Panama by Tracey Gudwin
I have never walked on cocaine before. As Tony has assured me, it’s going to be FUN and even though we have been stringently warned by Police and DEA officials – he’s NOT THROWING HIS EXPENSIVE SHOES AWAY. But I am.
Out damn spot, out I say. I am sitting in a hotel room somewhere in the middle of Panama City. I should be looking at footage, writing story notes, preparing for another glorious day of making travel television …or sitting by the pool, having a local beverage and marveling at how smooth the day went. But I have other concerns to take care of. I lock the door, turn up my iPod and get to work. I have a lot to do right now. Like remove the numerous chunks of coke that have surreptitiously hidden themselves in my sneakers.
At the same time, the rest of the crew: Diane, Kira and Mo are surely doing the same. I wash and wash them only to discover that deep inside the fabric is more EVIDENCE. F**k! What if the cleaning ladies find these sneakers? What if I don’t make it through JFK? What if McNulty from THE WIRE knocks on my door right now and charges me with conspiracy to smuggle drugs in my Nikes – they’ve been WATCHING me. I WAS ONLY MAKING TELEVISION, I swear!
Ahhhhh Panama, land of unexpected TV drama.
It’s been a sorta bewildering shoot to say the least. We arrived in Panama with a fairly inflexible schedule: Three days in the jungle, one day on an island and three days in the city. After spending a few days with the Embera people, lost in the world’s most notorious and stiflingly hot Darien Gap, we came back to Panama City, but not without losing some necessary equipment to the humidty… like TWO out of THREE of our VIDEO CAMERAS. We ended up nursing one back to life in the jungle with gum and toothpicks and were able to finish filming the scene, but someone was going to have to take one for the team and get HELP.
Let me introduce Diane…Producer, Foodie and freakin’ last minute COMMANDO. She snapped into action like Demi Moore in GI Jane…wrapped up a few local snacks and set out on a four hour trek… out of the jungle, down a treacherous river and up a cliff in search of a “supposed” cell phone signal where she ordered a couple cameras and probably made a few “Guess where I am?” phone calls to friends. But seriously, we were in big doo-doo. This is when I realized that PANAMA is not a land where ordinary things occur. The Darien jungle just ate my cameras and spit them out like bubble gum and it´s only day two!
After we flew back to the city, our Unit Production Manager, Dan, hopped off the plane and met us at the hotel bearing two replacement Cameras. He then slept two hours and took the next plane to get back to the office. Thank you Dan!
When I woke up on day three I had a bigger shock than losing our cameras. It appears that today would be a huge: “OH MY GOD, I WILL NEVER GET A GEM OF A SCENE LIKE THIS AGAIN; SO I MIGHT AS WELL QUIT PRODUCING TELEVISION AND BUY THAT ANT FARM I ALWAYS WANTED” kind of day.
The day began as a normal, go meet Panama´s Commissioner of Police …have a few slices of pineapple with him in his office and then wait for him to tell us that by the way, he has a scene he thinks we MAY like to film ……but that day, that day was not the typical surprise scenario. Meaning, when we get a surprise on the show it’s more like, “Oh by the way that jungle rodent we were going to catch, well it’s more like a domesticated pig…..or, the weather’s bad and we can’t fly… or Tony’s wearing another white shirt in the middle of the desert at high noon and the camera people are losing their minds…. I normally, as Producer, do not hear: “So, you guys want to come to the garbage dump and burn 6 tons of raw uncut coke that we just seized in the last 42 days…..Or have you already done that scene?” No sir. No we have not!