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June 19, 2011

Following Yellowbrickroad
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:40 PM *

I found it while cruising through Apple Movie Trailers: Yellowbrickroad

I’d previously mentioned in this film in Fun, Making Our Own.

And as I mentioned in the comment thread there, I did two days as Set Medic for the production. (Alas, the Full Cast and Crew at IMDB doesn’t mention me or Rebekkah, the other EMT. But they don’t mention the young lady who did Craft Services either). Maybe in the full version of the film. It’s apparently showing at various AMC theaters this month. If it’s showing near you, and you want to check it out and report back on whether I’ve achieved Hollywood Respectability, let me know.

So anyway, there was going to be a movie filmed in the Colebrook area. It said so in the paper. And I figured, “Gee, it would be fun to hook up with these guys,” because I’m all about entertainment. So I searched on-line (the newspaper story didn’t give contact details). And I searched. And nothing. O well.

Then the next newspaper story. They’re in town! This time I was able to get contact information, and I learned why I hadn’t been able to Google ‘em up before. Their site was pure Flash, so none of it was indexed. But! I did discover where they were filming, so the next morning, I drove up there to say hi. They were up in Pittsburg, and were a nice, friendly group. As I walked up the logging road to the filming area, first thing I came to was a picnic fly with a young lady, her entire lower jaw painted Greenscreen Green. “Oh dear,” I said to myself. “In the finished item I think she’s going to have some trauma.”

Turned out they needed water and bug dope. So I drove back to Young’s Store and got some, just as a way to say Hi. And I found who the set medic was: My friend Rebekkah, who had found the job on Craigslist. She’d been one of my students when I taught the EMT-Intermediate class. So I chatted with her, and found that there were a couple of days she couldn’t cover in the shoot. I could, so I chatted with the producer, and that’s how I got a two-day gig as Set Medic for a Feature Length Motion Picture.

First day: Starting at Misty Moisty Morning Time out at Lake Francis State Park. The filming that day involved a couple of characters lost in the woods, and one of them killing the other. Plus some walking around in the woods. This was supposed to cover several days’ camping and hiking. To make different camp-sites, they’d shoot in one direction, then walk to the other side of the site and shoot the other way to be the next day’s camp. The big problem was avoiding the sounds of lawnmowers from the main part of the campground, which would rather ruin the illusion that these guys were lost miles from nowhere.

Things I learned: Why movie doctors and nurses wear their stethoscopes backwards. It’s because if they wore them right (with the earpieces pointing forwards) to listen to heart and lung sounds, they wouldn’t be able to hear the director.

Mostly I hung out with the makeup person (a nice young lady up from Brooklyn, who’d done a lot of commercials, but who .needed a feature film credit to get into the union and get health insurance). We paged through some of my EMT books, for the illustrations. The camera operator was a grizzled old pro, a freelancer like the rest of us, who’d been around and done a lot. He had a scar on his hand from a lizard bite in Australia, and a scar on his leg from the attack on Pearl Harbor. (Not the actual attack, he wasn’t that old; from the filming of the recent film by that name.)

The special-effects makeup guys were called “the Blood Boys,” and they had some neat dismembered limbs. Legs with the femur and femoral artery exposed. That kind of stuff. We chatted about blood formulas (EMTs use fake blood in training scenarios.) Their favorite involved Red Velvet Cake mix and shredded coconut. Also the best way to get someone to foam at the mouth.

It didn’t rain much. No real medical emergencies. Band-aid stuff. And making sure everyone stayed hydrated.

The next day, shooting would start at a different location around 2:00 pm. First up was a stunt, involving falling off a cliff. They’d brought a stunt coordinator up from Boston for this, and wanted their EMT standing by. So I stood. This involved a green screen about thirty feet wide and twenty tall, a platform, a mattress, and a whole lot of cardboard boxes. (I believe the completed effect is in the trailer.) With that done, next up was more green-screen work involving what would eventually be a deadfall, and the young lady who was the star of the show doing some stuff. This was Ms. Cassidy Freeman, who appears in Smallville as Tess Mercer / Tess Luthor, and who was bankrolling the film. (The writers and lots of the cast and crew were her old pals from Mercer College, as I understood it.) She was standing there wearing Not Much, and pretty cold (it being a New Hampshire Summer) so (my brush with fame!) I gave her the mylar blanket from my kit, which was light enough to not mess up her full-body makeup.

