Saturday, March 31, 2007


Today started off with a ghastly omen when, after my five a.m. workout (another bloody early call thanks to my now beyond-vengeful First AD; I am positive he is deliberately trying to deprive me of sleep in the hope that I will keel over and he could stage a coup!), the showers at the Y spewed nothing but ice water. It seems the plumbing at the venerable old building, the First YMCA in North America I'm told, is currently under repair and while I appreciate renovations as much as the next fellow, there are currently parts of my anatomy that may not reemerge from within my body until spring.

Quickly toweling off, I passed by a very peculiar young man who insisted on showering in his Fruit of the Loom underpants, as if terrified that any of his fellow “showerees” was going to get a glimpse of his goods. He wasn’t a particularly attractive fellow, having a certain rather porcine quality about him, and I was tempted to stop by and mention that as a card-carrying homosexual I was authorized to inform him that he had nothing to fear from any of us. Why is it that every straight guy in North America thinks he automatically arouses the uncontrollable sexual desires of every gay man within groping distance?

Trust me, we’re not all interested in your hairy-butted, beer-gutted, Old Spice-splattered, high school-sweetheart-married, “I used to play football college but ever since getting my dream job managing the Wal-Mart Sports department I haven’t had time to workout” body, no matter how many times in your youth the neighborhood priest put the make on you.

If I thought the shower was cold, it was nothing compared to the blast of frigid air awaiting us on our outdoor set today. Generally speaking, brilliant sunshine usually promises higher temperatures, but all it seems to do here in the Montreal winter is burn away any clouds that might have kept some trace of residual warmth in the atmosphere. Just getting out of the transport van was like stepping onto the surface of the moon and every inhalation of air resulted in one’s nostrils freezing together with an adhesive quality rivaled only by snorting Crazy Glue.

The location itself was charming, an old train station converted into an Italian styled bistro, and while waiting for actors and extras to be ferried once again from some distant land, the crew ordered up custom made pizzas. Even I who normally shy away from carbohydrates and dairy was seduced by the cheesy charms of the place and I must admit that, in spite of my almost evangelical pursuit of healthy living, a triple formaggio certainly helped chase the chill away.

Two long distance phone calls also helped. One from a Montreal friend currently spending the Christmas holidays in France, included a photo of himself fitting in very well "a la rive gauche". Just seeing the beauty of the architecture in the background reminded me of how much, in spite of its many delicious charms, Canada’s discount version of Paris could still take a few lessons in elegance from the original.

The other, from the Bank of America Fraud Department, reminded me that I had given my sister some pre-signed blank checks to take care of bills and expenses whilst I was away. Some of these had inadvertently ended up on a list of “hot” items from a burglary I had suffered at the hands of some low life criminal types in Palm Springs earlier in the year and were now surfacing, innocently enough, as my dear sibling used them. For a moment I considered the hilarity that would ensue if I were to allow her to be arrested; then I considered the horrific punishments she would come up with for me at the annual Christmas gathering in a few weeks and so I (wisely I believe) let her off the hook.

The actors finally arrived after a half an hour delay and we quickly lined up the shots. The scene has the School Bully chucking a water balloon at our Dennis who, rebuffing the support of his friends, discovers a street charity Santa Claus – our Christmas Angel in disguise – and enlists him to help bring the holiday spirit to Mr. Wilson.

The grueling shooting schedule, and the horrendous cold, is beginning to take a toll on our Maxwell (“Dennis”). In spite of his incredible energy and remarkable focus, he is still just a little boy who is carrying the entire movie on his six-year-old shoulders. That combined with the constant drone of traffic at our street side locale – not to mention the yelling and horn honking of some passing morons who delighted in disrupting “them rich movie people” – made for a challenging morning to say the least.

