I wanted to shake up my life and go sailing (or learn on the job, so-to-speak) so headed to Florida to crew on a catamaran. This is about how it went or, rather, didn't - and my life since. Hopefully it will lead to a catamaran on the clear aqua blue waters of the Caribbean Sea, watching the sunset, a coconut rum and coke in hand. You must START AT THE BEGINNING of the blog, April 2009, to get the whole story...

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY

It's my birthday again today. One year to the day since I started this blog. When I think back, it feels like a lifetime ago instead of just a year. So much has happened since then. And if I had known how it all was about to play out, would I have gone - on a wing and a prayer as someone recently put it? I can't say. Probably not. So I am glad I didn't know because, even though the attempt at joining a sailboat and the resulting fiasco was wrought with a lot of stressful moments, it was also an amazing experience. I went to Florida for the first time. I drove myself across the panhandle and down to the Florida Keys (using a GPS) for the first time. I spent a month with a much loved cousin I hadn't seen for almost two decades. I got the darkest tan I think I have ever had. I went snorkeling in the best waters I had ever snorkeled in. I drove Alligator Alley and saw gators laying in the ditch beside the road. I went to Miami Beach and walked the street with the Art Deco buildings I had only seen in movies. I met some wonderful new people and made a new friend. I bought a pink mosaic flamingo as a souvenir.

A good friend took me out for lunch for my birthday today. She was talking about how she has a sense of adventure that she doesn't get a chance to let loose because her life is here with her husband who doesn't share her adventurous spirit. I am thankful that I am free to let mine loose. Sometimes, lately, it doesn't feel like I can let it loose because I am restricted by a lack of finances. But my mind soars.

I still have not given up the dream of spending some serious time in the Caribbean. I have a boat lined up that I can join, if I choose to. I have a place to stay on Tortola for free, if I decide to skip the sailing and just go for a visit, and I have friends I can visit on Anegada, thanks in large part to this blog. I WILL get there one way or another. I just know it.

So here's to dreaming big and following where your spirit leads.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

IS THAT A MONKEY ON YOUR HEAD?

Yes. I have a monkey on my head.

I am walking through the parking lot to get my chair out of my van when I pass by the trainer's vans and one is eating breakfast with Crystal, who is eating a plate of fruit, sitting on the tailgate. I walk over and start talking with the trainer and, before you knew it, am posing for a photo with the monkey. She jumps readily onto my shoulder and wraps her arms around my head and her tail around my neck and then 'smiles' for the camera when told to by Tom, her owner. He then tells her to give me a kiss so she leans around and licks my face near my mouth. She stays up on my shoulders for about ten minutes while we continue to chat and I can feel her picking through my hair. "She's grooming you," Tom says "It's a sign that she likes you and wants to bond with you." That's fine, as long as she doesn't find anything.

I ask a lot of questions about training animals and the big thing I get from it is that it takes a TON of patience. One of the dog trainers tells me that he can even train fish to play basketball!!! He said that you can buy a little basketball kit for the fishtank (who knew?!) and then when the fish goes to the ball and touches it with it's nose, you tap the side of the tank and then give it some food. After four or five times it realizes that it will get fed for touching the ball. If it goes to the other side of the ball and touches it so that it moves the wrong way, no treat. It doesn't take long for the fish to realize which way it needs to push the ball. Then it's just a matter of teaching it to push the ball up and into the net. Right. Not something I will be doing any time soon.


















