At first we thought it was some sort of joke, there was an announcement on Facebook looking for film extras, here in Bideford, an open casting event was being arranged as a new British big screen film was going to be part filmed here in our little town, rarely do the film cameras come to Bideford, Clovelly yes, Hartland definitely, but Bideford ? The reason for my scepticism? the date that the open casting had been arranged for, Saturday 1st April, naturally an April Fool's prank was my first thought, it wasn't until our local paper confirmed this was no joke, it really was genuine, that it all started buzzing on social media, yes really the big named directors, actors and actresses were coming!
So was I going to be chosen as a film extra? On the designated open casting day, there were people of all ages and sizes queuing around the block of the building, needless to say the waiting room was packed, this continued all day long! Around 1200 people were applying for approximately 200 roles, there was a lot of competition! It wasn't until the day of actual filming that I realised the large group of extras I was watching who were all dressed up in brilliantly authentic 1940's gear ( I love vintage too) all had 1 thing in common, everybody was slim! I soon realised when I heard from friends and friends of friends, the lucky ones who had been selected, were all slim built people as well, which made perfect sense, this film was set in 1946, just after the Second World War, with food rationing for a number of years, of course people were pretty slim back then.
We had a time transformation on a couple of the roads as the creative team changed parts of the town into 'German Occupied Guernsey' I really enjoyed seeing the transformation, from the little touches, placing a simple German street sign, direction to an air raid shelter, to recreating a cinema, shops and hotel.
There were some parts of the scene that had to remain covered up until the actual filming. I was pretty surprised at just how quick the transformation took place, just a couple of days before filming, then as fast as it was created, all removed in a jiff!
I think the production teams, biggest challenge was the delivery of the 'half track' a small tank, from what I could make out, being delivered on the back of a big lorry, the whole reason these particular streets were selected for filming is that they are still original tiny roads,just the width for one car, so navigating round the tightest of corners with a half track was never going to be easy! Kept us amused for quite some time, not sure the driver was altogether too happy!
Unluckily I missed the the mornings filming, but was able to enjoy the afternoon scene, a group of German Soldiers matching down the road to German music, I gave up counting how many re takes they had to make, I had stood there with a lot of onlookers for over an hour, and it still wasn't 'in the can', not to mention it was a pretty steep hill they had to march along,and plod back up to the starting position for the re takes! I was quite glad I was not a German soldier that day. They started filming before the break of dawn too, a friend of a friend, her and her little boy (he was playing an evacuee child) were asked to arrive at 4.15 in the morning! Not all glamour then!
So what is the film going to be called ? Simply 'Guernsey' from best selling novel 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society' written by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. Not a long read, but really entertaining!
By the way, If you fancy reading the book, I can highly recommend it, 7.5 million copies were sold when it was released!