Saturday, June 11, 2016

London 2015 Day 19: Warner Bros. Leavesden Batkid interview, Harry Potter Studio Tour

London 2015 Day 19: Warner Bros. Leavesden Batkid interview, Harry Potter Studio Tour

Up and at 'em! I got dressed as EJ would call it, in "Bat-Casual" purple shirt (for the Penguin), grey pants, comic book belt, green shoes. Seemed the right way to do it. And off I went to go get interviewed at Warner Bros. Leavesden Studios for the EPK (Electronic Press Kit) for the Batkid Begins film. WB wanted to film the cast but I wasn't in the US at the time, so the folks in London were able to organize to do the filming up here for me, and gave me an awesome tour of the WB stages at the same time, which was totally awesome.

I met the UK Producer, and he gave me the real backlot tour while the lights were getting setup for my interview (couldn't take any photos there, obv.). So cool. The WB stage is an old Rolls Royce Jet Engine factory! I got to see some real sets, huge green screens, and walked onto the set of a few upcoming movies(!!) that was so cool. I'm sure I can't say what actors I saw there or anything, or what the films were, but it was very cool. Some actors were in costume and on break (on their cell phones, which was funny as everyone was in some serious costumes). The sets were so cool as well and it felt like you were walking into a different world. I'd never seen such a detailed film set and it was truly awesome.

Then we began the Batkid Begins EPK interview. It went very well and they had lots of questions. I was glad I went through my notes last night. We were set up in a little screening room and they had me in this theatre with movie seats behind me. Very film-producer-y! This was an incredible experience, I could hardly believe it. So fun and great professional staff. After an hour or so of the interview, we wrapped up and I exited the real WB Studio and headed towards the Harry Potter studio tour exhibit. I had lunch at the Harry Potter place and the lady at the counter was very nice about my clothing choice: "That's a very lovely shade of purple! Some fellas can't pull off pink or purple, but that looks excellent on you!" haha so funny and so sweet. Also, well done Michal, you are now promoted to head of costuming. :)

(Here's the result of the filming from IMDb:

Now that my official business was done, I headed to the Harry Potter Studio Tour and got in line for an excellent tour. This was SO amazing. What a great experience. So often these sorts of tours are only about the actors or promoting the film itself... but this tour was carefully and very intentionally curated to be much, much more. I loved it. It was mostly about the artistry of the show, so many detailed about the sets, props, real sets, with placards everywhere describing all of the processes of the artistic creation. I don't think I've ever seen a film museum like this that truly celebrates the artists and the hard work behind every little piece of a film's production, and doesn't spend the whole time just talking about the celebrities in the film!

Right at the beginning of the tour there was a video by the Director, Producer and Executives, and then a short introduction by Harry, Ron and Hermoine... even so in their intro, they talked about all the hard work and the many people it takes to create a film of this caliber. Amazing! The exhibit was then fully, and totally, about the art, the story, the effects, the costuming, the design... amazing.

Such an incredible celebration of filmmaking, with creatures from the creature shop, huge sets and architectural drawings, prop making, concept art. This is definitely a place worth visiting if you love movie making and want to learn about the craft behind all the little details.

And a great description of the visual effects!

Next, of course, was the requisite photo of pushing your trolley through Platform 9 3/4. :) The girl there asked me which scarf I would like for the photo, "Oh, Gryffindor, of course".

The Hogwarts Train prop was recently added to the museum and it was so amazing that you were actually allowed to walk through it. I feel like at other movie museums this would be tucked away and there's no way they'd let you actually walk in it. That was so cool, especially to see how they had carefully set-dressed the train compartments with some fun props from the train journey shoots in the film.

Then some really amazing examples of all the many, many graphic art pieces that went into the film -- book covers, greeting cards, Weasely's joke shop containers... so many things and so much detailed work.

And what journey to Hogwarts is a real journey without trying a Butterbeer?!?!?! Obviously I had to try it, and I thought it was gonna be gross but actually it was quite good. It tastes like "Biscuits and Butterscotch" the person working there said. Well, I can certainly get behind that. Then a short tour outside for the Knight Bus and Privet Drive. So cool to see it.

The end of the tour was coming and that had two of the best things on the whole tour: the full-size, HUGE room-sized model of Hogwarts school. Absolutely amazing detail, HUGE model and it was used for the outdoor shots. It was so much work and so amazing. Really incredible that they had kept it in such good shape and made it available for the public to see. So awesome.

