In Part One, I told you what it was like to walk the halls of the production office. But what goes on in the part of the Flashpoint workshop you’re most familiar with — the SRU HQ? Find out.
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Mark Ellis: “Are you guys headed to the set? Cool. I’ll go with you.”
Me: “That is so frickin’ awwwwesome!”
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION!
Okay, that’s not precisely how that went down but, yes, Mark Ellis was heading in our direction and decided to provide an impromptu tour of the building’s filming facilities, the studio. The walk over revealed the main hallway connecting the offices and the set (and also the main prop storage room). In that hall were a random collection of pictures, paintings, and signs used in the show.
1157: The first area we came across was what I call the enclosed back lot. A back lot is usually a stretch of land a movie or television studio has on which they construct city/town streets for filming conceivably any number of films or shows. In the Flashpoint studio, this area is where they construct various interior sets as needed from episode to episode. Indeed, as Mark walked us through these temporary sets, there were people busy tearing some down and building some up. While the show has a great location department, sometimes it is better for the production to film on the ‘back lot’ for several reasons, including stunt work or gunplay.
Speaking of that location department, which has secured rights to film everywhere from the former Maple Leafs Gardens (“Behind The Blue Line”) to Royal Ontario Museum (“Acceptable Risk”) and so many other great locations, Mark answered a question of mine. You often hear Toronto street addresses mentioned in the show and, for us who live in the city, they seem remarkably accurate on most occasions. Here’s how that works: usually the script is intended for a specific area (or type of area) of the city, the location scouts find somewhere to film which best fits that description, and then the script is altered as necessary to reflect the actual location. That all makes perfect sense but I found it interesting to hear it described and affirms the illusion that the SRU is always going to ‘real’ places in and around Toronto.
There’s one other thing on the back lot which is interesting but I won’t discuss. The muzzle on this topic is self-applied … which is a slightly twisted analogy, if you think about it.
And then we were on the set of the SRU headquarters itself.
1209: The first thing I encountered was the briefing room and while it was full of its own wonder, it suddenly became unimportant because, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Hugh Dillon approaching. And, he was in full SRU gear. I got that feeling you get when you’ve done something wrong and a police officer starts walking toward you. Or, when you haven’t done anything wrong but you’re in line at the customs counter. What is that?
Oh, yeah, there was this thing about Hugh Dillon I was going to tell you. Right: He’s a rock star.
Hugh Dillon starred in Hard Core Logo, arguably one of the best punk rock movies ever made. He also fronted The Headstones, and their music was part of the soundtrack to my roaring twenties when I went from only working summers at Canada’s Wonderland to taking my first steps into a larger world. Of course, their platinum hit “When Something Stands For Nothing” is what most people remember but it’s entirely possible that “It’s All Over” may have been partially responsible for my first big break-up, sorry Honey Bunny. And I prefer their cover of “Tweeter and the Monkey Man” to The Travelling Willburys, which would get me kicked out of most music snob circles. These days, he’s reunited with the boys from The Headstones and has also released a solo album. You may recognize this tune:
So, yeah, Hugh Dillon came to talk to us and my brain was a 3-car crash derby fighting the years of training myself to be professional in the presence of ‘talent’, wanting to shake his hand profusely and gush out my gratitude for his work, and the impulse to shrink away until it was safe for the uncool people to come out again. The issue was forced when TRINITY introduced us. Her introduction started with a description of who I was, which included all the various pursuits I currently have, and ended with some complimentary term like Renaissance man. I countered by blurting out something akin to, “I’m really just indecisive.” Guh! I mentally smacked myself in the head. What a ridiculous thing to say!
Anyway, I escaped with a smirk. Hugh was otherwise cordial and thanked me for watching the show. Look, I bow down to no man and I try to live by the creed that we’re all the same once you strip away the imaginary things like titles and job descriptions. However, I must admit I was starstruck. Mister Dillon would eventually move on after a brief discussion with Trinity. However, that would not be my last encounter with him.
HOME ON THE RANGE
For the next little while I got to inspect the SRU set. That alone was full of awesome. The set is gorgeous and built with a sense of permanence. The briefing room is very operational and I was told it’s often used for actual meetings for the show’s production. Later, there was some time for a breather and they put me in the briefing room where I got to sit, very much as Greg Parker would, and go over my notes. No hoopla and no VIPs but it was a sweet little moment nonetheless. Much of what you’re reading today came from those notes I transcribed while in that room.
