I Make Fake Snow for Films and TV to Make Winter Wonderlands in Summer

  • Jon Llewellyn works at Snow Business International, a company that produces fake snow.
  • Much of the work is helping create winter landscapes for film and TV shows that shoot in summer.
  • “I don’t work for a living — I have fun for a living,” he said.

This as-told-to essay is based on a transcribed conversation with Jon Llewellyn, a 51-year-old snow project manager who makes fake snow for TV and films. It’s been edited for length and clarity.

I work at Snow Business International, where we make fake snow for all kinds of movie sets and more.

I’ve been here the longest apart from the boss. People contact us, we go and look at the location, and then I tell them what’s possible and what’s not.

Before I started working here I had all sorts of jobs. I tried engineering. I worked in security. I applied for a vacancy on a whim and found myself on one of my early jobs helping to cover the whole of Bond Street in London in fake snow, an accomplishment recognized by Guinness World Records.

As soon as I joined the company, I knew I wanted to stay — I saw everyone walking around with huge grins on their faces. After all these years on the job, I haven’t lost that grin. I don’t work for a living — I have fun for a living.

People call us when they want to turn a film shoot into a winter wonderland, and we have over 200 types of snow for any possible effect the client wants

Usually, we put a snow membrane on the ground underneath any fake snow. That helps protect the ground, and if the snow moves, there’s still white underneath.

As for the core products, the most popular is called SnowBase. It’s roughly 80% cellulose and 20% uncompacted paper — this type takes on water, so it’s perfect for that kind of discolored “dirty snow” on streets outside.

Then there are other types that are cleaner and smoother. We also work with waxy materials, sprayed on as hot wax and used to mimic the appearance of ice. That’s often how films shoot icy lakes. We used that technique for “Fantastic Beasts,” “Maleficent,” and “Murder on the Orient Express.”

For snowballs we use paper snow. During snowball fights, we can make it break or stick to a wall, just like the real thing.

There’s so much variety in this job. I’ve worked for Hollywood movies, Bond films, Netflix TV shows, luxury-fashion brands, and supermarket Christmas ads. I’ve also dressed big, stately homes for things like “Downton Abbey.”

There’s a lot of secrecy around Christmas TV ads in the UK

People talk, so we use code names to muddy the water. It’s kept very quiet ahead of release.

I remember one August doing the 2014 Christmas ad for the retailer John Lewis — which is practically an annual tradition in the UK — and covering a hillside in fake snow. I got to go sledding in summer in England. In what other jobs can you do that?

I’m a big sports fan. In 2021, I worked on the Sports Direct holiday ad. Being on set with footballers like Jack Grealish, Jordan Pickford, and Mason Mount was great, and they were all so lovely. People are always fascinated by what the “snow” is made of.

One year, I worked on a Robbie Williams’ Christmas music video, so there I was, in his garden, making it snowy.

The cleanup can be hard work. We have to make sure we don’t leave a trace behind. It’s painstaking, but with the right products and the right prep, you can do it easily.

Man standing in a forest with the ground covered in fake snow

Llewellyn says he has fun for a living.

Jon Llewellyn

Recently, we cleaned up this entire area of fake snow on a shoot in Ireland. The very next week, it snowed for real. It looked exactly the same.

It’s quite comical because the Christmas ads need to be shot ahead of time. The earliest one I did was in January, and they had the idea of feeding the crew Christmas dinners, barely a month after the real thing.

But most of the holiday ads are filmed in the summer months. We try to hide the fresh flowers. And you get actors wearing these huge duffle coats or tweed outfits getting very hot and disrobing as soon as the director says cut.

I was involved in the film “Mr. Holmes” a few years ago for an ash shoot, and I remember Ian McKellen boiling. They had fans on set, but you could see he was sweating.

As for us snow technicians, we turn up in shorts, T-shirts, and sunglasses — you need them to avoid headaches, as the snow can be so bright as it reflects the summer sun.

When you watch your handiwork afterward, it’s hard not to watch it with a very critical eye

I’m a bit of a snow geek. I’m always looking for my mistakes, for how it could be done better next time, but I’m usually happy with it.

After 15 years, it also affects how I watch other snowy films. I’ve watched some old films, great films, but I’m thinking, “Hang on. That ice is wonky.” The telltale sign is snow going vertical — snow doesn’t go up walls or up trees — or foam on the floor that wobbles like jelly. I try to keep it to myself, but sometimes, my family can tell it’s bugging me.

As for my twins, they loved growing up with me doing this job. On their birth certificates, my occupation is listed as “snowman.” But now that they’re 13, I think they get a bit embarrassed by it when they see me on TV talking about it.

When it snows here for real, like recently where I live in Stroud, England, I’m always comparing that with our work and making sure we’re being as accurate as possible.

I went around taking snow pictures. But it’s funny because I thought it looked a bit unrealistic on the cars, even though it was real snow.

Source link

We will be happy to hear your thoughts

Leave a reply

Enable registration in settings - general
Compare items
  • Total (0)
Shopping cart