Behind The Scenes

I always want to see how movies are made. That’s just me.

I still remember seeing my first “behind the scenes” or BTS footage from Ronin, a movie that starred Robert de Niro, Jean Nero, Sean Bean (he dies), Natasha McElhone and Stellan Skarsgard and I was hooked from then on. If you’ve never seen this gem of an action movie – it’s got one of the best, if not the best, chase scenes ever filmed – definitely check it out!

Original scene from the movie

Tribute to John Frankenheimer fan vid of the same chase scene

(Can I just say I took driving lessons from this movie – down to the bare-knuckled grip on the steering wheel! And the looks of fear on the actors are actually real as heck!)

Alright – where was I? I can’t believe how excited I got embedding those Ronin videos got me – guess it’s been awhile! Now back to the regularly schedule programming!

Anyway, I majored in journalism while in college, with a minor in film and so I’ve had my share of being behind the camera, which I love more than being in front of it. Working as an independent massage therapist in the last fifteen years got me jobs in movie studios and sets, and also during post-production work – settings that often were as varied as giving massages at the offices of producers and directors to set installations such as a “crack” house complete with their peeling wallpaper and boarded up windows and doors.

On location, it meant giving massages inside the actors’ trailers in between takes and to avoid rub-on transfers where their tattoos were painstakingly applied (you get quite creative) although most of the time the actor would just tell me to do what I needed to do. Make-up would touch it up later anyway.

So being on set was like seeing BTS footage, without having to buy the DVD.

For what I really like about BTS footage is that it shows us how the cast and crew really are when the cameras aren’t rolling, when there is no director to yell “Action” or “that’s a wrap!”. I love to see the electricians laying down the miles of wire, or the carpenters and painters doing their last minute touch ups to the set that even when viewed off-screen, look so real to the naked eye. No CGI needed.

These are the people who really make a movie happen. For every actor you see onscreen, there are probably at least about twenty people who’ve made his appearance onscreen possible, and to me, that’s what makes BTS footage so special. It’s the truth behind the illusion that we see, that even when I’ve bought the truth onscreen – hook, line, and sinker – there’s always that part of me who wants to see the man behind the curtain.

And speaking of BTS footage, my favorite has always been those featured on the Lord of the Rings full box set. It’s amazing how almost eight years later, I still remember every single one of those scenes – behind the scenes, that is – in addition to the movie scenes.

As of today, I’ve got a new favorite that ranks up there with LOTR and Ronin. And though it’s quite interesting to see how the mood of The Hobbit is quite different from that of LOTR, I’m definitely liking what I see so far.

Part 1

Part 2

This one is the footage that came with The Hobbit DVD from Best Buy. I got mine through Amazon so I get the footage that Peter Jackson already released last year. But that’s okay.

There’s still the extended boxed set coming up, and I’m definitely getting that when it comes out.

HOWEVER, not everyone is a fan of Behind the Scenes footage – like my hubby. He has become such a fan of Strike Back (Season 1) – at first, because of Andrew Lincoln (hubby is a HUGE The Walking Dead fan) – and then, begrudgingly, of Richard Armitage who is really good in it as John Porter, the SAS man with a conscience.

Hubby says that Strike Back is the perfect balance of an action series. Not too much action, not too much drama. Just right. Serious stuff. He can watch it again and again.

Then I showed him this:

Imagine you're sitting in a helicopter...
Imagine you’re sitting in a helicopter…

To say that hubby was quite disappointed is an understatement. “You just ruined the illusion for me!” He said.

Because that’s what movies really are, aren’t they? Perfectly crafted illusions.

Just don’t show the man behind the curtain. Or the platform with a piece of wood painted green made to look like the helicopter door…

But then I don’t know what hubby is complaining about. What door? All I see are…beautiful biceps. Yes, those are beautiful biceps you’ve got there, Mr. Armitage.

