever.

All of the above has been said many times over on Twitter. Below are very spoilery scene details, which - while exciting you - you may prefer not to read. It is not my fault if you read on and wish you hadn't. Spoilers are addictive, and personally I love them and have always been grateful to those who has posted them down the years. If you are not a fan of them, then please do not continue reading.


Very soon after something very surprising happened. A crew member came over and asked if the fans fancied being extras. Silly question. We all trooped into the muddy park and were positioned around the bonfire - clearly they were low on extras and wanted it to look like a large gathering. There was a poster taped to a tree announcing a Bonfire Night party with fireworks and stalls and the works basically. We were all told to act like we were enjoying the night, to chat happily, smile, look at the bonfire. Not to look at the camera or Benedict before he starts shouting. Then we're to look to see what's causing the commotion. They ran through the scene many more times, shooting it from different angles (different crowd shots, close ups, ones closer to the fire etc etc) And here's the massive spoiler. In these later bits, Mary is shouting "John! John!"

The scene continued. Sherlock wrenches away bits of wood from the flaming bonfire. The crowd are shocked, a bit nervous about this 'madman'. Curious but not sure whether to go forward or back. The crew then cleared a hole in the rear of the bonfire, and we could see the inside was layered with wet green leaved branches. Originally we thought this was to make it smoky (which it was, eye-wateringly so) but then we realised it was to protect a stunt man. Dressed as John Watson. Looking ashen with blood running down his face. He was instructed that when he heard Benedict/Benedict's stunt double approaching the bonfire he was to dive inside, ready to be pulled out.


They did this a couple of times. I don't think you could pay stunt doubles enough. I was exceptionally impressed. Leaping into a burning wooden mass of flames, only to be pulled out leaden, unmoving by somebody else, takes a lot of guts. Mary/Amanda's screaming quite a lot during this. They lay John Watson on the ground nearby but I was at the wrong angle to see what happened next. I imagine they'd swap the stunt double with Martin Freeman (who was also there) at this point and film some close ups. The extras were instructed for some us to run forward as if we wanted to help, some of us hanging back - afraid.
This was the scene basics done. Afterwards they lit a few burning torches and filmed the extras (the paid ones, not us) reactions with the light flickering on their faces. Lots of gasps, children screaming. The crew had a running lunch during this. (They had lunch as they filmed.)

And I have to admit defeat after that, I'm afraid. It was bitterly cold, half of us were having stints in the car due to feeling shattered/freezing/unwell, we had a long drive back (and unknown to me at the time - confusing detours that as a new, nervous and absolutely navigationally-inept driver didn't overly please me) and to be honest the day had already gone amazingly well. We never dreamt we could ever be extras in one of our favourite shows, let alone be privileged enough to watch probably the most exciting and dangerous scene we could ever recall having seen acted out in front of us. It was a great day.


Edit: I've just noticed the Daily Mail has some pictures of earlier on in the night. You can see them here.

15 comments:

  1. Wow, what a night! Thanks for sharing it with us - though I envy you so much right now... I really, really wouldn't want to read spoilers but seem to have lost control of my fingers and eyes. Sherlock does that to me, among other things :) so I'm looking forward to reading more reports from you!

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  2. It was a brilliant night. I used to live far away from where DW/Sherlock filmed and lived for spoilers so now I'm more local I try to do my bit. So I'm afraid spoilers will always be posted on this blog when I can!

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  3. So it is official Amanda really IS Mary?

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  4. Well it's not 'official' as in it hasn't been officially announced by Moffat/Gatiss, however at least five of us are aware of her being referred to as Mary.

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  5. Is it alright that you posted so many spoilers? I thought the extras had to sign a release form not to talk about it.

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    1. Well considering it was completely unofficial and we were just amicably invited to be extras because they hadn't booked enough people I didn't sign any form. I also wasn't paid. We were told to do what the crew says and not take pictures while we were being extras. That's all :) People wandered in and out all night, it was all very friendly - if a little unorganised.

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  6. ah wee bit jealous:)would SO love to have been there with you and to take part..never mind..next time I'm home maybe.in the meantime..may you have many more fun nights and days. keep up the good work:) Ann

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  7. Okay, given the new photo of John Watson from the filming in Newport, I really want to know: during the bonfire scene, did Martin Freeman/Martin Freeman's stunt double have a moustache and sideburns? I'm praying this is not a permanent look, haha.

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    1. +100000000000

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    2. Oh sorry, I thought that had already been cleared up! Nope, Martin was absolutely moustache free in Bristol. Our guesses were that it might be a bit of grieving thing for Sherlock's 'death' so they can show a bodily change in Watson. He obviously has lost it by the end of the episode.

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  8. How in the HECK did you figure out where they'd be filming?!

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    1. It depends. Often locals tweet about it, occasionally we get a tip off, sometimes we get lucky and literally stumble across it. The BBC has been filming in South Wales for a while now so the locals are normally very aware of what's going on.

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  9. Thank you so much for posting this! Please don't let anyone give you crap about posting spoilers; this is something everyone has to decide for themselves.

    I haven't seen the details on John Watson being the one in the fire yet - that's fascinating. Sherlock being a Big Damn Hero and all!

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    1. I've been very lucky to be honest. Despite the #Setlock dramas, Sherlockians are pretty incredible and have been very lovely.

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