As I noted yesterday, I had the chance to visit the production offices and the set of Flashpoint on, no less, a shooting day. So, how did that happen? I should start at the perennial beginning.
(NB: You can now download the entire 4-part article as a text-only PDF. If you want to see the pretty pictures, though, yer gonna have to read it online. To download the PDF: ➜Clicky.)
In the waning days of April, I got a phone call.
My C.I. (Confidential Informant) was on the line and they had a mission for me. This C.I. is a producer who shall remain nameless and is part of the Pink Sky Entertainment/Avamar Entertainment team responsible for bringing Flashpoint to life. She is an enthusiastic and articulate person who loves the show as much as the fans do. Perhaps more. We shall assign her the code name of TRINITY.
And because of that love, she’s in the know about some of the communities we’ve built online. Through one of those cabals of fandom — their facebook.com/FPTOne — I had the pleasure of being in conversation with Trinity via emails. That alone was nifty. However, that’s not why you’re reading this. Mind you, you should care who she is and what she does because without her, you wouldn’t be reading this at all. Without Trinity, I wouldn’t be writing this. And that’s just a tiny bit of what she does for both the show and for its fans.
The mission (code name: SIEGFRIED) involved taking a risk on spoilers but what I stood to gain overshadowed that unfortunate side effect. Trinity asked if I would like to come to set to see them film what may turn out to be a season landmark of sorts. What a great/silly question. Would I like to come to the set? Well, um, yes, I would. The answer I gave her was edited to remove the generous expletives in my head.
Date set. Arrangements made.
NO POLICE ESCORT
0845: Woke up and readied for the day. I work at home, mostly, so I can get shaggy at times. Situation remedied. I had an earlier appointment prior to the set visit but that ended up being cancelled. So, I relaxed a bit and planned the mission route. Last leg involved a quick cab ride from Union Station — the station where the real life events which inspired the story of Flashpoint’s pilot took place.
1042: Emerged form Union Station and, before hopping in a cab, I did a walk-by of ‘the spot’. A bit morbid, I know, but I’m a kinda like that. Besides, it was more about paying homage than it was about any fascination with death. Anyway, the cab sped off. And by ‘sped’ I mean crawled into traffic. No worries, two quick routes could be taken which would zip us over to the studio and my intrepid cabbie made his choice. And by ‘intrepid’ I mean feckless — which is a nice way of saying something mean. We hit traffic, busy intersections, and construction. A 10-15 minute ride took 25 minutes. Sure, my visible and vocal annoyance meant he slashed the price but, dammit, I didn’t want to be late for this (that was my Jack Bauer “Dammit!” by the way). Sure could’ve used some flashy red’n’blues and a siren for that ride. Alas alack.
1116: Greeted by Trinity and another team member (code name AURORA) in reception. Aurora is also part of the fan relations team (among many other duties, as the Flashpoint folks are a many-hatted family) whose efforts benefit us in such direct ways as prize allocation and photography (she’s my dealer, and I am lost without her). Aurora would be my guide for the first leg. I was late but they were all smiles. No harm, no foul. There I was, staring at a giant SRU shield on the wall of the production offices. I was surrounded by official Flashpoint … everything. I took it all in, quite literally, through my nose. When you’re somewhere significant you take the time to smell the air — the brain is funny that way.
Do you know what it’s like to try and keep your organs from leaping out of your mouth? Yeah, that was me.
Sorry, I’m not cool as a cucumber when I’m singled out for special treatment. I’m pretty much stupefied and punch drunk. It took some effort to maintain my composure. I think I did alright. Maybe too well. But, y’know, the brain was a bit jumbled in the moment. I’ve kept my calm during violent times and all sorts of craziness in the security days but shaking the hands of these two friendly women fired way too many synapses at once. I was pretty much in a daze from that point on. And it would get worse.
Within a few minutes, I would meet some fabulous people, some famous names, some famous faces, and some relatively unknown people who are nonetheless essential to the heart and soul of our beloved television show. To a person, they were all welcoming, pleasant, and informative. You’d think it’s silly to expect less when a fan visits but I’m still thankful. Sadly, I have seen such face-to-face meetings result in less-than-generous interaction much to the disappointment of the fans. It happens.
Not at the Flashpoint HQ, though. Here, I was welcomed — to be frank — to the point of embarrassment. It was a fine, fine day.
HALL OF THE MOUNTAIN KINGS AND QUEENS
Trinity and Aurora took me to my first stop: the production offices.
Now, I’ve talked about many of the big names on the Flashpoint production team in the episode preview articles but let me emphasize something again: there are many, many staff who work in the production coordination of the show. I saw many of those faces but I would be hard-pressed to recognize a single one of them today (see: aforementioned daze). In the dozens of offices, people toiled on computers, on phones, and even on this archaic substance they call paper (I think). Let’s not forget them, as it takes an army of people to keep the production machine running smoothly. And we haven’t even gotten to the crew.
While she attended to some matter, Trinity put me in Aurora’s care for the beginning of the office tour. If I had to make a snap judgment based on that brief tour, I’d suggest there was a sense of pride in that office. Oh, I’m sure there are days of drudgery when someone drags their feet or yearns to be someplace else but if those happen, they would seem to be the exception to the rule. Everyone seemed either engrossed in their task or just plain happy to be there. Happy workers make happy customers, an old boss once told me. Well, it’s no surprise that Flashpoint’s customers — the audience — are happy, then.
