Emmerdale & The Wild West!
Young artist and Emmerdale fan Samantha Garrett is pursuing a career in television. After working hard and building her portfolio with assessment days at Hollyoaks and Coronation Street, as well as placements at Doctors and a prop hire company, she finally got the chance to work at ITV and Emmerdale. Samantha shares her insight into turning Emmerdale into the Wild West.
It has always been a passion of mine to work in production design for television and back in June, I was fortunate enough to be accepted for work experience on Emmerdale, an absolute dream come true.
It couldn’t have come at a better time, particularly being in the Art Department, seeing the village transform before my own eyes into the Wild Western town, newly named Emmerdeadsville. All credit is due for Shaun Clarke (Art Director) and his amazing team who transformed the whole village in the space of just a few days. Not to mention the weeks of preparation that went into making the Wild West vision a reality.
My work experience started in the props store, where I was based for my first week. I was given the task to make certain items, such as signage, to be used on set. A lot of the Wild West props had been hired in or donated from a number of different companies, so Shaun wanted me to hand-make some things to give the feel as if the villagers had put this whole event together themselves.
I was given free roam of the prop store for materials and supplies, which also gave me the opportunity to look around exploring set decorations and the different character shelves with past, present and, at that time, future props!
My first task was to create bunting, and lots of it. It was to be inspired by the American flag, essentially stars and stripes, which gave me the perfect opportunity to raid the kids craft supplies! Endless supplies of glue, glitter, paint, ribbon, crayons and coloured card cut with zig-zagged scissors later (yes I went all out) I had finished my metres and metres of bunting.
My next task was to design and create a painted sign for a stall with the brief being something involving oranges and lemons! I drew up a provisional sketch design, was given a huge piece of cut wood and paint supplies from the craft shop and got to work.
Sat in the prop store happily painting away, I even became known as the citrus girl to the crew who walked past. The lemons and oranges ended up multiplying as I was given even more boards of wood to fill and it ended up being a much bigger stall than planned! I don’t think the stall was ever manned at any point during the filming but it still pops up in the background of lot of shots so look out for the lemons!
Next, I was tasked with creating a life size convict that would go in a jail wagon on Main Street. I had in my mind that I wanted to do something similar to scarecrows we used to make in my village at home for festivals, so went up to the store rooms in search of fabrics and spare clothes.
After being stared down by the head of the beaver costume infamously worn by Kerry Wyatt, I managed to find a matching pair of pyjamas which were perfect for the job along with a hat and gloves. Shaun had found me a polystyrene head to go on my convict and after stuffing the clothes with bubble wrap and tying with string it was coming together. By this stage I had started getting some odd looks from the crew walking past with this random body looking a bit worse for wear beside me!
Costume provided some shoes for our convict, which I believe may have even belonged to Joe Tate previously! Hope he doesn’t need them any more as my next job was to dirty down the clothes and shoes with paint… A whole mess later the convict was ready to be taken to the village. With chains and ball attached and the hands tied to the rails, who knows maybe Emmerdale’s newest cast member might make an appearance?
My final task in the prop store was to decorate the chalkboards for inside the Woolpack (renamed Miss Kitty’s Saloon) and outside for the pop-up bar. I was trying to think of different drinks to put on the boards but my mind went blank so I decided to create my own concoction called the Cowboy Cocktail (because we all love a bit of alliteration).
These ended up appearing everywhere, much to my own amusement, and it appears they even got a mention in a magazine article (TV Times, 2019) theorising what it could be made of! The cocktails themselves don’t feature in the episodes but perhaps one day it can become Charity’s new speciality drink?
While I was at work in the prop store, in the studio opposite scenes for the fire that happened later in the week were being filmed! I got a sneak peek at the interior sets during a break and it looked very exciting!
My second week of work experience was spent working out on the village set both in the prep and the filming of the Wild West action.
The plan for the whole village dress had all been meticulously planned down to the last hay bale, drawn out and labelled onto a map of the entire village by the Art Director.
On the Monday, two other units were filming on Main Street which limited the amount of decorations we could put up, leaving us confined to the Village Hall area. The weather forecast wasn’t looking too good so we needed to unload the content of the vans into the Village Hall and even the Church! Transporting and guiding sections of a large gold mine entrance through those church doors was certainly an interesting challenge!
The rest of the team started to put up the shop bought American flag bunting and put in the stakes for the cacti (or cactuses? There were many debates about that) while I was put in charge of creating the tumbleweed.
This was when I got my first glimpse of filming as I wove tumbleweed (twigs from the car park) under the pagoda while watching Graham talk to Kim in the car, a scene shown last week! Everything behind the camera in that scene was Wild West with American flag bunting everywhere… the magic of television!
Tuesday was our main day for prepping and dressing the village as Main Street wasn’t in use for filming. However, in typical British fashion, the Yorkshire weather poured down making the Wild West become more wild wet. I ended up sheltering in the Village Hall having been set more creative tasks making even more signs!
Three of these were on giant boards to go on some of the stalls and another was a barn sign painted onto wood to go on the front of the Village Hall. This sign actually ended up featuring quite prominently in the trailer for this week!
Luckily things dried out by the time filming started on the Wednesday. Filming took place on Main Street and I was given the opportunity to shadow and assist the unit Standby Art Director and Standby Props while another team worked down by the village hall doing the final prep for the next day.
Filming was so much fun and so interesting to watch. I had been informed that on themed shoots, such as this block, the crew dresses up.
Plaid shirts aplenty we got to work. The Director, Brett Fallis, definitely sported the best crew outfit dressed in full cowboy gear! The graphics team made sure to sneak him into the episodes with a cameo on a poster! (right) Look out for him in the episodes!
During the week I also got the chance to quickly visit the unit working on the fire aftermath and saw glimpses of the filming and how it was done.
At end of the week, the de-rig team had to quickly start to take down as much of the Wild West decoration, due to the Village tours taking place the next day! Most of Main Street couldn’t be taken down though as it could be seen in the back of shot down near The Mill where we were filming the Robert Vs Lee showdown. This meant a team had to stay behind after filming wrapped for the day to clear everything, and with hay strewn everywhere there was a lot to clear!
In my final few days I got to experience filming in the studios too and it was so interesting to see how it contrasts to location filming.
The crew and cast were all so welcoming and I had the most amazing time. These few weeks truly showed just how much work gets put in by the Art Department as well as all the rest of the crew to put together what we end up seeing on screen.
Thanks to Samantha Garrett for sharing her experience – She is about to begin a foundation art course at university in Leeds, where she plans to specialise in an object and special design pathway. Samantha can be contacted via her Linkedin page
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