Wednesday, October 24, 2007

APPALOOSA Movie 2007 Oct 24

A beautiful morning in New Mexico. Call time is "High Noon', so time to finish chores. Drive the 65 miles to the base camp. Of course charming Elizabeth is waiting. Sign in and Wardrobe beckins. Change duds to 1880's attire and return to Elizabeth for further instructions. Chow time, how nice, and what a great feast layed out in the crew tent. Now that is rare. They eat a lot better than Back Ground does.

Today has fewer BG (Back Ground people) so we are invited in for lunch of a most tender roast and scalloped potatoes, along with portobello mushrooms and squash with delicious greens, of course always pasta for the non-carnivores. While eating in our own Back Ground tent (we can't have it all).

Our table discussion turned to curiousity about 'Da Flikkers'. The hits are running at record levels lately. More like Astronomical. We have no idea how they are finding our little blog. Comments and questions are welcome. We try to post answers in the following, or as additional info added to the post. Readers must be sharing their little 'find'? Must be Viggo, or Ed, or Renee. Hmmm.. Hard to decide who is the major attraction. All are very nice, fun loving, interesting people and proving to be a lot of fun to work with each day in our little Appaloosa.

Ruben, who actually looks like Viggo, is the 'Gun shop Owner', we discuss Helo's and WWII history. Jerry is 'The Assayer' wearing his truly antique 'Knox' bowler, made in New York. Ed the Appaloosa Doctor, is wearing a brown reproduction of an original. A surprising amount of the wardrobe is actually original and found in antique stores all across the US and around the world.

'Wardrobe' management personel are very protective of their 'treasures' and work extremely hard to maintain it. How they do it all is beyond me. Inventory is strictly monitored. Wardrobe holds on to our pay vouchers until we find and return the missing item. Now that is incentive.

The Wardrobe and 'set decorator' professionals roam far and wide hunting for our authentic movie items. I have seen the wardrobe people in thrift stores finding treasures discarded by others. On 'Comanche Moon' (3 part TV Western to be released at end of this year), a beautiful set of 'hoop' dresses, parasols and hats, actually were used in 'Gone With the Wind'. Start of 'Da Flikkers' began on that 'Bonanza Creek' movie set and can be found in the very first post in 2006 under 'Archives' in right sidebar.

There is not enough 'set and wardrobe' to go around, so companies provide reproductions that look exactly like the originals. During the 'makeup' process with Karen (loves Costa Rica and owns 2 homes there, wants to grow Mangos), I recognised Ed, (Appaloosa Dr) from 'Swing Vote'. All in all a great group, including many others not mentioned. Van load with last crewman holding a plateful of food and barely swinging aboard, 1/4 mile (402m) to 'set holding', our Hay, Grain and Feed barn.

While waiting for our orders, standing outside, the crew started to hold their ears and yell "Fire in the Hole". Kaboom, the sound of Hitch's (Viggo) 8 guage (most likely a 10 ga) long, double barreled, shotgun fired, as it does at times during the filming. It is plenty loud. The horses jump, even though they are far away from the blast. Filming was in the next street over. 'Appaloosa', which has real buildings, not just storefronts, has two main streets. Pretty big little town, Hey?

Rebecca runs to 'set holding', and shouts my name, we run up the street to the house I'm building for Cole (Ed Harris). Finally I get to play my role as his carpenter. The set is piled with lumber and sawhorses. Rebecca runs back later with bottled water for me, she is the sweetest person and looks out for 'Da Geezer'.

The first 'camera shoot' is started before the call 'Action' by Walt, our hiding PA (production assistant). Dennis rides into the scene on his black horse. My helper, Tim the wrangler, looking out from under his broad brimmed hat, notices the buckboard approaching, spits his 'dip', and quietly says go.

I quickly take my old cloth tape measure, in it's leather case, walk briskly to the porch, measure where I want the railing, move to the next post, measure, return to the saw horses, pick up a 2x4, walk back to porch, hold it in place and mark it with a little stick (my pencil).

Then I walk back to Tim, showing him where to cut. He is sawing silently with the teeth up, as we usually do. Ed, Renee and Viggo are now at the house. Ed jumps out of the Buckboard, 'CUT' is called. Ed Harris (Cole) comes up to Tim and says, "You need the teeth down to really cut the 2x4 with sawdust floating down, then proceeds to set up the board for Tim. Good idea, Ed tries very hard for reality in each scene. The sawhorses in the first scene were mistakenly the new ones from Home Depo, used in the actual construction of this nice little house with a front porch...Whoopsy! Quick switch them out for the old handmade log sawhorses.