The first office of note belonged to “BAM“, Executive Producers Bill Mustos and Anne Marie La Traverse. They weren’t there at the time but I was shown the boards on the wall, where important information is posted. One of them was filled with headshots of the actors. I’m not sure to which episode that particular board was in reference (probably the one being shot that day) but there was, among the principle actors, a new face I did not recognize. A gentleman by the name of Clé Bennett.
And, yes, back then, I had been told the secret that Wordy (Michael Cram) was leaving the team. As much fun as it’s been to know that secret (not to mention the level of trust I had been given), it’s nice to breath freely amongst the fandom again.
Right next to the BAM HQ were the offices of Mark Ellis and Stephanie Morgenstern. They weren’t there, either, much to my initial disappointment. This disappointment wouldn’t last very long, I assure you. I was then shown the various departments, including the art department and if you’ve seen some of the graphics I like to do for the show you can guess I was licking my chops as I walked by. Oh, the things I would do given full access to that treasure trove of source material!
We came back to where we’d started and met up with Trinity again. Shortly thereafter, those thoughts about the art department vanished. Mark Ellis appeared.
A LITTLE WORM ON A BIG HOOK
(okay, on re-reading that last paragraph you might get the impression there was a burst of smoke and sparkles, perhaps some fanfare, and suddenly a writer appeared but it didn’t happen like that.)
Mark is as he seems in interviews. He is polite, easy-going, and friendly but also very cerebral. He has a writer’s eyes — hungry to observe, discern, understand, and extrapolate. So, forgive my presumption but I felt an instant kinship. Of all the Flashpoint luminaries I would meet that day, this was where I felt most at ease. I got the impression he had a zillion things to do that day but he nonetheless made ample time to have a chat.
During that talk, another gentleman came to join us. His name is David Frazee, the show’s premiere director (and creative guru). I had to will my palms from being sweaty and, truth be told, I kept them pressed against my clothing just in case. Flashpoint tells stories in a vein I appreciate and these two gents are responsible, in no small way, for how the story is told on the page and on the screen. It didn’t help that Anne Marie La Traverse wandered up.
Yeah, that Anne Marie La Traverse. The second she did, that bug in a jar feeling that had been sneaking up entirely gripped me. I have been briefly assessed by RCMP assigned to a former Prime Minister right before an appearance. I felt confident and composed, then. I have had a ton of cops around after an incident and been interviewed while they decided whom to arrest. No problemo. This impromptu gabfest? I was drowning in adrenaline, norepinephrine, and cortisol, oh my!
As I mentioned in At The Helm, Anne Marie La Traverse can see right through you. I mean, aside from the intuition gleaned from our brief interaction, look at the facts. She’s been in the business as a producer for an appreciable amount of time and she has steadily built upon her success. A great deal of navigating her field successfully is being able to put your trust in the right people. She’s not mean or expressly intimidating. She just has the ability to see you. And if you’re one guffaw away from losing your composure, that’s not the sort of person you want peering at you. That’s not to say I wasn’t thrilled to meet her but, nonetheless, the veneer of my tenuous composure felt wholly transparent.
Anyway, the conversation turned to the secret PROJECT: SIEGFRIED and, for some insane reason, Trinity, asked for my input. It took a second for me to remove the cork in my throat but I did my best to relate my thoughts on the subject without fainting from the attention. I actually can’t recall what I said so … I hope I acquitted myself with some modicum of intelligence and didn’t come across as a sputtering buffoon (which is normally reserved for when I’m on a date).
The conversation ended and goodbyes were said. When we moved on, Mark exited the hall and entered the conference room where they held their writers meetings. Let’s repeat the last part of that: …where they held their writers meetings. For a few brief seconds, through that portal, I could see heaven. I could smell storycraft. It’s not so much that I want to work on the show’s writing staff (not that I would turn that down, no-siree-Bob). Seeing that room reminded me of where I wanted to be — earning a living by grappling with the business of telling stories. My stories. That would be heaven on earth for me. Heck, let’s be honest. The earning a living part is optional in my head.
Which is probably reason #193 why I’m single.
IT GETS BETTER
“Well, I guess we should go to the set, next,” Trinity said. And so we did. Not only would I see the magic being made form behind the curtain, not only would they indulge me with a seat at the table, but I would come face-to-face with members of the SRU. And, speaking of being single, I would meet the man who once helped me break up with my girlfriend.
That will be in Part Two. Which will be published a few hours from now (6:00 PM EST).
Because I’m a jerk.
– – – – –
Author’s Note: I’m protecting the identities of my C.I.s TRINITY and AURORA for several reasons, not the least of which is that while they were open and friendly, they both still play integral parts in the show’s production. They have jobs to do, they have lives, and though they move heaven and earth to make the time for things like this, they shouldn’t be exposed to the deluge of fan interest in what goes on behind the scenes. That’s why they invite loquacious wannabe-writers like me to give you a peek behind the curtain.
The down side is that, for now, I do not get to call them by name which I sorely would prefer as a token of my gratitude.
Also, there are no pictures of the visit because I don’t own a camera and the one on my cellphone belongs in a museum, and also I just assumed it wasn’t allowed. I suppose I could have asked them but, you know, that’s what a smart person would have done. Ipso facto…