The Pottermore Correspondent’s guide to movie-making: inside a trailer at night-time

The Pottermore Correspondent

Alison Sudol and David Yates on set of Fantastic Beasts
(L-R) Alison Sudol and David Yates on set of 'Fantastic Beasts', photo by Jaap Buitendijk

It’s past midnight on the set of Fantastic Beasts. It’s winter. Better jump inside a famous person’s trailer for some warmth...

Obviously there are night-time scenes in every movie. But have you ever thought about what it’s like to shoot them?

Neither had I. That is, until I was asked to be on set till 2am.

During the months it takes to film a film, there are ominous stretches of time known as ‘night shoots’. It is what it sounds like; shooting at night time. On Fantastic Beasts, that meant the call time was 4pm and filming for the ‘day’ wrapped at 2am.

Actors went nocturnal, make-up artists brought out whatever makes someone look good in twilight and director David Yates switched his flat cap for a beanie because it gets cold at night.

This is when the noble trailer becomes especially important. An actor’s trailer is his or her sanctuary between scenes. It’s a place to eat chickpea curry with cauliflower, rice and spinach, nap on a trailer-size bed, call your family, check Twitter for news of the outside world, conduct private actor rituals or spend precious quiet time in a dressing gown and Ugg boots.

In a moment, I will take you inside one of those trailers. But first, a wander down the aisle of trailers on this set. It’s quite a sight, you see: white van-homes of varying sizes, parked in two long rows in the mud, approximately 90 metres’ walk from the New York streets of Fantastic Beasts.

There’s a number printed on a piece of laminated paper that hangs from the front of some trailers. Eddie Redmayne eats, naps and slips into something more comfortable in Trailer 1. Katherine Waterston is in Trailer 2, and so forth.

As you stroll along, chilled to the bone in a full parka and durable wet-weather shoes, you might see Ezra Miller sitting in the doorway of his trailer, holding a cup of piping-hot tea in a polystyrene cup. There’s a thick wisp of smoke dancing out the window of one trailer and the smell of hot chocolate from another. It’s a quiet, almost eerie place in the early hours of the morning, with the vague feeling of an abandoned amusement park.

Inside each trailer, someone famous is deep in idiosyncrasy. Some people stay in costume, even character; others shed their artifice for some genuine down time. To go inside one of these trailers, you jump three perilously narrow steps and slip through a slim metal door frame. There’s a little kitchenette to the left as soon as you enter, a small outcrop of table to the right, an armchair in the centre and a sofa against the back window.

The floor is usually strewn with scripts, clothes and other personal paraphernalia. A glimpse from the right angle shows you a small all-white bathroom that leads to a modest bedroom.

The overhead light is neon-bright and garish, but there’s something homely about these little spaces; something beautiful in the absence of glamour. There’s something intoxicating about how normal they are, in spite of the talent that sleeps there.

You could settle right on in… but there’s a knock at the door and it’s time to get back to work. The cameras await; this film ain’t going to film itself.

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