Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Amy Film Star: the Discovery Channel


The Discovery Channel: Amy Film Star

Last week, hiking alone in the wilderness, I saw my first mountain lion.

This week, I was headed to wildest Los Angeles to meet up with a film crew from the U.K. The prospect was no less thrilling to me. Dangerous Films would be interviewing me for a new Discovery Channel Documentary series “The Extreme Body.” My segment would be about the body’s ability to withstand pain. It would feature an actual re-enactment of my adventure (using a stunt double) visual aids such as an electronically enhanced image of a skeleton falling through the air, opinions by various scientists, and an interview with me.

Off I went, travel plans clutched in sweaty palm. My itinerary had been arranged by Dangerous Films, and I was well cared for. I was supplied with flight information, travel details, expenses for food, a luxury car from the airport, shuttle service from my hotel, tips about surrounding restaurants and sight-seeing opportunities, and a luxurious room with a balcony. I felt quite pampered.

“Hotel Angeleno, Uniquely Los Angeles,” the website had claimed. The hotel did indeed offer up a quintessential L.A. experience. There was the customary pool, fitness room, and a lovely penthouse restaurant. My 14th floor room boasted stunning views. Sprawled expansively below my balcony was the 405 freeway, all ten glorious, energetic lanes of it.

The film crew from the U.K. was anything but quintessential. Belying the stereotype of uptight Brits, they were just about as warm and friendly and relaxed as they could possibly be. I knew that they must be good at their jobs --- Dangerous Films contracted often with impressive clients such as the Discovery Channel. I knew also that there must be considerable stress involved. Their shooting schedule, from what I had heard, involved dozens of people and multiple carefully scouted locations for each of six complex episodes.

Despite a demanding work load, my director, cameraman, and producer made time to take me out to a delightful dinner that first night. All well-traveled, interesting, intelligent people with expansive world views, unique viewpoints and considerable personal charm, my only regret was that these folks lived far away in the U.K.

The next morning found my director, cameraman, and me scrambling up into the hills. It was tricky to get away from the omnipresent freeways, but we had located a regional park that would supply us with the shots of me hiking that were needed for my episode. We were accompanied by several panting assistants whose jobs included hauling a $30,000 camera and several heavy unwieldy pieces of camera equipment up the steep narrow trail to the required location.

I had not really expected a prolonged hike, and at some point during our morning shoot, I realized that here I was, in the wilderness, with no whistle, no water bottle, no first aid kit, and no survival equipment of any sort. “Could you walk a little closer to the edge?” asked my director. The sun was rising rapidly, and we needed to get the right angle. I reassured myself with the thought that if anything went wrong, we could at least document the entire event on film.

Back from our hike, I tidied myself up for the interview portion. I’d done enough TV by now to understand the need for appropriate hair, and I’d had a trim just a few days before. “For Tee Vee Floofy Ees goood.” I had been instructed by my hair stylist, a charming Vietnamese woman who has a way with hair. She repeated her instructions until she was certain that I understood. For TV, fluffy is good. Dutifully, I fluffed my hair into what I hoped was a TV-friendly shape.

My driver picked me up in front of my hotel to take me to the film studio for my interview. “I’m really an actor” he confided. Of course he was. He hired himself out as a driver for film crews in between acting engagements. It would be able to see him in an upcoming Hallmark movie.

I was escorted to the filming room, a smallish dark room strung all around with an impressive array of lighting and sound equipment, and littered with the remains of the crew’s breakfast. It looked like a combination between a movie set and a bachelor crash-pad.

"How’s my hair?" I inquired. I looked around at the crew, all intent on their various jobs. Not a one of them had hair longer than an inch, and they seemed entirely unconcerned about mine.

I was efficiently wired for sound, positioned carefully, and lit appropriately for the interview. There was a slight pause. “Could you smooth your hair down? Some hairs are sticking up and catching the light." Suggested our camerman. I guessed I’d gone too fluffy. An assistant patted down the errant hairs with the help of a cup of water, rescued from the remains of the breakfast buffet.

I lost myself in the interview, forgetting all about the need for fluffy hair, enjoying chatting with my director, who had by then become my friend. After all, we’d been hiking together, just that very morning.

Then it was over, as swiftly as it had begun. There were hugs all around, and my driver whisked me back to my hotel, then off to the airport. I was sorry to leave my new British friends. I was sorry to say goodbye to my driver who was really an actor. I even missed my view of the 405. I was a pampered international film star no more, just Amy once again.

© Amy Racina 2007

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