Making Movies – A Crazy Thing Gets Really Real

20160614_123322An addendum to Crazy Thing #45.

I finally got to see my first paid screenplay being filmed. After months of rewrites from the producers and director and with changing budgets, directors, and locations it was finally out of my hands. Although I have been insanely overscheduled and busy this month I managed to keep one whole day free for a quick day trip to Vancouver.

Originally the production was supposed to be shot in Duncan but they changed to Vancouver, which was extremely convenient for me. A 3 ½ hour drive vs. 6 hours and a ferry ride was very manageable.

I actually really enjoy driving when I’m not in insane traffic or three feet of snow so leaving at 6am and driving the Coquihalla on a (then) sunny June day was a treat I should give myself more often. I got to Ft. Langley and followed the directions to the parking area for the crew. On the way through Ft. Langley I drove through another film set where they had the streets set up for winter – not my movie. There are over 50 film projects underway in Vancouver and there is a desperate scramble for locations, crew, and equipment. The crew parking was at a golf course where they were sharing the parking with the crew from the film I had just driven through.

When I arrived I was asked which production I was with and had a bit of a shiver when I said, “Justice Unleashed” – well now, this was starting to feel real. They directed me to park and another crew member asked if I was in the crew. I said no, I was just visiting.

He looked skeptical. “Do they know you’re coming?”

“Yes, I’m the writer.”

“Oh, sorry!”

Suddenly the conversation moved much quicker. I was driven to the shooting location where the trailers for the cast were set up. After checking in with the AD, who apparently didn’t expect me to check in with anybody, I walked to the very modern, very “out of my budget” house where the day’s shooting was taking place and I was greeted by another crew member. Although I wished, for the sake of claustrophobia in crowds, that it was an outdoor shoot. The astonishing waves of rain later in the day made me glad I was inside. I lived in Vancouver for 15 years and never did like the rain but it’s not often you see it come down that hard.

When I arrived they were shooting in the garage. I was shown into a tiny hallway where more crew were working and the sound guy was huddled in a tiny corner with headphones on.

Having driven for three hours the urge to pee was pretty huge so I asked one of the production assistants where the washroom was. He pointed me to some trailers outside – no big deal. The man who greeted me at the door interrupted and said, “Actually she’s a VIP – she’s the writer. She can use the washroom in the house.” Well! There was a perk I never expected. Everyone in the hallway stopped working and stared at me when I went into the washroom – awkward!

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Finally, they finished the shot and I was escorted in to meet Farhad Mann – the director. We had spoken for hours on the phone but had never met in person. He invited me in and told me what they were shooting and let me watch the monitors with him. The garage was so crowded it was making my skin crawl – I don’t do crowds of people in tight spaces – not a big fan of parties either. I sucked it up, though, because when I saw the crowd it hit me that I had created a project that, for a brief time, was keeping all of these people employed. That was a pretty huge dose of reality.

I remembered when I was in my early 20’s and worked as an extra and a script reader to make extra cash. That was a long time ago, but a feeling came back to me that I had forgotten – despite the crowds, the “hurry up and wait” pace, and the frenetic energy – this was a place where I felt comfortable, where I belonged.

Through the day the crew and equipment moved from one part of the house to another. I felt in the way a lot but I was trying to be more of a fly on the wall than a fly the crew wanted to swat. I think I was partially successful.

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Farhad introduced me to a lot of people, most of whom did a double take when they found out I was the writer. In true introvert fashion I said hi to a lot of people but really only connected with a couple. Sarah, the Script Supervisor, and I had a great talk about writing and the Director of Photography and I had a few laughs.

As the day went on I realized I wasn’t very interested in what the actors were doing, but I was more interested in what the crew was doing. I was trying to absorb as much information as I could and that’s where most of the action was happening. I loved it.

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I got a message in the afternoon that there was a snow storm brewing on the Coquihalla and they were expecting at least 6” of snow so I decided to leave a bit early. It had been a great day and a total success from my point of view.

