Monday was the day I’d awaited with both anticipation and a touch of trepidation – the first day’s shooting of the student film I got cast in. Anticipation, because the script is hilarious and the character seems like a natural for me; but trepidation too, at the early hour I needed to rise, the long day at a remote location, and the possibility I’d be freezing cold for much of the day. As it turns out, I needn’t have worried about the latter – the lodgings were nothing short of luxurious. But more about that later.
The day began with a 5:45 am wakeup time – and I arrived at Capilano College at about ten to 7. It was still dark out. Fahim, the director, drove some of us, including myself, up to the location, Sassamat Outdoor Centre. It’s a rustic park/lodge/cabin out in Belcarra, past Port Moody – and city boy that I am, I’d never been there.
Based on what I’d been told, I had the vague impression that staying warm “on set” might be a challenge. I envisioned running to a waiting van or something to warm up. The truth was quite the opposite. The production set up their HQ in a spacious, high-ceilinged lodge, complete with a large fireplace area and functional but very comfy armchairs. The fireplace was not authentic – a switch on its side allowed a choice between high and low heat – but real flames roared behind the glass and warm air blasted out of a vent at the top. It made for a perfect place to relax and wait.
And wait I did, in the conventional manner of film shoots, while equipment was set up, dolly tracks were laid, and countless tiny technical details were attended to.
I was summoned first for makeup, then for wardrobe. Wardrobe was in fact my own clothes, but I’d brought a selection for the director to choose from, and he was quite pleased with my selections. At this point they became the Wardrobe Department’s responsibility and took their official place on a rack.
Finally they were ready for me “on set”, and I headed out to the road in front of the lodge where an elaborate camera setup had been prepared, aiming at a little, beat-up red car parked on the road and a small cabin behind it.
This first shot of the day was also the most elaborate one in terms of camera movement, as well as requiring fairly lengthy action on my part. I was to drive the car to a stop, get out and grab items from the trunk, take them to the cabin, return for a case of beer, notice some of it was missing (stolen by the Sasquatch, as it later turns out!) and, puzzled by the discovery, take the beer into the cabin.
We did it over and over, different camera setups as well, and then it was back to the lodge for an extensive rest – and a good read.
Reading was in fact a memorable feature of the day. I brought my copy of “David Copperfield” with me and have been devouring it at every opportunity. To be accurate, I only have half of the book with me, as I’m reading a “found” paperback copy from the 60’s which split in two not long after I started in on it. Its sorry state has not stopped me, however, from plowing through page after page, nor has it lessened my enjoyment of the story. In fact I must confess that I’m a little surprised, and greatly pleased, to find just how much I relate to the characters, their struggles, and particularly their reactions to each other and to their trials and tribulations. One might think that the language of 150 years ago, or the customs and mores of the time, might form something of a barrier to be overcome in accessing and enjoying the tale today, yet in fact I find this not to be at all the case. Indeed, the precision of the sentences is a joy in itself; and what’s more, the emotions and interactions they portray are delightfully recognizable and familiar, just the same in fact as one would find among anyone in 2009. I’m totally captivated by the tale of little David, 10 years old at this point, and his story, and its telling, brings both laughter and tears, often on the same page. I feel I much better understand why Dickens is held in such esteem and why his work has enjoyed such longevity.
The observant reader may also detect something of the era’s writing style in this very composition; I trust this mannerism shall soon pass, but until such time I am very much enjoying this manner of expression.
Moving back to the day’s filming, another highlight, and the most challenging scene of the day, was another elaborate scene wherein my character has an asthma attack, due to dire news received at his cabin, and has to unlock his puffer from his car, in which he’s locked his keys. It required much heaving of breath, running back and forth, intensity of movement, and endurance of chilly weather with no coat on. But it produced gales of laughter from the crew so it must have gone well!
At day’s end, I got home a lot sooner than I’d expected. So my first day “on set” was a totally satisfying one. Looking forward to days 2 and 3!