Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Torchwood: Week Four/Five Filming (UK)

The week commencing 31st January saw filming continue apace in South Wales, plus a return to work in Los Angeles, too!

Whilst Julie Gardner returned to the States, Russell T Davies made his presence felt on location throughout the beginning of the week (including participating in an interview for BBC Wales Today). Bill Gierhart also returned to the States to begin work on Block Two there, whilst Bharat Nalluri continued filming in the UK. Cast-wise, John Barrowman and Mekhi Phifer were in South Wales for the 'big' shoots before LA beckoned, but Eve Myles, Kai Owen and Tom Price continued throughout the week, albeit in an 'exotic' army base!

Filming this week saw locations ranging from an old butchers-cum-pharmacy in Swansea, several old haunts in Cardiff Bay, and then in private at another familiar site, MOD St. Athan.

Times cited within the reports are in GMT.
 

Monday 31st January

Two teams were active during the course of the day, almost at opposite ends of the South Wales coast!

The morning saw a base set up at Magor, in which various vehicles were assembled that would later be taken out onto the M4 for scenes set travelling on the motorway. Doug Williams was on hand to see the set-up:
09:04 Confirmed TW setting up filming now in Hampton Hotel Carpark
09:44 Defo TW one burt tree van, one security guard and a small crew.
      Oh and a police traffic car
09:54 They are setting up for a rolling motorway chase.
      Car on back of low loader type filming truck
10:18 Not long now and they will be on M4.
      Police ready. No sign of JB or anyone we know
10:30 looks like just base and setup for motorway scenes
10:44 Had to leave :( been told they have carpark and conference
      room booked all day so if your in the area!!


The afternoon saw action resume in Swansea, this time at a recently closed butchers, which the production crew had skillfully transformed into a pharmacy. Chris Williams takes up the story over there:










The Swansea shoot was dramatic, and potentially explosive, but in the interest of maintaining a 'tease but don't spoil' policy, I'm restricted as to what I can reveal. For me, the most interesting thing was the work of the BBC Cymru Art Department, who I had a long and pleasant chat with. They'd acquired an old, closed and mouldy butcher's shop in Frogmore Avenue and transformed it into an old-fashioned, but pristine family pharmacy.

The pharmacy, complete with leaded glass windows, each costing over £800 to produce, gave the shop a totally authentic feel. Fully stocked with 'chemistry' goods, each item polished and positioned to perfection, the pharmacy was so convincingly real, potential customers had actually tried to buy things, and one elderly lady had actually attempted to collect her doctor's prescription!

The idea of 'big budget' comes to mind here, as this lovingly created on-street set would appear in Torchwood for a matter of minutes, and would not (possibly!) survive the evening's shoot!

One thing was confirmed: the UK filming is all largely based on exterior shots. Most of the interior shooting will happen in LA, as one of the production team told me, you'll see Captain Jack go through an aged wooden door into a rustic Welsh cottage, and when he's inside - the identical closed door you'll see will be on a studio set in LA, as will Jack!

Lots of American voices were around today. A silver haired woman who seemed to work closely with RTD and BM, a guy in a silly hat and a large guy dressed in his Arctic survival coat. It'd be nice to get them all identified! As ever, RTD was present, pleasant and personable, happily signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans. I'm impressed he takes the time to do this.

As for the shoot, it happened when Swansea was at its coldest, ie, after dark and at about -4°C. The team from REAL SFX (experts in ka-boom pyrotechnics) turned up, along with a trailer marked 'Animals For Filming'. I expected a lion or something ridiculous to get out, but instead, it was Spike, a Jack Russell terrier who was the star of the shoot.

There were multiple takes of a scene involving a car, some very bad driving and some near collisions. Each was highly choreographed, and repeated ad infinitum, with Spike and his on-screen owner dutifully acting out their roles. The last thing we heard was an enormous CRASH, accompanied by a stack of smoke and dust, and the Art Department's skillful work was gone, forever, and ambulances and police cars were ready for action... all in the interests of Torchwood, of course!

You can find more photos from the day from both Chris Williams and Iris Halliez on Facebook.
 



Tuesday 1st February

Torchwood returned to its spiritual home, with filming taking place in the evening at Roald Dahl Plass - though shot from an angle away from the old "Hub" Water Tower! The daytime saw activity in another familiar location, outside the Old Natwest Bank which has served as Gwen and Andy's police headquarters ever since the first episode, Everything Changes. A third location was also in use today, the exterior of the Coal Exchange (the interior of which was used during Children of Earth).

With such high-profile locations, fans were clearly able to witness the activity for once! A few reports and photos follow.

