We are at a different sound stage today, in a warehouse about 10 minutes down the road from the one we were at yesterday. This one has a lot of builds that replicate the pyramids and Cleopatra's boudoir. There's not as much sand on this set. Just bits in the corners of some rooms and down corridors. Today not only will we be working with puppies and a monkey, but 6 dozen large cockroaches. UGH! This is the second time I have worked with these bugs on set and I hate it. This time they will pour through a chink between two stones in a chamber wall and crawl all over. There are two guys stationed to watch for runaways and yet, when the scene is over there are bugs everywhere. I see one running on the outside of the set way up at the top of the wall close to where I am and yell for someone to come and get it. They are all gathered up and then we go again. So out they pour from the chink and, this time, they have more people watching. They are scooped up as soon as they are off camera, and put back into their containers. As we are setting up for the next scene, I keep a watchful eye on the bug wranglers as they count them. I see the big guy put the last bug from the big pail into the small container and then say something to the other wrangler. The second guy gets up and starts looking at the floor and then at the wall overhead. I jump out of my chair. At least one is missing. I tell the crew on the floor and everyone starts looking around. It's found right away, down deep in a crack between two stones on a wall. Because the stones aren't real, they're just an inch or so deep on plywood, it shouldn't be hard to get but it is because the crack is where two pieces of plywood are joined with screws in the back so that the walls can be removed for camera. It seems the bug is under the overlap a bit. The wrangler has a long, thin metal rod with a hook on the end that he sticks in the crack and it takes him about 5 minutes to work the cockroach out. Once he has it safely in the container, I breathe a bit easier but it takes about two hours for me to stop checking the floor at my feet.

This movie has the biggest budget of any film I have worked on and it shows. The sets are gorgeous. I wish I could put pictures up here for you but I didn't get permission for it and so can't. Once the movie is released, I will put up some photos as I have some where you can see off-set so have some perspective and, for those who don't work in film, you may find it interesting.

No day working was less than 15 hours and one was 17, so not bad. And lots of the sand was trucked in overnight before the last day of shooting so that we can get the shots we missed on our last day at that other location. So now there's dust in the air again.

Our last night, the guys at catering make filet mignon and lobster tails but we started at 4:30 so it's 10:30 by the time we break and there's no way I can eat that so late at night. I just don't have the appetite for it. So while everyone around me eats like kings, I have a bowl of chicken noodle soup and a thick slice of buttered french bread. It hits the spot. And a slice of caramel toffee bread pudding just tops it off perfectly.

When the last shot is in the can, 'that's a show wrap' is called and I say goodbye to Crystal and her trainer. I am sad that I won't see her again unless, of course, I get to work on another show where she is brought on. She lives in California so I can't drop by for a visit. The director was so taken with her and her skills that he is going to write a script just for her. I would LOVE to work on that.



Crystal posing. Stand-in dogs piled on one chair - I found that quite amusing. Overview of 1/2 of the sound stage. Kissed by a monkey.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A DAY ON THE SAND

I have been working for the past two days on the Disney production of Treasure Buddies.

Walking onto set, which is in a huge horse riding ring, there is nothing but sand. 80 tons of sand. This is where I will spend all day. I am handed a mask and told I will need it as it gets really bad once people are walking all over it. There are huge fans at both exits to blow out the dust and it works, to a degree. And it helps to keep the place a bit cooler between takes.






























I was told to dress for cold because it's been freezing inside, but today is supposed to be a nice day and it is. I wore long-johns under my jeans and a turtleneck. Before the day is out I will need to remove the thermals because it gets sweltering hot on the stage. And I do need the mask but it makes me even hotter, with my hot breath hitting back at me, so I abandon it after an hour and take my chances with the dust. About an hour before we wrap, I start hacking up a lung and that doesn't stop for about 12 hours.

Despite the dust, it's a really fun day. There are energetic puppies - that are just the most adorable bundles of fur, a sensitive camel, and an extremely talented monkey with an attitude. I am not a big animal person but I really love puppies and the monkey is just fabulous. Her name is Crystal and I can't get over how talented she is. Her trainer just shows her what to do, and she does it! In one scene she runs up a rope, along the awnings of a marketplace, down pole, takes a flying leap and grabs a kabob out of a man's hand in mid-air and takes off running in the right direction. It's amazing to see. Later, she is holding the kabob while cornered and she is dragging it in the sand a bit. So the trainer says, 'up' and motions with his hand and she brings it up and holds it there for the rest of the shot. In another scene, she has to sit on the back of the camel. She's tired and doesn't really want to so keeps standing up. The trainer walks to her, sits her down with her hands on her knees, and sharply tells her to 'stay there'. She starts screaming at him. It's hilarious. She's obviously pissed off at him. He tells her to sit and be quiet so she stops screaming. But as he walks away, she can't resist having the last word so lets out a couple of shrieks. We all have to laugh into our sleeves so as not to upset her more.