"Reset to One" (first position) is called out, then we do our part again...and again...and again, many times, until all finally looks right. The sun is getting lower toward the horizon. We must move rapidly now. The camera crew runs up the street with all of the equipment right towards our new little house construction site.

Our site is now fully wireless with an antenna set up to record the remote transmission from the golf cart camera with it's audio. The buckboard rolls up the street with the 'Stand-ins', as happpens before each 'shoot' to be absolutely sure every thing is in focus. The horses like it better when they are really doing something worthwhile. Sounds like people.

It is starting to get extremely busy in our small construction site near the house. The direction that the camera now faces is towards the setting sun. Somehow the equipment and operators deal with it. The 'barndoors' (non-reflective, black flaps positioned around the lens) are used to control the field of view. Pretty, red haired Renee retreats to her little blue fold up cabana, for a refresh makeup. Her silky, Copper colored, bustle dress with dark blue vertical stripes glistens in the low angle sunlight as she walks smoothly across the irregular dirt surface. Upon her quick return to the 'live' set, the three of them are joking and just having a good time, like the rest of us in spite of the urgency of the setting sun. This group is professional and maintains their sense of humor.

Set up is complete. Now the Buckboard with Viggo, Renee in the center, and ED on the left, comes up the street with a golf cart in front of the horses. The cameraman with his body mounted, floating camera, is standing on the rear platform of the golf cart. The big, gray, fuzzy (wind and noise protected) directional Mic, boom, is held by hand, out of camera field, over the buckboard by a crewman running along side the golf cart in front of the horses.

The 'buckboard dialog' among the three of them, was recorded during this mystical, dusty, sunset backlighted, little trip up the street to Ed's new house. Many times this was repeated with the sun setting lower and lower. Each time the tracks in the street were swept away rapidly by the crew including Dennis 'the horseman'. All of a sudden Viggo Mortensen apppeared, grabbed a big broom and started sweeping vigorously alongside the crew.

Now that was different. Viggo Mortensen is definetly not afraid of hard work and dirt. The scene was repeated again and Renee is heard to say dialog referring to 'Braggs' (Jeremy Irons) men. "Are You Afraid of Them?" to Cole. 'ED' replys, "No I aint afraid of them", "Now get down out of there", as he jumps like an athlete over the left front wheel of the buckboard, turns and catches Renee by the waist, while she is climbing down from the seat.

This was done many times to get the timing right as ED (Cole) folds Renee's parasol and places it behind the seat. "Reset" was done fast, many times, like a rapid replay, with ED (Cole) jumping in and out of the buckboard several times, (like I said, Ed's an athlete) until it was good. "Cut" was called, then the command "Checking the Gate" where the action is reviewed to be sure all is perfect on film. Time was standing still while we waited.

The two horse team was getting a little fidgity. Viggo Mortensen walked over to the horse nearest him and started caressing its right flank slowly, and repeated it over and over, while talking to Renee, standing in the buckboard. The horse relaxed along with it's teammate. ED was in the little house reviewing the action on the monitor with the camera crew. The call we all were waiting for. "It's a Wrap". Time to climb into the vans, now fully loaded and pulled onto the 1/4 mile (402m) ride to base camp over the hill, just out of sight of Appaloosa.

All were amazed to see Viggo Mortensen, in his dark green jacket vest, still wearing his 45 caliber Colt on his left hip in a 'cross draw' fashion, walnut gripped butt forward, with all of the cartridges vertically lined along the brown 'fast draw holstered' belt. Viggo had started walking back to base camp along our little road. We stopped our full van. We gladly 'scrunched' together and Viggo Mortensen climbed in, laughing and joking with us. Viggo has a sharply chisel featured, face. He then stared intently out the window watching the beautiful full moon just starting to rise above the Eastern horizon.

I followed him out the door as he walked briskly toward his trailer. This day passed extremely fast. The hours were flying by. No time to read my book. That is wonderful. Then it was our turn to 'chango-tent' and take our 1880 clothes to wardrobe, pick up our payroll form, deliver it to Elizabeth, check our next call date before leaving. The Carpenter (Blogengeezer) returns again on the 14th of Novenber. You will just have to check back then for, "The Rest of the Story" as witnessed on the set of our great little Western movie, APPALOOSA.

I drove slowly out to the highway, head South for the 65 miles (104km) drive to 'the house'. The full moon was now above the Eastern horizon in the darkening, cloudless sky. The sunset was now a blazing red in the West. The mountain ranges to the West, were as silouetes against the red background in the dusk. I drove along in the quiet solitude of this wonderful desolate highway, reflecting the entire day in my mind, repeating the images over and over as if it were a scene that we were trying to perfect.