Winnie’s desk (which really doesn’t belong to Winnie, it’s the communications desk, but 9 out of 10 times that’s how I see it described by fans) (hint, hint: we’re quite fond of Winnie) was its own ultra cool. The screens were all lit up with SRU-style data, the vast majority of which is designed by one guy, along with all the computer screen graphics we see. A little touch I’ve never noticed is that their corporate-style phones have SRU logos where you’d see a company logo or info screen. In fact, the whole set is brimming with nice little touches. Many of the binders and booklets have titles (like “Reports: G. Parker”) and some even have content. It prompted me to make some merchandise suggestions. Just simple stuff such as SRU-branded binders and notebooks.
I got to see the locker rooms and all the adjoining side rooms, as well as the back door where there are trailers (which you may have seen in some of the promo segments on shows like eTalk). And outside were two gents joshing about. Their names were David Paetkau and Sergio Di Zio. You might have heard of them. They were engrossed, so no opportunity for introductions then. Speaking of joshing about, by the way, I’d also like to point out that, despite the tight schedules and everyone from producers to stars wandering around, the crew are not second-class citizens. Mark seemed to know everyone’s name and jokes and jibes flew around without any regard to who did what. It just seemed like I’d walked into a lunch party and a television show had broken out.
1220: While touring, another familiar face appeared: Sergio Di Zio, aka Michaelangelo “Spike” Scarlatti. First thing, and I gotta say this, I was surprised by his physical condition. You know, they joke in the show that he’s a “geek with combat skills” and my brain assumed the typical geek part on a physical level. Yeah, um, no. Me, I’m a scrawny geek. Him, not so much. He’s built more like one of those super heroes in the comic books he’s fond of (I think he’d be a great Blue Beetle, personally) (actually, come to think of it, David Paetkau would make a great Booster Gold. Hrm…). Anyway, Sergio is just a damn nice human being.
He took the time to chat with me and inquire about my visit. We briefly touched on Star Wars, which is my largest bastion of geekery, as any of my friends will tell you. And he seemed as though he’d be a great guy to hang out with. It was especially neat to meet him as, of all the characters, Spike is probably the one with whom I identify the most because of his technical skills, his banter, and (up until that day) his overall presentation. If there was one thing ruined for me that day, it’s the realization that I’m no Spike. Not without a better diet and some devotion to P90X or some stuntman workout regimen. Jeez Louise! A twerp he is not.
Rest assured, folks, the “…with combat skills” part of that famous line is entirely plausible.
Filming was, however, about to start and Mr. Di Zio was called away. This is where I got my break in the briefing room while they finished the set-up.
There’s one more tidbit before I cover that portion of the visit. The washrooms. When I saw the sign for the women’s washroom, I thought to ask about the old “JULES” sign which once stood in its place. Trinity didn’t know whatever became of it, nor did those she asked. That’s a lingering question. Did Amy Jo Johnson swipe it for posterity? Is it stored away? And wouldn’t it be neat if, one day, it was given to a fan or, at the very least, put into some place of respect? It’s a silly little thing to wonder about but that’s me: the guy who thinks about silly little things.
Anyway, next up was the actual filming…
THE FUTURE IS NOW
…which will appear in Part Three because I’m still a jerk. However, I’m not so much of a jerk as to ruin the scene I saw filmed, which you’re about to watch in a few hours in tonight’s episode, “A Day In The Life”. It’s going to be particularly fun for me because I got a copy of the script which I read thoroughly and now I get to see the transition from page to screen. I guarantee you’ve never seen an episode quite like this. Mark my words.
So, Part Three gets posted tomorrow, gang, in which I meet a few more folks (including our newest Team One member, Mr. Bennett, aka ‘Raf’), get a special seat of another kind, and I get tongue-tied by an ungeekly geek.
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Author’s Note: I’ve actually edited this down because there were so many little details and encounters that this post went over 2000 words. I tried to keep only the things which I thought you’d really enjoy and leave out the minutiae and (some) of my rambling thoughts. As one writing teacher once told me: That stuff belongs in your diary.