The day continued into the night, with a campfire scene, including backstory and exposition. The excitement came around midnight when the generator for the lights stopped working. The problem eventually turned out to be that the generator had run out of diesel, even though the gauge indicated full, since the gauge was broken. After some shenanigans we got it working again.

The shoot ran ‘til maybe three in the morning. The only medical problems were things like grips with jammed toes. No biggie. What was great was hanging out with a lot of talented, very professional people. Darn, that felt good.

Not much of a story, but there it is.

As I look at the trailer, it’s funny seeing places that I recognize. That movie theater? That’s where I go to the movies. That’s where we saw Thor a couple of weeks back.

I do hope to see this film someday. Meanwhile, if it’s playing near you, go see it.

Update: Yet another trailer.
Comments on Following Yellowbrickroad:
#1 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 12:04 AM:

I see it's opening Wednesday the 22nd in Baltimore, MD. (AMC Loews Whitemarsh 16.)

Bring the whole family!

Funny thing just before lunch the first day: Lauder, the First Assistant Director, is on the hand-held radio, and calling back to the base camp for someone to go out for pizza. He gives his Visa card number over the air. Then, "I hope that wasn't recorded." From the sound guys: "Don't worry, we'll take it out in post."

#2 ::: Keith Kisser ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 12:09 AM:

Sounds like fun. My wife and I helped out a friend who was producing and shooting a web TV show. We got to be real live extras, which means we spent most of the day standing around on a rainy farm in weird, home made costumes. Though there was a helicopter involved which was exciting.

#3 ::: Andy Mitton ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 02:14 AM:

Jim! It's Andy here, one of the two writer/directors of YELLOWBRICKROAD. I saw this go up on Twitter and I wanted to say hello. Sorry to hear you're left off the IMDB page, but everyone's well represented in the credits of the movie - the DVD will be out on August 2nd.

And as I write this from my apartment in Los Angeles, if I look over to my bookshelf I can see THE APOCALYPSE DOOR, which you gave me a signed copy of and I very much enjoyed and still have. You're well remembered by all of us, really one of the great highlights of our adventure were the amazing people who stopped to give us a hand along the way - that's what got the movie done. So thanks again from all of us, and we hope you enjoy the film when you eventually see it.

All The Best,

Andy Mitton

#4 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 03:04 AM:

I well know the shenanigans when a diesel engine runs out of fuel. Details vary a bit, but the injectors depend on there being no air in the high-pressure pipework leading from the pump.

But my experience is of purely mechanical systems, not the modern electronic control systems. Whatever the system, you have to be careful with the high-pressure side.

Actually, a blast of high-pressure diesel against the skin is one of those things will all sorts of make-up and medical implications...

#5 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 06:18 AM:

Well, cool. Hello there, Andy Mitton. Thanks for dropping by.

#6 ::: BigHank53 ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 09:06 AM:

Hailing from southern NH myself, it was fun to see Jaffery and Keene in Jumanji (though the rest of the film was...not intended for me) and Temple's appearance in The Bostonians.

#7 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 09:14 AM:

Jim Macdonald: "As I look at the trailer, it’s funny seeing places that I recognize."

Yep! It can be weird.

I've never been involved in any filming other than a few TV quiz shows (tho that's enough to get me into IMDB so I suppose I have a Kevin Bacon number...) but I do work in a neighbourhood that gets filmed a lot, Bloomsbury in London.

Senate House of London University, where my college has some offices, has often been used as a film set. In "Batman begins" one of the characters is murdered walking though a door I sometimes used to go to work through - I recognise the handle.

And I have this photo of a Gotham City police car that I took from my desk!

Of course London in general gets filmed a lot (and quite a few films have been made in Brighton, my home town) One downside of that is that I often get hung up on journeys or car chases that leap around between locations in no logical order - it doesn't matter to Harry Potter or Dr Who that they ought to have been flying west rather than east over the Thames - but for some reason I notice it.

#8 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 09:15 AM:

Yo, Andy!

It's great seeing you. I only wish I'd been able to be with you for the whole shoot. Those couple of days were a ton of fun, and I'm looking forward to seeing the movie.

(BTW, if you look around Making Light, you'll see that I comment on films from time to time: e.g. Cloverfield and Paranormal Activity.)

Hope you have the time to become a regular.

What are you working on right now? I'm in the midst of a novel about EMTs vs. Supernatural Stuff.

