Impromptu Adventures Are Always The Best
I've been a ghost for the past four weeks. I promised on Facebook to updated my shenanigans once I was done. Well, that time is now. It all started over a year ago when a friend asked Bruce and I if we would like to help on a movie. We said sure, then forgot about it. Every once in awhile we'd hear from our friend but nothing seemed to be moving forward. We just assumed it was castles in the sky. But in the spring of this year we heard from him again with details. We even heard from one of the producers confirming what we could assist with. We penciled in the calendar, not really thinking it would come to fruition.
September 14th came around and the action began. We met our friend George for lunch in Howland and worked out tentative details. Our job - scouting - would begin the next day as we guided him to crossings of the Appalachian Trail off the Golden Road and Jo-Mary Road in the 100-Mile Wilderness. The next day one of the directors arrived. We did the same thing with him. We drove this time. I wasn't impressed with George's city-slicker driving. Sorry George.
We only made it to the Golden Road. It happened to be the day a Hurricane bore down on our state. After a tree fell close to us scouting, we decided it was time to get out of the woods. As it was, a huge hemlock fell across the road near Golden Road Crossing. Luckily we were able to easily circumvent it. We weren't so fortunate when we reached our camp road a mile from home. A tree was down bringing the power lines with it. Thanks to accommodating neighbors, we were able to navigate around the obstruction by a different camp road and through their driveway. Without power we enjoyed a quiet evening.
The next morning we were still without power as a new tree kept our road closed. Back through our neighbor's driveway we drove and back to scouting in the North Maine Woods. This time with the main actor/producer.
So it wasn't castle's in the sky after all. From that point on until a week ago, Bruce and I have been right out straight doing something we never would have dreamed of doing. What is it? What were you doing? Come on, tell us! Okay, you've been patient since my Facebook post about ghosting ya'll. Bruce and I were helping a film production crew. We had to be hush-hush. Mostly because we didn't know what we could share. We still can't give any spoilers but I can share some fun stuff.
I'd love to ramble on and tell you every detail but that would take too long. So I will just keep to the basics with a little fluff. The movie is called The Keeper, an independent full-feature film, true story with creative liberties mixed in. It's about a combat veteran who suffered from PTSD and depression. George hiked the Appalachian Trail with no intent on returning from the trail. The film isn't necessarily about the AT, but rather brings awareness of veteran suicide.
Bruce and I started just as trail advisors. Our duties soon expanded to equipment hauler, cast and crew shuttle driver, props and set advisor, helping with craft services - food, grip - equipment, and whatever else was needed. We were honored to lend a hand to such a needed story.
Not having a clue about the film industry, our learning curve was insane. This is an independent film production which means everyone has multiple roles as well as investment interests. But there was still a hierarchy which I found to be very confusing. Most everyone was from LA, NY, or had some connection to glitz and glamour. Not knowing what my role entailed, I stood back at first, not too quietly - that's not in my nature. But I didn't want to over-step my boundaries - just yet.
After three days of scouting were done, filming started the next day. Then off to the Maine woods we went with gear, cast, and crew on a rainy first day - so appropriate for a hiking film. The production hired a local chap, Paul - who we dubbed - the RV guy. He owned a thirty-six foot motor coach that became the cast and crew mobile during shoot times as well as overnight storage for set food and batteries and my home away from home.
Days were long and hard. It was normal for me to wake at 5:00am and not get home until 11:00pm. Midway through the week, I realized I really enjoyed what I was doing. It was hard. It was long days. But it was so much fun. My initial fear about being around folks from the film world were curtailed after day one. Everyone, cast and crew were all so incredibly nice and humble. They were all business in the mornings getting everything organized for the day's shoot and during those iconic words of Rolling, Action, and Cut. But at breaks and even in between shots, guess what, they are just like you and me.
One thing I learned quick was that film is not all glitz and glamour. Cast and crew work long hard hours in not so nice conditions to produce entertainment or in this case, a story that may save a life. The first day on set the cast and crew were introduced to the Maine black fly. They learned quickly that DEET 25 does little to thwart the assault the Maine state bird does to fresh meat. And how to properly apply the scent of Maine. A little spritz does not do ya any good. Showering in it works much better.
With everyone properly schooled on how to void being eaten alive and that pants tucked into your socks is a fashion statement for Mainers, filming proceeded without any hiccups. By day three we truly did seem like one big family. Everyone knew their roles and I was still learning but becoming more comfortable with the flow of things. So much so that I shared a bright idea. I had a sleepless night. Up early and getting to bed after midnight did little to foster a good night's sleep. So I go up and wrote an extra scene.
