Word from Jim on his trip to Canada to the set where they’re filming the Dresden Files television movie!
First of all, let me tell you this outright: Canada is not the USA.
I know. It’s such a shock.
We get on so well, you’d think they’d be just like us, but they aren’t. It’s like walking in and finding out that your college roomie wears pink silk panties. (Unless you happen to have been a girl at college, in which case that’s to be expected.) It isn’t threatening, but it IS sort of odd.
Anyway. It’s weird there, or at least in Toronto. It’s clean. You can walk around the darkened streets after midnight without being unduly worried about getting Wayned by some mugger, if the number of women walking around alone after midnight was any indication. They have enough plow trucks to handle the snow. Oklahoma City gets four inches of snow and everything stops for at least a day, or until it turns 90 degrees, whichever comes first–they only have ONE snow truck. Toronto has 3500. That’s a 350,000% increase over Oklahoma. When you buy something at the grocery store, you can see racks and racks of cigarettes behind the counter, and every single one of them has a picture of someone’s dissected blackened lungs or a picture of a smoker in the terminal stages of lung cancer or something. It’s as though they think the cigarettes are BAD for you.
And then there’s the metric system. Don’t even get me started.
But then, travel is supposed to broaden the mind. And I didn’t get cursed by a witch doctor while there, so it’s up on Brazil already. Sorry, Brazil. I know my good opinion is of paramount importance to each and every one of you, but I have standards. My planes all took off and landed with fully functioning electronics and hydraulics, and WITHOUT me being so sick that I didn’t really care if we crashed, so it’s up on Mexico. Sorry, Mexico. Brazil might buy you a round at the bar if you sit next to them. Misery, company.
Okay, on to the set.
Hundreds of people involved, literally. They were shooting scenes in Harry’s apartment while we were there, in a studio apartment with a loft. For an apartment, it was pretty huge, and for Harry’s apartment it was positively cavernous, but see above re: HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE. “Only” about thirty or forty were actually inside the apartment, but especially in the shots that had cameras panning and moving around, those thirty or forty people had to squeeze into the approximately two hundred cubic inches that weren’t actually in the shot. They actually screamed things like, “We’re shooting, run and hide!” and “Everybody not necessary GET OUT INTO THE SNOW,” and “DAMMIT BUTCHER BUMPED INTO THE LIGHT SWITCH AGAIN! SOMEONE PUT HIM IN A DIRECTORS CHAIR IN THE CORNER AND TELL HIM ITS BECAUSE WE LIKE HIM!”
Here’s something you might not know: making a movie is, like, BORING. There is a phenomenal amount of work being done by a whole bunch of different people, things to coordinate, problems to solve, visiting authors to clean up after, and all of that means that you can’t shoot any faster than your slowest work area can get set up. You spent a LOT of time waiting around, unless you’re the director or assistant director or producer, all of whom never have enough time to do everything they need to do. And when they DO shoot a shot, they do it several times. Then they move the cameras closer and do it again. Then they move the cameras to closeups and do it AGAIN. And THEN they turn the cameras to a different angle and do the whole process AGAIN. We were on the set for maybe 8 hours total, and I think I saw them get maybe forty five seconds or so of movie filmed.
I got to meet several of the actors: Harry, Susan, Morgan, the toad demon. They were awfully busy and had little time to hang out and chat. But hey, I was bumbling through the middle of where THEY worked and not the other way around, so that’s cool. Especially since they’d been shooting 18 hour days for two weeks. The set doesn’t even get LUNCH until 6 pm.
(Which was actually really good. I’ve been to catered banquets where the food wasn’t that good.)
I also got to meet Hans and Robert, writers/producers, and they were really great guys. Much jocularity was had. Robert says that movie crews are like armies: they work on their stomachs. Which explains the good food. Robert showed us all over the place: we got to see costumes, talk to stuntfolks, mooch bottled water, chat with special effects guys, and in general get a quick run through all of it. I also got to see some of the dailies (the footage from the scenes they’d already filmed). They were very nifty.
In speaking to Robert and Hans and dozens and dozens of other people, I realized something really neat: they care. Over and over, I heard from the folks there: “most of the time we’re working, it’s just a job. But on this set, everyone thinks we’re doing something really neat, and it shows in their work.” Which was really exciting. I mean, it’s amazing enough that I get to say “they’re making a movie of my book!” But it’s looking like I’ll get to say, “they’re making a GOOD movie of my book!” which is far more rare. Go go gadget internet alias. 🙂
Best for last, of course: the movie itself.
I can’t tell you very much, cause that’s SciFi’s thing. What I CAN tell you is that I /really/ dug how well the actors were working together and playing off each other. Paul has this Harrison Ford-esque ability to display enormous amounts of character via expression alone, especially in his reactions to other actors and in subtle inflections on his lines. He occasionally ad libs, does smartass well, is really funny, and everyone I spoke to about him told me what a nice guy he was. I got to see him across from Susan and Murphy in some of their scenes, and they were really cool. (Morgan’s actor does a /really/ great job, too. I think they’re gonna make this a fairly cool production, all in all.)
Paul’s American accent is excellent, and by all reports he’d been working hard at it for a while. You can only tell he’s doing an accent because it sounds “interesting.” I mean, there’s nothing you can point a finger at and say “hey, he’s a brit doing a yank” but something about it sounds very distinctive and gives him a unique sound–much like Hugh Laurie (House). Great voice, too, much like James Marsters, very expressive. 🙂 But he would flip from “American” back to “British” without batting an eye, and it was a little tiny bit disconcerting.
I didn’t get to meet Murphy’s actor or Kirmani’s (who is replacing Carmichael) or Bianca’s, or Ancient Mai’s, but I hear very good things about them. In the dailies I got to see both Murphy and Ancient Mai working. She was wonderful playing across from Paul, and I have no idea how Mai’s actress (who weighs about 90 pounds) manages to radiate quite that much menace. Very nifty.
I confess one major disappointment. I did not get to meet Mister’s actor. He was supposed to be on set that day, but shooting went kinda slow and he wasn’t needed. They actually found a freaking 30 pound trained movie cat. Ginger, just gorgeous, and frigging huge. Apparently the cat only knew one trick: STAY. But he was very good at that one. Quite the filming trooper by all reports, as well, and easy to get along with. That’s the kind of thing that cannot be overappreciated.
The script itself is very close to Storm Front’s–not identical by any means, but if I had written Storm Front the same way, I’d have been fine with it. The script captures the spirit of the book pretty well, which is very groovy. I’ve even been able to provide some feedback on the script, pointing out a few things that I thought could be stronger, and they actually listened to me. See above, re: internet alias.
I have some pictures on my camera if I can get them off of it, though I’m not sure I can share any of the “on stage” pictures. Have to talk to SciFi about that. I’ll try to get some of them to Fred so he can make them available. I got one of me holding Dresden’s hockey stick! 🙂