Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Wheelman - Part VII - "Lucky Bounce"

"Yarrrrr, I sees he says I to she!"

Just before I proceed I'd like to recognize the previous greeting as winner of the "2009 Best Prototypical Pirate Sentence of the Year Award".   The winner gets three stout vessels, fifty men o'quality, a map 'round the Horn and six-hundred pieces o' eight.  For a total, forty-eight hundred pieces. 

"Yarrrr, 'tis a fine bit o' plunder!"

Which co-incidentally is my submission for the "2010 Best Prototypical Pirate Sentence of the Year Award".
Wish me luck!

Well, I came back to the Atlantic Film Festival offices the following week all refreshed again and rarin' to go.

Perhaps my biggest gripe about being involved in the Festival was the fact that I wasn't introduced to anyone. For example, my first assignment Tuesday morning was to take a gent by the name of Gregor from the hotel to the Festival's main office in the CBC building.

As I was leaving I got a call from dispatch to retrieve a second passenger in the area headed to the Oxford Theater.  I drove through the Cogswell intersection looking for the address, turned back around and then crawled down the length of the road until I spied an apartment complex set deceptively far back off the street.
All the while, my co-pilot Gregor is offering suggestions, navigation tips and wondering aloud if he's going to get to his destination on time.

"Oh yeah!" I said, completely blowing off his legitimate concerns.  "As soon as Kevin's in the van we'll getcha there in no time!"

Eventually, out wanders Kevin Kincaid, who was a real character.  Kevin started his film career as an actor,  appearing in the short film Pass the Salt in 2003, the self-confessional feature Imaginary Friend in 2005 and more recently in the supernatural television project Haven, inspired by the Stephen King's novel The Colorado Kid.  The introductory season of the show was shot in our very own historic hamlet Chester and it was renewed recently for a second season.

Kevin was a real joy to shuttle around.  He was boisterous, lively and hilarious.  Most of all he seemed inhumanly stoked by the fact that his first effort as a producer, Bernard the Magician, was being screened later that evening.

After I dropped both of them off at their respective destinations I returned to the dispatch office for a brief moment of respite.  During this time I had a chat with Jim about my passengers.

"Yeah, I had a bit of a challenge spotting Kevin's apartment off the main road, but eventually I found it.  It was kinda stressful, though, what with this Gregor dude tapping his watch every ten seconds."

Jim's patented ear to ear smile re-appeared; a grin of the coprophagy variety.

"Do you have any idea who he is?" he asked me.

"What, who...Gregor?  No.  Well, I know he's on the Festival staff..."

Jim started to cackle.

"More than that, my friend.  That's Gregor Ash, he's the Executive Director for the entire event!"

Wonderful.  If I'd been properly introduced to these people (or at least given a briefing as to who everyone was) I don't think I would have been quite so lackadaisical about getting him to his destination.

I was just about to leave when Jim stopped me.

"Listen, I gotta pass something on to you before you go.  We've a had a lot of amazing feedback from the staff and guests about how great a job our volunteers are doing this year, particularly in Transportation."

"Wow, that's awesome," I beamed.

"There's more," he continued.  "One guest said to me 'There's one driver in particular who's a real treat.  He's helpful, courteous, and a pleasure to talk to.'  She didn't have a name but I said, 'I don't suppose he's about my age, kinda skinny with glasses and gray in his hair?' and she replied: 'Yes!  That's him!  Please pass on my compliments.  He was fantastic.'"

It was now my turn to grin from ear to ear.  I was doing this gig on a purely voluntary basis but hearing  positive feedback like that was a wonderful karmic payment.   

Despite my previous oversight, I was tasked to retrieve Gregor again a bit later.  As soon as I walked into the office to let him know I was out front waiting he materialized from out of nowhere and said:

"Hey!  Do you know what this is?"      

I whipped around and saw him standing there, palm outstretched with a small fragment of what appeared to be glass in his hand.

"Um, I give up," I replied.  "What is it?"

"It's what's left my 4 gig iPhone screen."

Madre de dios!    If it had been me that just spider-webbed the glass face of his new iPhone, I'd be hella-pissed.  But Gregor took it all in stride.

I let him run into a shop just around the corner to drop the phone off for repairs.  While I drove him down to Cut restaurant for a lunch reception, he reacted like Sarah did the previous week to the sounds of the new radio station Live 105 playing in the van.

"Is that...Arcade Fire?" he said, incredulity tinging his voice.  "On the radio?  Here in Halifax?"

