Two university film students keen enough to get out of bed at 4.30am to gain work experience found themselves alongside Hollywood legend Sir Michael Caine.
The University of Portsmouth students, Jack Johal and Joey Nutkins, both in their second year of studying for a BA (Hons) Film Production, saw their tutor’s tweet appear on the course social media account asking for work experience volunteers.
No mention was made of the Oscar winning star.
Their tutor, Ben Hodgson, is also the director of photography on the film being shot in north London and due out in 2017.
Ben was invited in 2012 to join the film as director of photography, responsible for lighting and creating a shooting style with the director.
He said: “I took a couple of days out to go and film the last scenes and always try to involve students in any industry commissions I have. On this project I managed to negotiate with the production company for two students to accompany me on set for two days.
“I didn’t mention Michael Caine to the students to start with because even if a brush with fame does make a good story, it can be a distraction from focusing on the job. We encourage our students to be work focused and self-motivated in their search for a break in this highly competitive industry.
“I was impressed with Jack and Joey. Arriving early they demonstrated a professional attitude on set. They really threw themselves into it and came away with a great experience, invaluable contacts and a gem for their CVs.”
The experience of working alongside the star of Zulu, Alfie, The Italian Job and Batman didn’t faze either of the students.
Joey, 19, said: “I had never had any experience on a professional film shoot before and was very lucky to work with Michael Caine on my first real engagement in the industry.
“Seeing people who have worked at a high level for years gave me an invaluable insight that not many people get to have.
“Everyone on set was professional and friendly, many of them gave helpful and vital advice to further my career and make it in the industry. I was very excited when I learnt that Michael Caine was going to be involved and seeing such a great actor at work only inspired me further to create my own work and make a name for myself.”
The experience didn’t really hit home for Jack, also 19, until after it was all over.
“It wasn’t till I was back in a university lecture that I fully comprehended what I’d spent the previous two days doing.
“When I saw the tweet from my tutor, I leapt at the opportunity to gain any experience on a film set. Although I was working alongside Sir Michael Caine, one of the biggest British household names in person, I was more excited to see the workings of a set.”
Both students were listed on the production company’s work schedule as work placement students, but found they were treated as runners and as part of the crew.
Jack said: “Runners are renowned for making tea and coffee and catering to everyone’s needs, but there was an opportunity to do ‘playback,’ a role in which you replay clips for the director.
“Everyone was extremely helpful and didn’t mind the incredible number of questions I asked about everything, from what they did to why they were doing it.
“The main thing I took away from the shoot was a complete certainty I wanted to work in this industry.”
Ben has been shooting scenes for the film for over a year, including one sequence which saw Michael Caine reunited with the original Aston Martin DB4 the star drove in The Italian Job.
Ben said: “We had the car rigged on a low-loader to film scenes around London with Sir Michael in the driving seat. Passers-by would stop, point at the car and then twig that their favourite movie star was behind the wheel.
“At one point we had a whole crowd of fans chasing us round and round Piccadilly Circus.”
The film production course at Portsmouth is taught by a range of industry professionals, including Ben Thompson, Yael Friedman, Steve Whitford and Jane Steventon.