Monday, May 10, 2010

Asparagus @ Midnight - Part II

Learning that I would be on the set of "Hobo With A Shotgun" within a few short hours sent me into a tizzy.  I was like a debutante that had just learned her coming out party had been moved from spring to 8 pm.  Did I have the right "drab" clothes on hand?  An appropriate "garden tool?" (insert obligatory "Garden Weasel" crack here)  Would the car be back in time to make a run for supper, pick up anything I needed and find a location I'd never been to in my life?

I settled upon an old faded blue sweatshirt, worn paint-splattered jeans, and a gray flannel shirt from my grunge/salad days.  In other words, something I would have worn on any day of the week  For a coat I brought along a cheap dark blue raincoat which I normally wear for outdoor concerts and an ancient brown leather pilot jacket.  I completed the look with a pair of worn brown boots that looked on the verge of collapse.  But what to do for a "garden tool"? (insert compulsory "Weed Whacker" joke here)

After grabbing a quick burger I kicked around the idea of making a "Canadian Tire" run for a rake or pick-axe (insert prerequisite "hoe" reference here).  Then I remembered the collapsible camping shovel in the trunk of my car:

Cool!  Just mean, portable and funky-looking enough to say that, well, at least I brought something.

I checked Google maps and navigated the Ninjamobile to the location in Cole Harbor.  My concerns over recognizing the site were groundless as my car approached what looked like an abandoned mental institution perched atop a barren hill.  I felt a flutter of excitement.  The bleak abandoned structure looked absolutely perfect.  One quick glance evoked overwhelming feelings of dread, desperation and unholy menace.  It was already milling with people trying to find parking spaces and negotiate security checkpoints.  Film trucks and police vehicles were arrayed all around.

I'd gotten there around seven; way ahead of schedule.  To kill thirty minutes I did my patriotic duty and back-tracked to the nearest "Tims" to guzzle a quick tea and review my instructions.  

Good set etiquette suggests that you be on site thirty minutes before your call time so I rolled up to the location around 7:30 and coaxed the Ninjamobile up the steep hill.  A security guard stopped me, wearing an incongruous smile and a sunny disposition that seemed in direct opposition to the grim weather.

"Are you background for the shoot?" she beamed, obviously just as stoked as I was.

After I'd confirmed this she directed me to a lot at the top of the hill which resembled a more chaotic than average demolition derby.  She approached my window and suggested I turn around and park on the shoulder of the road half way down the hill.

I maneuvered the Ninjamobile around, approximating the golf cart scene in "Austin Powers", and pulled over in a free spot.  Just before I shut the engine down one of the crew stopped me.

"Hey, listen, we're gonna have some heavy trucks coming up and down this narrow road, so your best bet might be to park down there..." he said, pointing to a lot on the opposite side of the road. 

" I know it kinda sucks but it's probably your best bet."

Obediently, I drove down to the lot, undeterred by the wind, rain and the nagging thoughts of having to strike base camp half way up the summit before making the final approach mere minutes before my call time.  I hopped out of the car, hefted my stuffed-to-capacity murse and struck off.

Just as I approached the front of a parked van, it's horn blasted to life, scaring the bejesus out of me.  I flashed a look of irritation, remembering that instructions implicitly said my clothes on set had to be clean!  It was then that I glimpsed someone behind the wheel beckoning for me to come closer. Cautiously I beetled my way around the puddles to the side of the van, thinking that being abducted as grist for a local human trafficking cartel mere yards away from gaining legitimate access to a movie set was just about par for the course with my luck.

Mercifully it turned out to be a shuttle service, ferrying extras from the lower lot to the set up on the hill.  En route I chatted briefly with a couple of stellar kids named Lauren and Andrew who were also there as volunteer background people.  They proved to be reliable and stalwart company during the next eight hours and I'd love to send a shout out to them for being so cordial to a complete stranger.  Then again, it quickly became clear to me that everyone I spoke to seemed possessed  of an encyclopedic knowledge of movies and a unflagging passion to contribute in some minuscule way to the project so we all had a lot in common. 

"Go into that tent right there and someone'll take care of you," gestured our driver as we disembarked.

We passed through a makeshift corridor of white film-set trucks towards the tent in question, taking note of some very real-looking foreign cop cars parked nearby.  I had little time to marvel as a group of similarly attired matching police suddenly appeared from out of nowhere.  We plunged into the tent.

It was warm inside and packed with a motley assortment of what appeared to be transient folks, freaks and people that looked as if they wandered off the set of "Mad Max", all armed with implements of bloodletting.   After coping with the sensory overload I made my way to a central table where a production assistant was doling out standard issue waiver forms.

I skimmed it briefly ("You, the undersigned, do authorize the use of the cameras on site to capture and claim your mortal soul for all eternity"...blah, blah, blah..."You no longer posses any legal claim to your own image ad infinitum..."...blah, blah, blah, "After termination of filming the shuttle bus will expedite your delivery to awaiting Moroccan slavers"...yada, yada, yada), promptly signed it and then sought out the P.A. to get my "garden tool" approved.