Valentine’s Day Redux

Can I just preface this post before you begin that I finally do cuss – a lot.  So be forewarned.  Although it’s very tame compared to what might have been…

Girls-at-Valentines-day-with-fun

Valentine’s Day always does something to me.  Maybe it’s from those years spent trapped in an all-girls’ Catholic high school and watching every girl get roses delivered to them (we were all 15 years old for crying out loud – who are these boyfriends who could afford these humongous bouquets of roses??) that one year I finally told my dad to send me one anonymously ASAP – and he did.

Not that it made me feel better, since I knew who they came from.  And knowing that your daddy just sent you a beautiful humongous bouquet of roses because he took pity on you isn’t exactly romantic.  Right?

But I digress.

It’s now years and years later and this day still gets to me.

Not because I still don’t get roses (because when I do, I’m like, so you wanna get laid or what?  what are you trying to say????), I’m so used to that – my SO’s idea of a romantic gesture is take-out from California Pizza Kitchen even after I show him all the same humongous bouquets of roses the same high school friends now on Facebook paste all over my time line with captions that read “After 20 YEARS I finally get a bouquet of roses from hubby!”

I’m sorry, but captions like that should be kept under wraps, and that hubby needs to get flogged.  Twenty fucking years? You had to wait twenty fucking years to get a humongous bouquet of roses???  Hell, if it did happen to me, I’m not saying anything on Facebook at all!

Besides, I buy myself these humongous bouquets of roses already.  Who needs the hubby to do that?  I so wanted to do that on her timeline but why burst that bubble?

See what Valentine’s Day does to me?

Anyway, after an amorous evening (totally not!) spent skulking over the CPK take out, the little guy running off with MY Thai Chicken pizza, and the tiff over the unfolded bits of laundry lying about the house (I am trying to finish a darn book after all), I decided to see how romantic I do get as a writer with passages of my own – all penned on non-Valentine’s Days because it is my belief that this day is totally not all it’s cut out to be.  It also made me realize that if I were to have a romantic evening with lots of hot sex like I write about in my stories, there is NO way I’m eating more than one slice of that Thai Chicken pizza.  And the tiramisu?  Fuggedaboutit.  Any one with me on this?

I always wait till it’s over before I raid the fridge and eat what I was supposed to eat hours before.  That’s my secret.  It’s my M.O.  Don’t tell anyone.

That and my blood sugar has gone down so dangerously low from all that in-bed-out-of-bed-hot-sex that now I’ve got a headache to boot as well, thank you very much.

This led me to wonder about how the opposite sex (or same sex for that matter, I can bat for both teams if I need to) feels about this.  Does doing it on a full stomach feel much better than not a full stomach?  I have a feeling that the answer might be – it doesn’t matter either way, baby, but I could be wrong.

You see, women like me have to keep that tummy as flat as possible in trying to emulate every damn sex scene we see in our heads all manufactured from Hollywood.  Not that I’ve long lost that belly I somehow acquired after having the little guy via C-Section and trying to get it flatter with DDP yoga (I did buy into Arthur’s awesome transformation and got the whole package to be just like him – in like ten years), but pizza and tiramisu don’t help it look any flatter either.

But if all else fails, just turn off that damn light even though he might like to “see”.  Um, not if you want to tap this, you’re not.  But if you pay for the lipo, tummy tuck, nose job, skin peel, and over-all overhaul, be my guest.  And while we’re at it, why not my teeth, too.

I’ve digressed yet again, I see.

Anyway, so I went to look at some of my ‘romantic’ stories posted on Wattpad, the only ones I do post since they’re fanfic and my original stories are still in my hard drive with scenes totally NSFW, if you know what I mean.  These posted stories are the erotica ones that I’ve been working on to challenge myself that I can write better than that gal who does Whatever-Number-Shades-of-Gray (having a too-beautiful man as a muse doesn’t hurt either – you know who you are!) and after a few minutes of reading this line and that line, I ended up editing the whole bit and spent the next four hours making a fanvid for one of them just because it was Valentine’s day and I had nothing really better to do.