Puppy with stickers to mark for CGI.

When I look up at the ceiling rigging, I can see where sand has pooled for the last three weeks of shooting in here. The gaffer notices me looking and tells me that, when he put them up, they were all a uniform baby blue. Not anymore.

It's a long day. Usually we work for 12 hours with an added half hour for lunch and then I have one hour after wrap for paperwork. Today I clock out at 17 hours. Not quite a record for me - I put in a 19 hour day once on a freebie when I was starting out. This time I get overtime so I don't mind one bit.

all photos are posted with permission from the producer

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

IT'S OFF TO WORK I GO!

Well, the Caribbean seems just that little bit closer today.

I got a text from another script supervisor this morning asking if I was interested in working on second unit for the next four days. Of course I said YES! It's another in the series of 'Buddy' puppy movies so I will probably be working with the pups every day. Should be a lot of fun.

Then an hour or so later I got a call from the Production Manager (PM) of a show starting May 3 asking if she could lock me in. I knew about this gig from talking with Kim, who is also to be the DP, on line. He told me who was directing and then suggested I give the PM a call after the weekend. He also said he just wrote an email to the director, suggesting he hire me as scripty. I went straight over to the directors FaceBook page and posted a message on his wall saying 'Pick me! Pick me!' The three of us worked together on a movie in the summer of 2008 and had a great time. I was back to chatting with Kim when I saw that the director had responded, so went to see what he said and he had written "Gee you're quick. I just wrote a letter to Kim to tell him you were my first choice." Thus I was pretty confident I would get it, but nothing is for certain in this business so getting the call today moves me one step closer. I don't count on anything until the deal memo is signed and I hope to get that done next week.

A bit later I was talking to Ron, the director I spent Christmas with, and he said he will be coming up in May to prep for his two shows and we will start shooting the end of May. So that's fantastic. It will dovetail nicely with this show ending. ALSO... yes, more good news... he has another bigger show in July that the producers had been talking about shooting back east but now has been decided will be shot in Victoria. SO... it looks like I will be staying fairly busy until the end of July or so AND get to spend some time on the Island in the summer again. YAY!!

I can't tell you how great this feels.

And I can almost feel that Caribbean breeze and the soft warm sand under my feet!

Monday, April 12, 2010

TEMPLE TIME

There's a new Mormon Temple in town.

I have always been a bit curious about what goes on in a Mormon Temple and why is it such a big secret. Well, apparently it's not that big of a secret because they are giving tours of it for the next two weeks.

So I went to have a look. We weren't allowed to take photos inside. It wasn't at all what I was expecting. I thought it would have a huge sanctuary but it doesn't. It's a lot of small rooms; some bigger than others. There are teaching rooms, changing rooms - because they have to wear all white inside, 'binding' rooms - where marriages take place as well as ceremonies to forever bind families together, a celestial room - a meditation room that rivals any castle salon, and lots of seating areas that are furnished beautifully with plush chairs, occasional tables and lamps. Our guide told us that nothing but the best workmanship and fittings are used, and that is obvious when walking through. There's lots of original artwork depicting scenes from the Bible as well as murals on some walls.

There are just over 100 Mormon Temples in the world and this is the only one in B.C.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

THE PURPOSE OF WORK

I read this today on another blog.

I want to live my life this way. Before it's too late.

The Purpose of Work

An American businessman was at the pier of a small South Pacific island village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. Inside the small boat was a dorado and several large grouper. The American complimented the Islander on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took to catch them.

The Islander replied, "Only a little while."

The American then asked why didn't he stay out longer and catch more fish?

