TOUCHING THE WALLS
June 9, 2005.
The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. Right now I’m living inside that hope, running down its hallway and touching the walls on both sides. (From Animal Dreams by Barbara Kingsolver)
After a long drought I felt a drop of rain. I don’t remember sending them my resume, but last week a production company on the Universal Studios lot called me to work on a documentary shoot for The History Channel. I did one day of pre-production and then we shot for two days out at a huge, beautiful ranch in the middle of high rolling hills, thick forests, two lane roads and square green gardens. Horses, cows and a precocious donkey roamed free on the ranch. I felt unbearably happy as I drove through those hills every day. It was a long, hard shoot but worth every minute. The documentary depicts the first declared war in the United States between English settlers and the Pequot Native Americans of Connecticut. We had authentic wigwams, a fort, an archery expert, a gun expert, a stunt coordinator, a fire marshal, a large Native American and Anglo cast, three camera units, a base camp, a medic… needless to say that as a history and film buff I was in my element.
During my first half-hour on set I was offered another job. A Gaffer saw me setting up the craft services tent and thought I was a hard worker. He works for a company that is currently under contract with Hallmark Entertainment. They fired all of their Production Assistants because they wouldn’t listen to their supervisor and he thought he could get me a job. He said that it was a good company because they promoted their P.A.s from within, which could lead to Assistant Director work and who knows what else. I’ve always heard that it just takes one job to get the ball rolling and I’m hoping that will be the case with me.
The company shooting the documentary is closely affiliated with Steven Spielberg’s documentary projects and has won several Oscars. I felt privileged to work with them, especially when they promoted me to talent wrangler. I was worried about getting stuck with craft services but instead it became my job to anticipate each scene coming up and to make sure the correct actors went through make-up, wardrobe, hair and props in time for the scene. I also had to make sure that each department, such as Special Effects, Props, Wardrobe, etc., was notified as to what was happening and had to communicate with the gun expert as to when the actors needed gun powder training or when real guns were needed on set. The shoot was equivalent to a three-ring circus and it was invigorating to help keep all the balls in the air. Our second day was an overnight shoot and we raced the sun to get our shots in time, which concluded with a fire that burned the Native village to the ground.
I met amazing people and felt myself growing and learning more about my craft. In an ideal world I’d be the director of that project but getting so close to my dream, so close that I could touch it, was pretty damn good too.