It all happened very quickly. I had given my contact details to the production as I couldn’t make the casting. One day, out of the blue, I received a text message offering me a minor role in the film on the 10th and 11th April! Despite a busy schedule, I decided to go for it! I heard nothing more before 9th April when I received a second text message. It read: 7: 30 tomorrow at Le Lay with your ski gear and a change of clothes. And so the adventure began!
At 7.30 on 10th April I signed my contract and was given a fluorescent armband before taking the gondola to l’Etape. I met up with about a dozen other people chosen to play minor roles over the next two days. None of us knew anything about the scenario!
At the top, the snow was hard packed. The film crew were in place although only the cameramen and sound engineers were recognizable by their equipment: large cameras with huge lenses set on trolleys and long poles hoisted high, topped with a big bushy microphone. In turn the technicians wielded large black or white sheets to reflect the light.
A bit nervous, I was quickly reassured by the relaxed atmosphere. I sandwiched myself into the queue of those waiting at the bottom of the Montjoie chairlift, closed to the public during the filming. I met up with the other minor roles and we dropped our bags in the nearby hangar. The place was buzzing.
A bearded gentleman with a cap and dark glasses shouted instructions through a megaphone. He told us to move forward to take the chairlift in a disorderly fashion (or rather pretend to take the chairlift because once past the gate we crept under the netting and back into place ): once, twice, up to 10 times.
For each shoot we heard: “starting position, everyone at the start”. We backed up hastily to the words “rehearsal, silence” and the clap board sounded… “ACTION “. We were having fun when José Garcia suddenly appeared in his yellow down jacket and bulky chapka gesturing towards the characters on the chairlift. We started over, again and again, José too!
From time to time, the word “filming” replaced “rehearsal” after which the crew viewed the footage on a small overhead projector before deciding whether to start again or not.
A little later, regardless of our actions, we were asked to make general noise to create an atmosphere true to real life in context. Whilst the cameramen took a break the sound technicians followed us around to capture our conversations. The sound effects were a success.
A few curious skiers came along for a closer look but were very quickly sent on their way.
A change of scene: At the entrance to the alpine chalet , usually used to store equipment for the slopes, we changed outfits before heading off to the right down the blue run. The snow was still quite hard and icy and several deckchairs were slipping dangerously down the bank.
At lunchtime part of the team headed off to the Restaurant l’Etape while some continued to work on site. We all enjoyed an excellent, hearty meal, generously provided by the production. Relaxing in the sun we relished beaufort quiche , skirt of beef, pan-fried vegetables or chips and blueberry tart. Technicians, minor extras and stars, understudies and stuntmen chatted together in the sun. José was among us.
After an hour’s break, rested and full we left the table to climb back towards the set. The snow had transformed, become heavier, and we were glad to resume our roles in the deck chairs! Others were told to stand still on their skis before sliding 10 to 20 metres in a wide curve….climbing back up the slope…..and starting again!
There were a lot of people on the set : speed – riders with their multicolored sails, a sled pulled by a magnificent pack of dogs, skiers gently gliding past, people dancing to the sound of a DJ, others waiting with their skis and chatting happily. The scene was a colourful mix of actors, directors, camera crews, extras, producers, assistants , machinists, script staff and Mr. Mégaphone organizing his entourage with great authority.
The slope patrol were also present for security reasons and for the transportation of heavy equipment by snowmobile.
We had a lot of fun in a great atmosphere. Manon, attentive to our initiatives, made us feel that we were participating in the staging! We watched the same people repeat the same movements, the same mimes, the same footsteps in the same place up to 20 times! Guided by their musher the dogs, docile and patient, ran tirelessly back and forth along the same course, again and again!
Filming ended in the late afternoon and we headed back up to the gondola in the wet spring snow; a true touring challenge in April conditions!
I thoroughly enjoyed 2 days on the set. It was a fabulous opportunity to discover the world of cinema and brush shoulders with famous actors and a dynamic film crew.
I look forward to watching the movie!