The Islander said he had enough to support his family's immediate needs.

The American then asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

The fisherman said, "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take a late afternoon nap with my wife, Helia, and then in the evening after dinner I stroll into the village where I sip rum and play guitar with my friends. I have a full and busy life."

The American scoffed, "I am a Harvard MBA and could help you. You should spend more time fishing and with the proceeds, buy a bigger boat. With the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats; eventually you would have a fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to a middleman you would sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You would control the production, processing, and distribution. Of course, you would need to leave this small fishing village and move to Australia, then Los Angeles and eventually New York City, from where you will better run your expanding enterprise."

The South Seas fisherman asked, "But, how long will this all take?" to which the American replied, "15–20 years."

"But what then?"

The American laughed and said that's the best part. "When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You would make millions."

"Millions, really? Then what?"

The American said, "Then you retire. Move to a small fishing village where you sleep late, fish a little, play with your grandkids, take a late afternoon nap with your wife, and then in the evening after dinner, stroll into the village to sip rum and play your guitar with your friends."


Saturday, April 3, 2010

GONE TO THE DOGS

Shonah turns 25 today. Wow. I can't believe that my baby is 25. Christopher, my eldest, is turning 30 in September. Life is going by way. too. fast.

Shonah arrived from Kelowna last night and we talked and talked for a couple of hours before heading off to bed as we had an early alarm.

As we are getting ready, Shonah tells me that she wants to know what we are doing because she can't get excited about the day, really. So I tell her that we are going DOG SLEDDING!! She is SO excited to hear it. She says "I knew it!" and I ask how she could possibly have known. She says that she tried to think about what there was to do on a mountain that we all would enjoy and that was what she came up with. Her only doubt was that she wasn't sure you could dogsled around here. She says that she has been telling her friends at work for the past three months that she wants to go dog sledding but the only way she figured she could was to go up north in winter and she didn't want to do that. She really is excited and now grinning from ear to ear and can't wait to get going.

We are out of the door by 7:45 and stop at Tim Hortons for breakfast to go. We get downtown to pick up Christopher and Isolde by 8:20 but are kept waiting till 8:45 for them to come down. We meet Rob and Ashleigh at the gas station in North Vancouver, just up the road from where they live, and fill up both cars. They are taking their own car up to Whistler as they have to leave as soon as we are done because they have a ferry to catch to Vancouver Island to go surfing for a few days.

It is really raining hard for most of the drive up to Whistler and I am so disappointed but hoping that it turns to snow by the time we get there, and it does. We check into the Outdoor Adventures office and, once we've all signed waivers and paid, we are loaded into a shuttle bus and off we go. There's two other groups with us so it looks like there will be about 6 sleds or so going together.

We drive along the highway for a short bit and then turn off onto a narrow logging road. It's full of ruts and potholes and it becomes the most bone-jarring ride I think I have ever experienced. My teeth feel like they will rattle right out of my head. About 20 minutes of that, and some of it with a steep drop off to a river on one side, we arrive at the departure point. I can see the trucks with kennels on them that the dogs are brought up in.

We all pile out of the bus and gather around one of the guides as she talks about the dogs and the trip we will take. Apparently, the husky dogs you normally see in photos of dog sledding aren't what we will be using today. Those dogs get overheated in this warmer climate and also aren't very fast. She says they are more for movies and photo ops than for really pulling sleds. Our dogs are bred for sledding and are a mix of about 7 breeds and are wiry. She tells us that they may look thin to us but, in fact, some of them are carrying a bit too much weight. They eat 5000 calories a day and there's lot of zinc and fish oil in their diet. The zinc helps protect their feet. She say's that they live to pull the sled and, as soon as they are hooked up, they will bark like crazy and just want to go.