#9 ::: Lenora Rose ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 12:18 PM:

The fun of seeing places you recognize and lived is the entire reason my husband and my in-laws even have copies of Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. Certainly, it's not even remotely the kind of film my in-laws would otherwise have.

I have to admit I've been more than lax about watching films shot in Winnipeg *just* because they were shot in Winnipeg.

#10 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2011, 05:25 PM:

So cool. Andy, do come back often!

I once lived in one of the neighborhoods where "Breaking Away" was filmed, but long after the filming.

My current ambition is to get the chance to hang around watching my daughter's stunt team work. I will bring something to bite down on so I don't shriek when she does a high fall, a car drag, or a fire stunt. The wirework and combat I can handle.

#11 ::: Bruce E. Durocher II ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 12:22 AM:

As I look at the trailer, it’s funny seeing places that I recognize.

Just after I graduated from college I was part of the art department for a film that shot in downtown Seattle--you've probably never been near it unless you were a drive-in in Georgia, and I can confidently say that one of the biggest jokes was killed in post, but enough of that. Anyway, the strangest part of the whole process was seeing the film after it was completed: I was there for almost every shot, but I was usually about five feet over from where the camera was located so my hindbrain spent the entire film screaming that everything on screen was WRONG!

#12 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 02:26 AM:

Ken Brown @ #7, "they ought to have been flying west rather than east over the Thames - but for some reason I notice it."

One of the most enjoyable bits of watching the original Hawaii Five-O is (I wasn't living here when it first aired) seeing the roads taken by the characters to get someplace where those roads absolutely do not go. It leads to remarks like "if they're going to Hawai'i Kai from downtown (a west-to-east destination), why are they on the Pali Highway (which leaves downtown and goes north across the island to Kaneohe and Kailua)."

#13 ::: Carrie S. ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 11:44 AM:

I recently watched The Next Three Days, which was filmed and is explicitly set in Pittsburgh. They did pretty well on the geography, though there were a couple of howlers. It was fun to watch.

#14 ::: Fox ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 12:11 PM:

Ken Brown @7 they ought to have been flying west rather than east over the Thames

Indeed. See also The West Wing 2.22 "Two Cathedrals", in which a motorcade on its way from the White House to Foggy Bottom somehow manages to be heading south on Wisconsin Ave past the National Cathedral. A head-scratcher for all of us here in Our Nation's Capital (and far from the only one).

#15 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 12:53 PM:

Linkmeister @12...After our visit to the islands, watching "Magnum P.I" and the current version of "Hawai'i 5-0" with my Mom and sister is punctuated with cries of, "Hey -- we've been there!"

But more often it's, "Why are they taking that road to go to...?"

#16 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 02:01 PM:

Does it count that I pass Mork and Mindy's house every day on my way to work? (Used to live three blocks away, too.)

#17 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 02:42 PM:

Over the years a lot of TV shows and smaller budget movies have been shot in and around Portland1. So there's a popular game (currently being played with "Leverage") where we try to figure out where they shot each scene (and why on earth the producers think Portland looks like Boston). Extra points for having been in a cafe or restaurant shown in a scene.

The greatest cognitive dissonance in a production shot I can remember was some movie or other (can't remember which one now, this was at least 15 years ago) where the hero walks outside his mansion (the President's residence at Lewis and Clarke college, which was originally built as a mansion sometime in the 1910's), and finds himself on a cliff overlooking the beach almost 90 miles away. We figured that Larry Niven had loaned the production some stepping disks.

1 The producers of "Nowhere Man" said that they picked Portland because they found locations within 2 hours drive of the city that looked like the Midwest (Nebraska and South Dakota in particular), California, the Midatlantic states and, of course, the Pacific Northwest.

#18 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 02:53 PM:

I really wish I could remember what the movie was, but we didn't watch it ... my husband and I were watching the beginning of some TV movie. The voiceover, or perhaps a caption on-screen, placed the setting in East Texas. And there were snowcapped mountains in the background. We looked at each other and howled, and then changed the channel. (For those who haven't been there, East Texas is flat, flat, flat. There are hills in, well, the Hill Country of Texas, and some mountains in the western part of the state, but there is no skyline that looks like that movie within hundreds of miles of East Texas.)