I arrived in town at about 10am, and headed right for Mount Stuart Square, a 'classic' square of 'government-style' Victorian architecture used several times in Doctor Who, previous Torchwood episodes and even Upstairs Downstairs. There were two locations, one, an old bank dressed to resemble perfectly a Cardiff police station, and the Coal Exchange, transformed into a modern city hospital. The amount of work done by BBC Cymru's art department was phenomenal.

The police station now had blue doors, frosted glass with the words 'POLICE' and 'HEDDLU' in frosted glass, and a shambles of real-looking police cars and vans parked outside it, and 'Crimestoppers' etc posters shabbily on some external windows. It really looked 100%

The Coal Exchange too, as a hospital, a tribute to its creators, a total transformation having been achieved in just 24 hours. Both of the oak entrance doors had been removed and been replaced with glass swing doors and modern 'foyer' architecture, and the signage was perfect for a contemporary hospital. We had an Emergency Admissions door, no smoking signs, hospital department signposts, gurneys, parked up ambulances, etc. You'd easily have been fooled it was real if you were a passer by!

Slightly eerily, a shrine had been set out in front of the hospital. Hundreds of cards reading such stuff as 'Another day with our precious Emily', and 'Come home soon, dad!' I notice one rather cheeky one which simply said 'We love you, Russell!' - with a happy smiley underneath. RTD would indeed be touched! The shrine was adorned with candles, burning incense and flowers, and looked real - and well established!

Several scenes were filmed here, the major one involving Eve, Kai and the baby in front of the hospital. Other scenes involved ambulances racing to and from the hospital. Amazingly, though on TV it will look as though they moved at speed, perhaps for hundreds of meters, in reality they moved for less than 20 meters before the scene was cut, and the next section of it filmed separately.

Eve and Kai were fluent and comfortable in their roles, though the baby was rather odd. On occasions - it was a real human baby, looking perhaps a year old. I other scenes, it was a mere bundle of perfectly-folded rags, lovingly taken out of a box marked 'Anwen'. What a way to transport a young child! Several people, by the way, thought raggy Anwen looked about half the size of real Anwen, but I guess we'll see if the cameras correct this apparent discrepancy!

We first saw Tom Price outside the mock police station, ex-Nat West police station. In full uniform, he was immediately personable, and actually played up for the crowd. At one point, he started photographing us with his white iPhone whist in character, and then made rather amusing faces. He posed for pictures, obligingly wearing his hat on request, and happily signed at least a million autographs. He's a cool guy. His shoot was ruined countless times by two rather noisy seagulls which, I think deliberately, decided to squawk immediately upon hearing the
word 'Action'!

The evening shoot started late, at around 10.30pm. We had our first glimpse of John Barrowman and Mekhi Phifer, who I was previously certain had returned to the US. Eve, in huge hair curlers, Kai, Rhys and plastic Anwen were on set too, all arriving in their own separate cars.

Eve, Kai, John and Mekhi were involved in the filming. Loads of goofs, John and Eve cracking up, some cartoon running meant we had at least 20 takes. After each one, John and Eve would 'let their hair down' and treat us to dancing, hand and thigh slapping and general JB tomfoolery. It really was funny to watch - they have awesome chemistry between them!

I loved it when John moved into his car to warm up between takes. Each time, he's smile, pose for more fan photos and would exchange a few words with us. He also enjoyed more than the odd laugh with other cast members, at one point dragging Tom Price into his car, and slepping him firmly across the buttocks! Tom immediately announced that he's enjoyed the experience!

Poor Mekhi appeared frozen to the marrow, was wrapped up like Scott of the Antarctic and was constantly drinking coffee in an attempt to stave off hypothermia!

Later scenes involved car chases, SWAT assaults, shooting and a kidnap... but here we're heading into spoiler territory!

You can find more photos from the day from both Chris Williams and Iris Halliez on Facebook.
 




The two scenes I saw yesterday were Gwen and Rhys meeting Andy outside the hospital, and Gwen, Rhys and Jack getting cornered by Rex and the Police, led by Andy.

During the first scene, Andy meets Gwen and Rhys (who is holding baby Anwen), smiles and says "long time no see", so this is their first meeting of the series by the looks of it. They then have a short exchange which ends in Andy saying to Rhys "Gwen Cooper was the best Police officer we ever had!"

Second scene was Jack, Rhys (again, with Anwen) and Gwen, sitting on the steps on the Plas. Rex seems to be with them, too. Jack is explaining something to Gwen. She asks him something, and he shows her his wrist, which has a red cut/scar on it, and no vortex manipulator. Rex, who is beside the trio, and has a white shirt with a gunshot wound and blood on, says something to Jack. Presumably he's asking him what's wrong, and Jack yells "It doesn't concern you!". Then he says "You there, CIA, do something useful!". Rhys then shouts "She's just a kid, Jack!", gesturing to Anwen. Then Police cars surround them from all angles, and Andy emerges.
Gwen: Hold it there! [to Andy]
      Did you call them!? [the CIA]
Andy: They're in charge.
Jack: Say's who!?
Rhys: He can't arrest us, he's American!
Rex:  This isn't an arrest (he then goes on to say
      something about it being a plead for help)
      Now get me out of here! Get me home, go!
That was it, more or less. At the end John made a little speech about how he was glad Torchwood was moving on to do bigger and better things, so looks like that's the end of the filming in Wales.