So anyway, I ended up hopping right back into the fangirl rabbit hole and I’m just barely climbing my way out two days later.  So in honor of this over-rated, there’s-just-too-much-pressure-for-me-to-be-romantic-and-didn’t-you-know-I-hate-doing-house-work-that-one-day-I-will-pay-for-a-damn-maid day, I made this fanvid for my story, Return to Sparkhouse.

And oh, just to make it a bit harder for English-only speaking folks, the song playing is Creo En Ti, Spanish for I Believe In You (and that’s going to be the only romantic thing about this post today) – even though I don’t speak Spanish at all but for the perfect Mr. Right-Now with the accent to die for, I just might start doing so.

Glossary:

SO – Significant Other

ASAP – As Soon As Possible or ASAFP with F representing you-know-what

NSFW – Not Safe For Work

MO – Modus Operandi

CPK – California Pizza Kitchen – I just love their Thai Chicken pizza!

And if you’re still reading this far down, here’s to those who had a wonderful Valentine’s day.  Since this post has much to do with sex, or lack of it, here’s one for those who did get some:

 

A Confession

A few weeks ago, a few friends on Twitter were talking about how a certain actor had made their lives so much better, especially during difficult times in their lives – how he served as a beacon of light during dark times, a light at the end of a tunnel that never seemed to end.  My words, not theirs as I only managed to glance at the conversation in passing…

I remember reading their tweets and then moving on to other things in my life.  Beacon of light, my ass, I scoffed (sorry!).  Light at the end of the tunnel, I laughed (sorry again – this is after all, a confession!).  Some people…

Then it happened.  A few days ago, I must have been in a foul mood because my 3-year old son came up to me and tried to cheer me up.  You can never deny how astute children are, because they know exactly what makes you happy. It could be saying “shopping, mama” when you’re grumpy while driving around town running errands when you’d rather be, yes, you guessed it, shopping, mama!  Or when you’re lamenting about your boring diet of greens and he comes up to you and says exactly what you’re secretly wishing for instead – “Cake, mama!  Chocolate cake!”

This time, my son said one thing that he knew always made me happy (other than shopping and chocolate cake, that is) though I think I’d been in denial about it for, like, the past seven months.

“Richard!” he screeched happily before dissolving into fits of laughter and giggles.  When I only made a face, he said it again – “Richard!” – and giggled the way only toddlers can giggle and break down the strongest and meanest of bad moods.

That’s when it hit me.  Unlike my Twitter friends who were brave enough to share how one actor had brought them out of the darkness, I’d been in total denial about that one thing.  One person did help me drift out of a darkness that lasted almost six months.  I just didn’t want to admit it.

You see, in March of last year, my son was diagnosed with autism.  And for six months, I descended into a sort of despair that most parents of newly diagnosed children of autism or any type of disorder (I think) fall into (again, I think).  My life suddenly revolved around nothing but autism diagnoses, early intervention, traditional therapies, nontraditional therapies, gluten-free, casein-free diets, controversial therapies, sensory integration therapies, and so much more.

It made my head spin, and before long, my library was filled with all books that had to do with autism or sensory processing disorders and their treatments.  My Goodreads library made me look like I was either a) a nonfiction addict  b) a professional on autism and sensory processing disorders or c) a parent of a child with autism or sensory diagnosis and to be honest, I’d become all three.  Even my movie choices had to do only with things that featured information about autism and their corresponding therapies.

I was a fun person to be with those six months, I guarantee you that.

Whenever I sat down to write, I wrote about the darkness and confusion that surrounded me about my son’s diagnosis, or nothing at all – which turned out to be my default setting.  I was without words to describe how I felt.  I was without pictures to draw.  I simply had nothing to write about regarding my beautiful son at all.  I simply had nothing to write about, period.

Even after he began to speak more words, and engage me and everyone else in conversation and socialize with adults and the children at the daycare, I hardly noticed.  I barely noticed that in time my beautiful son was growing up, following his own timeline and not the timeline as dictated by books.

He was talking, playing, socializing, counting and doing whatever three-year olds did.  I just wasn’t seeing it.