What more could a person ask for in this, "One Nation Under God" the United States of America.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

APPALOOSA Movie 2007 Oct 23

Tuesday OCTOBER 23
Elizabeth called again to surprise the Blogengeezer. "Be at 'base camp' by 6:30am, Good job Elizabeth. What a girl. Cold morning, heavier coat, drive the 65 miles to our little movie town of APPALOOSA. Arrived a little early for sign in as usual. Chow line was calling. Eggs, Sausage, bacon, tators and lots of good hot coffee.

While eatin' my 'Good Gedunk', Tom (cottage Cheese and Beets, Tom) and I were talking and daylight was 'burnin'. Finally Elizabeth and Rebecca had to remind me about Wardrobe? Oh Yea, Wardrobe. I gulped the last coffee and rushed over to the trailer for my 1800's Duds. Rushed into the chango-tent to swap out my 2007 duds for the authentic canvas pants and suspenders, worn out thick woven authentic undershirt with big holes, and metal buttons, faded, checked shirt with no collar, vest with worn out lining, and size 12 EEE tallboots (actually very comfortable even if a bit snug, usually I wear a 13). According to my friend Tom (sign painter), I really look more like a well dressed 'Swamper' with his pants tucked into his boots, than a contractor.

Run to make-up and date with 'Tesla', flaming Red haired Bobby. Her red hair actually stands on end like a person under a static electricity generator. Bobby smeared on sun-blocker and dirt. I went out that door and within minutes was back in the other door to get hair smeared a litle before loading in the van for the trip to the set.

One very interesting observation. Just about all of the 'crew' is Stardom waiting to be discovered. 'Tesla' bobby is just one. I always see strange hairdo's, wild attire, and every conceivable character portrayed around the set. All are fascinating to watch. Talent is everywhere and exciting to observe. One attractive, tall young woman has very vibrant deep reddish-purple hair with trinkets set precisely throughout. I will get her name some time, maybe even an interview, everyone has a story waiting to be told.

Frank (neon-dash Frank) was on set again with a few different background people along with others from days past. The van deliverd us all to APPALOOSA. Another infamous friend, Dennis of all people was in 'set holding', the Feed store. Dennis was the 'Comanche Moon', Austin Banker on our first 'townfolk' day. Dennis stood outside the 1850's Austin bank looking very sophisticated with his tall top hat and white goatee with moustache. He really looked like a banker.

My first wife (Judi) and I walked past him, as he got into his carriage and rode away with his wife. The second day, I was an Austin businessman with an even taller black stovepipe hat. I now had a young girlfriend (Shaney) We climbed into the carriage driven by 'Dennis' the carriage driver. This story is told during the first blog series back in my 2006 archives. The 'comments' are the day by day happenings on set of Comanche Moon.

You never know how your fortune will change in the movies. I tapped Dennis's shoulder and he drove away smartly with our two horse hitch. Dennis is really an expert horseman in real life and has driven carriages back in Ohio (amish country) and ridden for years. This is fun stuff for him. Dennis likes westerns as well as anybody, Blogengeezer included.

During our preview of the days activities, Rebecca did an excellent 'reading' of the script. It came alive as she did the 'story lady' version. We were in stunned silence afterward, for whatever reason. Next time I will read 'Viggo's lines and Rebecca will read Renee's. Now that we were hyped, it was time to get to work. Rebecca sent us out into the dusty streets of Appaloosa. I was sent into the hotel Saloon up the street. Alll Riiight!

To my dismay no drinks were being served. The Set Decorator's crew was working full force to get it finished for the following weeks inside scenes. The true antique (in most cases) set fittings and vases with crystals hanging from the edges, were mostly brought in from LA Cal. Most are stored until needed, then used in films throughout their lifetime. Recycling is always evident, due to budget considerations. The chandeliers hanging from the ceiling really have candles visible. The bar is very well built with it's classic back mirror. The pot bellied stove is getting fitted to it's metal floor plate. The green wall covering was being applied throughout. The furniture is commensurate with the period as well.

The curved stairway and the sitting parlor were reminiscent of Durango Colorado's Strater Hotel (one of many in the restored 1800's, Colorado) This film budget is approximatly $15 million as far as My sources can figure. The money spends fast with so many people and so much time involved. Attention to detail seems to be running fairly high on this set. We are all properly 'dirty' and properly attired.

