A former Rockwell High School pupil who has gone on to work on major blockbuster films has told how she was “written off” at school.
Chrissie Overs, who was one of the first special effects technicians in the country, has worked on Aliens, GoldenEye and Reign of Fire among a number of other big budget movies.
Speaking to the Tele, the prop maker, who has rubbed shoulders with Sigourney Weaver, Christian Bale and Pierce Brosnan, said she had no idea what she would do after leaving school at the age of 15.
After moving to Manchester in the 1970s and working with a photographer on catalogues, she picked up her big break on Granada TV.
Although admitting she had no background in model-making, she threw her name into the hat for a series of children’s puppet films.
She said: “I had been advised that Granada TV was working on some new children’s puppet films. I wasn’t convinced I would get far. I hadn’t been to college or anything like that.”
Chrissie went down to Granada studios with a cardboard box that contained a few of her homemade models and was offered the chance to start work days later.
She added: “I suppose that was really the start for me.
“I went on to work at a prop- making company at Shepperton Studios for a while.”
Chrissie’s big break in the film industry would come in the form of 1980s sci-fi adventure blockbuster Flash Gordon. She said: “I was wandering around the studios one day and saw a workshop — it was the making of Flash Gordon.
“Through the puppet films I’d done at Granada, I had a union card, so I walked in and asked if they needed any model-makers.
“As soon as they knew I had a card, they said I could start — that was the first major feature I did.
“Once you’ve done one film and they know that you are up to the job, you go on to other ones from there.”
Chrissie also became part of another 1980s hit movie, Aliens, working as part of the creature effects crew.
She said: “In those days effects were much more creative — you actually had to make things for real and make them happen.
“I also did a scene on GoldenEye where Bond and one of the females rolled down into a satellite dish.
“They were actually just three-inch dolls loaded up with springs, so they were wobbly.
“I tied them on to a fishing line and ran like the clappers across Leavesden Aerodrome, in Hertfordshire, and dragged them down the side of the dish. When it was shot at high speed it looks much slower and it looks like people were waving there arms.”
Chrissie, who now lives in Berkshire, said she hopes her story might inspire others who are less academic.
She added: “There was a lot of us who were maybe written off at school that weren’t academic.
“I left Rockwell High at the age of 15 with no prospects to speak of but I’ve managed to still make something of myself.”
The prop maker has most recently worked on Prometheus, Stardust and Alien vs Predator, and said she has no intentions of retiring soon.
She added:“I still work on films at Pinewood Studios Shepperton Studios and other UK studios.
“I have no intentions of stopping any time soon. I think they’ll need to throw me out first. Although I’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry I still enjoy the work.
“A lot of people think all the films are made in Hollywood, but the UK studios have done and will continue to do great work in the years to come.”