Shooting out of Sequence: Colombia
By Jared Andrukanis, Segment Producer
I know it is going to be a unique shooting day for No Reservations the minute I jump out of the drab green helicopter the Colombian Government provided us with for this scene. Since I am first out, I bolt like my a** is on fire towards the shoulder-high plants at the edge of the clearing we chose as a landing zone. My feet sink into the soft soil as I run, making the few yards I need to travel to reach the safety of the crops seem to take forever.I look back and see our military handlers file out next … there are three of them, and all are dressed like Navy SEALs, ready with their MP5 machine guns to provide us a blanket of what is known in the military world as \”suppressive fire\” to protect us in case an emergency extraction is warranted while we are filming the upcoming scene.
Todd and Zach from our crew emerge from the heli next, and as they near my position, they both perform a perfect tuck and roll into the safety of the brush. Watching this, I am immediately amazed by how nimble our camera guys are while carrying around 30 pounds of lenses and gaff tape.
Tony and Tom hop out last. Tom boldly takes what is known as the \”human shield\” stance to protect our host in case things get hairy on the ground. They make it to our position with no incident, and we are all safe and under cover in the field.
I do a quick head count, and while doing so, notice Todd frantically plucking leaves off a nearby plant and jamming them by the handful into his camera bag. He sees me staring and shrugs, \”When in Rome…ya know?\” I let Todd get back to his gathering, and start thinking about our next scene.
What I had considered was the logistical difficulty of filming a hot dog scene in the Colombian rain forest. It is just a b***h to get in here in one piece…and it is hot — hotter than one could imagine. My backpack is full of bottled water for the crew, and I offer one up to Zach – he shakes his head, too busy looking for a spot in all this green to white balance his camera.
What I had not considered was that Zach\’s intricately modified camera rig looks dubiously like a shoulder-mounted Stinger missile launcher … this may create problems for us, especially if someone sees us from a distance.
As our helicopter lifts off and heads to the rally point I begin to wonder how the hell we are going to pull this thing off…and if the hot dog will end up being the end of Act 4 or possibly the beginning of Act 5 in the final cut of the show. Hot dog scenes are delicate in that way — it all depends on the quality of the toppings, and if the bread is fresh baked or not, also if the actual dog is pork or beef.
Our transport helicopter explodes mid-air with a shockwave so powerful it blows my annotated copy of the filming schedule for the day out of my hand. The explosion is followed by the arrhythmic popping sound of machine guns on full auto – I can hear the bullets cutting through the vegetation around me.
My first thought is – I hope the guys are filming this.
Our handlers scream for us to \”hit the deck\”, and as I dive to the ground, my ears are still ringing from the blast. Landing face first, I spit out a mouthful of dirt as my head spins, and there is a redundant sound pulsing through my head akin to a phone ringing at full volume inside my skull…is this what shell shock feels like?
I gather myself and try to make a another head count – to my right I see Tony calmly drinking a beer and eating a slice of pizza while chatting up one of the soldiers working with us (where the hell did he get that piece of pie?)
To my left is a collection of spent mortar shells and ammo cases as well as an old style rotary phone, half buried in the moist Colombian soil.
The phone is ringing in cadence with my head.
So I answer it.
\”Buenos Dias, this is your 7AM wake up call.\”
I hang up the phone, and tuck and roll out of my plush bed at a beautiful and safe hotel room in the walled city of Cartagena — it is time to go to work.
As my dream fades, I laugh out loud at it. Turns out Colombia is a completely different kind of dream…it is one of the most amazing countries I have ever visited. The Colombian people are awesome – unbelievably kind and accommodating, and the food is out of this world. Cartagena de las Indias is spectacular in its old world glory, and Medellin is as progressive a city as any I have been to in the USA (and much, much, more into their food).
You need to see it to believe it. But right now, I really want some coffee – I need to think about our trip to a remote fishing village off the coast of Cartagena that shoves off in about an hour.
This is going to be a great day. – JA