"Yep!" I replied.  "We finally have a radio station in this city that plays music recorded in the past fifteen to twenty years."

"Unbelievable," he murmured.  "Certainly a lot better than most of the other crap on the dial."

Despite his penchant for micromanaging my driving efforts, this was clearly my kinda dude.  After spending years surrounded by people in the workplace who's idea of entertainment were movies like Son of the Mask and television programs like America's Next Top Scarecrow it was refreshing to be working in close proximity to who have similar tastes.

Recognizing his need to get where he was going post-haste I could look past Gregor's penchant to tell me to turn left or right or his semi-serious requests not to run over any members of the Festival's Board of Directors.  Arriving at Cut, I sent him on his exceptionally merry way and vowed that someone would be back to pick him up in an hour.

Perhaps one of the highlights of the entire experience was an impromptu audience with Richard Kwietniowski, the director of Love and Death on Long Island.  I'd seen the film for the first time ever two nights prior and had a chance to lob only one question his way during the Q&A that followed.  By some fortunate bounce, I was tapped to drive him and fellow British director Alasdair Brotherston (who co-directed the animated video for Tom Fun Orchestra's tune "Bottom of the River") out to the airport Tuesday night.

Well, along the way Alasdair and I peppered the poor chap with continuous questions about the film.  He was more than conciliatory and talked about the picture like a proud parent.  Here's a brief summary of the trivia that shook out of this conversation:
  • He took extensive photos of locations and structures to ensure Nova Scotia was a fair substitute for Long Island.  To add to the realism he had Long Island residence go through the sites he'd scouted in Halifax and Bedford veto any that didn't look genuine enough.
  • Richard does a spot-on impersonation of John Hurt.    
  • Landmark diner The Chickenburger was swarmed on the day of shooting when a local radio station announced that 90210 heart-throb Jason Priestley was filming a movie there.  Hundreds of screaming girls and slack-jawed yokels turned up for a glimpse of the teen idol.
  • They shot the beach scenes in June and it snowed heavily on the way to the set, forcing Jason Priestley to pull over at one point.   
  • Richard had so much fun shooting the fake scenes for "Hot Pants College II" that he thought he might have a new career as a director of Last American Virgin and Fast Times at Ridgemont High sex comedies.
  • The storyline involving the older Giles De'Ath becoming infatuated with the considerably younger Ronnie Bostock ruffled a lot of feathers back in 1997.  Puritan assholes thought the subject matter was deviant and gay advocacy groups criticized the film because Giles never officially "comes out", proving that it's impossible to make every audience member happy.  
  • Most of  Canadian character actor Maury Chaykin's dialogue was scripted as is.  It's just a testament to the celebrated thespian's deliveries that his lines seem completely "stream of conscious."  Richard really lamented his passing in July of 2010, having also worked with him on the Philip Seymour Hoffman/Minnie Driver vehicle Owning Mahowny in 2003.
  • He wasn't surprised when someone asked how much say Jason Priestley had in the script, since, almost by design, the character of Ronnie Bostock might as well have been a biographical pseudonym.      
  • Prim and veddy proper Dalhousie University doubled as "Hot Pants College".  
  • The Laundromat scene was lensed out of town in a functioning laundromat.  They shot the scene guerrilla-style for time considerations and a slew of locals can be seen in the background doing their wash duties for real.  Richard says John Hurt was fascinated with the natives and chatted with them constantly between takes. 
Richard seemed when I told him that the subliminal cravings created by the film forced be to drive all the way out to The Chickenburger in Bedford for a burger and a shake.  He also considered it somewhat revelatory when I observed that John Hurt's career seems to have come full circle, taking him from the role of  oppressed plebe Winston in 1984 to the 'Big Brother'-style fascist overlord Adam Sutler in V for Vendetta.  

"You know, you're absolutely right.  I never noticed that before," Richard mused. 

I wished both men a safe and happy flight back across the pond and drove back to Halifax, spirits high as I mused on how life can be kinda cool sometimes.

As long you aren't forced to miss out on it due to necessity, that is.     

EPIC:  Link to Alasdair's striking animated video for Tom Fun Orchestra's "Bottom of the River"

EPIC TOO: ELEPIC BOOGALOO:  Siskel and Ebert Review "Love and Death on Long Island"

FAIL: These people are bigger losers than the idiots that camped out for "Attack of the Clones" tickets month in advance.

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