Film news

When Hollywood came to Kingston, resident Jennifer Millar joined the crew

19th September 2014
Jennifer Millar on the Criminal shoot
Jennifer Millar on the Criminal shoot

University student Jennifer Millar has been rubbing shoulders with Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Ryan Reynolds and Gal Gadot in her Kingston street.

When the A-listers arrived to shoot Criminal over six days in Kings Road, Jennifer landed a job as a locations assistant.

“I went to a residents meeting when they were talking about the possibility of the shoot coming to our street,” she explains.

“And while I was there I asked if I could help. I’ve done a lot of tech stagecraft at university, so this seemed like a great opportunity to put it into practice – in my own backyard.”

To her delight, the answer was yes. So, was the work as much fun as it might sound?

“Yes, the whole experience has been great. It will be very strange when the street goes back to normal,” she says.

“I saw Kevin Costner and his body double and I met Gal Gadot, she was shaking hands with people, really lovely. It’s interesting to learn that these A-listers are really down to earth, very nice. They don’t believe they are above everybody else.

“One woman came down from Gloucester Road every day hoping to get Kevin Costner’s autograph. Eventually she did, she was thrilled.”

The reality of the job for a locations assistant is, as Jennifer says, far from glitzy. “You’re working very hard, there are cables everywhere underfoot and there’s heavy machinery. Then afterwards you have to make it look as though nothing was here.

“I had to get used to very long days, 12-hour shifts. But the point is of course, if you’re doing a night shoot, you have wait for nighttime.

“You’re basically the service department at the location. If they need a plug, you have to go and find it. Without us, it doesn’t work. The tech experience came in handy – at least I knew what a 16 amp plug was, for example.

“When they were doing exterior shots our job was to keep control over the street – stop residents from wandering into the shot, that sort of thing. And when they were doing interior shots I was tidying the truck, or making sure there’s no litter on the street.”

As a resident, Jennifer also found her role was a useful public relations exercise.

“I did go and speak to residents if they had concerns about the intrusion. It helped that I was local. And I am a lot closer to my neighbours now than I used to be.

“At the weekend they weren’t filming but the road was still blocked off. So children came out on their skateboard, able to play in what is usually a very busy road. Before long, their parents brought out wine and cheese and the whole thing turned into an impromptu street party.”

The long shifts and the hard work haven’t managed to put Jennifer off the film business. For now, she’s heading back to her final year, studying archaeology at Durham University. As of today (September 19th), the stars have gone, and life in Kings Road will get back to normal, but for Jennifer, that’s not the end of the affair.

“It’s been really nice to see the reality of it,” she says, “to have the opportunity to work in this business. In my case it’s something I would now seriously consider doing as a job. Not all people want to be bankers.

“It’s a very close knit community, so I’m really lucky that I’ve made the contacts now, and there’s the opportunity to do some more work possibly in the Christmas break.”

FilmFixer manages the film service for The Kingston Council, ensuring residents are involved and engaged when crews are shooting in their neighbourhoods.

FilmFixer director Karen Everett was pleased that Jennifer has caught the bug, “We always encourage filmmakers to offer opportunities to locals on big shoots,” she says.

“It’s really important that Londoners experience all the possible benefits of the filming going on around them. As a former producer, I’m always delighted when we manage to give someone a little leg up.”