Behind the scenes - Part II (Herastrau park)

I have decided these last weeks to be the weeks from hell. The kind of weeks you get just when you are less prepared or willing to face them. BUT, even though hell may by a scorching hot place to go to, it proves that the journey there is pleasant as long as you come back haha.

I don’t even remember how it felt to be on a vacation, how it felt to be relaxed, to sleep, eat and have nothing to worry about. It seems so far away already. Thank God my other half of vacation is coming soon and I’ll get to taste it one more time.

Meanwhile I had to go through an earthquake combined with a really bad stomach ache to figure I’m still alive and not in the hell where I had presumably lived in for some time now. For those of you who do not live in Romania or have not felt the earthquake even though you’ve been right in the middle of it, know that I woke up because I was rocking in bed with the kind of shaking happening in my apartment. Grasu, poor baby, had his claws stuck in my legs, staring at me with this most indefinable look on his harry face. Half way through the 10 second long thing I realized what was going on, grabbed the cat and threw it on my shoulder running barefoot and in my PJs to the door. By the time I touched the handle it was gone.

As soon as I settled down I figured I had a stomach ache. So now I’m considering the option where I woke up because of that, not necessarily because of Mother Nature shaking her booty up in our mountains.  That’s what I get if I only have donuts all day long than too much food for dinner. Do not judge. I’ve been working all Saturday and dinner was most relaxing: good food and good company, so why not indulge?... anyway. Whatever medication I took at 3:00AM barely had any effect. In the morning, even though I woke up in time for the marathon, I decided not to go and mess with my fragile state even more. I was so upset with the sudden turn of events that even though I went back to bed, I only managed to sleep for an hour more and that’s it.

This whole marathon thing it’s like mission friggin’ impossible for me. Three years ago I wanted to participate and something came up that weekend and I couldn’t. Following year I tore my ligament in the right ankle. Now I got this close that I actually got my damn number. And then my stomach rebelled against me. Mutiny I say, unauthorized mutiny! But for those friends of mine who keep blaming me that I never give sleep a fare chance in my life always attending to other issues instead of resting, well, be proud of me people! I gave up the marathon to sleep some more. An hour more. Haha. I could’ve just doped myself with drugs and go give it a try. Well, too late now. Next year. (slap! slap! slap!)

But, this is not about Mela’s adventures in her futile attempt to make it to the marathon. Or through every day life as a matter of fact. Eh…

This is about Saturday and filming the first part of the trailer involving the young people with sight disabilities. My wonderful cast: Petra, Razvan, Stefan, Stan, Klint and two wonderful volunteers from Israel. Yeah, I’ll tell you how we got to that part later haha.

9:30AM and I managed to get my ass in motion and be in Herastrau to meet with Cristi before everyone else arrived. Finding the perfect spot to film is essential, considering that the place would soon be crawling with joggers and dog walkers and bikers and tourists and God knows what else. Plus, I had this very special angle in mind so I had to find the perfect tree and the perfect bench. You think, well, that’s all you find in a damn park: trees and benches. Yeah. That’s what you think. You also find the wrong shades and light spots, wrong alignment of trees and benches. But before I even start looking I get a call from Cristi that he’s running late for a bit ‘cause he has to stop and get a blenda (I will call this thing from now a blender). I had no idea what that was, but I would soon learn. He says he did not expect the sun to be so bright so he must get this thing otherwise the entire shooting session will be compromised. Well we don’t want that, so I encourage him to go do whatever he must so we are on the safe side.

My people arrive. First Razvan and his mom. Razvan has no vision. He needs his mom for guidance in everything he does and everywhere he goes. But he is such a fine young man with an incredible sense of humor and really outgoing. Still, I will discover that later because right now he is a bit shy and I give him room to accommodate with the situation and my plan for the day. It’s just another reminder of this being my first project filming and most of all, my first project ever involving people with these kind of sensitive problems, so I’m trying to tackle everything with patience and rather slowly, more so to feel in control myself than anything else.

Petra arrives next and she is gorgeous as always. So energetic, literally jumping all over the park entrance. She looks very French with her dark chapeau and long fit navy coat. She hugs everyone exuberantly and I can tell she’s excited with the day. We’re waiting for Stefan to make his appearance. I’m told he’s being a very brave young man and despite his total lack of sight, he is now traveling alone with just Klint’s help. Klint is a beautiful golden retriever, one of the few guide dogs in the program. Meanwhile, Petra tells us all about her college and how wonderful it feels being a student. She says they had free desert in the meal plan the week before and her detailed description of the delicatessen makes us want an extra coffeeon top of the one we already had.
Petra and her new buddy she found in the park before we started shooting
Stefan shows up and Klint is all over our legs wriggling his tail. I cannot have enough of his big wet nose and fluffy ears. Cristi and Denisa come along as well shortly after, looking as if they’re preparing to shoot Brad Pitt reading his morning newspaper in mid Bucharest. So much equipment! His pockets are full as well and I’m thinking, Jesus! Cristi and I move faster ahead to find the right place to start shooting while the others stay behind catching up as they go.

