Sunday, May 28, 2006

Crew Interview Number 1 - Finn Hopson

As promised, and a little later than I'd hoped (but then at least there'll be lots of fun things for all you GW fans to read now the series is over)

The first interview is with 3rd Assistant Director Finn Hopson (pictured in a photo with Mark Heap posted earlier)

1) What's your name and what was your job on Green Wing?

Finn Hopson.
3rd Assistant Director. Which means I spend my day on set with the 1st AD
and director. I direct the extras on set and liaise with the 2nd AD to make
sure we have all the right people in the right place at the right time.

2) It is fairly obvious just how integral and important every single job on the team
is. What do you think it was about Green Wing that produced such a
great team of cast and crew who all got on so well for so long?

It's a really funny show and I think everyone found something that they really liked about it. It was also a really long shoot on both series and when you spend that much time with the same people i guess you bond a bit. I certainly made a few good friends and that really makes the job more fun.
There was also a lack of big egos or people with very demanding personalities. The cast are all absolutely fantastic and very down to earth. From my point of view that was one of the best things about the shoot. Green Wing was challenging in that it was still being written during the shoot and things were liable to change at the last minute. I think it says a lot about the cast and crew that most of the time everyone still managed to work well together and we still managed to make a really funny series.
It was also fortunate that lots of the key people from the first series were able to return for the second, and those that were new also happened to be very good and fitted in really well with the way Green Wing works.

3) Your job is involves long hours, getting in before most and leaving after most. Did you still wake up in the mornings feeling excited to go to work?

In a word, no. I felt many things (tired, grumpy, bewildered, hungover, surprised, lost, cold, wet) but i don't think excitement was usually one of them. Having said that, when we were away from London and doing something a bit more unusual than the hospital locations, it did feel good to find yourself doing something slightly random each morning. Although I have had
to get up very early and travel a really long way to get to some of the Green Wing locations, we did visit some really great places and I often get to see them completely deserted at sunrise. Plus i could always feel smug in the knowledge that the Second assistant director Jon always generally had to travel about 50 miles more then me in the mornings as he lives on the
south coast. The crazy fool.

4) We all used to try to have a good laugh on set as well as getting on with the serious side of work. What was your funniest memory on GW?

Nothing made me laugh. I am the complete professional and remain dispassionate at all times. Plus it's very important to be quiet on set.
Actually it's really hard to think of one particular funniest moment. There were lots and lots of them. I remember finding Steve very funny in the operating theatre scene with all his keyboards. He spent ages working out which buttons to press and what bits of weird keyboard noise and tunes to use and it was a fantastic scene to watch. I also really liked his scene with the Jetski and the Swan. I was standing at the monitors just out of the shot and close to the action, and everyone watching was trying hard not to laugh out loud the first time he slapped the swan in the face. Tamsin has a ridiculously infectious laugh and whenever she cracks up half way through i scene, it tends to get everyone else going. There was one occasion on this
series where she collapsed onto Sue Whites office floor and just laughed for about ten minutes. I have no idea why but it was very funny. When we visited Basingstoke for the last time, everyone sat down together and watched "Team
America" and i have never heard anyone laugh as loudly and for as long as Tam did during that film. I also spent many hours in the camper van with Mark and Pippa, listening to their little improvised conversations in character and trying to pass on messages from Charlie the 1st AD whilst trying not to be clobbered on the head by everything rattling about in the back, or lying on the floor in the back to stay out of shot whilst mark swerved all over the road. It was like a big, terrifyingly surreal holiday.

5) You spend a lot of your time on set working with SA's (Supporting Artistes or Extras). What's that like?

Always interesting. SA's have a bit of an undeserved reputation for being a bit odd. We had over a thousand on Green Wing and the vast majority of them were very professional and did a great job, but there were also a few interesting characters and to be honest, a few who were just a bit rubbish. On a day to day basis, it was always much easier to set up the background action when the SA's were familiar with the location and had been in previously. Obviously as the shoot progressed, i saw lots more people coming back again and again and as we all got to know each other and they became familiar with what was required from them on each shot, the easier it became to set them into the action. Green Wing isn't shot in a very traditional way and this sometimes made things a bit easier for me because lots of scenes were shot in one long continuous take, and because we also never did things like a reverse angle on a scene or lots of different angles that would have meant tracking everyone's movements for precise continuity all over the room.
However, those long continuous tracking shots down corridors or 360 walks around the action could also be very challenging, particularly because they often took place in very large empty areas of a hospital and i had to find ways of making the most of our limited numbers of SA's. Fortunately most of the hospital locations are replete with sneaky little corridors and shortcuts so people can appear from all sorts of places, vanish down a corridor and appear again magically at the end of the scene. A bit of a cheat but I hope it kept it looking busy. The other odd thing on Green Wing is that there are several places that we film where the public play a large part in the background action. The main hospital corridor scenes are often completely full of real people (sometimes so full that we couldn't film at all) and on those occasions we just shot the cast in amongst the public and had no extras involved at all.

6) How did you start in the Industry and what was your first job?

My first job was as a runner on a Children's BBC show called "Crush". I kind of stumbled into it when a friend broke his wrist and needed an extra pair of hands on set to help him out. We spent a coupe of months touring the country with our set in a van, visiting primary schools and setting up a shoot in their school hall, spent the day herding children about and keeping everyone happy, then went out in a random town of an evening and had a drink with the crew. Perhaps this was good training for Green Wing.

7) What would you like to be doing 5 years down the line?

Touring the country in a camper van on a spin off series with Mark and Pippa. Or perhaps earning enough to drive a convertible red Audi TT with a personalised number plate. Roof down, cruising down the M3 to Basingstoke, wind rushing through my luscious long hair. Or perhaps that's just an impossible dream.

