Before I start with the description of my day on the Supernatural Live Free or Twi Hard shoot I should probably let you know in order to respect the rights of the crew I blurred their faces when ever they appeared in a photo, I figured they deserved their privacy. Also my at night pictures are not always the best but neither is my camera or skill set. If the photos don't open full size you can check out the gallery here. Enjoy the photos but don’t dis me or them or I will lock down and go friends only.
I can’t begin to tell you how incredibly lucky we were that day with the location shoot we found. Not just with knowing where the shoot was taking place, but also with the weather, the convenience of the physical location and the fact that there were going to be outside shots that day. The day was clear and sunny, neither too warm or too cold, there was a cute little coffee shop, called the “Java Cat” that had an outside seating area and which served really good sandwiches and dangerously delicious killer cookies. Just down the street was also the Vancouver Community College that was open 24/7 and had snack machines and more importantly bathrooms. For first timers we could not have gotten luckier.
We got to the site around 9:30 am and it was already bustling. My friend Smoosh had been through just before 8 am and saw crews steam cleaning the alley, only an hour later there were equipment trucks everywhere, cranes and huge lights, the crew’s cars and motorcycles, some of the cars that would be used in later shots, though we didn’t know that at first and every where there were thick power cords circling the block.
The power cords were probably needed because it was unlikely that the interior location, a historic building, built in 1907 for the BC Permanent Loan Company, had the electrical infra structure to support the lights and cameras necessary for filming. And since the location was in the middle of a block on West Pender they could not set up the trucks and the power conduits on that street but had to run them in from behind the building. A good portion of several of the PA’s time was spent standing or sitting around watching these cords or protecting the main entrance to the building. They were quite concerned about someone possibly tampering with them, I know I would not have wanted to touch them unless I was a licensed electrician but then I have some small idea of the amount of wattage a power cord over an inch or maybe two in diameter, with that level of shielding, must be carrying and a random person wouldn’t.
I never saw the inside of the building, but I could already tell from the outside that that the set was going to be something special. The BC Permanent Loan Company building has a gracious elegance not seen in modern architecture and which now is only found in small towns or the rare older section of cities where historic landmarks are preserved. The building was built in the Beaux-arts style and featured Tiffany style windows and domes, exquisite iron work and mosaic floors. Knowing from Jensen’s interviews how much input a director has in picking the locations; I can only imagine the Director’s delight when being shown the photos of site. Russ “Movie God” Hamilton’s team did a phenomenal job with that find. It really looked like an old time Gothic Vampire’s lair, Dracula would have been proud, although, I bet that the Cullen’s would have been appalled. Even the private entrance to the lower level shrieks with a dark atmospheric Victorian horror vibe.
Though during the day most of the scenes were being shot inside the building there was still a lot to see and learn. A lot of the PAs, because they were bored, were very talkative. They were careful about what they would say about the shoot and upcoming filming, but were happy to discuss neutral topics about the show. I learned that all the leaves and trash, I saw in the alley way and even the street lamps were all added by the art department. One of the favorite stories I heard was about the graffiti that was being added to an old wooden board by one of the Art Department members. I knew from Sera’s interview that the episode would be called “Live Free, or Twi-Hard” so I wondered how the words “Free Obae” fit into the story. I found out that Obae had nothing to do with the story at all but was an in-joke. Obae, apparently is a real person, a graffiti artist, who was arrested for his art. I have tried to track down the details of the story but there seems to be one or more artists using that name or variations of it and that Obae/Obey Free or Free Obae/Obey seems to be a common slogan in the graffiti art world when ever an artist is arrested. At least that is the best my Google-fu can do.
One thing that amused me is that my talking to the PAs seemed to really freak out one of the senior or supervisory PAs, every time he would see me talking to a PA he would come over and send them for a break. At first I thought I had bad timing then one of the PAs I was talking to mentioned he just came back from break. I am not really sure what about me set off his freak-o-meter, but he was sure nervous about letting me talk to anyone and though nice to me, he said everything he could think of to get me to leave. One of the other fans on site laughed and said the way he was following me around he must have the hots for me. But the Dude was HOT and young and I was old enough to be his mom plus a good 100lbs over weight, so I am highly doubtful that she was right and he would probably have been appalled to even hear it implied. Still, it makes me smile.
