Part Four. End of the road, Jack. My day at the Flashpoint headquarters draws to a close but not without one more encounter with Constable Ed Lane…
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PREVIOUSLY ON FLASHPOINT: BTS…
Hot Call! TRINITY. Set visit. SIEGFRIED. Crappy cabbie. Hello, AURORA. Flashpoint smells like awesome. Mmm, art department. Mark Ellis is shaking my hand! Is that David Frazee? What’s his secret? Anne Marie La Traverse, yipe! Writers meeting? Put me in, coach!
Here’s were the magic is made. From Sam’s apartment to Spike’s family home in 30 seconds. SRU HQ! ZOMG, Hugh Dillon! “Winnie’s” desk. Briefing room. Look at me, I’m Greg Parker! The crew + actors + production staff = family. ZOMG, Sergio Di Zio! “JULES” sign?
Action! Ooo, high-def. John Calvert, what a guy! Stephen Reizes! Jim Donovan! And Anne Marie La Traverse, again! Yipe, again! Wait, you want me to sit where? Did you hear that Boom? That was my mind blowing. ZOMG, Clé Bennett! Welcome to the team. Sergio, again! Uh … tremendous! Ugh. Lunch!
IT’S ALL HAPPENING, MAN
It was only this past week that it hit me: The day I went to visit the Flashpoint set, they were filming Raf’s introductory episode (#4.06), aka the Valentine’s Day episode, aka “A Day In The Life”. In fact, they’d given me a script before I’d even set foot in their halls and the title was there. A Day in the Life. I don’t think I need to point out why that’s a fitting title for my own experiences at Flashpoint HQ. It just is.
Not sure if TRINITY planned it that way. I suspect the timing had more to do with PROJECT: SIEGFRIED than anything else but it worked out beautifully anyway.
Before we get to the chase sequence, here are a few thoughts about being on the set itself. Now, I can be cerebral about it and not engulfed in the emotions of the moment. It is a great set. They get so much done onscreen in its real estate that it seemed impossibly small in person. You know the old cliché: “I thought you’d be taller.” However, in retrospect, it’s a giant accomplishment in set design. David Frazee loves it, and he’s been around. Trinity and AURORA extolled its virtues. Mark Ellis is supremely proud of it and you’ll notice even the cast rave about it in interviews. The walls are solid, the set dressings are exquisitely detailed, and it just feels real.
I’m not sure the cast and crew realize it, now, but as an outsider it felt, even to me, like home. I was reminded of my days working in Canada’s Wonderland (which is an amusement park for those who don’t know), in the Games Department of old Hanna-Barbera Land (and Smurf Village, when it existed). We had our own HQ where operations were centered and our plush toys and other prizes were housed. We also called it The Barn. I worked in “HB” for five summers. Eventually, I moved to the “Expo” part of the park and then stopped working at Wonderland altogether. Years later, I returned as a guest and bumped into some old colleagues. They let me wander behind-the-scenes (also an official park term) and I got a glimpse of The Barn. In that moment, I realized how much of a home The Barn had been to me. It was the nexus of five extraordinary years and I could hear echoes of them by just looking at what others would only see as a simple building.
J. Michael Straczynksi’s Babylon 5, a sci-fi show which continues to resonate with me twenty years after the fact, was similarly an accomplishment of vision-over-commerce with a budget that was microscopic in comparison to its genre contemporaries, like Star Trek. A watershed moment in the novelisation of mainstream television drama, it’s been cited as inspirational by many of today’s famed showrunners and TV writers, from Joss Whedon to Ronald D. Moore. As the series drew to its planned close, one of its characters spoke a piece of dialogue which, long since after, has become enshrined as the touchstone for all reflection on the end of Babylon 5.
“I believe that when we leave a place a part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in these halls, when it is quiet and just listen. After a while you will hear the echoes of all of our conversations, every thought and word we’ve exchanged. Long after we are gone, our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit that the part of me that is going will very much miss the part of you that is staying.” — G’Kar
I suspect that, when Flashpoint comes to an end, there are a great many who will feel just the same about the Flashpoint set.
Random TV trivia: That episode which was ushering the end of Babylon 5 was called “Objects in Motion”. The final episode of Firefly (the short-lived cult hit by Joss Whedon, who has also cited Babylon 5 as inspiration) was called “Objects in Space”. All I need is for a finale or near-final episode of a show I love to be called “Objects at Rest” and my TV geek life will be complete.
Anyway, I digress. A lot.