On the drive home I was thinking about the next Movie of the Week I have in the works – I’m waiting for notes from the producers and the network, and a short film I’m writing that I’m really excited about, as well as other writing projects I have lined up. From start to this point the process for Justice Unleashed had taken two years, but it was more like a year if you took out all the long waiting periods. The story idea I submitted in the beginning is completely different than the story I watched being filmed. That’s OK. That’s how the process works. Working with Odyssey Media has been awesome and I’m looking forward to what our next project becomes.

I’m writing this on the last day of shooting for Justice Unleashed – now they move on to editing and post production. I’ll post again when I know when it will be broadcast.

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From the drive home

 

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50 Crazy Things in my 50th Year #29 – Take an art class

20160118_203151My brother is the artist in our family, I am the writer. He is guitar, bass, and a host of other instruments he picks up and plays by ear and heart. I am clarinet and reading music and playing with heart and technique. I have done some painting but I generally avoid it because he’s so good at it.

When my friend Donna, who I work with, invited me to Paint Night on January 18th with some of our other coworkers she suggested it could be a bit crazy. I agreed. I grabbed Jody for moral support and we were off to Paint Night. I’m not sure Paint Night qualifies as an art class but it was a lot of fun and took some of the seriousness away from art.

Paint Night is an event style program held across Canada. It’s kind of Bob Ross with appies and drinks. Everyone goes to a pub or bar, paints the same painting (or a facsimile thereof), and has a lot of laughs. Surprisingly, even people who haven’t held a paint brush since they were five come out with some pretty awesome paintings and they all represent the style of the person doing the painting. It was quite remarkable.

I knew the painting we would be doing would be of pink cherry blossoms. Some of you may remember I have some issues with the colour pink so I suspected going in that I would end up rebelling and coming home with a painting that wasn’t pink. Oh yeah, it happened!

I sat next to a guy who had never been there but his wife, on the other side of him, obviously had. He was also the only guy there and it was packed with women.

We started with the sky. That seemed easy enough. I noticed I’m more slap happy when it comes to painting and Jody is very meticulous. I think that represents our personalities pretty accurately. Then we did the mountains and the long path coming down the mountain. Me slapping paint on and Jody carefully making perfect Japanese styled mountains. My painting pretty much doubled in weight by the time I brought it home.

The guy next to me was really funny. We all added the branches and body of the tree next. Mine was slapped on, Jody’s was perfect, and the guy next to me created a tree that looked a lot like Groot from Guardians of the Galaxy. I love Groot! We had lots of laughs about his Groot tree. By the end, when his was done, it looked Groot imitating Peter Frampton or Robert Plant – lots of pink and white rock n roll hair.

The last thing we added were the pink and white cherry blossoms. I was shocked at how good everyone’s paintings were. I was also amazed at how different they were. People like me, who weren’t too into the details, and people like Jody who worked hard on making theirs what they wanted, not necessarily exactly like the original – it wasn’t that kind of perfectionism, it was more that they had a vision and even if they’d never painted before their vision appeared in their paintings

Some women next to me were painting their landscape purple, they’d obviously been there before. I decided to make my flowers more grey and I love the result! My mom says we should hang my painting right next to an amazing watercolor my brother did a few years ago. I think it would drive him insane next time he visits…. Therefore it’s a good thing!

Why was it crazy?

Painting in public, being a beginner in something my brother excels in – all crazy!

Would I do it again?

Absolutely. I still want to take drawing and other painting classes, and we’re already trying to decide on the next paint night we’re going to – it’s like a party with paint!paint night

The Labyrinth Shirt

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Not too long ago I made a shirt with the image of labyrinth appliqued on the front. I’m not the best at sewing but I’ve been learning hand sewing techniques from the book Alabama Studio Sewing + Design by Natalie Chanin of the Alambama Chanin studio. This book and the studio promote handmade work using organic materials and slow, thoughtful craftsmanship.

ac book

This philosophy blends well with the reason I sew, knit, paint furniture, or even make risotto. I find I need to have creative projects to do with my hands when I’m writing, and even when I’m not writing. Working with my hands uses a different part of my mind and energy that takes the pressure off of the ‘writer’ part of my brain. I look at ideas like a big bag of gum balls or jellybeans. The red one in the middle is the one I need, the idea I’ve been searching for, the answer to a difficult plotting problem, or even a brand new project I haven’t even thought of yet.

