It was actually fortunate that we weren't expected at the production office until noon. We spent the morning full of preparations, especially with the bags of gifts which we brought for Ken, Mario, Adrian, Stan and Jim. Again, our luck was with us that the latter three were the actual ones in this particular episode. (Kathi and I would make good Boy Scouts. ;j) Besides the personal gifts from us to them in thanks for letting us visit the set, I had also arranged through Kathy Wagman to get CompuServe t-shirts for Ken and Mario to thank them on behalf of all of us for their participation in our forum. With consumables from a Made in Michigan shop along with the shirts, we were bearing gifts from both of our homes. :)
We arrived at the production office fifteen minutes early in hopes of meeting with Ken and delivering his t-shirt as an ice-breaker, but we were told it was still too early and Ken wasn't there, yet. So we killed time by taking pictures of two "locations" on the premises (the park-like walkway with Joe and Duncan in TURNABOUT and the building which housed Linda and Gregor's photos in STUDIES IN LIGHT) and sitting on some boulders along the walkway. (BTW, these are public areas and are not the property of the production company.)
At 12:30 pm, we went back to the office where we were again greeted by Cindy. She asked us to wait while she checked the status of things. Kathi took the one chair and I stood, practically tripping over a box on the floor full of episode 95406 scripts. The office was rather smallish, with four desks crammed around a small open area which was claimed by a good-looking and very friendly mutt. The dog gave us something to stare at besides the two Production Coordinators, who smiled sweetly at us, and a counter full of scripts and other papers relating to the current episode 95404 ("Leader of the Pack").
The reason why the 95406 scripts (REUNION) were at the production office while episode #95404 was starting day one of filming is that 95405 (DOUBLE EAGLE) was filmed out of sequence - *after* REUNION. This allowed <director's name> to do his second "Kenny" episode, and gave Mario Azzopardi the needed break between filming to do the pre-production work for DOUBLE EAGLE.
Eventually, Cindy took us over to a break area set up outside a studio door. On the way, I noticed *two* identical T-Birds parked in a fenced-off lot. Kathi and I parked ourselves at one of the tables and watched crew members coming and going. A little while later, Cindy deposited Krystmas and Jimmi with us and we all introduced ourselves.
Awhile later, Cindy said there was still a delay with getting us on set and offered to show us around the studio. Krystmas passed on the offer, saying she had already seen it, and Jimmi stayed with her. Kathi and I, of course, jumped on the offer. <BG>
We first passed through the dojo set, entering through the "front" door. It felt very odd being there, with the walls all around me. I was *in* the picture, which somehow didn't look right, even though everything was right there for real. The stairs also seemed exceptionally close to the main door.
Cindy took Kathi's and my picture by the weird iron contraption by the elevator. (At the time, I thought this would be my one piece of proof that I was actually there, and that contraption is a fairly unique piece of evidence.) We then exited by the side door.
We passed the construction shop and met Jim Geddes, the coordinator, who would soon be leaving the show to go to another production. He didn't sound happy about it, but it has to do with all of the crew being contracted labor and when their contracts are up, they move on to other projects in town. The yearly move to Paris, which leaves the Vancouver crew behind, means that some folks must consider a year-long project for financial considerations. But everyone expressed their preference for working with Highlander since, there, everyone's ideas get listened to. There is a real sense of camaraderie among all members of the production company.
We then said hi to Christina and Tess in the costume shop, passed the "Joe's" sign lying on a crate, and entered the Joe's bar set. We would have loved to linger among the costumes, but we were being whisked along. Outside Joe's bar is an open area where sets of the week could be built. This episode didn't have one. Cindy explained that all of the sets come down and get put away when the production moves to Paris.
From the studio, we went back outside to wait some more. (The filming was going on in the dojo loft set.) I found it fascinating just to watch the crew coming and going in and out of the studio door. Everyone wears some kind of radio, and messages are transmitted all over.
The reason for all of the coming and going is that, even though they were shooting in the studio, all the gear, wardrobe, changing rooms and stuff are in the "circus" vehicles parked outside, so folks are constantly shuttling back and forth. This, of course, means that the outer door would keep banging open and closed. But besides the large siren-type spinning light above the door which indicates when cameras are rolling, an AD (Ass't Director) is parked outside to yell stuff like "rolling!", "clear!" and "going again!".
Cindy then offered a little tour of the production offices and apologized for the long delay with getting on the set. We heard from several people that things are more hectic when they're shooting in the studio. Why this would be wasn't clear, since it seemed that by having everyone together, things would actually run more smoothly.
We got to see the Art Department, where folks like the Production Designer (Stephen Geaghan), Art Director (Richard Cook) and the Set Decorators work. Chris, the Lead Dresser, looked like he really wanted to show off what he was working on, so Kathi and I politely (and eagerly, I should add) hung back to listen. Chris showed us drawings for tents and banners that will be used in the flashback fox-hunting scene.