Talk about dirty, on the days he worked, Makeup used up all of their 'dirt' (actually dark face powder and spray) on this big guy, He was so dirty that the dirt fell off as he walked, his hands were sprayed with dirt, his face was dirtied, his clothes were dirtied, his boots were dirty. All in all, hands down he was the dirtiest of all of us. Steve is the most neccessary man in Appaloosa, The Blacksmith. Big Steve has also been very prominent in the 'Boy Scouts of America' Headquarters near Cimmaron NM.

On command from hidden Kate, the AD, "Cameras Up, Rolling-Rolling, Background, Action", I was to walk out the Saloon's swinging doors, put on my cap, turn and walk to the end of the raised boardwallk, step down the stairs, cross the street to where the banker and his 'friend' ('Amazon' Elizabeth) were entering the bank. Then I stepped up onto the boardwalk, turned and started toward the camera focused on the 'close in' Stars, untill I finally ended up at the feed store checking the feed bags.

Now this sounds quick and simple. Over five hours later and many resets, we finally got the entire sequence on film. Viggo (Hitch/Virgil) was busy with various people in the street. Stepping high up onto the boardwalk near Hunter the ten yr old, and carrying his 8 gauge double long barreled shotgun, staring intently into the distance, talking with important townfolk in the street, and all in all just doing his Deputy Marshall thing. Ed (Cole) is an excellent '5 yard, bottle in the trash can' shooter. Columbia University was not wasted on that man. He walked very close past 'Geezer', the carpenter, several times. Maybe I will get to start work on his house some time.

During the van load-up, I had the pleasure to ride in the seat just in front of pretty Renee Zellweger, who climbed in last with barely any space to actaully sit. As We exited the van at base camp, Elizabeth (my casting director) asked how I pulled that off. Renee did not ask my opinion, just talked in concern, about the lost 'town dog' that is seen in the film. Blue dog had trotted back to the chow tent for a snack. The dog handler is always hiding around the corner and sending hand signals to the 'blue' dog. Amazing how the blue dog behaves as he is told,... except when he wants a snack.

One new background, 'printers wife no 1', a widow operating the 'Appaloosa Gazette' with 'printers wife no 2' (also a widow), is from the 'Amazon' remember, she is messing around with the Banker?, and came to NM just to be an Extra on this film. I don't think so. Her Mom got her to do it. Elizabeth (dead printers widow) is in real life, a doctor helping the native indian tribes in Ecuador, to get along in their changing world. She has done it for 5 years, and is going back when this is finished. Unless we can somehow convince her otherwise? NM is fun?

Just after 'Tesla' Bobby with hazel eyes, had put more sunscreen on my dirty face. I was told that the day was finished for 'the carpenter', 'It's a wrap' for me. The list was read and I am to return tomorrow at 'HIGH NOON', "Oh don't Forsake Me, Oh My Darling" for another days shoot. We do have fun and pass the time in a meaningful, mostly non-violent manner. One Nation Under God, is a Great place to live. It also is a wide open, scenery rich environment. To drive 65 miles back to 'the house' across the desolate Eastern Plains, is a pleasure in itself.

See comments below for following episodes and dates of 'On Set' activity in filming of APPALOOSA.

APPALOOSA Movie 2007 Oct 19

19 October 2007

Got up at 4:00am, prepped for the day, drove up toward the freeway, merged into the sparse traffic and noticed a neon lite dashboard that looked all too familiar. The 1962 Dodge dart rolled into my headlights. Of course I knew those dash lights. Frank from Wild Hogs and other films we have worked, was also heading up to Cerro Pelon for a day on the set. Frank spent time as a radio announcer and met his wife that way (she called in a request). They have been married for 14 years. See what I mean about old friends?

Arrived at the base camp 15 minutes early, signed in with Elizabeth (she works very long hours and just loves Westerns) I chowed down on some 'Good Gedunk', eggs, bacon, sausage, biscuits and gravy with coffee. We get two 'squares a day'. Hair and makeup gets their shot on making us dirty. Karen talked 'Dirty' and then dabbed it all over our faces and hands. We all finished getting 'swarthy' then loaded into the van for 'on set holding' where we spend a lot of time in the Hay, Grain and Feed building, talking way too loudly. (Rebecca says) By the way she finally found someone to fix our door and window. It took 4 days and 15 people, but finally she did it. Bob from yesterday was back on set. Bob needed the restroom. Bob headed on out.

Rebecca chased Bob. Rebecca eventually caught Bob. Rebecca chewed Bob out (just a little) for not telling her where he was going. (she might have needed him quickly for a scene) I tried to help him out, but Rebecca, using her highly honed 'Police Skills' inherited from her Dad, saw right through my ploy. Rebecca is a little 'Fox'.

