Transcript Interview Arwel & Claire
|Claire, you told us yesterday (at the Baker Street Vienna Convention*) that you wanted to be a make-up artist since school. You finally became one of the best. How did your education/training help to get you where you are today, doing all these fantastic projects?
Claire: Yes, when I went from school I always wanted to be part of the BBC but the only way to get in there was to keep studying and attending courses that were relevant; so I started with a beauty therapy course, then I went to London to do a Greasepaintcourse which had modulesof theatrical make-up and special effects and hair dressing. Then realised that I have to do more hair dressing. Then I was accepted at the BBC for an apprenticeship scheme which is sadly finished now. So I worked 2 years as an apprentice there and then was employed by them. This was the easiest way, it’s not that easy anymore because you have to pay more for private courses. And they tend to be shorter courses and don’t teach as much of all the aspects of what we need to do for TV. I was in a very lucky position then.
Arwel, is there a production school, special courses etc. to get ready for your job?
Claire: I think he is being quite modest ‘cos you do have to have the artistic vein, you have to have the eye … creativity…. that has to be in you….
Arwel: It is a good grounding because you also doing….you also understand everyone else’s job because as a runner you have to deal with all the different departments and by that you have a great understanding of what everyone is doing. And I think that helps – and has helped me since. It can also be frustrating when you see some of the younger ones come today who think they deserve it all and they expect it all but you know how hard you worked.
Claire: Yes, you have to work hard for it.
Arwel: You see a lot of people now they start off in this industry because they like the idea of it but they don’t like to have towork for it.
Claire: In all I probably studied for four years before getting into the BBC doing various courses and then I started at the bottom as a trainee. So although I’ve been training for four years prior to that I still started at the bottom within the BBC. And I think what they don’t teach people is to set etiquettes and how to deal with other departments, heads of departments. That is a ranking system and you have to respect that as good of reason. You know, a lot of young people coming in think they can have the attitude to leave at 4pm….but you know, there are long hours and long days, everybody gets tired you have to be able to adapt.
Claire, you worked on such fantastic projects, right now on Doctor Who. What was your first big project?
Arwel: Because I didn’t have the college courses or the background or degrees or that stuff I found it very difficult to get work as design assistant or art director for many years. Lots of designers wouldn’t employ me because I didn’t have the right background. So I went and did a lot of commercials and steps like that where I started designing quite young. And then, as a freelancer it comes and goes as well, sometimes you’re not working …and I had a quiet few years and then I went back to art directing with a designer called Hayden Pierce and had a couple of jobs with him, which is when I had a call to come in for an interview for art directing on Doctor Who. I went in and got that and started on the first series. And slowly from there I really did what I’ve always done and worked hard as much as I could.
You have already worked with Steven Moffat on Doctor Who – how did you join the successful BBC series Sherlock then?
You mentioned the pilot. It was quite interesting to see the changes in the set from pilot to the first episode. What were the reasons for these changes?
Other than with elements of the structure we couldn’t afford to discard the set completely so I had to work within some parameters but some things I changed anyway like the split level floor in the pilot. It didn’t work really ‘cos most of time you don’t see it, so you see someone walking across and then see him…[Arwel makes a gesture how somebody’s getting smaller and smaller when walking around]…drop down. And also it’s a nightmare to work in… you need to track across… you need the cameras… And I got rid of the arch which was wrong for the period, instead of ancients flock more textures… The apartment itself was a transitional space because it was a rental, so everyone who stayed there has left a mark so we went back to maybe the earliest point, maybe the 40’s, rather than before it was back to Victorian, mainly Victorian feel and then elements of modern. Well, not back at kind of the 40’s really but maybe a couple of touches are turning you back to Victorian but it’s 40’s, 50’s, lots of 60’s 70’s and then these elements of modern day… So that’s why there are so many different textures and feels and looks.
Benedict’s hair was very short in the pilot and he looked incredibly young. How did make-up and hair design changed from season to season, what was the challenge for you, Claire?
What do you like most about doing make-up? Is it more hair design or make-up you like to do?
Do you have a lot of freedom in designing, how you do designs or are there a lot of specifications you get?
Arwel, what about the specifications you have to deal with within your work? Do you get clear specifications?
So when you made the decision upon the famous wallpaper, how did you come across it? You go to a shop or…?
Let’s talk about that lovely and by now already famous wallpaper… The fans are crazy about it, it’s one of the most iconic parts of the series. What do you think about that?
Claire: When I walked onto the set and the crew loved it as much as the cast. You immediately feel that you wanna live there. You immediately feel to sit on the sofa, you can all sit and have a nap or a have cup of tea, with the teapot… and everybody just feels comfortable there, it’s just a lovely place to live. And the one thing I noticed as well was the wallpaper that turned to be on the fireplace wall and by the mirror you do get the reflection of the state of behind. And I kind of looked at that and I thought oh eh, that’s clashing a bit… and even when they didn’t get anything in there, but of course they know it looks brilliant, the contrast of the two patterns together, it gives you that depth. As a set to work on you feel like you’re in a real building, in a home.