When a litter of dogs are born, they are each given names in a theme. Thus two of our dogs are from the 'Breakfast' litter - Muffin and Sausage; two are from the 'Mexican' litter - Guacamole and Chiquorita; one is called 'Push' because when she was born her hind legs were paralyzed so she was slated to be put down but the owners kids wanted her. One day they picked her up by her hind legs and pushed her along the kitchen floor to move her about. The next day, she could walk! The last dog is called Maryanne - not sure what her litter's theme was. Maybe Gilligan's Island?

Muffin and Sausage have a brother called Muesli and when Paris Hilton came to Whistler and dog sledded with this group, Muesli became famous for peeing up Paris' leg. Apparently, we are warned, the dogs will do this sometimes if you get close to them because they want to mark you as theirs. Note to self - stay away from the dogs.

We get a few instructions on how the sled braking system works and what to do when going up a steep hill - the musher gets off and runs behind while keeping hold of the bar - and if you don't do that, the dogs will look around to you as they run to 'ask' you to get off.

I don't want to 'mush' the dogs but Shonah sure does so we have a guide that will ride on the front of ours to relieve Shonah when she wants to ride. His name is Jordan and he will take care of our three sleds; Christopher and Isolde are together on one and Rob and Ashleigh on the other. Once we all start to get into the sleds, the dogs go crazy. They aren't even hooked onto the sled yet. They really can't wait.



video

As soon as we are all loaded up and the dogs connected, we take turns leaving up the short hill to the trail. We will leave about 20 feet between each sled. Shonah and I are third to last. Christopher and Izzy are right in front of us, Rob and Ashleigh right behind. The ride is surprisingly smooth. I expected it to be really bumpy. Shonah is loving 'mushing' the dogs and is doing a great job.

The one thing I never thought about when planning this was that dogs like to poop. If there is one smell on the face of the planet that makes me want to vomit every time, it's dog poop. Our lead dog, Muffin, seems to have the runs. She keeps stopping to poop for the first 5 minutes of the trip. Then for the rest of the run, she farts about every 2 minutes. Jordan is riding up front so he smells it first and warns us, most of the time, so I spend a lot of the trip holding my breath. A couple of times he fails to warn me and one of them I take a deep breath through my mouth and get a mouthful. I nearly lose my breakfast.

At the halfway point of the trip, we make a small loop around and then head back. The trail divides into two lanes right before so that there's room for those heading back while you're still heading to the loop. Apparently, if both sleds stop here, the dogs from the other sled WILL pee on you. Another territorial thing. Please don't stop. Also, when making the loop, sometimes the sled will go up the snow banks to the side and then tip over. If that happens, the person in the sled has to just lie there and the other person will tip you back upright. If I were to get out, the dogs would then take off and leave us standing there. Please don't tip over. We make it through the turn-around and the passing lanes without stopping or tipping. That makes me very happy.

Shonah has decided that she doesn't want to stop mushing so she rides standing on the rails and hanging onto the bar all the way. I am so proud of her. She's doing a fabulous job and she is loving every second of it. Ashleigh has also declined to take over mushing, so Rob does it all the way. I am pretty proud of him too - the London city lad! Up ahead, Christopher and Izzy trade places and she mushes the dogs back. Heck, I'm proud of all of them.

Part of the trail runs along the river and Jordan tells us that most days they see moose at the water's edge. But today there aren't any. The run takes just over an hour. When we get back, there's hot chocolate and cookies waiting for us. Also, a photographer took photos of us mushing along the trail, but I forget all about that until we are back on the bus and halfway down the logging road. I am really disappointed because I'd like to have seen them and, if there was a good one of Shonah, buy it for her birthday. We will have to be content with the one Jordan took while we were underway. I actually really like it.

Once we are back in Whistler Village Ashleigh and Rob have to leave straight away. They have two and a half hours to make it to Horseshoe Bay for their ferry booking. We hug goodbye and they take off running while we walk around the village for a bit. There's a sale on at the DC store and Christopher is looking for a snowboard so we go in and have a look around. I love the colorful display of toques and snap this photo.