And then to the last part of the tour that was my other favourite part, the wand room!!! The man running the room, the "keeper of the wands" was SUCH a cool fellow. He was an older gentleman and he loved knowing as much as possible about the wands. There were literally thousands upon thousands in there, and he said that this was a place where everyone who worked on any of the movies had a wand box with their name on it. Essentially a huge, real-life credit room!! So cool! He was very proud of the wands and told me "Tell if if I can find anyone for you." -- he knew most people in there, astoundingly, and could find the box without looking at a map. They were not alphabetical or anything. Crazy!

I almost immediately saw my boss Cary Phillips' wand box, and I told him my colleague Colette Mullenhoff's story (about her winning a technical Oscar this past year, being the first woman in the world to win a Technical Oscar for Visual Effects work, and getting a standing ovation.) He loved the story and was giddy to have another story to share with visitors and guests of the exhibit. He was especially proud of Colette's "wand location" right on top of the legendary Emma Thompson, near Alphonso Cuaron and Chris Columbus, the head of VFX and Director! I told him lots of detail about other colleagues who had wands as well. "I don't meet people from across the pond so often - thank you so much for the story!"


Emma Watson :)

My buddy David Weitzberg from work!

My boss, Cary Phillips

Pointing to Colette's wand box

This was super cool and full-circle, this fellow, Geoff Heron, worked at ILM model shop before my time at ILM on practical effects. And... he was the practical effects supervisor who created The Penguin's fireball explosion at the Batkid Make-A-Wish day... a scene that was in the Batkid Begins film, distributed by Warner Bros., which my was reason for coming up to WB Leavesdon today!

New folks came into the exhibit and he started telling them about Kenneth Branagh, then Emma Thompson, and then he told them about Colette's story, while I was still there! So fun. What a super nice fellow and so passionate about sharing the stories of all the love and energy and hard work that went into making the movie.

Onto the gift shop. I wanted to get something and almost left with Gryffindor pyjamas, but ended up getting a nice WB Studio Tour mug instead. I was all smiles after leaving this magical place of movie joy, excitement, and respect for the artistry. One of the best "museums" ever, set up in such a nice way for kids and adults to enjoy. What a great spot.

From here, a bus back to Watford Junction and then a train ride to Shepherd's Bush (Westfield) to wander the mall for the rest of the day. The mall totally kicks the butt of the Westfield in San Francisco!!! Man!! So huge and epic. I was hungry after a long tour at WB so headed to the restaurant area at the mall and found a nice looking spot called The Meat Co. Looking at the menu in detail, I saw something called "Madiba's Malva Pudding"... wait a minute... that sounds incredibly South African!! And it was! Turns out it was totally a South African restaurant and, yep, they had boerewors!! Even better, they actually had pup and vors, and that spicy tomato sauce stuff!! Ughhh so good. YUP, insta-yes, it was not even worth looking at other restaurants. I went right in and they were playing SA music, and my waitress was from Cape Town. Totally awesome.

The girl said the vors was smaller than the "vors back home", and asked me if I would like her to "double the order". I assumed that meant just a more substantial amount of vors, so I said "Sure!" This was hilarious as they literally just brought me two full dinners. A first one, and at the same time, an exact copy of the same dinner, on a separate and equally fancy plate. Hilarious. It was super tasty, very flavoursome, and I crushed it.

Note the 2nd dinner behind it!
After a pretty hefty amount of vors, I wandered the huge mall for a good 2.5 hrs. M&S there had suits which was interesting, but meh. Zara rocks and I am gonna buy all the things there later in the trip. There was a fun shop called "T2", an Australian tea shop. They had a London Breakfast, which was "just a wee bit smoky" -- nice! Also funny alternative teas like "Perth Breakfast" and "Adelaide Breakfast".

 Next up was the Lego store where they had a bunch of The Simpsons lego figurines, in those impossible-to-determine-what's-inside packets. The kids/staff there were awesome, and helped me for like 20 minutes, encouraging me to feel out the packets very carefully to determine which was which. I really wanted the Bartman one specifically, so they spent ages helping me (likely) find it. When I opened them later that evening, I found out it was a success. :) Yes!

Onwards then to Waitrose, the "posh grocery store". I spent like an hour in there too. More asparagus after how tasty the last pack I got was. And, finally, some vegetables in this country!!! Not only tomatoes, but actual vegetables!! Ha. People *must* eat vegetables here, but I had failed up until now trying to find any of a certain quantity and quality. This was great. Buy all the things.

Back home after a long and very exciting day, I relaxed, talked to the folks in SF, and worked for a few hrs from home. Then time to put some Lego Simpsons Mini-Figures together, and top off this excellent day with some fruit and cream. I love this place.

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