Thursday, 30 October 2014

I love my job.

House lit up at night for filming.
One thing I've found working as a volunteer at Cogges is that, you never know what you'll be called upon to do next. I've done some strange things in the past, like chasing escaped turkeys, taking goats for a walk and trawling through undergrowth in pursuit of escaped chickens. But one thing's for sure, it's never dull. Far from it.

Lady Edith and Marigold with farmer Drewe and family
Then there's the filming. It's no secret that Cogges is the setting for Yew Tree Farm, of Downton Abbey fame, where Lady Edith's daughter, Marigold, is, being looked after by Farmer Drewe and his wife.

Art and me.
Cogges is currently being used as the location for another ITV drama. A three part adaptation of 'Arthur and George', a book by the author, Julian Barnes, based on a true story about Arthur Conan Doyle. They've been filming here for nine days and it's almost becoming normal to see Martin Clunes, who is playing the part of Arthur Conan Doyle, and Art Malik, who plays a vicar, the father of the George in question, walking across the farmyard on their way to and from the filming.

Charles, 'Charlie' Edwards
Another actor taking part is Charles Edwards, who played Michael Gregson, the father of Lady Edith's daughter in Downton. He's playing the character of 'Woody', an associate of Arthur Conan Doyle. But his presence at Cogges this week has caused quite a bit of confusion. Apparently, he took a photo of himself outside the house and sent it to the Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith, saying, "Guess where I am?"
New garden under dining room window

Most of the filming has taken place in the house, with the occasional shots taking place outside. A 'new' flowerbed has appeared under the dining room window and a 'new' wall with a gate, beside the dairy lawn.

One evening some filming was to take place outside and a request was made to Colin, the director of Cogges, to supply some of our chickens for the shooting. One of my jobs is to help put the chickens to bed and when I popped along to feed the farm cats, Colin asked me if I would come back later to help with the chickens during the filming. I of course said yes, although I wasn't convinced that the chickens would cooperate.

Martin and me
Using some of the net fencing that surrounds the chickens to stop them from wandering during the day, we cordoned off a section of the grassy area between the dairy and the side of the house, where the filming was to take place. Then a couple of the film crew were called upon to help move the chicken coop, containing the chickens who'd already settled down for the night, inside the fenced off area.

Waiting for the chicken scene to be filmed
I arrived on time at 6.30 to be told that they were running late. No surprise there then. When they eventually did start filming, I had to wait around while they shot another couple of scenes first. One of the things I've observed about filming is that there's a lot of hanging about done by the film crew. But unlike them, who are usually to be seen looking bored and on their mobiles, I was like a kid in a candy store watching everything that was happening, especially when Art Malik and Martin Clunes appeared.

'George' figure wearing hat, waiting for chickens.
Finally, the time came for the chicken' starring role. The Cream Leg Bars are normally the hardest of all the chickens we have at Cogges to put to bed. But this time they didn't want to come out. Colin and I opened up all the doors of the coop and had to coerce the reluctant chickens out. Colin had earlier scattered some food on the grass in an attempt to keep them in place for the filming. but the chickens were having none of it. Despite our best efforts, by the time George had made his way across the grass, the chickens had made their way back to the coop.

With the help of some of the film crew, and with much hilarity, we managed to get them back out again. The camera man quickly called action and finally the scene was shot with 3 out of a possible 6 chickens actually being captured on camera. All this for what will probably be only 30 seconds of film.

Cream Leg Bars, the morning after the night before.
By this time the chickens were clambering to get back inside the coop. Cold, but happy and excited, I made my way home, while the actors and crew moved on to shoot another scene. It was great fun. But I found out that the saying, 'never work with children or animals' is very true. Especially when it comes to chickens.

For anyone interested,Here's a link to an ITV website which gives a synopsis of the plot.

Photos, Isabel's own.

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