I'll admit it: I didn't think we'd ever see Torchwood filming again in the Plass. The events of Children of Earth: Day 1 seemed pretty final. All the buzz around Miracle Day suggested TW was looking forward, not back. When I heard they were due to film at the Coal Exchange, I thought it was nice they'd be coming back to Cardiff Bay, but had no hope that this would mean filming near the water tower.

So, yesterday was a nice surprise. Seeing TW back where it all began reminded me what I love most about the show, and why watching it being filmed is such a pleasure. Three things: The Cardiff locations, that are actually meant to be Cardiff. That lovely cast, who evidently enjoy making the show, and are happy to engage with the fans. And meeting so many positive fans, who love Torchwood as much as I still do.



You can read more filming reports from Alun at his blog Posterous, and further photos from Tuesday on Flickr



Wednesday 2nd - Tuesday 8th February

After all the high visibility of the previous days, Torchwood disappears behind fences once more as filming moves to MOD St Athan - using the same hangars that featured in Children of Earth!




As such this meant that we were back to the tantalising tidbits that Twitter would have to offer, as Kai Owen and Tom Price 'assaulted' us with banter! Further cast tweets came from a couple of supporting artists, Bay Radio presenter Jay Curtis and extra Laura Morgan.


(via yfrog)


(via yfrog)
Thu 14:04 Kai: Tom get back to work you!!
               You've got a lot of pressure on your shoulders.
Thu 16:35 Kai: I will be in a lorry for the next 11 hours.
Thu 17:03 Kai: Tom back to work!!!
               You've got massive pressure on your shoulders.
               I'm surprised you can sleep at night.
Thu 22:08 Kai: I'm glad I'm stuck in this lorry.
               It's freezing and blowing a gale outside.
               Our crew are immense.
Fri 11:58 LM:  Just been booked for work on Torchwood on Monday...
               Hands up who wants a piece of John Barrowman?
Fri 11:59 Jay: En route to location! Heavy winds and rain today
               so I've got my thermals on for a very late finish.
Fri 14:35 Kai: My blood is boiling already!!! COME ON WALES!!!!
               I'm still on nights so will miss it.
               Bloody Torchwood shite.
Fri 15:40 Kai: We're actually back in Cardiff filming this week!
               I'm on nights and filming up the road from the game!
               Typical!
Fri 20:43 Jay: Yey, a break from filming.
               All cast and crew trying to catch some of the
               Wales Match. So it doesn't look good for us then :(
Sat 00:51 Jay: That's a wrap on Torchwood, now the drive
               back to Swansea in these crazy winds!
Sat 01:03 Jay: The team are here for a few more weeks,
               some great scenes too! Series will be out in July
Sat 01:47 BBC: Eve and Kai have a wonderful production day Saturday.
               We're missing you over here in the US production office.
Sat 02:05 Jay: Wicked night filming Torchwood tonight with Kai Owen and Eve Myles on set!
               Can't wait to see it in the new series.
Sun 14:46 LM:  Slightly nervous about making it to set on time tomorrow morning...
               Sounds like its in the middle of nowhere!
Mon 10:15 Kai: Tom hasn't stopped eating or complaining.
               This "promotion" has gone to his head. I don't like the guy at all.
Mon 11:49 Kai: Turd. (photo of Tom Price)
Mon 13:11 Tom: Doggers Anonymous. (photo of Kai Owen)
Mon 14:52 LM:  So cold! Out in pyjamas and only just broke for lunch!
Tue 18:51 Kai: I'm all wrapped here in the UK.
               It's been the best two weeks I've ever had on TW. (so far!)
               Cast and Crew are phenomenal and all deserve to get plastered tonight.
Wed 09:08 Kai: Had the UK shoot wrap party last night.
               I don't feel well at all.

In addition to St Athans, another report surfaced of additional filming at Barry Island on Monday morning:
2:58pm: They've been filming explosions on Barry Island beach, I've only heard after the event unfortunately ... they were about an hour ago.



Filming has now wrapped in the United Kingdom, which looks to bring an end to the first block of filming for the new series of Torchwood - the next block has already commenced filming in the United States. However, with Kai Owen and Tom Price being cited as not able to attend the Gallifrey One Convention in Los Angeles on 18th-20th February due to filming commitments, it is expected that the Torchwood cast and crew will be returning to the UK in the next couple of weeks!