8) How did your experience on GW compare to other shows you've worked on?

I've been lucky enough to only do two really rubbish TV jobs so far and whenever Green Wing was being stressful and difficult, I could at least congratulate myself that i was no longer stuck on a canal boat with a hippy and his naked girlfriend somewhere near Leeds, trying to dislodge his boat from its position blocking the entire canal, where we had just crashed it.
I have worked on both series of Green Wing and have hung an ambulance off a cliff, set mark heap on fire, met a camel, seen CPR performed on a swan, seen Gomez dressed as a squirrel, played a gay doctor, seen Julian Rhind-Tutt naked, relearned the rules of hopscotch, played Guyball and been clubbing at the end of Eastbourne pier. No other job i have done has let me do these things and i don't think it ever will.

9) Your job also entails being a bit of a go-between, between artistes and Production. How important is it to be personable and diplomatic in your job?

I do spend quite a lot of my time being the messenger who gets shot, and that's never very fun. But people know that I'm just passing on information or requests and they are usually pretty good at starting their rants with the phrase "i know its not your fault but...". Actually, being stuck in between crew, production and artistes means that i can learn a lot about what everyone thinks about everyone else and how things are going, which can be a huge help when trying to be diplomatic and pass on difficult bits of information. The downside of this is that you are always trying to do a bit
of a balancing act between everyone and keep everyone as happy as possible, which is often not possible. I also have to spend a huge amount of time asking people to be quiet. I should have just had the phrase "quiet please" tattooed on my forehead. Not the nicest thing to have to do but a neccesary part of the job and one that's a bit easier if people like you.

10) When you're a big-shot Producer, will you remember me and give me a job?


11) What were your fondest memories of working on GW?

Kind of the same as the funniest moments really. One of my least favourite memories was with some cast and a very serious
need to get everything shot quickly. I had a megaphone to yell at the cast from a distance, a radio for talking to the support crew and sound man, a radio to the monitors and director, and the camera crew to pass information to next me. I had information coming at me from about 4 different people at once and found the whole thing incredibly stressful. Apparently I looked very funny though so that's ok.

My thanks to Finn for that great little interview which I'm sure you'll all find very interesting, and a great little insight into what goes on behind the scenes.

More interviews to follow shortly....


la said...

thanks for posting this, it was very interesting! :)

where did he play a gay doctor? who?

answer to #10 was perfect. ;)

do give us more interviews, please! :)

Anonymous said...

"played a gay doctor..."

was he the one checking out Lyndon?

Squarah said...

That was brilliant! I can't wait to read more!
Definitely need things like this to give me the required GW "fix" that I didn't think I'd get until the DVD comes out in the Autumn!
Thank you!

Paula Rhy said...

Ah, random blogs and youtube are all that are keeping me going. Someone's put up a load of clips of Julian Rhind-Tutt in things that aren't Green Wing! It's brilliant, though very, very strange...

Anonymous said...

where is that julian clip stuff??

tell me! i need it now. I'm serious.

Paula Rhy said...

Go to and search his name.

Rewarding myself with those clips is all that's making revision bareable. Of course, I'm 'rewarding' myself, in the sense that I watch them first, then revise out of guilt, but it works. I also came across the name 'Guillaume' in my revision, which amused me no end (did you know, it's the same name as 'William', but we borrowed both the Central French and Norman French versions, back in the Middle Ages?)

Squarah said...

Paula - I'm exactly the same! Watched the E=MC2 stuff earlier - who knew that learning stuff could be so much fun?! (Maybe disturbing wigs and mock French accents help!)Shame it will be of no use whatsoever to my degree!!

Paula Rhy said...

I love the Imp, it cracks me up every time. Next time I cook lasagne I am going to serve it with the words 'Here is your evil lasagne. Oh it's so evil...' etc

*sigh* If only there was 'Michelle Gomez presents English Historical Linguistics' or 'The Surgical Team's Guide to Medieval Literature'... I'd be sorted.

Perhaps after my exams I shall reward myself with organising a Spooon of Destiny tornament at my halls.

Paula Rhy said...

WOO!!! Amazon has a release date for season 2! September 4th (And 'Confetti' is out in August). JPG - are you able to confirm or deny this? I think it ties in with what you were saying about release date before.

If they do a signing, I'll actually be around London at that time of year too, because it will still be the summer holidays for all lazy university students!


Going to learn about regional variations of English in the Middle Ages now. Really...

JPG said...

Well spotted...I'm afraid you knew before I did!
I've posted a link to it in the sidebar.

Squarah said...

Ha ha - it's the evil garlic bread that I want!

Yay for GW and Confetti! If you listen carefully you can hear the sound of my student loan being spent before I even get it!

Paula Rhy said...

But there is no chance of any evil garlic bread, so if you stop wanting it, then you avoid disappointment.

Student finances are so much fun, especially when you can't find a summer job...

Squarah said...

This is obviously where I have been going wrong all my life...why have we only just become acquainted?!
You could have saved me so much time and energy! Ha ha.

Finst said...

I was the gay doctor checking out lyndon's very lovely bum in ep 3 (i think) of first series (that scene has more crew in than any other in either series, there's at least 6 of us in there i think). More recently I managed to appear as the out of focus station cleaner person behind Steve and Tamsin at the station at the end of the last ep of series 2. My parents are so proud of the illustrious things i have achieved.

Anonymous said...

(bit late but)

been clubbing at the end of Eastbourne pier
You subjected yourself to Atlantis! You poor, poor man. And there was me thinking the crew were over 18!

JPG said...

We were very lucky to get some away days on GW, and we always got excited to go to the coast.
Didn't stay on the pier for long but seem to remember ending up at a fish and chips restaurant called...what was it...Qualisea or something.
We all had a great time, but then we don't get out much!