Arwel: Una said, when they were on the set for the first time: “how did you know it will work? How did you know it would look so lovely?” [laughs when remembering this]
Claire: Una loves the flat, she loves the kitchen, the vintage units, the teapots…when I got the chance to see it, one of the funniest moments was that explosion when Benedict was in betweenthe two windows and the curtain went, and his hair went, and so just being in that room put the fabrics on the window and if it all works, we had one go with that … one go – and it just worked! And the fabrics just blew and the hair went…one take only, it was awesome…it was brilliant. And he loved it and laughed like a fool afterwards, didn’t he, it was so good. Cos we all just knew that we only had one go with it, it was such a unique set, we were not tend to do it again.
How much of preparation do you need in average for one episode?
Claire: Yes, two weeks, if I’m lucky…
Do you work very close with the costume designers?
Arwel: I’m fascinated about what you say because even when we have characters in the script for a new set, for a location, you cannot start getting the things together until you know who they cast; it’s difficult a kind of actually pinpoint what the character is. Once you know the cast you know ah alright… you can start to decorate, but until that, you know…
Claire: I think oh God wouldn’t so and so be perfect, I hope they cast this person, that character he’d be brilliant. And then they turn up with somebody I can’t fall, I don’t see it, I don’t feel. But then, once the costume arrives, once the hair gets into shape and once you see the set – you think oh yeah! That’s well; now I know why they cast this person…
Arwel: The casting has been excellent over all. All the supporting cast through all three series has been brilliant. [We all agree unanimously upon the amazing cast of Sherlock.]
Do you get any information about the cast selection in advance?
Claire: And we are not allowed to contact anybody until they’re sort of being contracted or the legal step is being done. So that’s why for me it’s usually quite late. Because all those things I have been completely…we are not aware of all that, but that happens quite late for me so I’m lucky if I get them. We usually have them a week before filming for rehearsals, read troughs – that’s when I get to see them.
What was the funniest moment you can remember?
Arwel: …and it was one of the first things we did on the set. It was the first week and we shot The Great Game – it was the first thing we shot, we started off with The Great Game then we did the Blind Banker and then we did A Study in Pink.
Claire: Yes I think he wanted to give the boys the chance to get into the roles.
It’s interesting to hear that you shot episode 3 first and then backwards…
Claire: I think initiallyespecially with series 1 they didn’t want the audience to meet Sherlock and Watson without them having timeto work together and have that kind of chemistry… I think this was a good way they did it; I think the boys appreciated that.
They seemed to have fun.
Is there a special “Claire signature” make-up? Something that makes a make-up identifiable as one of yours?
Claire: My little tag on twitteris help the people feel the part or something like that. It’s working closely with the actor to make sure that they are completely comfortable and also this fine brushstroke because lots of people I have worked with in the past when I was an apprenticetheir make-up was so much heavier, the wigs were so wiggly – I love working with wigs; I think this is my biggest passion. And to fool people…
Arwel: ….and persuade directors ‘cos you have directors that don’t want wigs, and it’s the same with US. Some directors don’t want sets ‘cos they believe they look like sets or that in first case they will look like wigs. So it happens persuading these kinds of people … if you do it properly it will be the right thing…
Claire: …because directors often come and are really unsure when I say I want to wig them “oh no, no, I don’t want any wigs; I don’t want any facial hair” … and I say no, just let me, I know you may have …. Oh no we have had bad experience with wigs, they take too much time, they look awful, it’s never convincing. And they think it takes too much time in the morning to put them on, too much maintenance during the day… and I say please just let me do it. And then we did a series with Ruth Jones who is quite famous for a series inthe UK calledGavin & Stacey, and then she went on straight to another drama, “Stella”… so she started talking with the DOP about this dyed hair and all the maintenance. And the DOPwas shocked in the 20th episode and on episode 7 she then had a make-over and she wore two wigs, the first one and the second one, and the DOP at the end of the 20th episode could not believe that either them were wigs. And he’s looking down the lens, he’s the one behind the camera and he said “I just can’t believe that!” And I said that they were, they were both wigs and neither of them was her own hair. And at the end of the series he told everybody they were. So it’s about that you don’t see it…
Arwel: Marc, one of the main lead actors on “Stella” said to me at some award ceremony orsomething was coming up. And he said: I suppose the problem with you two – and he was referring to both of us – if you do your job properly no one sees it.
Claire: When you’ve got your set and you translate it to take it to the studio and its need to be an office block in London and you succeed, nobody ever knows about the set. So in a way you do all the technical which you don’t know that it’s even a wig.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this lovely interview! We enjoyed very much meeting you.
* The first Sherlock Holmes Convention Baker Street Vienna took place from 14th to 15th June 2014 at Vienna.