Hell's Half Acre (hells_half_acre) wrote,
Hell's Half Acre

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VanCon2011: Monday Location Tour


I sat towards the middle of the bus, and I'm really glad I did. Russ spends a lot of time walking up and down the bus talking to people, but he seems to favour the middle and the back - and if his back is to you, it's really hard to hear what he's saying. My friend in the front of the bus couldn't hear anything.

Now, mind you, it also helps to keep him in place by asking him a bunch of questions. I was lucky enough to be sitting across from a nice American lady (I'm guessing on the nationality here) who was very curious about a lot of things - and also quite amusing. So Russ tended to hover around my chair whenever he walked by, because she would engage him in conversation (something that I'm not very good at.)

Russ told us that he's always trying to get more of the crew to give talks at, and to just come, to the convention when it's in Vancouver. Someone suggested that they might be more comfortable if a group of them did a panel at a time, and Russ thought that was a good idea - but then worried that one of them would inevitably be sitting up there and not have any questions asked of them and then feel bad. Then he laughed, and said that actually, if it ever happened, he'd make sure that someone was left out just so that he could laugh at them. Ah, the comradery.

Russ said that the crew is always impressed with the kind of questions we ask - how we pay such close attention to detail in the show. He said he was just talking to Guy Bee about it after Guy's panel. He said that we catch things that the crew is supposed to catch, but don't...and that people will be fired after some of our questions (he was joking here), concluding "how we didn't know that a year after 2010 is 2011, I don't know."

The first place he took us was a block past Rupert on E Pender. It's a skatepark that the skaters built under an old overpass. It's going to be used for the opening of Jensen's episode (7x03). Russ said that didn't have to do anything to it - it was so nicely kept up and beautifully graffitied. They just lit it up for the cameras and that was that.

I laughed on our way down into it, because Russ called after us, "skateboarders are very territorial, so we don't want to piss them off." - It reminded me of nature documentaries - 'the grey wolf is very territorial...' The person next to me asked, "why aren't there any skateboarders in it now?" and I turned to her and said, "They're sleeping. Skateboarders are primarily nocturnal," and then laughed at my own joke.

When we got back on the bus, Russ talked about some of his favourite locations...he said he really liked them all, but he was particularly fond of Exterior-Crowley (which he would show us next) and the time they diverted 150,000 communters when they shut-down the main highway through Matsqui, BC.

Exterior-Crowley was the building they used in 6x22 for Crowley's lab. They had originally given it as an option for the vampire nest in Live Free and Twi-Hard, but they decided to keep it for something better - more iconic.

Crowley's lab is actually an old British Columbia Electric Railway station outside of Fort Langley. It's currently a live-in studio for an artist. They paid the guy around $8,000 to use it for about 6 days, while they put him up in a hotel.

In order to get the flash of light they needed for when Balthazar kicks it, they used 140,000 watts of light. Since that much wattage would melt plastic within a 5 feet radias of the lightbulbs, they had to take all the artist's work down off the walls and put it in a shed behind the house with an airconditioning unit.

There are powerlines in the shot they used - so those had to be removed in Post. I asked if they had also removed the big letters at the top that said "British Columbia Electric Railway" and Russ said, "Probably, did you see them in the episode?" and I said, "well I didn't know to look for them. I'll have to watch it again." He smiled and said "I love that."

(Note: I have watched it again - they did infact remember to remove the words).

Of course, the road looking at Crowley-Exterior is also the road where the Impala sadly flipped (hastag this: #heartbreakinglocations)

We were supposed to have lunch next, but the caterer had gotten lost - much to Russ' annoyance. We waited around for a bout 20 minutes, but if we waited any longer, it'd be too late to show us the next thing Russ wanted to show us....

So, we took off into Langely to watch a Technical Survey for 7x06 take place. They were surveying what looked like a BMO at 20550 Fraser Hwy. Russ explained that a Technical Survey is what takes place when the location has been decided upon, and they have to figure out what they need. All department heads meet up and scope out the place and the director tells them what sort of shots he wants to do, and everyone can figure out what their particular department needs to get the job done. Russ says it's the single most important meeting.

We all stood and watched as a group of about 10-15 people walked around the building, some taking measurements, some huddled off to the side in groups discussing things. Russ took as many people as he could over to say hello to us and introduce who they were and what they did. Unfortunately, I can't remember all their names.

Oh, the other thing that I thought was funny was that they all arrived in a bus together - but it wasn't just any bus. It was a bus from Final Destination 5, that apparently killed someone. It was owned and driven by a guy (named Ian, I think) who owns and drives a lot of prop-vehicles for the film industry up here. Our bus and their bus arrived at the same time - and we were all taking pictures of the crew, and the crew was all taking pictures of us.

7x06 is directed by John Showalter. It will air Nov. 14, but obviously they are just filming it next week.

One member of the crew, Harvey, has a daughter who is an actress. She was one of the little girls in Playthings...which Russ referred to as "the dollhouse episode."

Johnny MacCarthy (who I believe everyone on set refers to as Johnny Mac) is a 1st AD who will be making his directorial debut this year with 7x18.

Jim Michaels was also there - he goes on all the technical surveys. We also met Jerry Wanek, who is from the art department.

After Russ had chatted with the technical survey (Russ still works the days that he does the tours - it just makes for a very long day for him). We headed back to Crowley's place for lunch that was now waiting for us.

"We're going to get back on the schedule, we didn't have in the first place," Russ declared.