For those of you who really know me, you know what I did with it, don't ya? For those of you who don't know me, you will be appalled. The next morning I passed copies of my extra scene out to a few of the crew. Yup! I really did that. I said something on the lines of "Don't laugh. I couldn't sleep, but I think this would make a great addition." I can't even write this without laughing. You probably aren't surprised to know that it didn't make the cut. But ya know what? Not one of the crew I shared it with made fun of me, or berated me. They politely took it and thanked me for sharing it with them. Wow!!! Just incredible people.
As the days went on our duties increased from just the shuttle driver and gear hauler. We would help set up and move the equipment as the scenes required. We held stands. We held lights. We helped keep bystanders quiet. We helped set up meals. We helped make sure everyone stayed hydrated, feed, and warm. We were asked for trail authenticity advice. I even got to hold the coveted boom. We were never in charge of anything, we only assisted. Except when it came to packing the truck. I had to learn quickly how a production works. They all learned fast that I am the queen of Tetris. I can't play it digitally, but in real life I have a nack for making things fit. loading the equipment became my duty.
Since loading and hauling gear became my primary job, it did get me in trouble once. I can't write this next section also without laughing. We were in Millinocket at the AT Lodge. Filming was complete at that location and gear that wasn't hand carried to the next location - the post office - was loaded into my truck. I was told to drive it to the PO once everything was loaded. Copy that.
(This was not the load headed to the PO - Creative liberty just to show off my truck)
I double checked the surroundings to make sure nothing was left behind, jumped in the truck and headed to the PO as I was instructed to do. I soon realized I was headed the wrong way on a one way street. I knew this was a one way but momentarily forgot. As I proceeded to turn onto a side road to go around back, I noticed two of the actors walking in the direction of the PO. I yelled out the window, "Hey Angus!" He didn't respond. I yelled loader, "HEY ANGUS!!!! That got his attention. He turned around and looked at me with a mean look of irritation. I briefly thought to myself, What's got his goat? Then added, "Tell Steve, I have to go around because this is a one way." Angus and the other actor just rolled their eyes and walked on and I continued wondering what was wrong with them. Then it hit me. I could have crawled under a rock and died. They were shooting a scene and I had just driven into the set and yelled to the actors calling one of them by their real name. CUT!!!!
I made it to my spot safely away from the scene not daring to exit the truck. Thankfully I wasn't really in trouble. My shenanigans produced laughs and another take. Laughter on set by silly mistakes was a relief for everyone. I was so upset over what I had done, but I soon learned that most of the cast and crew welcomed the comic relief when it did happen. If it wasn't me driving on to the set, it could have been a motorcycle buzzing by, a crow cawing high in the trees, someone in the RV laughing a little to loud, or a host of other reasons the director commanded, "Cut."
My time with the production was coming to an end. I had the Trails End Festival in Millinocket I was going to attend selling books and crafts. I was torn. What I first thought was just castles in the sky turned into an amazing adventure I didn't want to end. I had a decision to make. Do I forfeit my already paid booth space and forego huge sales to stay with production and the amazing group of new friends or do I attend the Festival. My heart wanted to go, but my commitment and loss of sales haunted me.
When God opens doors we shouldn't close them. I reached out to the festival organizer and they were okay if I didn't attend. They also thought it was a great opportunity. So, the decision was made to stay with the production and I never looked back. That decision turned into an invite to join them on location in Virginia, Tennessee, and Georgia. Impromptu adventures are always the best. They purchased a round trip ticket for me. Bruce had to work. He always misses out. But not for long. He decided to take PTO and drove down to meet us.
The hard work, long hours, and fun continued. I did everything already mentioned above as well as scout with the local person - Lone Wolf. It was amazing how everything came together - locations, weather, actors, crew, extras. This experience is so much more than words in this post. My eyes have been opened to a whole new world. Never again will I be able to watch a movie or program and take for granted what goes on behind the scenes.
The trail provides. In 2015 when I set foot on the Appalachian Trail I thought I was just going on a hike that wasn't even my idea. My world has continued to be blessed because of that adventure. Being a part of this production and meeting all the wonderful people involved is just another one of the ways the trail has provided for me. But most importantly, this production is not about what it did for me. Nor is it about George, the main character. It is about bringing awareness to veteran suicide. When George hiked the Appalachian Trail he carried the name tapes of 363 service men and women who committed suicide in the previous 16 days at that time. That's roughly 22 veteran suicides a day. If this movie can save just one life, then it was worth every bug bite, every sunburn, every rain drop, every mile driven, every missed meal, every hour of lost sleep, every interrupted shot, every everything.
Thank you to the cast and crew for welcoming us into your world. I hope to be a part of it again one day.
Just a hodgepodge of pics. I didn't have time to take too many.