If you took the 2010 tour with Russ “Movie God” Hamilton you probably heard him talk about how important it is to have locations for shots near to each other. It saves cost for the company if they don’t have to move as often and it allows the director to pick up all his pages in a day. The goal is to cover 7 or 8 pages of script. That careful planning was certainly evident on this location. We got the feel of an entire small town from no more than 2 side streets and an alley. Really amazing!.
Lets start by taking a look at this alley, what it was used for and some of the challenges the crew faced in using it. It was used for five different shots that I recognized. First was the corner where it the alley joined the street between the Cosmetology School and Dance Academy. This corner was used as part of the shot that started with Sam and Samuel fighting a Vampire and then running to the lair. The Crew probably could have started shooting that scene earlier. They did seem to get in position for the shot by dark but waited almost an hour longer before they started shooting. I think the belly dancing class at Studio 505, had something to do with it. The music was so loud it was like they were having a concert outside, and the dancers were providing their own distraction through the windows as several of the crew would pause and take a few seconds to enjoy the view. So filming didn’t start until all the belly dancers cleared out.
Also a challenge with that corner, but one that occurred earlier in the day, was the hanging of the Parking Sign. There was an indent in the side of the building tor Java Cat that the neon parking sign was built to fit. The dimensions of the sign were perfect. The weathering right down to the rain stains spot on. Only problem was that the turn radius, of the hooks cut into the wooden frame, designed to fit over the tension rod installed in the alcove, was too large. There was no way they could tilt the sign enough to get the hooks over the bar with out the sign hitting the wall. Think of it as trying to parallel park and always hitting the curb. They took the sign down and tried trimming it several times before giving up and just cutting off part of the hook. All that work and the sign is hardly seen in the Sam-Samuel scene and barely gets more play in the Blood Bank Robbery which takes place at the same corner.
Speaking of the Blood Bank Robbery scene, we got to see the Coroner’s van, the Bloodmobile and Samuel’s beat up van all in the light of day. . Part of our good fortune came from a friend’s t-shirt. Bardic Voice was wearing her Blood donation T that had Dracula on it. It amused several of the crew who hinted that we should take a little walk down the street and there it was! Once I knew that cars that would be in the show were on site I went and photographed every vehicle just in case. The Coroner's Van and the Bloodmobile sure look different once the lighting is in place.
Finally foolish Kristen’s unlucky walk with Robbie was shot in that alley. To make it look different they moved the cameras up into the alley mouth so the distinctive dance studio architecture and parking sign could not be seen. This shot finally showed us why the Boom was on the street all day. The director had a lot of things done for this shot, added water to the pavement and more leaves. But the most amusing thing to me is when he wanted a car to be in the background as Robbie and Kristen walked down the street and he wanted it to turn right at first. Hamilton, where a lot of the filming was taking place, was already blocked by police, but Horner on the other side of the alley was not. PAs were assigned to block the one-way street themselves during the shots to ensure continuity and to allow the Production car that was going to be used in the scene to pull out from the alley across the street. Some drivers were not having it though and ignored the PAs and insisted on pulling down Horner. This one driver was arguing with the PA when the production car following the director’s instructions pulled out of the alley and turned the wrong way down a one way street. That is all it took, the argumentative driver decided to turn around and find a different street and in all future shots the driver of the production vehicle turned with traffic instead of against it.
Because the cameras and boom were blocking one end of the alley we watched from the other end, but we could not watch the actual shooting or we would have been in frame. I got some blurry pictures of the practice though, kept focusing on the wrong thing but it was fun.
I did get to see Mitch and Jared filming on Hamilton Street and take a few shots while the shoot was in progress. I was careful to follow all the PAs instructions, and once I realized that he was deliberately blocking the obnoxious paparazzi’s shots keep far enough away so I could take pictures of my own. And believe me that paparazzi was obnoxious, not only did he attempt several times to break the rules the PA set down, he was actively bad mouthing the crew and accusing them of all manner of wrong doing and he was (and this ticked me off the most!) deliberately encouraging fans to misbehave and cause the crew problems. I don’t think anyone took him up on his suggestions but how slimy. Anyway here are my pictures of Sam and Samuel on their way to rescue a Dean who does not need rescuing and some of the vehicles and set up for the shots. There was a lot of fake mist for atmosphere in this scene that I don't remember from the show. I think it is interesting that it was mostly shot through the window of Samuel’s beat up truck.
