Dawson City has a way of collecting people. You come up for a summer or two, decide to stay for one winter and all of a sudden it's years later and you're still here. Or maybe you reconnect with a long-lost boyfriend and pack up your fancy Toronto career in favour of love in (and of) the Yukon. Never mind what brilliant and amazing things you could be doing elsewhere--you choose to do your amazing and brilliant work here, alongside all the other amazing and brilliant people this town has collected.
Thanks to one of those amazing and brilliant people--my fellow DCAS board member and grocery store cashier (among other things!) Leslie Grant--the television show Murdoch Mysteries came to town recently to shoot the season five premiere, and Leslie offered me a position as Props Assistant. I'm not quite sure how a couple of short animations and a few Super 8 films qualified me to work on a "real" production, but of course I jumped at the opportunity. Fortunately my day job was sympathetic--even when two days away from the office turned into four.
I spent the first couple of days working on set dec. This was grunt-work: staining wooden flagpoles, taking down non-historical items like Christmas lights, hanging curtains, carting around crates, more painting, turning the old crack house into a hardware store (okay, no one calls it the crack house anymore since the new owners took it over, but at one point...). During the shoot, I did a combination of set dec and props. Production Designer Rupert and Set Decorator Kent kept stealing me away from Props Master Craig for random jobs like sprinkling gravel and hay on the streets. Props involved satchel-wranling, loading people (and a horse) with packs, buying mineral oil, and following Craig around with a fire extinguisher.
Murdoch Mysteries is a (Canadian) CSI of the late 19th century, and while the historic character of Dawson is a good fit for the show, I did feel that being involved with the set decoration side of the production really highlighted just how modern this town really is. The more we tried to make the town look like 1899 again, the more it looked like 2011 to me. Which is one of the reasons I love living here. Toronto blogger Bill Brioux, roped into the role of Miner #7, didn't quite see it that way. I had to chuckle when I read this:
“The place barely needs to be dressed to pass for its late 19th-century glory. There seem to be brightly painted saloons and Klondike hotels with swinging doors on every corner. A few signs and street lights get obscured by set dressers as does the one sign for the town’s only franchise: a Home Hardware store. The only nuggets in this town belong in the hills and rivers, not McDonald’s.”
Not quite, Bill--but I'll forgive him because he says so many other lovely things about Dawson (and mentions so many Dawsonites). Read the full article here, and an additional blog post here.
It was hard work--especially after spending so much of the summer sitting at a desk--but so much fun to be involved with. The Toronto folks were great, and I loved the opportunity to work with some of those amazing and brilliant Dawsonites--particularly Veronica, Rebecca and Ellen on set dec. The experience would not have been nearly so interesting to me if I hadn't been toiling alongside some of the people who remind me why I have made this place my home.
I think it would be great if, once this episode airs sometime next year, we could make one of those commentary tracks--except, of course, from the Dawsonites' perspective rather than the director's. In the meantime, some photographs I took on the second day of shooting...
My favourite job on the shoot: babysitting the campfire. I hung around with the fire extinguisher and a bucket of water to make sure things didn't get out of hand. I also had to throw hay on the fire before each take so that it would look dramatically smoky.
I wasn't the only one who liked the fire. Camerman Kevin spent the first day of the shoot doing his Katharine Hepburn impression whenever he saw me. Thanks, Kevin (and thanks, parents).
Fabulous local filmmaker Lulu Keating, hard at work script supervisoring. Because working on two of her own films and trying to get a pilot for a television program based on a short film she shot in Dawson isn't enough to keep a lady busy.
Local filmmaker Nathan Bragg in something of a different role than Dawson last saw him--although still with that devilish grin (it's a good thing he wasn't in charge of craft services!).
The building formerly known as "the crack house" turned hardware store. I was responsible for the white lettering in the windows! I even got to peel the vinyl letters off the windows when we were un-decorating. I also packed all those white jugs (shopping tip: they're Ikea) to be shipped back to Toronto. It was so glamourous!
I am so glad this Murdoch gig gave me the chance to become better acquainted with the incomparable Rebecca, seen here relaxing after six of us hauled that wall tent back across the street.
Eve and Mercedes. I tied those burlap sacks on to the horse.
Getting the all important puddle shot. Apparently back in Toronto they had meetings about Dawson puddles.
Props Master Craig and his smoke machine. He had waaaaay too much fun with that thing (actually mineral oil loaded into a insecticide fogger) and only managed to turn it into a flame thrower once. Craig was so much fun to work with. I had been warned that he was a great guy, but you have to experience Craig's Greatness to really understand it.
See that satchel? I wrangled the heck outta that satchel.
I spent a few minutes all by myself in the Palace Grand. It was actually a little spooky.
An actor in action. This is the star of the show, Yannick Bisson, busy not requiring the razor and shaving brush that I had at hand.
Shooting inside the old Post Office.
I was really excited when we went to the Bunkhouse to shoot the last scene, and discovered one of Donna Akrey's Nonuments left over from last year's Arts Fest. I didn't think there were any left in the wild.
Look up--up past the prostitutes--there's Rebecca and Ellen hiding behind the laundry line they just hung. Because no whorehouse is complete without sexy laundry.