I was still sitting in the darkness.  Or so I thought.

After eavesdropping on that Twitter conversation, it dawned on me that since September of last year, seven months after my son’s diagnosis – since my world turned dark – something happened.  My life did turn brighter after August, when I discovered North and South and found myself inspired by its lead actor, and the messages he wrote to his fans since 2002 or so.*

I began to watch shows and movies, even if I had to go alone.  I began to read books that didn’t have anything to do with autism or sensory processing disorders, or their treatments.  Most of all, I began to write again, and this time I really wrote.  It didn’t matter that I chose to warm up my writing chops by writing fan fiction involving characters that this actor played.  It was still writing.  And I wasn’t stopping.

As I wrote, and continue to write, stories that include a favorite character this actor has played in the past, my original characters were slowly coming back to life inside my head.  Something had been awoken and it wasn’t about to fall asleep and fall into the darkness again.

I know this post has meandered long enough.  I never realized how difficult it was to write about this, constantly editing as I go afraid to reveal more than I’d want to reveal to strangers and friends, how hard it is to go back there to that dark time and write about how it all began without realizing how long ago the darkness had actually lifted.

But because my son is astute enough and smart enough (for his own good sometimes) to point out the one thing that his mother has been in denial about, I’m finally going to admit it:  my life did change just like my friends’ lives did when they discovered this man’s work.

Like a beacon of light in the darkness (riiiight), like the light at the end of that dark and lonely tunnel (right, right – get on with it), his work and his character did show me the way out.  And I never even knew it till then.

But aren’t you glad that now I do.  And that I can finally admit it. Sort of. I’ll get around to it.  Like this year.

So this is my confession.

Like the lapsed Catholic that I am sitting behind that screen and wondering what else can I say that will shock that poor priest over there and make him squirm at night as he lays his head down to rest, can I just take that one last minute of your time and patience to confess that I discovered Richard Armitage in August 2012, and in doing so, discovered the beauty, grace and marvel that is my son and the strength and wisdom that is in me.

Richard Armitage played Lucas North on MI5/Spooks from 2008 - 2010.
Richard Armitage played Lucas North on MI5/Spooks from 2008 – 2010.

Sparkhouse Character Study: Andrew Lawton

It’s only been a month since I’ve first seen the BBC miniseries Sparkhouse, courtesy of some wonderful people on Youtube who have posted all the episodes online, and my first viewing left me confused.  Andrew Lawton’s character was such a whiny coward that I was tempted to fast forward past many of his scenes just to get to the parts where Richard Armitage’s character John Standring dominated the screen.

My first viewing was a bit haphazard, I admit.  I missed a few segments and probably never really saw the entire thing from beginning to end, and proceeded to the conclusion that Andrew was a complete ass.  How could he be married and still want Carol at the same time?  How could he be so selfish as to ruin Carol and John’s big day by announcing that Lisa was Carol’s daughter and that he was the father.  And really, the biggest question of all, how could he leave her at the altar after he’d promised her that they’d get married?

By the third viewing, my point of view started to shift a bit.  By the fourth viewing, it completely shifted.

Andrew, I’ve discovered, was a gentleman through and through.  Albeit a cowardly gentleman, but a gentleman just the same – at least in his mind.

Now before you stone me, hear me out.

He knew Carol since they were little children, and though he never noticed that she was pregnant at twelve (only that she wasn’t allowed out of the house to play with him that one summer), they were both devoted to each other like best friends usually are.  So they loved each other and snogged like crazy up in that ruined farmhouse on stormy nights, but as he told Becky, his wife, when she was about to break the news about Lisa’s parentage on Carol and John’s wedding day, he and Carol never had sex because “she couldn’t.”  Not after what her father had done to her.

Now, any man who actually respects a woman’s choice to say no to something she’s not comfortable doing for whatever reason – I’m on my period.  I don’t like you that way.  I’m feeling a bit bloated. I’ve got a headache.  My father raped me when I was twelve and I got pregnant so no, no sex at all because it grosses me out – is, in my book, a saint.  And Andrew respected her decision for years, it seems.