The trick is, all of those gumballs or ideas get dumped into a funnel, or a gumball machine. In order to get to that red gumball, all the other ones, have to move through the funnel first. Sometimes they get jammed. Putting pressure on them only jams them further. By working on something with my hands, like sewing, knitting, or cooking, it takes the pressure off and they all move a little here and a little there, wiggling against each other and eventually unjamming and starting the flow again. Once the flow starts happening the red one comes through easily. If, however, I kept applying pressure to try and force them out, they just get more stuck. This is the best way I can describe the writing process in my head. I need projects to do with hands in order for other projects in my head to wiggle themselves free.

Now, back to my shirt.

I love labyrinths. As opposed to a maze which is filled with dead ends, a labyrinth has only one path to the centre, but it twists back and forth on itself so you can’t see the route you’ll take to the centre, you just have to trust you’ll get there if you just stay on the path. There are labyrinths around the world that people walk as a form of meditation. There is even a society, The Labyrinth Society, that teaches labyrinth walking and even how to build them. Kamloops has a labyrinth on the path between Riverside and Pioneer Parks.

The most famous labyrinth is the one in built in the thirteenth century in the cathedral in Chartres, France.

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Chartres Labyrinth

So I envisioned a navy blue sleeveless t-shirt with a turquoise labyrinth and red stitching on the front.

Although I’ve followed the Alabama Chanin instructions and done reverse applique a few times, where the image is underneath the front piece of fabric, this is the first time where I’ve done applique and placed the image on top of the front fabric.

Materials list:

1 m of navy jersey fabric

Small amount of turquoise fabric

Navy bugle beads

Approx. 4 spools or Coats Dual Duty Plus Craft and Button Thread (red)

Freezer paper for making shirt pattern

Plain paper for image

I started by making a pattern using a fitted stretch shirt I that I liked. I used one of my ski shirts.

I made the neck using the curve of a tank top I liked, and then adjusted the whole pattern to fit better as I went.

I printed the image of a Chartres Labyrinth from the Labyrinth Society Website and sized it so it fit the front of the shirt. The navy fabric I chose is standard jersey t-shirt material, but the turquoise is much thinner. If I was to do it again I would have attached some fusible interfacing to the back of it to make it stronger and easier to sew. Hindsight is wonderful! I did have a bit of a brain wave, though, and I used temporary spray adhesive and stuck the paper to the fabric so I could cut out the thin curvy line that loved to twist back and forth on itself with a bit more ease.

After I cut the image out it took quite a bit of effort to lay it flat on the shirt fabric. Once I got it there I used the spray adhesive again to stick the image to the shirt fabric. I started stitching the image down, peeling the paper away as I went.

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Image adhered to the turquoise fabric and cut out with the paper left on.

Once I completed the stitching I added some decorative beading to the centre. I had planned to do a lot more but it seemed to be too much so I quit while I was ahead.

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I planned to use red beads to make the markings that go around the outside of the labyrinth but I decided the beads I was going to use were a bit too big and they would have been out of proportion with the rest of the image. After some thought I looked back Alabama Studio Sewing +Design book and saw some of the embroidery techniques she was using. French knots popped out at me and they worked perfectly. As a bonus, I learned how to do a French knot!

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Once the image was finished I sewed up the sides according to the instructions in the book. Chalking the seams was a very good idea because I can’t even walk a straight line, never mind sew one. I felled the seams as well which makes it look really nice, and it’s definitely not going to cause a wardrobe malfunction! Felling is when you take the seam (or the part where the two pieces come together and fold them back on the material and sew a second seam.

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Next came the binding around the arms and neck. Yet another opportunity to learn something knew as I’d never done binding before and never done Cretan stitch. I had to look on Youtube  to see how the stitch really worked because the diagrams weren’t working for me. This is the video I used. I also used the stitch in a later project and had to Youtube it again because obviously this stuff doesn’t come naturally to me.

I left the bottom seam unfinished because I think it looks nice and it’s not going to unravel.

Overall, I am pleased! In the process I worked on a screenplay and had a lovely balance of creative energy happening in both projects.

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