Thursday, May 13, 2010

Asparagus @ Midnight - Part IV

As the main phalanx of civilians were dispatched back towards the "shoutin' wall" a clutch of about nine to twelve of us were kept behind the perimeter of lights strategically arrayed about the set.  Initially we had no clue if this was going to be a good thing or not since huge swaths of wall dwellers were also being diverted to the weapons cart and walking away with prop rifles, shotguns and pistols!

"Damn, I wanted a gun," I sulked out loud, drawing chuckles and mutters of agreement all around.

As if he'd heard me, the weapons expert appeared again from out of nowhere.  Keep in mind the dude is still dressed up like this as he approached us:

He stepped forward, produced a genuine-looking stock .45 automatic and handed it to a dude standing to the left of me who resembled a considerably less-scrawny version of Rivers Cuomo.  Before he could celebrate his good fortune, the weapons specialist dragged him and two other similarly armed extras aside, lined them up in a row and took a quick digital photo of them with the guns held aloft.

"Alright!  At the end of this if any of these weapons go missing, this is the photo that goes directly to the police!"

Aptly warned, our newly promoted peer examined the fake handgun in more detail, taking extra steps to avoid any action vaguely resembling "horseplay".  What the hell is horseplay anyway?  Would he have caught s#!* only if he started galloping around the set, whinnying and threatening the girls in the craft services truck for oats and a salt lick?

The gun was a solid piece of plastic with no moving parts, but the finish, grip and weight all looked kosher.  I can certainly see why one of these things going missing would cause so much consternation since there'd be no way whatsoever for bank staff to tell the difference between this movie prop and a real gun.

After a segment of our population was ensconced back on their perches a thrill ran through the crowd as we heard the A.D. shout:

"Alright, bring in the cars!"

From out of nowhere, four or five movie-style (read American-looking) police cruisers rolled into position.  The set became awash with shotgun and pistol-packing cops in flack vests and a handful of ersatz S.W.A.T. team members, all armed to the teeth with M16's and MP5 submachine guns.  As a peaceful Canadian with a healthy fear of firearms I hadn't felt that uneasy since I visited the "Bullet Trap" indoor shooting range in Dallas and was given my choice of two possible targets to shoot at: the standard or a portrait of Osama Bin Ladin.

Sadly I didn't make that last part up.

The magic makers on set began to co-ordinate a veritable arena rock show filled with smoke, flashing lights, bullhorns and insane action.  Initially hidden from the cameras around the corner we watched in awe as a bakers dozen of cops poured out of their cars and holding areas and moved into the square with convincing precision.

We couldn't see the action too well but it looked as if the police were intent on dispersing the crowd of human flotsam and jetsam. Us civilians in other words.  Our hypothesis was put to the test when the A.D. reappeared, now dressed as a cop in assault gear.

"Alright, guys!  This is what I need you to do.  We're gonna move in as the cops into the square.  Hold back until you hear Jennifer here give you you're signal.  You're gonna rush in behind us, threaten us with your weapons, look real pissed and some of us will react to this by turning to point our guns at you.  Got it?"

"Where should we stop?"  asked someone with more presence of mind than myself.

He led us deeper onto the set and pointed between the open door of a police cruiser and the side of the "Road Warrior" truck.

"Hold up right there.  I'm gonna be a bit further in, maybe just behind that other cop car right in the middle of the square.  Basically, we're gonna be within point blank range of each other."

I could scarcely believe it!  We were gonna be right in the middle of the s#!&!  As the A.D. brought us back to our marks, he stopped our lucky handgun-toting lottery winner.

"You got the pistol so I need you to be right up front with that.  Point it right at us."

Following behind him were me, Andrew and Lauren.  I couldn't believe our good fortune as "quiet on the set" was called, sound started rolling and we tensed up for our big moment.

Right on cue the cops flung open the doors of their cruisers and jumped out.  More police in riot gear and bullet proof vests appeared, took their assigned places under cover and others racked their shotguns for dramatic effect.   Finally the S.W.A.T. guys moved in to take up prime real estate in the center of the armed standoff.

Background action was called and we all rushed in, hell bent for blood.  The scene was tricky since we had to run over a rain-slicked slippery metal plate, between the open door of the police cruiser and stop on a dime, all the while armed with the sort of crap that made the scissors Mr.Dressup used to warn us about look like wiffle ball bats.  In fact I seem to recall that Lauren got Andrew's shovel to the mush at one point.

Once we hit our marks we glared at the hated police, brandishing our weapons while our default leader pointed his .45 about in a threatening manner.  I spied at least two cameras close by capturing all the action. 

From here I could see a bit more, including all the extras on the walls and a big-ass black limo amidst the action.  There was a V.I.P. inside who could barely be seen but he was clearly ordering the cops to exterminate us.  Was this previously unseen menace the real big bad of the piece?  Only the finished film will tell...