Who knows?  Did he feel the urge at sixteen?  Seventeen?  Eighteen? And yet he never pushed her all that time.  He respected her decision to say no.  He loved her so much to put his own needs aside to make sure she was alright.

When he learns that Carol is marrying John for his money so that she can fix up the farm and avoid losing tenancy, he suggests helping her out by getting a loan.  He is distressed to learn that she will be having sex with John, knowing just how she feels about sex.  Remember that they’ve never had sex together, ever.  He respected her decision then when they were teen-agers, and believe me, with hormones raging, that must have meant a LOT of self-control.  No wonder he told John that bit about making Carol into a prostitute and “what does that make you?”

And it’s actually a valid question.

When you trade money (whether it’s for lease payments, repairs to the farm, or a pair of Stuart Weitzman shoes) for sex, partnership, the prospect of having kids (though “not right away, but eventually”) or being with someone you-honestly-don’t-really-care-for-in-that-way-other-than-what-he-brings-to-the-table, it’s actually called…wait for it…prostitution.

And Andrew was actually right.

At The Fleece a few years earlier, when Carol asks John if he’d like to “shag,” he says yes, albeit a bit in shock, though this was their first “date”.  If anyone ever asked me if I wanted to shag him on the first date while his ex-girlfriend frolicked about in the dance floor close by, no matter how much I liked him, I’d probably look around and make sure I wasn’t being punked.  Sure, given a few glasses of wine or bottles of beer, I would have done it, but it wouldn’t have been something I’d base a long-term relationship on.

Now I know John does not know anything about the abuse Carol’s father had inflicted on her, but his immediate “yes” to her ‘shag’ question puts his own character into question.

The one scene that finally put Andrew Lawton in a much better light (at least to me, at this moment) than John Standring was the scene outside the registry office in Hallifax, where Andrew tells Carol that Lisa knew who her real mother was, for she’d seen her birth certificate, and that Lisa had also figured out that he, Andrew, was her father.  This was something he actually told Becky earlier that Lisa would be better off believing this fabrication rather than the truth that her own grandfather, Richard Bolton, was her real father.  Ewww…

Andrew didn’t have to do what he did, but probably remembering the horror he had felt when he first learned that Lisa was Carol’s daughter by none other than her father (and not being able to do anything about it without having Carol and Lisa end up in foster homes and the family losing the farm) prompted him to spare Lisa the same torrent of guilt and shame Carol would have felt then.  It was bad enough for Carol to have gone through such hell.  Another thing entirely to have the innocent daughter go through such knowledge as well.

And knowing that from that time onwards, Carol would be sleeping with a man she did not love for Lisa’s sake and so they could have a home, probably left Andrew so impotent, so useless that he couldn’t even live with himself if he couldn’t extricate her from the mess she’d buried herself under.

And when she told him to go away after he begged her to run away with him, it was the look in Carol’s eyes that told him she’d accepted her fate.  She’d married someone she didn’t love to save the farm and give her daughter a home.  She had made her choice, no matter how awful.  It’s one thing to be married to a man you know will do the right thing and not cut corners, it’s another to actually love the man…

I think that Andrew felt responsible for the path that Carol found herself in.  When he stood her up at the registry office five years earlier to please his parents (or maybe because he was just too weak and too young to stand up to them – come to think of it, he’d always lived a privileged existence, never having to work, and if his parents told him they’d stop supporting him, it’s enough to give one pause, really), that decision led her to this path now – a path that meant she agreed to marry someone else to be able to live a life that would be more dignified than the one she’d had in Leeds.  It gave her her home back, though the circumstances were less than ideal.

And all this, the result of that one moment of weakness and cowardice on his part.  A decision he decides to make up for by begging Carol to move away with him.  But it’s a case of too little too late, an unfortunate conclusion he reaches to that prompts him to do what he does that same night.

