On set of "Creation" (Cert. PG) in Little Missenden
with Paul Bettany and (Academy Award Winner) Jennifer Connelly

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be on a film set, the atmosphere of everyone constantly bustling around, working on the next Hollywood blockbuster? Well, earlier this year, the actors and crew of the critically acclaimed Charles Darwin biopic film “Creation”, a new film about the early life of Charles Darwin, did some filming at my church in Little Missenden. Dad took me along to see some of it. The village was transformed into the Kent village of Downe.

The film’s plot is based on a book by Darwin’s great-great grandson, Randal Keynes, called Annie’s Box. It is about Darwin’s struggle as his theories of evolution are put up against his wife’s religious beliefs, when their eldest daughter Annie falls ill and dies aged 10.

The film is set in Victorian times, and covers Darwin's life between 1841 until 1859, so the costumes and sets had to be very different to how they are today. The costumes have to be very carefully replicated, as they were copies of original Victorian costumes. The sets had to be made up to look older than they were, and this included covering the whole of the road outside of the church in old gravel, and taping up and painting two houses completely brown!

When Dad and I arrived, the sight outside the church was very strange! There were huge vans parked in so many places that I almost couldn’t see the road, and there were sound crews and actors and make – up artists dotted around everywhere. When we started to cross the road, we were suddenly stopped by a horse pulling a wooden cart across the gravel, and we had to dodge out of the way to avoid being run over! It was certainly amazing to see.

The outside filming was taking place when we arrived so we saw some of the filming in progress the filming of the Church interior was actually done quite late at night, and that’s why all the crews set up large lights and reflectors to light up the inside of the church so it looked like a sunny day inside with light flooding in through the stained glass windows even though it was 9pm at night when the filming got underway, Films are often made at night, and that’s why there were a lot of bright lights around.

There were sound crews and camera men everywhere, and some of them were filming scenes for the film, and some of them were interviewing the cast for television programmes about the film. They were all under umbrellas, to stop the rain getting in the electrical equipment that they all had. Overall, there were 150 people working on set. There were also about 100 extras, all dressed in Victorian clothes, some were dressed smartly and others were dressed as poor people!

When filming wasn’t going on, the actors and crew had a catering van that they got all their food from, and some of the child actors even had to do schoolwork on set! When we were exploring outside, we saw that there were a lot of people around, like security people, making sure that everyone was safe, and people making sure that all the lights and electrics worked properly.

The atmosphere around the church was very hectic and exciting, with crews and actors rushing around, making sure that everything was absolutely perfect, and there were no problems with the lighting, sound, of appearance of the set.

I never actually realised until seeing the work going on how important every tiny detail of the production was. If I see a film now and think it good, I wonder how much work the people making it must have done to make it like that. Sometimes, making certain large feature films can take several years to produce!

We went inside the church, and saw more strange things. The most startling thing I saw was a massive balloon (well, you could call it that) of light hooked upon the nave roof! Dad said that it was full of gas, and that it is used to give the effect of daylight if there isn’t enough.

Because the filming was going on, we couldn’t stay where we were. We had to stand at the back of the church, where we met the director, Jon Amiel. Jon had directed many films before, including Entrapment (1999) and The Man Who Knew Too Little (1997). We also met a woman holding a long pole above where we were, and the pole had a microphone on the end of it. She told us that this was a “boom microphone”, and it was used for recording sound from a long way away.

The man who played Darwin (Paul Bettany), has starred in various other films including Inkheart (2008), A Beautiful Mind (2001) and The Young Victoria (2009). His wife, Jennifer Connelly, also stars in Creation as Darwin’s wife Emma, and has appeared in many films herself including He’s Just Not That Into You (2009), The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008) and Little Children (2006).

As the actors were preparing for their scenes, they rehearsed their lines, as you or I would do before a performance. Even Hollywood stars have to rehearse, otherwise it would take a very long time to make the film itself, and no one would know what they were doing! The actors would, at first, rehearse the particular scene, then they would film it, and if it wasn’t perfect, they had to do it again. Sometimes, tricky scenes to act would take a lot of takes to get right, as the final film has to be just right, or else Jon Amiel the director or Jeremy Thomas the Producer of "Rabbit proof fence" one of my favourite films would make everybody do it again.

Benedict Cumberbatch played Darwin's friend now even more famous for his portrayal of the role of Sherlock Holmes in the dramatisation Sherlock.We managed to have a chat with Jeremy Northan, who played the Rev. Innes in the film he has been in many period films and TV dramas, he  asked my Dad what the Lady Chapel was called as Jennifer Connelly was filming in there praying at the little Altar in a scene when Paul Bettany came into the Church. A scene that doesn't altogether bring back fond memories for me I might say, I was watching the filming quietly with my Dad, when suddenly and rather unexpectedly Jennifer Connelly, decided that she did not want me to watch her being filmed and she refused to continue with the filming until I left the Church most of the film crew were also taken aback by this, but I think they felt it might be better to upset me, rather than reason with a self obsessed academy award winning star!

We saw lots of filming being done on the day, and it was a real insight as to what goes into making a movie. I found it very interesting speaking to all the people involved in the film making process, most of whom were only too ready to speak to me about what their job involved and give tell me funny stories about things that had happened to them during the making of films.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All About Me
Charles Darwin Foundation

Natural History Museum Darwin 200

  Click to enlarge photographs

Me and Jon Amiel the Director of Creation