We reset this scene several more times and on one occasion we lost one of our numbers as he tripped and fell.  Medics were there in a flash and we ran through the scene four or five more times before moving to the next set up.

With each new take something new was incorporated.   In a few shots the cops began to mime firing their weapons at us and our lone protector, not having received any direction to the contrary, pretended to fire back.  Anybody armed with melee weapons had no idea if we were supposed to react to the imaginary lead flying in the air and fall down so we stayed firmly in place and weathered the pretend storm of bullets.

Which brings me to a funny point.  I just couldn't believe how quickly this was reducing me to a kid again.  All of a sudden I was amidst a group of supposed adults that were orchestrating what amounted to a pretend game of cops and robbers.  The surreal nature of it struck me all at once.  It was as if the film itself was just an elaborate edifice; an excuse for a bunch of arrested development yahoos to play with the best toy guns and coolest props money could buy.  It was a dream come true.

Andrew didn't make the next cut as about six or seven of us were asked to provide a scene of rushing past the camera.  We did our best to hit our marks and received no indication that anything was amiss.  After about for or five takes of this we were sent back to rejoin the main group just around the corner.

We stood there in our little elite crew discussing just how lucky we'd been to get into the extra shots.  Just as we were lost in conversation I noticed out of my peripheral vision that Rutger Hauer had made his way back onto set and was approaching us with a bemused look on his face.

We, his "honor guard", snapped to attention as he walked by, appraising us with a look of approval.  He drifted back off the set and was soon replaced by Molly Dunsworth, who was now bearing more than a passing resemblance to Sissy Spacek in the last reel of "Carrie".  She approached us with a handful of something and shouted:


We turned and Molly was thoughtfully handing out some mini chocolate bars to keep up our energy levels.  I thanked her for the petite Hershey bar and chuckled at the state she was in.  It was around 3 pm in the morning by this time and I'd been up for about twenty hours now.  But wasn't tired, restless or bored.  I felt more wide awake and alive than I'd felt in years. I was in complete nirvana.  Or was that nerdvana?      

We watched from a distance as our brethren on the walls got their chance to shine and throw the cops for a loop.  Anticipating more scenes coming up, we were kept in place and watched the distant takes with reverential silence.

At one point the background performers manning the walls were given subs to snack on.  When the A.D. happened by still dressed as a tactical assault cop, one of our group stopped him and said:

"Hey, man., I don't mean to be a DICK but those guys up there got subs and we didn't get anything."

I almost dropped dead on the spot and thought 'Dude!  What the eff are you doing?  Did you not just eat a porkchop the size of a friggin' hubcap only about three hours ago?  Who do you think you are, Jennifer Lopez?'   He may have been in the right but, c'mon man.  Don't jeopardize our chances here.

The A.D. let us raid a nearby hot dog cart as compensation.  Food was the last thing on my mind in lieu of a hypothetical next scene.  Well, color me disappointed as another production assistance came by a bit later and gave us our official wrap notice.

Although I did think it odd that we were kept on the fringes of the set for another forty five minutes without being used again I walked away in silence as some others around me grumbled about it.  Sick bastards. 

I gathered my crap up, thanked the production assistant and walked down the hill with Lauren and Andrew to our cars, speculating about what we might be able to do to increase our chances of this ever happening again.  Down at the lot we exchanged goodbyes and vowed to meet again if the film was premiered at Jason's "Thrillema" in Dartmouth as he's publicly promised.

I drove home tired, cold but on cloud nine.  Words fail me as I try and describe my frame of mind at that moment.  I was elated.  I'm sure some people will read this and think that standing around in the damp cold for eight hours overnight would be hellish but I'd much rather have done this then sat tied to a chair for eight and a half hours saying the same uninspired scripted crap over and over again.

Now I don't have a pie in the sky attitude to what this all means.  I know that the footage I appeared in might never see the light of day on film.  Every one of my scenes  could easily end up on the cutting room floor.  But that wasn't the point for me.  The point was that I finally found myself surrounded by an entire horde of like-minded, creative people, all with a shared interest in good, daring film craft versus the sort of crappy television reality show dreck that keeps the average slack-jawed troglodyte amused.  It was nothing short of life affirming.

The only wistful pangs I felt while driving home was wondering if this was just a one-shot stroke of good fortune or a genuine sign of what the future may hold.

Above all I felt that my decision to leave work was reconfirmed since now there was, at the very the least, some hope, possibility and promise in what may come.    

EPIC:  CBC's behind the scenes report for "HWAS"

FAIL: The funniest thing I've seen since funny was invented.  You'll never be the same again...


Brodie said...

Pure gold man! I'm glad to hear everything went so well, and based in your love of it, more film work is bound to happen. Have you made a profile at filmworks yet? My parents both did and got called a lot for background stuff. It's not glamorous, but it's a great way to be near film production!

Flava Dave said...

Thanks, brotha. Yeah, I just completed my "Filmworks" profile mere moments ago. I had a blast and would certainly welcome more opportunities like this...