Building the Village: Part One

Building the Village: Part One

Today on the blog, we’re rewinding to last summer to see how Ren‘s ambitious medieval village set took shape in a Cambridgeshire car park. In our latest production diary video, you’ll meet some of the dedicated crew and volunteers as they start to construct the village square.

Look out for part two, coming soon – all about painting and thatching the set.

Meanwhile, we’d like to share some of the photos documenting the set build, many of them shot by executive producer and regular volunteer Michael Hudson. Spearheading the mammoth construction effort was Ren‘s co-writer and one of its lead actors, Christopher Dane. We asked Chris to talk us through the photos.

June 30th

June30-1

It’s hard to believe but this is how it all started on a very uninteresting parking lot in Caxton. I’m not sure even I thought that we were going to pull off a medieval village market right where I’m standing in this picture.

June30-2

The first of a number of ‘plans’ that became notorious amongst the many great people who turned up to help us build the village. This one is pretty close to the final design but there were adjustments made along the way.

July 7th

July07-1

And so it begins: the first corner of the first house has taken the place of the pallets we had used to outline the various houses in the square. All the houses were made out of OSB Boards and they were chosen because they already had a bit of the effect we wanted for the final walls and, even though a few industry professionals warned us not to use them, they stood the test of time… and rain… and wind… and Duran.

July 13th

July13-1

Some shape is coming along here and it was great for us to begin to be able to see how big the final market would be… it was both inspiring and quite overwhelming, especially as not a lot of people had turned up to help at this stage.

July13-2

This is really a great detail to show how things progressed. The day before, Michelle had contacted a local builder in Haslingfield, who was doing a loft conversion, and he donated all the old rafters from the build. It turned out to be some great red-wood from 1968 (a carpenter had kindly written the exact date on one of them) and instantly the thoughts turned to what we could use it for… in this case a lean-to… and that’s how most of the village was created, by finding the materials and then making use of them in the best way.

July13-3

Adding the twig roofing (from a skip from a garden clearance) started to give us an idea of how to deal with the roofs on the main houses.

July 19th

July19-1

The old rafters also allowed us to extend the houses with overhangs and so began the task of making each house individual…

July19-2

… and the task of making doors for Master Jack. Jack actually just turned up on set because he was studying film in London and had cursed the fact that not many projects were happening over the summer break in his local area, only to find that there was one in his backyard! The doors, however, became the bane of his life for a few months.

July19-3

This is a true ‘behind the scenes’ picture and shows how we used just about anything on the build. In this case a pile of old tyres began to serve as counter ballast for each finished house.

July19-4

One of the main tasks for the design team was to create a connection between the path leading into the village and the village itself… bearing in mind that the two locations were separated by the expanse of a 60 meter wide car park. The solution came when these old fence posts were spotted on a scavenger hunt in our trusted white van called Morrison. As you might just make out, we built two sections of the village palisades on reinforced pallets and the idea was that a pallet lifter could transport them from one place to the other whenever needed.

July 20th

July20-3

The extension of this house had left us with the problem of roofing… could we find some straw or even thatch… but on another hunt in Morrison we came across a rubbish pile from a fence maker in Barton. Amongst all sorts of good things were these off-cuts that then became wooden tiles on what became known as the Baker’s House… one man’s rubbish is another man’s roof.

July 26th

July26-1

This is the last building to go up and, if you go back to the plan we started out with, you’ll notice that this is a new addition. We needed a stable door for one of the scenes and thought that we should include it in the set… not easy to make out now, but it actually ended up being the backdrop for many scenes in the market.

July26-2

Amongst the most faithful and hard working of all the people that helped out on the eight week long set build was The Dynamic Duo AKA Michael Hudson and his son Tom (pictured)… both of them worked extremely hard and I can honestly say that the set wouldn’t have been finished if it hadn’t been for those two!

July26-3

One of the tasks that was allocated to The Dynamic Duo was the creation of the all important platform… without spoiling anything, this is where most of the final episodes of Ren Season One take place. It was constructed out of two oversized pallets, connected by two normal ones in the middle, and then supported by a myriad of legs… I suspect that Michael and Tom didn’t want to help on any of the other projects that week and just kept adding more legs.

July 20th

August03-1

Okay, go back to the top of the page and then have a look at this… the old loading ramp has now turned into a stronghold in the middle of the village. The design of the Kah’Nath Keep had been brewing for a while but it was only when another shipment of rafters turned up that this version came about. You can just about see the end of the building inside the Keep that was added to make the design look a bit more three dimensional… wasn’t in many shots in the end but just adds that crucial amount of detail… as did the stairs leading to the platform that costume designer and Costa Coffee shareholder Miriam picked up from a skip.

August03-2

If you’ve ever wondered what an Executive Producer on a project like Ren actually does, then look at the man in the white T-shirt… that’s Jonathan, one of our Kickstarter Executive Producers… not sure he knew quite what he had let himself in for when he turned up on set.

August 10th

August10-2

More detail is being added to the houses now… this is the stables that I mentioned earlier and it was important for us to think of ways to make each building unique even before we started on the painting of the set. These ‘barn doors’ were actually Robert Jezek’s neighbour’s bin shed.

August10-1

And at this stage some of the actors had become curious enough to venture up to Caxton to have a look… lollies apart I’m not sure what they actually thought of our collection of OSB Board boxes… Duran looks like he’s thinking “yeah, sure Chris, there’s going to be a market with fifty extras and stalls and soldiers and… oh yes, pigs that fly!”

Thanks Chris! Stay tuned for part two, coming soon.

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