Christine Cook

Go Big or Go Bust: Day 135 (behind the scenes of episode #20)

It's been raining non-stop here in Calgary so I have no pictures to show yet of the ongoing 'adventure'. 

What better time to fill you in on what was going on behind the scenes when we were shooting episode #20 (How To Be Free of Envy).

Christine Cook (l) and Jennifer Sklias-Gahan (r) in front of the body cast.

Christine Cook (l) and Jennifer Sklias-Gahan (r) in front of the body cast.

Gayle Brown, a friend who had been in the little West Village Artist's Way group I was a part of in the Spring/Summer of 2007, was in the business of fabricating all sorts of extremely complicated props and objects for artists and designers. When I mentioned to her that I needed a full-size body cast for a six-foot tall man, she suggested we knock it off in an afternoon. 

Gayle brought over rolls of chicken wire and a length of thick foam. I supplied a four-by-six foot piece of quarter-inch plywood, bags of white flour, some surgical gauze and piles of old newspapers. Gayle expertly fashioned a form with the chicken wire and we did flour-and-water-paste paper-machée over one and then over a second back-up chicken wire form.  Knowing that the scene where Louise cuts Phineas out of the form was going to be tricky to shoot and that we might not get it on the first try, a second form seemed like a good idea. In the end, we never used the second one and as far as I know, it's still in Gayle's barn.

Even though this shoot was in August of 2010, the difficulty of getting a hospital bed and its rack delivered is burned into my brain. The shoot was within days and I hadn't been able to get any company to commit to delivering it. Without a real hospital bed and rack, our somewhat surreal plot line was not going to fly. 

It wasn't until my dear brother-in-law Stuart Green advised that I stop identifying myself as a filmmaker and start saying that I needed the bed for my very ill mother that I was able to lock in a rental and delivery. He explained the psychology of the people in this line of work, that they're all about helping people in trouble and that my story about an upcoming film shoot would not motivate them. Ever. By the way, no way could I get a doctor to prescribe an actual medicine for the drip.  The 'medicine' in the bottle is olive oil shampoo from 17th century Suds

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I knew we also needed something that looked authentic for Phineas' life-support system but didn't have the budget to rent or to commission such a prop. One hot July afternoon, while on Canal Street shopping for rubber tubes at Canal Rubber, I spied an object (pictured above). It was right on the curb. In retrospect, I think it was probably waiting to be picked up as garbage. This gorgeous thing weighs more than fifty pounds and has sharp metal edges on the base. At the time, it was full of liquid. 

Thrilled at my discovery and seized with anxiety that someone else would grab it if I left it unattended, I hemmed and hawed for a few minutes trying to get a taxi. Two taxi drivers who crawled by in bumper-to-bumper traffic did not want it in their car.  I finally dashed into a nearby store and bought a luggage carrier and bungee straps and hauled it for several blocks through the crowd of shoppers blocking the sidewalk on Canal Street. 

By the time I made it to the corner of Center Street and Howard, my lower back and thigh muscles were aching.  I pulled over out of the line of foot traffic, shook out my hands, looked to the sky and moaned, "I need a friend with a car!"  "I need a miracle!" 

At that moment, a beautiful man with legs and arms like tree trunks, wearing basketball shorts and a jersey materialized and asked with a French accent: "Do you need help?"  El Hachimi Mohammed El Hachimi graciously hauled this ... boiler(?) up through Soho, through the Village, only stopping to mop his brow with a white handkerchief from time to time.  (I remember the temperature was in the mid-90-'s.) We chatted all the way, and finally he hauled it up the stoop and into the location in the West Village where it sits to this day.