SUBJECT ON FOOT, HEADING NORTH
Trinity had indicated we would head back to the offices as they had to do a reset for the next scene. Indeed, people were scattering in all directions, most of them toward food. If you learn anything from being on set for anything it’s this: A hungry crew is not a happy crew. You can mess up a lot of things when you’re in production but, if you’re headed into film or television, folks, I strongly advise to never ever scrimp on the craft services. Word to the wise and all that. According to Mary Drury (aka “Sarge”), another fan lucky enough to visit the Flashpoint set, they lay out a mean spread of food over there.
In any event, off we went down the hall between set and office. I took one last look at The Barn and in doing so realized that Hugh Dillon was following us. At first, Trinity remained unaware as she was offering bits of trivia about the various panels and signs in the hall, among other things. But I noticed.
I also noticed he was maintaining a polite distance and not interrupting. Once again, my Flashpoint zeal and my professional training collided. It’s a long damn hall and we were sauntering. Did Hugh have somewhere he wanted to be? Were we blocking his path to food or something similarly important? Was he lost in thought preparing for the next scene? Did he expect me to leave him alone or once again offer fanly praise? Should I stand aside and give him a chance to pass? Should I open my mouth and redeem my earlier nonsensical comment? Why are we moving so slow? Is Trinity intentionally letting me corner him again? Why am I so self-conscious? What do I do?!
As it turns out, I froze. I did nothing. I walked at the pace Trinity set, I did not offer to let Hugh pass, and I said nothing to him. As we walked up the steps to the office, I couldn’t get him out of the corner of my eye. Same polite distance, same congenial expression. I felt so awkward!
Trinity had to leave for the day and, as her ward, that meant goodbye for me, too. We made one last stop near Mark’s office where Hugh finally broke off of his assiduous pursuit to have a brief word with Anne Marie La Traverse. Phew! I gathered my gear which had been sitting by the desk of the industrious Chantelle Kadyschuk (Assistant to the Executive Producers and also an invaluable help to me from time to time). Mark Ellis was there, again, and I thought I should offer one last word of thanks to him for all he’s done, from the phone conversation to his guest appearance in today’s tour to, y’know, making the show in the first place. And perhaps I’d ask him to pass along a similar message to Stephanie Morgenstern, too.
However, I’d barely begun before I noticed someone was standing in the doorway behind me, patiently waiting their turn. Who was it? Hugh Dillon. Cripes, I was earning a merit badge for Getting In The Way! Forgive my language but I felt like I was being a dick to Joe Dick. I’m not even sure how I extricated myself from that situation but it was hasty and probably clumsy.
SO LONG AND THANKS FOR ALL THE FISH
Please note: though I’m describing all this awkwardness, I assure you none of it was created by anyone there. From Trinity to Hugh Dillon, Mark Ellis to Anne Marie La Traverse, and John Calvert to Sergio Di Zio, everyone was extraordinarily polite and genuinely warm. Nope, I was Captain Awkward. Me, myself, and I. It’s really not normally in my nature to feel so off-kilter in new situations or when meeting famous people. I’m just not that guy. I have a Tasslehoff Burrfoot attitude to new experiences.
Except that day.
And, I should also explain one more thing in the hopes that it reaches those fine folk, especially the actors. I’m not an autograph person. I see little value in it (and I’m not going to ask for one just to sell it for monetary value) outside of simply being a signature and, honestly, it feels like an imposition to stop someone in their tracks and ask them to sign something. I don’t have any disdain for those who find value in it, especially since I love (sometimes too much) keeping tokens to remind me of great moments or great people. It’s just that I’d rather spend the time it would take to ask for and get an autograph to, instead, shake a hand, offer thanks for their work, and perhaps have a short conversation. It’s the person who is important to me, not the signature.
It’s difficult to explain that without sounding snobbish. It’s not about being ‘above’ anything. It’s about where I find value and significance which, I’ll be the first to tell you, is different for everyone. If I admire you, then I want to get inside your brain. That’s just me. So, even though I met Hugh, Sergio, Clé, Mark, Stephen, David, and of course Anne Marie who, in my mind, are all celebrities in our Flashpoint world (and Hugh definitely beyond that), I never once asked for an autograph. On the flip-side, I often wonder if all the celebrity-types have ever been offended or thought I didn’t value them because I didn’t ask for an autograph.