The whole time Russ had a huge binder with all the locations used for every single episode of Supernatural since day one. So, occassionally people would ask him where certain locations were. I found out that the warehouse in Changing Channels, was an old glass factory on Queensboro Island.

Russ also told us how you can film anything in Vancouver (and area) set anywhere - except New York, because they don't have brownstones - only they do now, because when Watchmen wanted to film here, they built the backlot. (this statement would soon prove to be ironic).

Russ said that productions come to Vancouver for the crews. They have really good crews in British Columbia.

While we at lunch, Russ wandered off and paced and spoke into his phone quite a bit - still trying to figure out what had gone wrong with the catering schedule earlier.

When he got back, we had this exchange:
Me: "Things are good?"
Russ: "Things are good. We're doing fine. I think we work well as a cohesive unit. I have no angst toward anyone on my crew."
Me: "That's good." *laughs*
Russ: "Didn't sound all that sincere though, did it?" *laughs*

Then we all piled back in the bus again to go see Bobby's.

And the came the portion of the day that I've already written about, but I'll repeat part here:

Russ pauses next to my seat on the bus to answer his phone, which has just rung. I smile at the ringtone.

Russ: Yes? ...It's on fire now?

And he says it in a voice where I'm not sure if he was perhaps expecting something to be on fire...but I'm not sure, so...

Me: That can't be good.

And Russ looks me dead in the eye, and mouths: THE BACKLOT IS ON FIRE.

I would have liked to have been able to see the expression on my own face, let me tell you.

Russ immediately started asking the important questions - how small it the fire, where is it, are firefighters there...

Russ told us, when he got off the phone, that there was a small Bollywood production filming there at the moment. He said that Supernatural was set to film in the diner on the lot next week - and that so far it might have escaped the fire. Michael Buble was supposed to be filming there this week for a Christmas video - so he was probably screwed. The technical survey, after it was done in Langely, was supposed to have gone there and surveyed the diner - so obviously that couldn't happen and would mess with the schedule a bit.

Supernatural invested about 0.5 million in the backlot, but it didn't belong to them. It is used by many productions. Not everyone looks after it the same way that Supernatural does - little things, like making sure doors are closed and things as protected from the rain as possible.

It's insured, but again - not by Supernatural. Russ said they (Supernatural) probably wouldn't rebuild anything that was lost - they would just find alternate locations.

What I was most impressed with was the way Russ handled the situation - he was professional and calm, and still in good humour. It was pretty amazing to watch. After seeing him react to such a crazy situation in such a professional way, I was really left with no doubt that Supernatural would be perfectly fine even with their locations possibly burning. Russ really is good at his job and a capable professional - I can certainly see why he's remained with the production since the get-go. (Russ was one of the first 3 employees in British Columbia).

As we came across the bridge into New West/Burnaby we could see the giant plume of grey smoke rising from the backlot.

Russ: "This has been the best day."

Russ' phone was running out of batteries, but understandably, people were calling him. After he got off the phone with someone else, I asked him how things were going.

Russ: "It's fine, everything is good. I'm looking forward to this all working out."

When someone commented that they were impressed with how positive he was. Russ replied. "I can fix things happy or I can fix them sad" adding that he spent far too much time at his job to choose to be anything other than happy while he was doing it.

We stopped at Bobby's scrapyard, which is actually Affordable Autoparts - not that far from the studio. It's amazing how much smaller everything looks in real life as opposed to on TV (except Jared). It's a working scrapyard specializing in BMWs and Japanese cars - they also have dogs...so we couldn't wander too far into it.

Russ explained that when they film there, they have to put their own American cars infront of the foreign ones - because Bobby specializes in American cars.
He told us that in an upcoming episode a car falls on someone...and we'll definitely want pictures once we see the episode.

Because at this point, we had been thrown greatly off schedule - Russ drove us passed the studio as an extra bonus. They were filming in the studio while we drove passed.

We then stopped at a field that they had just wrapped filming at, and the set would soon be taken down. It was a construction site for luxery condos, though the site only consisted of a backhoe, a trailer up on blocks, and a portapotty.

As we drove up to head back to the hotel to be dropped off, we passed right by the fire - which was still in the process of being extinguished. Russ said it looked like they lost a bar, the pizzeria they used for the Dean-Death meeting, and some brownstones. Thankfully, the portion that was all fake-facades was still standing and not-burning. Russ said that if that had caught fire, it would have burned down in seconds and no one would have been able to do anything. It's not built with pressure-treated fire-resistant wood - it's built with just ordinary wood.

We passed by the exterior of Bobby's house on Marine Dr., but Russ was a bit distracted and forgot to point it out...and then we drove over the Cambie bridge (as seen in the French Mistake) and arrived back at the hotel.

So, all in all, an eventful Location tour, even though we didn't actually get to too many locations. It was very interesting to see the crew in action - both on the technical survey, and also in the way Russ handled the news of the fire.

I would have liked to have seen Bordertown, or "the back 40" in Delta, or actually see the backlot (and not have it burn down), because those are actually places that I can't get to on my own...but *shrug*, I'm happy with what I did see, and with the ability to talk to Russ and see how the crew works together.

Russ says that he likes to change the tour every year, so that no one sees exactly the same thing - or goes on the same tour twice. Russ was saying we would probably be the only tour to ever see a technical survey in process - and I also think we'll be the only tour to watch the backlot burn. :P

And thus endeth my VanCon reports.
Tags: spn locations, vancon2011

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