Upside down and backwards, I’m home from 9 days in Australia where we shot the image campaign for the new Spielberg produced FOX show Terra Nova. The premise for this new Sci-Fi pilot: it’s 2149, the world is dying and a group of volunteers are sent back to the prehistoric age to attempt to preserve the human race. Land of the Lost meets Jurassic Park! Being a 20 million dollar production, my guess is that it’s going to be pretty cool. Besides vampires are so passé these days, I need some T-Rex action!
The flight down was not bad considering it was 14 hours (not including the JFK-LAX warm up). It helped that we mysteriously got bumped to premium. I cried watching “the Kids are alright” and I fell head first into Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell (I swear it’s the best book I’ve ever read!) all while reclining in a cocoon like dome.
The show is being filmed on a lush mountain hillside an hour south of Brisbane Australia but we stayed in the ugly and inappropriately named town Surfers Paradise. They put us up at the glass tower Q1 which is a not a hotel but a residential apartment building with no service. Its claim to fame is that it’s the 28th tallest structure in the world but I think it might fair even better on a list of the most hideous monstrosities in the world. Officially known as “Schoolie’s Week” the town was over run with thousands of drunken teenagers looking to get laid. All the boys with their frosted tip swoosh hairdos chasing after the pretty girls with their little bird faces. Think ft Lauderdale, spring break 1994.
It’s supposed to be summer here but unusually weird weather patterns have brought rain for weeks on end and the production is scrambling to adjust. The set of Terra Nova is a whole town of buildings and structures sinking in a puddle of mud. Working with the FOX Creative team, the lovely Diane Cooper and the funniest art director in the land Michael Vamosy, we spent our first two days acclimating to the environment and scouting the compound, sussing out the power and the crew and the myriad details involved in the production. We had a huge shoot planned, multiple group shots with nine cast members, all around the set. Next to the singsong of the aussy, our clunky American accent sounded so ugly, and even though we were all speaking English, communication was surprisingly difficult. Most of the local crew terminology was undecipherable so getting things worked out was a bit more complicated than we were expecting.
Anyway, with the sogginess setting in, the set was covered in mud and the forecast was looking grim. We had planned on shooting at the studio on Saturday and at Terra Nova on Sunday but at the last minute we decided to gamble and switch our days around hoping to get less rain on Saturday than Sunday. Mother nature had a 38 and we were dancing.
Early Saturday morn, with the gang loaded up in our soccer mom mini van I braved the wrong side of the road and drove to set. Miriculously no one was hurt. The hoops of fire that we had to jump through to get proper gear to the location is another story entirely, but with the help of my 4 badass assistants, multiple producers and the local crew we were able to flesh out our big cast shot in front of the giant main gate before too long. With our 16 pro foto packs safely wrapped in garbage bags the clouds hung low and the threat of rain weighed heavily on us all. Thankfully we pulled off the shot (which looked amazing!) and just in the nick of time too because it started to pour. As I watched the rain wash away our shoot, I was feeling blue regarding the prospects for the afternoon. Luckily, the rain delay was short lived and another bullet was dodged. After lunch we were able to push forward onto the hill and attempt to make the “canopy” group shot. The greens department had brought in a forest of greenery within the forest, and with the help of Jack the hot ATV driver we got everybody up the mud covered hill. A couple of vehicles did get stuck, including the generator, and I was literally rolling around in the muck. But we pulled off all of our variations, and even found some magic mushrooms growing in the cow patties. So very Woodstock! (we smartly took the advice of the producer and did not eat them)
Thank god we switched days because Sunday was torrential and we were safely covered under a 100ft roof at the stage. With the exception of the smoke machine setting off the fire alarm and having to have the fire department show up to save us, we had a relatively smooth (but grueling) day on the seamless. The cast was wonderful and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend time with all of them. I particularly enjoyed the company of Allison Miller, Jason O’Mara and Steven “Slang” Lang (THE EVIL COLONEL FROM AVATAR!)
On Monday we spent the day driving around the rain forest shooting plates in the jungle. We were all exhausted and it was pouring rain so it was pretty tough and miserable. The massive tree and the spectacular waterfall were cool to see and only Michael got a leech on him so it wasn’t too bad.
Having survived the first season Terra Nova gallery shoot, we had an excellent wrap dinner at Moo-Moo (you guessed it – a steakhouse) Then because of scheduling and flights we ended up with a couple of days stuck down under. We jogged on the beach and played some putt-putt golf and even managed a daytrip to Sydney. Thanks Michael and Diane and my assistant Bek and Eric the Tech and Ro the procucer and everyone else too!