On Location: Montreal Side Show

The car lurches suddenly to the left. Again. We're speeding down the highway to Montreal with 1200 pounds of gear and people packed into the vehicle. While this is a normal amount of gear for this size of production, it just happens to be in, and on, my tiny Honda Fit hatch back. You see, this is a creative shoot, and saving a bit of cash on a rental van seemed like a good idea at the time. So with grip and props strapped precariously to the roof, and a retaining wall of lighting, wardrobe and luggage stacked carefully around the passengers, we trundle forwards. By this time tomorrow, we'll be shooting Cirque du Soleil acrobats.

Sipping the last few gulps of road trip coffee, we pull up to our hotel. Jumping out of the car into the chilly mid-march evening air, we pause to discuss how to deal with all the gear. A raindrop splashes beside me, no big deal, but somehow it seems too cold to be raining. Then another splash, followed by stifled laughter from above. Yes, we are being spit bombed by a bunch of giggling jackasses a few floors up. Welcome to March break in Montreal, where 18 year olds come from far and wide to try some legal drinking on for size.

A few matrix-like spit dodging maneuvers and we're checking in at the front desk. With our awkward French salutations out of the way, the front desk lady is explaining in broken English how they have made a mistake with our reservation. There's only room for two, and we are three, including myself and the crew. Chalk up another point for March break in Montreal. All part of the adventure though, so I leave my crew to stay at the hotel, and I head off with the hope of staying with the cast at the Cirque du Soleil residence.

It’s our first look at the wardrobe in context, and it’s clear that tomorrow’s shoot is going to look amazing.

A few phone calls later, and I'm good to go with a place to sleep and some unexpected time to spend with the cast before the shoot. After a warm welcome, a few drinks, and a broken conversation confirming call times with the Russian contortionists, it's not long before the performers are breaking out the wardrobe for a few late night tests. We head down to the main room in the residence where Kelsey jumps up on Preston's shoulders, standing two high - they're trying on the long coat for the giant man character in the shot. It's our first look at the wardrobe in context, and right away, it's clear that tomorrow's shoot is going to look amazing.

The morning of the shoot arrives, and we repack the car and squeeze off to location. We're shooting in an amazing old bar in the Plateau district of Montreal. Arriving early, we stage all our gear at the main entrance, ready to go as soon as the door opens. With 17 cast and crew soon arriving, we can only hope that the bar owner comes through on his promise to have his manager arrive at 10am on a Sunday morning to let us in. A few nervous minutes go by, needlessly rearranging stacks of props and gear, and the manager shows. We're in.

What follows is one of the biggest, most complicated, and most rewarding shoots I've ever done. We push the cast and crew to the limits. Not a person in the room is being paid. Everyone is here on good faith and to be a part of an amazing creative collaboration. The day screams past in a blur, everyone is excited to see our creation come to life. With post shoot buzz running high after we wrap, we head off to celebrate over late night dinner and drinks.

Now if only we can figure out how we packed all that gear in the car for our return trip!

Check back for a behind the scenes look at how we got the shot. Thanks to the spit dodging crew of Nick Wong and Dan Tobias for, among other things, dodging spit.