I felt a little frustrated that I was totally unprepared to conduct any kind of decent interview with these people. (I had spent so much time researching locations since a part of me never believed we would actually make it on the set. The list of locations was my fallback to ensure we could put our trip to *some* use.) I was lucky if I got their names right, and I often had to ask twice to be sure.
I really wanted to know more about past episodes and the work that went into creating them, yet my mind was mostly blank to recall specific scenes and how they related to this particular department. I was glad that Samantha would be following up with interviews because I could barely scratch the surface of what these guys do.
Seeing that we weren't keeping up with the tour, I felt we should pull away from Chris who seemed so eager to talk with us, asking where we're from and all that. We explained that we were with the Highlander forum on CIS and that Samantha Lynn would love to talk with him for our newsletter. He was really impressed with that and said, "Oh, so you're from a fan club!" We found ourselves frequently explaining to various crew members what an on-line group is like and we talked up CIS whenever we were out of earshot from Krys and Jimmi. ;j
I did manage to ask Chris about the set for the little Italy flashback in REVENGE OF THE SWORD (with the Black Hand execution) and he said, "Oh, yeah, that was an expensive one." They set it up in a vacant ship yard. It is stuff like that - the quality and variety of the sets - which makes him love working with this show as opposed to others.
We passed through the prop department and got to see a stuffed dog that will be used in the episode.
The tour wound up in the front office where all four of us visitors chatted with Ken Gord (pictured), David Tynan (Executive Script Consultant) and Michael Blacklock (Special Effects Coordinator). I can see, now, why Krystmas was able to publish such a wonderful interview with Michael in a past issue of The Quickening - this guy is *full* of stories.
Despite what was said in an article (which Hugh sent me) about Vancouver suffering from "location burnout," Highlander actually gets a good reception with the locals, according to Michael. For instance, they put grass seed in a charge to reseed an area after an explosion. An orphanage used in one scene got a new paint job. It's things like that that allow Highlander to maintain good relationships with members of the community.
[At the end of the day, I got to see an example of Highlander's care for the locations it uses. Mario's "call sheet" for Monday included a reminder to respect the property. This was printed right on the map of the area that would be used.]
Although Kathi and I had stood in the front office, before, we were now officially introduced to Kaayla, the "sweet, charming Production Coordinator" <BG> and Brenda Kyle, her assistant. I found out that the dog's name is Lucy and Michael B. had a great time playing with her as he talked.
I even had fun reading the bulletin boards full of gag pictures with silly captions, a home-made sign of one of Adrian's recent quotes from an interview which was titled, "Highlander R Us," and finally getting to see that comic strip that mentioned Highlander reruns.
Adrian's quote which the production office titled "Highlander R Us":
"'We have a lot more freedom because we're syndicated,' he says. 'The way Highlander is shot and structured allows people creative freedom without executives breathing down your neck every five minutes.'"
- also reported in "By the Sword," _TV Week_, 7/29 - 8/4/95
Once again, we were taken back to the outdoor break area, but this time, we were turned over to Todd, the third AD. While he went to rustle up some tapes for us to watch, Ken Gord came by and Kathi and I got to present his gifts to him. He seemed very touched and surprised that we got him something.
Todd set up the tape in this closet of a viewing room in one of the trailers. It was a beautiful, 15 minute or so, promo-type reel with clips from the show and narration.
We poured back out of the stuffy little room, when Ken brought over a mystery person to meet us. He wanted to see if we'd recognize him. I would not have recognized him and Krystmas and Jimmi didn't either. When it was revealed who he was, we had fun teasing him. He ate it up by sharing interesting anecdotes - some surprising. (Ask us later. ;j)
The "mystery person": Travis MacDonald, who played Mark Roszca, Tessa's killer. Travis told us that he had gotten death threats from angry fans for his murderous portrayal. Seeing that the show never brought resolution to his character's crime, it was Travis who suggested to TPTB to bring the character back. He had fun describing how "Richie" would be throwing him off a fire escape on Tuesday and asked us slyly, "Should I tell you what happens?" If he wasn't going to tell us, *we* were going to kill him. ;-)
Travis really enjoyed hanging around with us and soaking up the attention. He's really *very* nice, and it was great, later, to see what a fine job he did as Mark.
Todd came back and set us up with the Euro-version of LADY AND THE TIGER. It was ok to stand around watching it in close quarters up through the Missing Bit - where Zachary obtains his sword - but watching Highlander tapes is something we do at home, not on production grounds! ;j So it was back out to the break area.
Some transition in the filming was imminent (which was later explained) and Cindy showed up to park the four of us in an upstairs conference room where we sat and chatted about Speculation. (Hey, if we had to wait, may as well make the most of it, no? <EG>) Clearly, different schools of thought were represented by our respective home turfs, with our forum taking the more conservative approach. (A later thought from Mario on this subject revealed that we're the ones doing it right by being more cautious. [OK, I'm working in the propaganda, but you didn't want my impressions of a totally barren room, did you? ;j])
Kevin, the second AD appeared with a sigh and said he hated to be the bearer of bad news, but he explained why we hadn't gotten on the set yet. (It was now about 4 o'clock.) The first scene involved certain costume changes of a more private nature and the current scenes involved potentially temperamental Rottweilers, so no visitors were being allowed on set. Kevin said we could watch tapes or wait outside, and we chose outside - where Krystmas and Jimmi were free to smoke and Kathi and I could watch the crew pass back and forth.