So, more goodbyes were said and I hope I was sufficient grateful in their execution. Trinity saw me out and promised to be in touch about Siegfried and other matters. She has. Also, things are developing which continue to exceed any expectations I may have had as to where this is all going. And all of this started, as I must remind myself from time to time, from one paragraph written for a competition on the Flashpoint Team One Facebook group. So, seriously, if you’re a fan of the show and have a Facebook account, you really should be a member there. And I say member because it’s far, far more than just a “Like” page for the show.
Like the entire Flashpoint production team and also the members of Parker’s Team One, it is a family.
HERE COMES THE SUN
As I walked out of the building and made my way to the TTC (public transit), the slightly hazy day turned sunny. I knew, walking down the streets nearby the studio, that I would remember this day for a long, long time. I was aware that it was probably the best it was ever going to get when it comes to Flashpoint and the people involved. I’ve been since proven wrong because, among other things, I continue to have the privilege of getting my graphic work highlighted on FPTOne, along with contact from TRINITY and her network of agents, including AURORA and SHADOWFAX (I decided to give Chantelle a code name, too, because FPTO member Beth Burton likes them). And more.
I do not consider myself part of that family due to equal parts modesty and a willingness to admire it from afar as a wonderful and complex organism. However, what I do feel like is a distant cousin who came over for a summer. I may never see any of them again but I will never forget the experience and always think the brief time I spent in their house was special.
As I waited for my streetcar, a police car stopped at the nearest red light and I was reminded that I’ve been briefly associated with many different kinds of family over my years, and been privy to their idiosyncrasies. I’ve had tastes of what it’s like when people from vastly different walks of life are put together and forge a familial bond. That notion populates a lot of the films and shows I like, the activities I prefer, and the even the fiction I write.
It’s what gives me hope for our crazy species. We do a lot of crappy things to each other and the rest of the world but, contrary to that, we have the ability to connect with people, respect their differences, and even to put ourselves in danger in order to protect them. In the end, I’d rather be an optimist and proven wrong than be a pessimist and proven right. [Editor: You’re digressing again.] [Angelo: Thank you, Captain Obvious.]
THE WHYS AND WHEREFORES OF IT ALL
A friend once asked me, with a twinge of mockery, “You really like Flashpoint, don’t you, Angelo?” Yes. In point of fact, I do. And I’ll tell you why.
Before I do, I’d like to again express my thanks to Trinity and Aurora for facilitating and conducting the opportunity to tour the offices and set of Flashpoint, and all that they do for me and for you, the Flashpoint fan base. I cannot properly convey how much they pay attention and care about what we say, feel, and do in regards to their show. Like everyone I had the pleasure of meeting that day, they are the farthest thing from any self-involved caricatures of “TV people” that has become a staple of what we see in pop culture. This family is no Entourage or 30 Rock.
Looking back at how I was treated by each and every one there, they were all genuine and even delighted to interact with me. They were polite and courteous. Hell, even Hugh Dillon, arguably the Flashpoint star with the largest following, waited for me to finish talking to Mark Ellis.
At the end of the day, they’re all good people. Just sayin’.
And lest you think I’m just a fan boy or mouthpiece, I assure you this: My word as my bond, I feel physically ill if I am forced to bow and scrape or suck up to anyone for anything short of saving someone’s life. I despise it. And, should the experience have held any negative connotations for me, I can write well enough to have described it in pleasant, non-committal terms. That this article ballooned into a four-part series somewhere near 10,000 words in length, and is filled with amusing anecdotes and ruminations on just how nice these people were to me should, if you knew me, stand as a testament to their character and the environment in which they work.
I’m sure they have bad days, fallings out, and hidden tribulations. But, as someone once trained to be a professional witness (bank security), who has spent decades being a casual but fascinated student of psychology and sociology, and who has repeatedly been called a ‘people person’ let me just say, it is my humble opinion that anyone looking for a career in television entertainment would be lucky to work with Pink Sky Entertainment and Avamar Entertainment’s Flashpoint production team.
A team’s character always starts with its leadership. And, in that respect, Flashpoint is in the hands of four outstanding leaders. When you think about it, we the viewers are also in their hands. Sun Tzu, who is considered a sage in the history of our most trying crucible of leadership, war, wrote:
The commander stands for the general’s qualities of wisdom, sincerity, benevolence, courage, and strictness… These five fundamental factors are familiar to every general. Those who master them win; those who do not are defeated.
It is my feeling that the difference between good leadership and great leadership lies in one of those factors — good leaders lack this factor, great leaders do not. It is benevolence (or humanity in some translations). I’ve always been fascinated that Sun Tzu listed it as the third factor or, as I see it, the centre of the five.