#19 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 03:35 PM:

The BBC made a TV version of The Prisoner of Zenda which has some exteriors shot at Lincoln. Some shots, taken between the Castle and the Cathedral, had an alp replacing the view to the south. Were most of the Cathedral interiors Winchester?

#20 ::: Terry Karney ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 04:04 PM:

Living in LA... well the geography of films is precious.

Blue Thunder had, IIRC, the pilot doing a loop from downtown (flying in from the N), pulling straight up, and coming down over Palmdale somewhere (about 100 miles to the WNW), screaming in at groundlevel (without clearing the mountain range in the middle) and once again approaching from the ENE.

All this, covering something like 200 miles in something like 30 seconds...

It did have a great typo in some review though..."taking out the Arco Towers with an M-16."

#21 ::: Fox ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 04:18 PM:

Likewise, Cabot Cove, ME's sun rose and set on the wrong sides, didn't it?

#22 ::: meredith ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 05:05 PM:

Which Jackie Chan movie was it that supposedly takes place in the Bronx, yet half the movie features beautiful views of snow-capped British Columbian mountains in the background? :)

I also used to get a kick out of Vancouver sitting in for Seattle in "Dark Angel". Most of the time it was, "um, no."

#23 ::: Lila ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 05:09 PM:

And in today's episode of "The Sentinel", Peru will be portrayed by the Pacific Northwest.

#24 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 06:10 PM:

OtterB (18): That was the first X-Files movie.

#25 ::: Bruce Cohen (Speaker to Managers) ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 06:50 PM:

We watch the TV show Merlin for 2 reasons: Tony Head (even if he is wasted on it) and the great views of the British Alps. Even John Heard's dragon voiceover can't save the rest of the show.

#26 ::: JanetM ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 06:56 PM:

I knew that parts of _Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure_ had been filmed in Phoenix, Arizona, because a friend was then a security guard at Metrocenter Mall. I didn't know, until I saw the movie and yelped with glee, that at least some of the San Dimas High campus scenes had been filmed at my high school -- the mosiac mural on the auditorium is unmistakeable.

#27 ::: OtterB ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2011, 08:01 PM:

Mary Aileen @24, was it really? Obviously something strange and sinister was going on... Thanks.

#28 ::: Gag Halfrunt ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2011, 06:06 AM:

meredith @ 22: The Jackie Chan film is Rumble in the Bronx, of course.

P.S. For more of the same, see The Mountains of Illinois at TV Tropes.

#29 ::: Columbina ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2011, 11:12 AM:

In a similar vein, my spouse, raised in the DC area, tells me the movie No Way Out is especially infamous there for its peculiar ideas of DC geography, culminating in the nonexistent Georgetown subway station - extra-notorious because apparently when the Metro was being planned, Georgetown resisted having a station because it would just bring in the rabble.

#30 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2011, 01:44 PM:

My favorite "mountains!?" moment was in the Marx Brothers' "A Day At The Races", ostensibly set at a racetrack in Florida. Many of the racetrack scenes show some rather large hills in the background (Florida is mostly pretty flat). Finally, I noticed some large artwork of running horses on the side of the grandstand buildings, and recognized Santa Anita Racetrack in Arcadia, California, which was brand new when the film was shot there.

#31 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2011, 02:03 PM:

An awesome map of California regions as stand-ins for the rest of the world, said to have been produced by Paramount in 1927.

#32 ::: Fox ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2011, 02:37 PM:

Columbina @29 - quite right! Georgetown won't allow a metro station because it would bring the riffraff. Of course this is also a neighborhood populated by people who complain about the students next door - "next door" being at the university, which one can guarantee was there before they bought their house. Sigh.

I enjoyed the movie where Harrison Ford got in a taxi at National Airport [side note: that is its true and rightful name] and gave the driver the destination: "Northwest, please."

#33 ::: Ken Brown ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2011, 06:42 PM:

The canonical crap Californian bad location has to be the Battle of the Bulge film that had the Americans counter-attack represented by footage of anachronistic tanks driving through what looked like semi-desert.

#34 ::: Mark D. ::: (view all by) ::: June 22, 2011, 09:14 PM:

DC native here. Since the Metro and the Cathedral and non-existent stops have been mentioned, the lack of a Metro stop at the Cathedral is a monstrous shame. My father (on staff there his entire career) argued as hard as he could for it, but no. Too much work coming across Rock Creek Park and up the hill there - and too much digging in Cleveland Park, too.