The other scene shot on Hamilton was Sam and Dean outside the Police station. The side entrance into the Vancouver Culinary School served as the station. Students in the school were pretty distracted by the filming or as one student put it, "I never watched the show, but wouldn’t you be distracted by them?" Another student piped up that her family watched it all the time and her mother, sisters and younger brother were all jealous. Finally they told me a story of going down to one of the lower class rooms and posting a sign that said Free Gourmet Cookies, 2nd floor. You can kind of see it in the background of some of my Impala pictures. The students claimed Jensen laughed and had to grab Jared to keep him from going back inside the college.
Finally the thing you have all been waiting for –well at least the thing I was waiting for all day. The fact is that I am in lust with the Impala, forget Jensen and Jared just give me Metallicar! Or a close facsimile. My family had a 72 for 15 years or so, it was our first car with any luxuries and I loved it, It broke my heart when my parents sold it to my cousin who wrecked it in less than 6 months, when a Semi hit him on the drivers side. So yeah I don’t just believe an original Impala can keep its riders save from being hit by a speeding semi, I know it! Anyway. Dean’s Baby is the real reason I wanted to find a location shoot. It just about broke my heart in 2009 when the professional Metallicar photos got canceled,finding her for myself was the only way I could hope to have a photo.
All day long on set after asking general questions I asked if the Metallicar would show up. Most PAs didn’t know or couldn’t say, though I did learn that the car was generally called the Twins as there was the flashy shiny one used in the Smoke on the Water scene at the end of “Two Men and a Baby” and the one that was almost as good but not in as pristine condition. I think by the time the car actually showed up the whole crew knew what I was hoping for, I had even gotten Clif to do a jaw drop when I asked him if there was any hope that the real star of the show would be on location that day. He got this wary look and stepped back and then before he could do more than that, my worshipful follow up “the Impala” caused an amused shocked expression to cross his face and he started to laugh.
Everyone was so nice about my obsession and made sure to tell me when it arrived. Clif and several of the PAs and Drivers as well as my friends made point to let me know it was there. I tried to be very polite, afraid even to cross the street to get a picture, but the crew encouraged me to go and I stood in awe just snapping away. I got my picture with Dean's Baby, but I was afraid to touch her though I wanted to badly To bad some fans were not as respectful as they left hand prints and scratches on the car because they actually sat on her trunk..
Eventually the Car-wrangler came over to get Dean's Baby ready for the shoot, I was really nervous but eventually got up the courage to engage him in conversation . I felt pretty foolish asking fannish questions but he was very patient.. One of the things I wanted to know was why wasn't a Supersport used, the Wrangler replied that the the Supersport was usually only a two door and they wanted to give the impression that the Impala was the family car before it became a hunter's vehicle. The second question I managed to get answered was about the amount of dirt on the car at any time, according to the Wrangler it had more to do with how busy they thought Dean was than any direct tie to his mental state. Of course, generally when Dean is in a bad place mentally he is really busy also, but not necessarily so. A good example is "Swan Song" Dean didn't have much to do before meeting Sami-Lu in the cemetery, so the Impala was pretty clean and shiney. Dean had the time and his girl might as well look her best if they were going off to die. But I am just surmising that last bit.
Only I wish I had the chance for more questions but by that time the Wrangler noticed the scratches and hand prints that were left on the car. That is how I knew they were there, and it was right where I had seen fans sitting earlier, though I did not mention it to the Car-Wrangler, the situation was bad enough as it was. He was very upset when he found the marks especially about the scratch and went off to get cleaning, polishing and redirtying supplies. Sadly according to what a PA told me much later that evening, the sitting on the car incident would have reprecussions for all fans. She said that as a result of the scratches and handprints on the Impala, the PAs were told that they would have probably post guards and be extra careful about bringing her on location when fans were present. How sad if that should be true. But enough sadness let’s just worship at the glory that is Metallicar!
One last thing, as the Crew was getting ready for the night shoot, they put the big lights on top of the Java Cat to illuminate the street. Though the Impala was not yet in position the Lighting Crew gave the fans a real treat by lighting up Dean’s Baby for us and making her glow.