Aspiration: Day in the life - Lights, camera, action

In striving to produce the perfect event, managing director of Weird and Wonderful Jonathan Sands has taken party theming to a whole new level. Jeremy King spent a day on location at Pinewood Studios with the talented Mr Sands. 09.00am Turning into Pinewood Studios from the main road is every bit like entering a magical film set. Hidden among the trees in the rural backdrop of Iver Heath is the home of British film-making. I'm directed to the studios, which takes me past the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory set and in view of the James Bond studios. I find Jonathan Sands deep in conversation, with about 30 other people vying for his attention.

09.30am Despite being up since 7am making sure a Weird and Wonderful prop creation - a 5ft tall bespoke Jaws-style shark - was ready to help launch Camelot's scratch cards, Sands is incredibly chilled.

10.00am The first thing I notice is a specially built wall prop designed to give the impression of a van crashing through the middle of it. Sands explains that he and his team have spent two weeks building the set as part of a bank vault heist they're staging for the launch of Canon's latest camera. The camera is being marketed for its movie-making capabilities so Sands has devised a plan whereby he films the heist sequence the day before the event. Then, during the party for Canon's marketers and press, he will re-enact the film-making using the new camera before showing the footage - thus creating the illusion that the heist was staged, filmed and shown almost live to guests within the time-frame of the party. "The concept of the bank heist movie scene came to me within two hours of the client getting in touch," he says

10.30am As someone who has worked at television and film studios since the age of 12 and having his own studio at Elstree by the age of 21, Sands is an experienced hand behind the camera. He says: "This type of live action event for a party is not easy and unless you have the experience, it's very hard to pull off."

11.00am As Sands takes me through the storyboards, he is beckoned by his movie editor. After a short discussion on how best the wall will look, Sands hops into a van he has hired for the occasion and drives it into the pre-arranged hole in the prop. He then directs his set design team on how to strategically place the falling rubble around the wheels and on the roof of the vehicle.

11.30am With the van in place Sands instructs his team to start the smoke machine to provide an authentic crash scene. It's here that he once again dons his director's hat as he gives his stuntmen instructions about how best to jump out of the van with their stolen gold bullion.

12.00pm As Sands prepares for a midday deadline to start filming he runs through the final preparations for the first scene and encounters the day's first real problem - through the smoke the studio wall is easily visible. The problem is solved by repositioning the smoke machine and strategically placed black drapes.

12.30pm One of Sands' clients turns up earlier than expected so his attempts at filming are put on hold as he takes her through the storyboard and around the sets. He explains: "We built the sets from start to finish utilising props from our warehouse. For example, the bank vault door is the original submarine door from the movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."

1.30pm It's back to filming and Sands gets to grips with directing the new Canon camera, which is the centrepiece of the launch party. Meticulous in detail, it's easy to mistake this for the filming of a big-budget movie.

2.00pm The first real shots are taken of the bank heist and soon the first sequence scene is in the "can"

2.30pm It's time for a break before preparing for what could be a long night filming and editing. "I'm sure I will be up for most of the evening ensuring the edit is ready for the launch party tomorrow," says Sands.

3.30pm In between preparing his team of stuntmen and actors for the bank vault scene, Sands is directing cameramen and looking for the best angle, while also juggling a number of calls from clients who want to take part in the Weird and Wonderful party experience.

4.00pm While the cameramen prepare the rolling camera, Sands checks the set to ensure it is safe for his stuntmen. He says things are going really well and feels more confident about the outcome of the event.

4.30pm Sands and his editor aren't impressed with the initial shots of the bank vault and decide to change angles to get everything just right.

5.00pm Watching Sands' quest for perfection in his directing and organising is tiring enough, but he just keeps on going and explains how he has been preparing for this since the weekend. "We couldn't take any chances with getting stuck in traffic this morning so we brought our 7.5 tonne lorry full of props and set designs down at the weekend. Any delays and things could have gone seriously wrong," he says

6.00pm With two more scenes to go Sands realises he is in for a late evening but his excitement disguises his tiredness. He adds: "I am very happy with what we have achieved so far and now with an additional office at Pinewood we are looking forward to doing more of these live action parties."


Weird and Wonderful - Tel (01707) 659 840. Web www.weirdand

DNA Productions - Tel (020) 7370 7440. Web

Sprout - Tel (020) 7292 3603. Web

GSP - Tel (020) 8968 9331. Web

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