I find the perfect location next to the lake. I need Petra to sit by a tree and read off a Braille book while on the background at her far left a few people read stuff on a laptop sitting on a bench. I have Petra, the Braille book, the tree and even the bench. I don’t have the “people”. So while Cristi is taking care of the technical details, I go running through the park trying to spot someone to match the voluntary crew I have in mind. It’s harder than I thought. More and more joggers show up but you can’t take people away from their training.Plus that kind of sports ware is not my thing for the trailer. A found a small group but they are the kind of “fancy” people that I cannot access for a project like this. I’m stuck. It was hard getting all the kids together, less finding 4 or 5 people who’d agree to give up part of their Saturday to come film this. And then I see these two girls trying to get directions. Ah… my ear pick up the foreign accent to whatever they are saying. It’s not something my translator senses recognize. I say, foreigners are always more open to suggestions. So I take my chances and approach them. And indeed they agree to come along and I explain the plan, the project and the NGO we’re doing this for in the few minutes it takes us to walk back to the shooting location. My speed of 84 words per minute proves to be really useful at times hahaha.
Petra freezing on the steps facing the lake
Working on the close ups with the Israel girls. I got their email address and will send them pictures and the whole thing when it's done. They deserve it :) And yes. That thing is the blender haha
Za director haha explaining last details of what's happening
So here we are, all set. Everyone is in position and then Cristi takes out the blender and starts to redirect the light under the tree and on Petra’s face who is now sitting under the tree. Even though she has some vision, seeing everything around much like passing shadows (depending how close or far away from things/people are), the light bothered her eyes and she made a tremendous effort to keep them open and focus on what she was asked to do. I tell you. The part with Petra came out absolutely perfect! The light, the colors and her shining face and blue eyes matched in a beautiful mélange of warmth and feeling. Exactly what I was looking for. She froze her ass in the shade of the tree, waiting for us to decide angles, close ups, reshoot and reshoot again all the details we wanted to get, a true hero in her endurance of the cement steps she was seating on and the cold wind coming from the lake. We are done with this part and are now putting the boys at work.
With Klint ready for Action
Taking a break before filming in the intersetion. That was by far the most difficult part of the day.
My face most part of the day. Sun is killing me. I'm a damn blind bat!
Ready to film some feet and paws :) But checking the details in the script first.
They are amazing and so willing to go back and forth a thousand times. We are now shooting at the big intersection in Charles de Gaulle and despite the weekend, the traffic is quite energetic. We keep asking them to cross the street back and forth. The lights here do not have acoustic warnings for the blind to warn them when the lights change. Some of them do. So how do they know when to cross? The dogs are not all trained to notice the change. For some of them it would probably be impossible. Usually they go on command. But what do you tell the dog if you can’t see what’s happening? So we had Petra’s mom cross with them all the time. The people around, the cars and the noise made things so much more confusing. As bad as it may seem, that’s what I wanted. I wanted to see their reaction in an uncontrollable environment. Where people do not notice them and their problem right away and cross the street bumping into them, trying to always pet the dog or distract him from his job. It was hard making Klint pay attention all the time, especially after almost an entire day of hard work where he was an active participant.

There was a small scene where I wanted to film their feet, the boys’ and the dog’s feet, walking in tandem. If you watch carefully, the boys always walked with smaller shier steps, never getting ahead of the dog. While Klint was the one stepping courageously ahead, taking the lead. With Klint though, there was a small problem. He has a natural inclination to go right haha. So straight means right and left means right, especially when he’s tired. So when filming this scene, Stefan had to always make him follow them as he kept going right and at some point brought both of the boys into a sidewalk. I went to have a human to dog discussion about his odd preference of the right side and he just rolled on the cement literally telling me I DON’T CARE WOMAN! I am exhausted so you can shove it! Haha

But one of the best and most amusing scene was when I asked the boys to think of the camera as being Klint and pet the lenses. Oh my! That took us a while because we kept laughing and Stefan would always talk to the camera as if it were Klint. Cristi and I had a goodtime.
That's a nice Klint! :)
We then proceeded and went to the Light into Europe center where we filmed one last scene, that is not part of the trailer, but of the short documentary we’re also putting together. But that’s for another story. When we got there we finally sat down for a moment and I had not realized until then just how tired I was and how much I needed to rest my feet. With a glass of Coke in hand and a smile on our faces, we listened to Razvan who took us by surprise with some unconventional singing, after which I had to put the mic on Petra with my ice cold hands, which definitely was fun for her hehe
I was the DJ on duty for that scene :) 
It started at 9:30AM and it ended at about 6:00PM but it was worth while every minute of it. They were so understanding, patient and perseverant in everything I asked of them and let me tell you, I was the bitch in the group. I was never happy, always asking for another go. I think they grew sick and tired of the word “again”. And to that effect, here are some links below to show you just what I mean.

Having fun with cast

Let's do it again...

Guys, let's do it again!

And finally... that was good! Fooled you! hehe They thought the sage of the "let's do it again!" will never be over! haha

Before I’m done with this, let me thank again Razvan and his mom (I have big plans with her!), Stefan and Klint (best right paw-ed dog I’ve ever seen! hehe), Petra for being absolutely adorable, witty and agile like I know her, her mom Lili for being my sidekick in all this, helping with the organizational details. Thank you to Stan for coming to the rescue bringing Max (the black lab who’s now in training to become a guide dog) and who took part in the shooting impromptu. And last but not least, thank you to Cristi and Denisa for being incredible professionals. I am learning so much from Cristi, things of absolute common sense when it comes to filming, yet things that I did not consider before being there, facing all the incredibly small details that sometimes get lost in the big planning.

We are again filming this weekend, the second part of the trailer with the hearing impaired kids and on Sunday, God willing, we will film the documentary.

!!!What.An.Awesome.Day!!!

Mela



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