"...certain costume changes of a more private nature," which we were told at the time involved Adrian in a terry bathrobe, turned out to be the infamous BVD scene. Mario later said of this scene, "We had alot more planned but it is much easier to show violence than perceived nudity in the US of A!" I guess they later found out what they could get away with, resulting in the "butt shot" in CHIVALRY.
Also hanging out were Patrick (pictured, white shirt) and Allixandria (yellow jacket), the stand-ins. We had all met eyes before, but now that Kathi and I approached them and asked them what they did, they opened up.
A stand-in, as previous set reports have noted, are the ones who stand in a spot for the crew to know how to set up lights and stuff. Both Patrick and Allix have been with Highlander since its early days. Patrick had previously worked as stand-in for "Wiseguys." Allix is an actor who does stand-in because it provides steady work. She perked up when she pointed out that she appeared as an extra in some hospital scenes in SONG OF THE EXECUTIONER. (She walks with Anne in the hospital as Anne finds out about her second patient dying.)
[HA! While scanning SONG OF THE EXECUTIONER to look for Allix, I found one of the lights guys sitting in Joe's bar! They'll throw any Tom, Dick, Janine or Kathi they've got on hand into those crowd scenes! <BEG> Now to go back and pay closer attention to the faces of those extras... ;j]
(F. Braun McAsh - Swordmaster talks to Michael Blacklock - Special Effects)
We passed the time watching the animal handlers taking the dogs in and out and I went around taking photos of crew members and the two T-Birds.
On a return trip to the ladies room, I noticed Stan and Jim just standing around a back trailer. Kathi and I went over (with gifts in hand) and introduced ourselves and the two of them greeted us warmly. They also were pleasantly surprised by the gifts.
Michigan is known for its cherries and I pointed out the plastic cocktail sword taped to Stan's bag of dried cherries. He liked the joke and also revealed that his name is "Cherry." I didn't understand and he had to spell it out that "Kirsch" is "cherry" in German.
Kathi asked the two of them if they'd be interested in doing on-line conferences for us, and they said "Sure!" Jim told Stan that he recently did one for AOL and both said they had fun with conferences. They gave us information on how to pursue setting them up.
Just then, Adrian emerged out of nowhere in his "special effects" costume, and I nearly jumped out of my skin. He rushed off to complete the last scene before the "lunch" break.
Adrian's "special effects" costume: the bloodied and torn sweatshirt. This was my first-ever look at Adrian Paul in person, so I was about to jump out of my skin anyway. ;-j I didn't know he was in one of the trailers and, the next moment, there he is walking right by me looking like he had been attacked. 'Bout gave me a heart attack.
While more tables were set up for lunch/ dinner (it was 6:00 pm, but it was the middle of their work day, so it's listed as "lunch"), Cindy emerged and informed us officially that we'd be welcome to go through the food line after everyone else had a chance. We waited at a group of chairs by the studio door to keep out of the way of those starting to eat.
Finally Adrian emerged from the studio with a done-for-the-afternoon look and formally greeted us four women, shaking hands all around and getting Kathi's and my names. I handed him his gift bag and he immediately made note of the bag of chocolates inside. (No one mentioned the pre-packaged gingerbread man called "The Perfect Man: If he misbehaves, you can bite off his head." <g>)
I went through the motions of eating dinner since I hadn't eaten since breakfast, but I was hardly hungry. Let me tell you, a set visit is a *great* diet! You exist solely on nerves going full tilt. How can anyone eat with Adrian, Jim and Stan sitting at the next table?! And stupid me selected the linguini marinara. Try eating *that* just 10 feet from our lads! Kathi wisely made herself a lovely salad and ate with her back to the other table (but had to contend with a hill which threatened to send her falling backwards). (The lady carrying the tray in the photo is Tish, Trainee AD - Kevin)
Soon a new face appeared at the actors' table surrounded by various people with questions. We heard the name "Mario" and finally knew what our illustrious Head Master looked like. As awareness appeared on our faces, Mario noticed us as well. A moment later, he joyfully made his way over to us asking, "Who is Janine and who is Kathi?"
Now all Highlander fans can know what Mario looks like, as he cast himself as the Count in the flashback scenes in DOUBLE EAGLE. <BG>
We exchanged greetings and came to the grand finale of our gift-giving: the Michigan gift bag, a bottle of Michigan wine and the CompuServe t-shirt. He was as delighted as a kid at Christmas and opened the t-shirt and put it on over his other one. We asked him if we could take his picture in it and he called over Jim and Stan to pose as well.
Although it looked like he had just arrived, he was headed back to the set and asked us to join him. The moment we had been waiting for had arrived.
Copyright 1995, Janine Shahinian
Photographs (c) 1995, Janine Shahinian -- Do Not Reproduce!