Janine & Kathi's Excellent Adventure

Kathi, Janine, & Mario

Copyright (c) 1995,1996 Janine Shahinian
Photographs (c) 1995, Janine Shahinian -- Do Not Reproduce!

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Getting There

Mario Azzopardi is truly a man of his word.

It began with a casual on-line conversation on March 7th:

J: Well, let us know when you'll be in Vancouver. Maybe we could visit <BG>.

M: Hopefully late June. see you in canada!

J: Watch out, I may take you up on that! <EG>

M: It'd be a pleasure!

And it was. Clearly, Mario takes great pleasure in sharing the magic of filmmaking.

It was only much later in mid-June when Ken Gord's secretary gave me the dates of Mario's first episode, but Kathi and I still didn't have official clearance at the time. We took a gamble and bought non-refundable plane tickets and kept our fingers crossed. Even then, flights to Vancouver were filling up fast, and I felt lucky to snare some excellent arrival and departure times. I counted my blessings to have a very understanding husband who was letting me do all this, and stay home with the kids, to boot. :)

Once Mario got to Vancouver, I learned that I needed to contact Ken Gord, myself, for the official OK. I faxed Ken on Friday, July 21st and paced all weekend. ;j On Monday, Ken's secretary called to say that they would "play it by ear" once we got there; that we should call when we got in on Thursday to see when we could show up. I was so delighted that Ken and Adrian didn't flat out say "no" that I faxed back a great big "thank you," adding "See you (possibly, conditionally, and all that stuff) on Thursday!"

The production company (as a whole) spends 14 weekdays (with a few exceptions) on each episode: 7 in pre-production (locations, casting, set design, etc.) and 7 with filming. While one episode is being filmed under one director (and one of the 1st AD's), another director is on the premises getting ready for the next episode. Scripts only arrive on the first day of pre-production.

The cast and crew work a minimum of 12 hours a day, five days a week on whatever episode is up for filming. Since THE INNOCENT finished Day 7 on a Thursday, Day 1 of LEADER OF THE PACK fell on a Friday.

Throughout this entire time, I cultivated a new friendship with someone I "met" in the Canada forum (I'll call him "Hugh" ;j). Despite a most tenuous acquaintance with Highlander, he and his SO took pleasure in helping me to track down some of the facts I needed to make our trip go well, along with some trivial facts - like where the gas station is that Mario used for a location in RITE OF PASSAGE. ;j It really helped to have someone with whom I could share my growing excitement of the trip over all those months.

I spent about a month reviewing Vancouver episodes, taking note of anything which could be tracked down, poring over guidebooks and compiling a list of locations described in clue-like form. The antique store alley location was most frustrating because alleys aren't depicted on any of the maps which I acquired. But as you can well imagine, the various episodes provide a whole bunch of clues. A "Gastown" brochure was included in my hotel confirmation and the map inside *did* include some alleys, so I pinpointed the most likely one.

About the same time, I had a eureka experience when all the clues for the Dojo exterior pointed to a building right on the cover of the brochure. Stupid me - I considered the Dojo entrance to be the *front* of the building, when actually it's the back. Go real slow through THE SAMURAI, when Duncan returns to the dojo, and you'll see the famous "steam clock" at the top of the street. Makes you wonder how they chase all those tourists away to film in peace.

We had a 7:15 am flight out of Detroit which left much later, but we *just* managed to make our connection in Minneapolis. As we approached the city of Vancouver, a thrill of excitement ran through me as the maps which I had been poring over exploded in full, three-dimensional beauty. It was hard to believe we were really there.

We schlepped through the old-fashioned airport, picked up our rental car and arrived at our hotel about 1:30 pm, Pacific. I had now been up for 12 hours after days of not being able to sleep nights and running on almost pure adrenaline. First task - call the production office. Cindy said she'd consult with Ken and Adrian and get back to us later in the afternoon.

No point in hanging around our hotel room with all of Vancouver beyond our door, so we set out on foot to the "dojo" at the corner of Water and Cambie Sts. Along the way, I kept my eyes sharp, and found that we passed right by "Jill's apartment" (OBSESSION) on Beatty St.

OK, I'm easy to please, but it was so cool to see everything around the "dojo" - like the parts you see in BLIND FAITH - all together with a mere turn of the head rather than a fast-forward through various tapes. <BG> Kathi and I took turns posing on the stairs and I took shots from all angles.

Click Here for All Angles!

We stopped into the side shop (123 Cambie) which is "Landmark Clocks International." The owner was happy to talk with us a bit. Item #1: Highlander just borrowed his grandmother's old, green clock and needed it again to redo a shoot. Item #2: "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus" (a movie) was made there.

The green clock and "redoing" a shoot: The first time we see the clock is in BROTHERS IN ARMS when Duncan seemingly has it apart and is cleaning the gears. Knowing that they couldn't possibly be redoing a BROTHERS IN ARMS scene just a few days before shooting LEADER OF THE PACK, I knew to look for the clock again in THE INNOCENT. Sure enough, we saw Mikey accidentally "break" it. I know no one cares about this tiny detail and that only Kathi and I were screaming, "There's Mr. Saunders' grandmother's clock!" at our tv screens. ;-)

The store at the front (305 Water St.) is "Steam Clock T-Shirts & Souvenirs." Gastown is *full* of souvenir shops, selling mostly the same stuff, but it seemed only right that we spend our money in this one. <BG>

At the western end of this same block is a little shopping mall called The Landing. Inside, is Edinburgh Tartan Shop. Guess what we did? <EG> By going out a different way, we ran right into the street corner (at Water and Cordova) used in the tag scene of THE WATCHERS.

I didn't have the Gastown brochure with me, so we couldn't find the alley. We went back to our hotel and called the production office. Cindy said to come by at noon the next day. It was hard to believe it was actually going to happen.

We had a light dinner in the pub next door, and then Hugh came over to take us on a little tour. He found us by deciding that the ladies at the hotel desk picking up Gastown brochures must be us. (Aren't these first-time face-to-face encounters always a delight? :) )

The first stop was to check under the Granville Bridge to see if it was the BLACKMAIL location. (This is one I obsessed over back home, determining that the weird arrangement of a street under a bridge with two access ramps had to be this place and tried to get Hugh to confirm the odd building in the background before our trip.) It was! I was so excited and asked Hugh to pull over so I could take pictures. Everything was there - the weird building, the ramps overhead, even the word "SIGNS" painted on a building off to the side way in back. It was so cool.

(The BLACKMAIL location under the Granville Bridge is now seen weekly in the opening credits and was also used in RELUCTANT HEROES and SOMETHING WICKED.)

We passed by Robson Square, confirmed that the waterfall fountain was the one from SHADOWS, and then drove through some neighborhoods hoping to recognize certain Tudor Houses (not to mention that the neighborhoods are quite lovely ;j). First through Shaughnessy and then around Marine Drive, past the Univ. of BC, and into the lovely neighborhood which borders it. From there, it was over to Stanley Park (with a view back at the city skyline) where a gorgeous sunset made the ultimate statement to our very fine day.


Copyright 1995, Janine Shahinian
Photographs (c) 1995, Janine Shahinian -- Do Not Reproduce!