We head out of Whistler, having decided to eat at the Milestones in Yale Town instead of up here. We stop in Squamish at another boarding outlet store and Christopher finds a snowboard there. We continue on our way and the weather quickly deteriorates into an all-out storm. We can see whitecaps on the water down below the Sea-to-Sky Highway in the Strait. The rain is coming down in buckets and Shonah has her windshield wipers on high and they are barely keeping it clear enough for her to see the road. I get a call from Ashleigh. They made it to the ferry terminal on time but all the ferries out of Horseshoe Bay are canceled for the day, due to the storm, so they won't be going to the Island. They want to join us for dinner but the Lions Gate Bridge is closed as well, due to trees in Stanley Park coming down in the wind, and they don't want to drive the long way around. So it's decided that we will eat at Milestones in North Vancouver instead. I am sorry they can't make their trip but am also really happy that they can now join us for Shonah's birthday dinner.

We end up having a fabulous time over dinner. We take our time over appetizers and beer, and then order our entrees. I have an amazing chicken breast in mushroom sauce with garlic mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley of squash, baby carrots and new asparagus. It's to die for. Shonah has a hamburger because, even though she'd like a proper dinner, she loves hamburgers and Milestones makes one of the best. I think we end up being there for three hours and every minute was perfect.

Ashleigh and Rob head home because they are just exhausted. The rest of us head to Christopher and Izzy's for some birthday cake. I made it yesterday. German Chocolate with Chocolate Coffee Whipped Cream Frosting. Mmmmmmmm. Only we are all too full from dinner to finish even a small slice each.

I drive home and we arrive to no power and the road closed due to a tree down on the lines. We find our way from the car to the door by the light of Shonah's iPhone, and use it to find candles and then, soon, fall into bed. As she gets settled under the covers, Shonah says to me, "Thank you for planning this day. It was the best birthday I ever had."

I can't even tell you how happy that makes me.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

CARIBBEAN DREAMING

So I realized today that I tossed out my Nikon with the forty dollar battery still in it. Great. Just great. It fits my old Nikon so would have been nice to have as a third spare.

I have been spending the last week or so writing. Well, not exactly writing YET. More like preparing the framework for my script so that, when I do sit down to write, there won't come the usual point, about half way through, where I am stumped and don't know where to go from there OR to realize that I am half way through the amount of pages I need but only a quarter of the way through the story itself. It's been challenging to say the least. I am working through a screenwriting course with my story idea and it is forcing me to look at things like motif, subtext, hooks, payoffs, symbolism, metaphors, crisis and climax.... all sorts of stuff that I normally don't think about at all. I just sit down and start writing. Probably the reason why I have only two completed scripts and about 5 that I abandoned somewhere in the process. So hopefully, I can figure out all of this and apply it to my story so that I can just sit down and bang it out and end up with something that is marketable. Here's hoping.

I have gotten pretty discouraged this week over feeling 'stuck' here. I really want to be sailing the Caribbean. It's something I feel compelled to do and I know I won't settle until I've done it. I am not getting any younger (who is?) and my knee and back give me a lot of trouble one day and then are fine the next. I feel like I have maybe 6 or 7 years before they become so bad I won't be able to sail. But all for the lack of money, I can't get out there and do it. I have someone who is ready to take me on board and all I have to pay for is my flight and food, but I just don't have it. It's frustrating to have money be the reason for keeping you from doing what you really want to do. I guess it's the same for most people though. I was talking to a friend today who has friends with lots of money. She was saying how it strikes her, from time to time, how stuff that is a huge concern to her - they don't even think about. What is super frustrating is that - a couple of shows, and I'd be set to go for 6 months. But, despite predictions to the contrary, it seems that the work this year is marginally better than last. The strength of our dollar right now means even more so that producers will look to Toronto, if they're set on filming in Canada. Their superior tax credit will make up for the dollar.

So as I send off my resume to productions that are planning on shooting here, I dream of azure sea and warm Caribbean breezes.
All photographs are mine and not to be copied without express permission from me (click on them to see the large version).
Some names have been changed to protect my butt.



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