Okay, you can stop giggling now.  For your information, the nice P.A. girl told me it had nothing to do with size but how effectively you threatened people with it, so there!  After this I grabbed a seat wherever I could.  I wasn't idle for five minutes before a woman in a bright yellow rain slicker who looked like she'd been gutting rabbits demanded:


"Um, ah, no?"  I peeped.

I was promptly dragged over to a lineup where a veritable rogues gallery were having their implements of...uh, gardening anointed with buckets of stage blood.  When I made it to the front of the line, the nice lady slathered the camping shovel pictured above with gore, smearing it where hypothetically it may have punctured through flesh and then gripping the handle with a bloody hand to show where I'd been handling it.

Since my shovel wasn't very, *ahem*, long she also grabbed my hand a few times ("Jeeze, lady!  At least buy me lunch or something!") to show where the hypothetical splash back may have occurred.

Instantly my senses were struck by the unmistakable smell of molasses.  It appears that, for local independent horror film makers, fake blood of choice is molasses mixed with food coloring.  What can I say, it's a nice, regional spin on the traditional Karo syrup recipe.  

Now, finally a man, she sent me on my merry way and I stumbled around for a bit, unable to shake the impression that I'd just experienced the most surreal yet coolest moment of my life.

I chatted with Andrew and Lauren for awhile and we all bitched a bit, feeling shortchanged in the garden tool department as extras walked by carrying bloody goalie sticks (!), scythes (!!) and chainsaws (!!!).  I didn't have very long to ponder the psyche profiles of my background co-stars before the costume coordinator happened by to appraise my outfit.

Now, I was feeling a bit paranoid about this since he'd just had a tete-a-tete with a woman standing nearby who looked so well dressed that I could easily see her shopping for shoes with Samantha, Carrie, Charlotte and Miranda at Mic Mac Mall.  He let her slide a bit when the jacket was opened but I still felt pressure to impress.

Having said that, the dude's primary concern was the warmth and comfort of the extras.  He was a real gent and more more than willing to compromise a bit in the appearance category if it insured that the performer was warm and comfortable.

"What do you have for me?" he asked upon approach.

"Well, right now I'm wearing these faded jeans, worn boots and flannel shirt.  I've also got these ripped pants but they may be too dark..."

"Oooooo!  What's this?" he asked, eyes alight.

It was an old green shirt I'd cut up for a Halloween costume last year and brought along just as a lark.  Obviously I'd struck a nerve.

"Wear that!" he enthused.

"Inside or outside of the flannel?" I asked.

"Inside's okay, as long as you see a fringe of it underneath,"  he offered helpfully.

"And what about the jacket?" I quizzed.  "The leather looks cooler but the rain coat's a bit more practical if it rains."

"Go with the raincoat.  It'll be warmer," he confirmed.  "Do you have a hat?"

"Just a hood on the coat."

"Perfect!" he declared, then moved on.

I was ready for my close up, Mr. DeMille.

After the A.D.'s showed up to give us a crash course in taking direction, continuity, set etiquette and the background to our pivotal scene, an actor/weapons consultant dressed in full S.W.A.T gear addressed the gathered about on-set firearms.  As if the special effects/blood lesson wasn't cool enough I listened in stunned silence as the dude broke the news that some of us would soon be handling prop firearms ("SQUEEE!!!!").

"If I hand these out to anyone and I see any indication of horseplay I'm taking 'em back and you'll be asked to leave.  If any of these things go missing, you'll see that I have ways to prevent that. Any questions?"

We murmured a collective acknowledgment, not willing to cross someone who looked like he was carrying frag grenades.

"ANY QUESTIONS!?" he yelled in a way that would make R. Lee Ermey wilt.

"SIR, YES, SIR!!!" we thundered.


We had a brief pause to debate exactly where this last moment fell on the Awesometer before the A.D. reappeared at the opposite end of the tent.  Quick as bunnies (drifter-type, homicidal, not to be trifled with bunnies, mind you), the three of us rushed up towards the front of the line.


Appropriately warned, a few skittish souls scrambled off to the port-a-potties as the rest of us were led away to our cinematic destinies... 

Tune in tomorrow for the next thrilling episode of "You Can't Get There From Here" featuring the following::

*  A cordial and very funny star of television and film (who hails from my province of origin) has a hard time holding on to a valuable prop, ruins a beautiful white suit in a moment of bloodlust and just can't decide between halibut and pork chops.

*  A terrific young local actress does her best Fay Wray impression and hands out chocolate to the frozen plebes, all the while looking like Ash in "Evil Dead". 

*  Your humble narrator fears he's about to be undone by his own walnut-sized bladder. 


EPIC:  Teaser trailer for "Hobo" feature, not for the faint of heart!

FAIL:  Bruno, not the best background extra...

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