Normally, this would be par for the course and we could work through it somehow, but there was another fly in the proverbial ointment today. Our Christmas Angel – played by the very funny comic actor Godfrey – had to leave set early to shoot a live TV interview. I tried to arrange my shots around him, but finally it came down to needing to put SOMEBODY in the Santa Suit to stand in for the missing actor. And that somebody ended up being me.Honestly, the last time I dressed up as Kris Kringle was in the privacy of my own home. It involved a reindeer costume, several liqueur filled candy canes and about two hundred feet of red satin ribbon; the object of the game was to be the first one to make it to the “North Pole”.

However, for the sake of the art, I donned that silly red suit and for the first time since we started shooting the movie I got to “act” opposite Max. To his credit, he didn’t even bat and eye and delivered a stellar performance as usual. I’m told I was fine in the role, but apparently SOME people felt my “ho ho ho” sounded vaguely lascivious, as if I was trying to round up a group of wayward prostitutes.

Once we finished, we piled everybody into the transport vehicles and rushed back to our “neighborhood” location; this constant moving around is not only time consuming but expensive, what with gas prices currently hovering around five thousand dollars an ounce. But of course we needn’t have hurried after all. The art department was still working on the set, this time demolishing parts of the Wilson’s house to make it look like even more damage had been done during Dennis’ misguided Christmas decorations. They needed another hour and so, with the sun once again dropping like a dead duck out of the sky, I reluctantly called lunch.

The brutal cold only got worse after dark. RJ came to me and subtly suggested delaying one of the big emotional scenes, where he yells at Dennis and tells him there’s NO SANTA CLAUSE, so instead of shooting it tonight in the freezing air we would do it later inside the studio. This set us back schedule-wise, but it also made artistic sense; it’s difficult enough to emote at the best of times, but surely it’s almost impossible when there are icicles on your lips.

The police arrived, an hour before we were supposed to wrap out of the location for the night. They wanted us to shut down production immediately, something about neighborhood complaints, noise, lights etc. I’m not sure what these people thought they were getting into when the agreed to let us film here, but apparently actually MAKING a movie wasn’t it.

I decided to ignore the police officers and let our production manager handle it; between the dressing room fiasco (see earlier blog) and the fact that the crappy heaters he’s been bringing to set keep blowing fuses on the generator truck, he hasn’t exactly been batting 1000, so I figured it’d be fun to see how he weaseled out of that one. I’m not sure exactly what happened, and in the Goodfellas Film School which is the Montreal film business, I’m not sure I want to know. But the police finally left, and we kept on shooting.

We finished the night with our big “after the fire” scene, showing the disastrous wreck of the Wilson’s home. The fire engine we rented cost us a fortune, but it looked great; the same can also be said for the two “firefighters” we cast in the movie. Faithful readers will recall our Casting Director had previously put a one-handed thespian in the role of Fireman #1, much to my displeasure (to say the least) but I am delighted to report that not only did both of these actors have all their appendages, they were also completely HOT.

Thanks for this must go to my Second AD, to whom I left the task of finding – and I quote – “bachelorette party quality Firemen, the type who carry a big axe and know how to use their hose”. I figured in a town as “stripper-centric” as Montreal it would be a relatively easy task and I was not disappointed. The fact that one of them didn’t speak English and spoke his lines so phonetically he sounded like a Martian tempered my enthusiasm somewhat, but certainly didn’t keep me from appreciating his other talents as he walked across the set.

I must admit however I am a little disappointed that here in Canada, a so-called BILINGUAL country, everybody doesn’t speak both languages equally well. I grew up in Ontario, surely the most Anglo-Centric of all the provinces, and “francais” was part of our educational curriculum from the get go.

Granted, that was many years ago, but even though my written French may be a little rusty, I’m told my French oral is spectacular.


Blogger Ed said...

Hey Ron, I wonder what wonderous delights you'll discover on your upcoming New Zealand set. Hopefully it's nothing like Montreal. :)

8:28 AM  
Blogger Autrice DelDrago said...

Hello Ron,

We share a mutual friend (Michael R.) who sent me the link to your blog ages ago.

I enjoy stopping by. You simply MUST UPDATE SOON! You have left us Ronless for far too long.

To inspire you, I have nominated you for a Thinking Blog Award.

Cheers to you,


12:01 PM  

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