On a television show which is dedicated to exploring the human cost of heroism, it is fitting and satisfying to know that their leadership, by all appearances, are similarly concerned with benevolence and humanity. We, as viewers and fans, should take note of this and remember to not only thank the actors, writers, directors, and all the technicians for how they enrich our lives with their contribution to our entertainment but also remember those people steering the ship. Although I think it would be courteous and encouraging for us to do so, it’s not a necessity. After all, virtue is its own reward.
So, yes, to answer my Snarky Friend’s question: I really like Flashpoint. I liked it as a show before all this started. I was thrilled it was shot, filmed, and set in Toronto. I liked it because it was an actiony cop show about an elite unit but it also had the heart to look at situations from multiple sides. I liked that one of the core principles of the show was that though certain actions of people may be bad, criminal, or even classically defined as evil, perhaps the people who commit them aren’t, in the grander scheme, bad, criminal, or evil.
But it’s grown beyond just liking what’s on the screen. What they did was take me in, like a stray. They plucked me from among many, many deserving fans, and offered to show me a glimpse of what happens in the inside. It goes beyond simple gratitude or feeling honour-bound to return the favour if not in kind at least in effort. It is because I admire the family they forged in making the show, the environment they created, and generosity of spirit they continue to display despite all the success. From their dedication to TEMA to their undeniable interest in their fans, the production family of Flashpoint is one of the most honourable, positive, generous, and benevolent group of people I have ever had the pleasure to encounter. No word of lie.
It’s a good show. Yes, it’s just entertainment. It’s a television show which some people will enjoy and some people won’t. That’s the name of the game. Entertainment in every single one of its forms is a subjective thing. One man’s garbage is another man’s gold.
It is a good show … but it is also a great family.
And it has been my honour to have, in some way, shed some light on that. For virtue may be its own reward but it’s still nice to get a pat on the back from time to time. So, Flashpoint folks, allow me to speak for the fans when I say y’all put on a good show and, just as importantly, you do it in a great way. Now, when I see your actors in interviews say things like, “I love working on this show,” I no longer have that touch of cynicism which wonders if it’s just good PR. Now, I believe it. And, dear readers, I hope you do, too.
Behind-the-scenes of Flashpoint lies a forged family which, I think, Greg Parker himself would admire. I know I do.
THE FINAL WORD BELONGS TO YOU
I was searching for a certain shot from a season 3 episode and I came across one of the montage “music rises” sequences. I realized how this song fits for me, both as a die-hard fan who loves being surprised by the show’s twists and turns as they unfold, and as an ‘inside man’ who got to read a script before it was done filming and even knowing, before the first episode of season 5 had aired, that the stoic Wordy (Michael Cram) was leaving the team. During my visit, I was both trying to be an impartial observer who took in as much information as possible in order to write these articles for your enjoyment AND just being a fan himself, I was eager to get lost in the moment. At times I floundered, caught between retaining composure and gushing effusively. And, in lieu of very little mention of Amy Jo Johnson, I’d like to point out that the version I found of this song was recorded live which helps my theme that though the finished product is certainly wonderful, what lies behind-the-scenes, behind the blue curtain, is even better.
And that it has been my pleasure, with stumbles and all, to dance in between those two worlds.
Thank you to everyone who made this possible and those of you who have been so complimentary in commenting. I urge you to leave your thoughts, not necessarily on my writing, but more on what you have learned in reading it. And what you think of the show and those who put it on.
I can almost guarantee that some of those people will read it.
(You can now download the entire 4-part article as a text only PDF. Not sure why you’d want to but I’m even more sure why, having said that, I put it up for downloading in the first place. Oh, right: cuz I’m a mental chaos bomb. Download the PDF: ➜Clicky.)
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Author’s Note: Flashpoint’s last episode on CBS airs this Friday, August 19. From then on, it will be shown in the United States on ION Television. The exact details of the transition have not been announced but, if you want to stay informed, your best bet is to join facebook.com/FPTOne or follow them on Twitter @FlashpointTeam1 for the producers or @Flashpoint_TV for Mark Ellis. You can also find everyone’s favourite police techie Spike (Sergio Di Zio) active on Twitter @elisasboy72.
Flashpoint will continue to air on CTV for now and for the foreseeable future, as they have ordered a fifth season, which is already in pre-production.
This is a first edit publish. Corrections and revision will follow. UPDATE: A second edit was performed.