#35 ::: Peter Darby ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2011, 06:56 AM:

Bruce, the Merlin series is filmed in Wales (interiors) and, IIRC, central France. I don;t know what they are, but they're no Alps.

And it's not so bad if you treat it by it's stated intent, which is "Merlin maps to Mallory as Smallville maps to DC Comics".

Declaration of interest: friends of mine work on it.

I think I'm right in saying the BBC Robin Hood is filmed in Slovakia. Nottingham certainly looks nothing like Nottingham ever has or will.

At least it avoids howlers like Costner's Robin Hood landing at Beachy Head on the South Coast, walking along Hadrians Wall on the Scottish border to get to Nottingham (Midlands) all in one day...

#36 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2011, 10:43 AM:

The movie Battle of the Bulge was mostly shot in Spain, but those tank battle shots were done at the Yakima ranges in Washington State.

They used M47 Patton tanks to represent Tigers and M24 Chaffee tanks to represent Shermans.

The movie Kelly's Heroes was able to use real Sherman tanks, but the Tigers were faked on T-34 chassis.

#37 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 03:34 AM:

OtterB @18: East Texas is flat, flat, flat.

I once had the misfortune of traveling by bus through East Texas on my way to and from Florida from Colorado.

IME, Kansas ain't got nothin' on East Texas for flat. There are, I supposed, places on Earth that are flatter, but the only one that leaps to mind is Bonneville.

#38 ::: Andy Mitton ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2011, 02:13 PM:

Hey Jim,

Hope you can still hear me this far down the comment board!

EMTs vs Supernatural stuff sounds very exciting indeed.

Jesse and I are getting ready to make our second movie, THE FOREVER NIGHT. It's about a townhouse in NYC in which time moves differently - mildly inspired by an old young adult sci-fi novel by William Sleator called SINGULARITY. But ours is more horror-oriented.

The rest of the YELLOWBRICKROAD gang send their regards. I'll be sure and check back in, there's definitely some fascinating writing and discussion going on here.

Best wishes and you and all,

Andy Mitton

#39 ::: Laura Runkle ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2011, 12:06 AM:

Hmmmmn. The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid is ostensibly set in Northfield, Minnesota. You can see Grand Teton in one of the establishing shots. None of the students in the section of observational astronomy I TA'd while going to school in Northfield did worse than place Northfield somewhere halfway to the Black Hills.
But it's a very pretty establishing shot...

#40 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2011, 11:13 AM:

Hey, Andy --

The comment threads here go on forever.

Bill Sleator recently died, I'm sorry to say.

Meanwhile, the reason I'm popping back in... my copy of Yellowbrickroad arrived just now from B&N.

I'm really looking forward to this. I'm only sorry that I couldn't have spent more time with y'all.

#41 ::: Jim Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: September 10, 2011, 10:49 PM:

Well, it's over.

The Rialto Theater in Lancaster is closed; the final show (Grease, with John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John) was tonight. I've just arrived home.

The theater is being foreclosed.

If anyone wants to get into the movie business in the Great North Woods, this is your opportunity.

#42 ::: Beti ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 12:36 AM:

I know this is an older post but I just had to say thanks so much for clearing up the stethoscope thing. I'm a medic and it drove me crazy to see every single stethoscope in backwards. I'm pretty sure there are consultants on set, right? I'm so glad to find there is a reason behind it (and one which makes a lot of sense.)

#43 ::: Mary Aileen suspects spam ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 09:28 AM:

#42 is superficially plausible, and there's no payload, but it's the first mention of a stethoscope in this thread.

#44 ::: Diatryma ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 09:35 AM:

Actually, I think it's legitimate. If it weren't an old thread, it definitely would be.

The Singularity book the director mentions is horrifying enough as it is, with two kids, a dog, and a mysterious shack. I'm not sure how to do it in movie form, but then, I am not a moviemaker.

#45 ::: TexAnne ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 09:40 AM:

It's legit. Jim mentions stethoscopes in the post.

#46 ::: Mary Aileen ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 11:54 AM:

TexAnne (45): Ah! So he did. Thanks. I did a Find on the page but didn't see that.

Sorry, Beti. My mistake.

#47 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2012, 02:14 PM:

Jim, I'd completely forgotten your association with Yellowbrickroad when I saw it a few months ago. It's superb, and now I'm freshly happy to think of the Making Light angle. :)

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