So please forgive me if this post isn’t about John Standring and how wonderful he was for being there for Carol, for giving her what she needed when Andrew could not.  But just as circumstances beyond their control caused Catherine and Heathcliffe to be apart in Wuthering Heights, so it is with Carol and Andrew in Sparkhouse.

One act of cowardice on Andrew’s part set the stage for Carol’s life to unfold the way it did, and from the time they reunited five years later, nothing Andrew could do could ever undo the first stone he had cast upon the water.

Yet for all his childhood cowardice, Andrew’s final act of taking the responsibility of being known as Lisa’s father, leaving the truth to be known only by another person other than himself – Carol – at least gives Lisa hope for a better life without guilt or shame.

And that, to me, makes him a true gentleman and a bittersweet hero to this tragic tale of doomed love.

Addendum:  Clearly I’ve had way too much time on my hands to write all this when I should be sleeping.  I actually LOVE John Standring’s character so his character study should be coming up soon, and I promise I’ll be nice.  Just need a few more viewings before I do pen it!

AI hope you enjoyed this little character study, and I would love to hear your thoughts!

Northbound Train

I’ve recently discovered a gem of a period drama called “North and South” on BBC while browsing through fan videos on Youtube featuring, well, period dramas.  It’s a guilty pleasure of mine to see clips of movies I’ve yet to see like “Becoming Jane” and “Wives and Daughters” or even movies that I have seen, like “Pride and Prejudice” with Keira Knightley and Matthew MacFadyen.

It was actually during this time a few years ago that I first discovered fan videos of Matthew that led me to other pieces of his work like “Spooks/MI5” and “Little Dorrit”.

And so about two months ago, I found myself looking for the dance scene from “Becoming Jane” where a sad-looking Anne Hathaway dances with some sad-looking bloke, and then her face lights up when James McAvoy dances right next to her (honestly, if James McAvoy started dancing next to me, and then with me, my face would light up, too – hubby be damned).

Then I clicked on a ‘related video’ entitled “North and South train ending” and was so riveted by the exchange between a magnificent man named John Thornton and a beautiful woman named Margaret Hale that their kiss at the end totally took my breath away. Really.

That same evening, I watched all four hours of the BBC drama on Youtube, even though North & South was actually on my Netflix queue already, and lucky for me, I got to see the unedited US version, which I much prefer anyway.

The next evening, I told hubby all about it and he proceeded to watch it on Youtube (on the big screen this time as we have Youtube streaming on our Blu-ray player) till about one in the morning.  The next morning, he told me that he had gotten only to the part of the train scene when they kissed and he couldn’t find the rest of it.

“I didn’t get to see them going back to the mill and all that,” he said.  I had the unfortunate job of informing him that what he had seen was actually the end of the mini-series, and after hearing that, he was quite disappointed, poor chap.

But I was quite happy he liked it.  He’s a union type of man and loved the parts of the cotton gin and the mill and how it showed real people with real jobs and real problems.

Anyway, I digress.  What I’m trying to say is that my return to writing again has been prompted by this character named John Thornton, and while I am not tackling any sequels to Elizabeth Gaskell’s “North and South” (which, by the way, is a wonderful book!), it’s the characterization of the actor, Richard Armitage, that’s to blame for my return to my pen, or in this case, to my keyboard, to write out the stories that have been populating inside my head for years.

And for that, Mr. Armitage, I am eternally grateful.  Writing, after all, has kept me out of trouble since high school (after that unfortunate incident with the floating papers that made its way into the hands of a single, ultra religious and conservative teacher that led to me being taken to the guidance counselor and to the principal, who proceeded to remove me from drama club and personally dropped me off at the writers club, thank you very much!) and at present as well.

I’ve probably seen this mini-series about three times now to fully understand the story and even though I’ve read the book as well (the comic strip incorporates Gaskell’s words with the final caption) I still cry when I see this ending.  When she takes his hand, her index finger slipping around his and then she brings his hand to her lips, yes, I cry every fricking time it’s ridiculous.