Dream Big

A short film by Pip Swallow https://www.dreambigshortfilm.com/

The Club was approached by Producer / Director Pip Swallow to see if we would be able to adapt a layout for use in a short film based on a model railway layout that could control real world events. The Canons Cross layout was selected as suitable for urban extension and adaptation to represent filming locations in Thaxted Suffolk. The challenges, Covid 19 social distancing, working with a third party of students producing detailed areas and a tight time line.

Dream Big diagram

Image: A working party of 3 was setup to construct baseboard, populate it with buildings representing the hill in Thaxted Watling Street and produce special effects. As budget was tight we reused damaged boards, refurbished and rebuilt model buildings from our donated items and set to work creating the look and feel of that town for the big screen.


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Image: Filmic effects. Night lighting on the main station.


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Image: A full length view of the layout showing the integration of what became nicknamed 'Mirandaville' with a Dojo and Miniature village from the East Herts University degree students. One scene involved real life firemen and a house fire caused by an accident on the model, we had to emulate the same based on a specific house. Seen here is our dry run, the first time the full layout met the extension.


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Image: It was then time for documentary filming and interviews by Railway Modeller for their December 2021 virtual show and publication.


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Image: Filming day itself dawned. A cutaway set had been created in studio into which the layout was positioned. We effectively became 'Train Wranglers' for the day alongside other movie departments and crafts. Meantime outside was blowing a full gale and torrential rain.


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Image: All parts of the layout came under tight lens scrutiny. Since the actor running the railway had no model train experience, the aim was to operate offscene in tandem with directoral triggers.


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Image: Numerous takes = numerous first position requests.


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Image: The new section of layout, 'Mirandaville'. As this had been built 'in absentia' from Thaxted, physically walking down the real hill from the church that evening was a strange feeling.


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lmage: The garden with black shed was where some location filming was taking place, representing the outer shell of the shed set we were lcoated. Thus front of house had to carry added interest. A cool cookie, the lady in the deck chair stayed there even when neighbouring house caught fire.


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Image: Thar she blows, 3 different house models were used to portray fire progression. As a final act a watering can was emptied over that end of the layout ( Followed by hurried blotting by the team).


It has been a rewarding experience to take a part in this filming process and some great tips and tricks have been learned, especially with regards ambient lighting control and SFX.