Finally we 'all' got to do a scene. The 'Carpenter' (myself) sat on a small barrel of mollases in front of the Hay, Grain and Feed store, about a block down the street from the action with Renee in a buckboard. The 'new in town', cowboys were being warned about the town rules, then Renee was whisked on around the corner with the 2 horse hitch. By the way 'Hitch' is also Viggo Mortensens film characters name, 'Cole' is Ed Harris's.

We did that scene various ways for about an hour or more. Finally "Check'n the Gate", then Loudly came the words, "It's a Wrap". We walked through this little fairy tale 'Old West' town, to the vans, trucked on back to base camp, dusted off and changed into our 'civies', turned in our wardrobe, checked out with Elizabeth, who was dressed just like Olivia Newton John 'Neutron Bomb' from the movie 'Grease', in her black tight fitting outfit. "One that I want...Whoo, Whoo, Whoo"!

Rebecca said that she wants to read this blog about herself...I am not sure if I should send her the 'lank'WhaddayaThank?

See how much fun we have in New Mexico, The Greatest State, in The Greatest Country, The United States of America, One Nation Under God.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

APPALOOSA Movie 2007 Oct 18

'APPALOOSA' the Movie

Elizabeth Gabel's, Far Horizon casting agency called. The wonderful girl has gotten me a 'featured' part as a 'Salty Retired Sea Captain' Carpenter, (Ed decided on that image) building the main characters house. I'll be working with Ed Harris, what an Honor!

Viggo Mortensen,

and Renee Zellweger

'APPALOOSA', filming near Santa Fe. I will do Wardrobe tomorrow in Santa Fe. I also received a 'paycheck' for this 2 hour day, Now isn't that nice? This is Great news, I love Western films, especially 1800's. They are like a full box of fine wine to a 'homeless alcoholic' with his bedroll tucked safely up under a warm, dry highway overpass for a nice nights sleep.

The production will be shot in and around Santa Fe from October 1 through November 24 and expects to hire approximately 90 New Mexico crew members and 500 local background actors. I drove 60 miles to Santa Fe for my Wardrobe fitting on Friday. The shirt is a well worn, faded, check pattern. The pants are heavy canvas with suspenders buttoned in place. A nice vest and a coat along with a billed cap, complete 'The Look' The pants are tucked into the tall worn looking boots. The 'town Meeting' is held to solve 'the problem', and we must look respectible. On the same day, Tom the Telephone retiree from our 'Commanche Moon' filming days together, was being fitted as the 'artist' painter. We have enjoyed working together in the past.

Ed Harris will produce, star and direct. Other principal cast includes Viggo Mortensen and Renee Zellweger. Alongside Harris, Producer, Director and Star, will be producers Robert Knott, Michael London and Ginger Sledge.

Appaloosa is based on Robert B. Parker’s novel, an 1800’s Western that tells the story of two lawmen (Harris and Mortensen) who are hired to bring order to 'Appaloosa', a dusty town suffering at the hands of a renegade rancher (A Hollywood portrayed, Dammed Conservative Republican most likely). But the arrival of an attractive, beguiling widow disrupts their plans. (Renee Zellweger)

This should be a great flik, also I have liked Viggo ever since 'Hidalgo' and 'Lord of the Rings'. Of course Renee did great in 'Chicago'. What a fun career. What a great Country, The United States of America, One Nation Under GOD! 'Our Earth' 'Warm Earth' 'Cool Earth''Casting calls', click on 'In Production' and 'bulletin board' or 'for locals'.

The call was for 12:30 am on Thursday Oct 18th 2007, at Cerro Pelon Ranch South of Galisteo New Mexico which is on hwy 41, South of Santa Fe. Elizabeth had posted it that way on her myspace blog. About 8;30am Elizabeth called me and said that I was needed earlier. I arrived at base camp at 10:50am. The drive is about 60 miles. Pretty chilly day with snow on the Northern mountains across the distant horizon. The crew was wearing snowmobile suits.

After sign in, I went to wardrobe and changed into my 'Carpenter' outfit. I bring a large plastic leaf bag to cover my own clothes left hanging in the wardrobe tent during these Western movie shoots. Dust gets into everything if I don't. After changing into my 'Character' wardrobe, a bundled up Elizabeth (snow bunny) told me to wait in Extras Holding (another chow tent). A van picked us up and delivered us to the holding building 'on set', 'Appaloosa'. What a treat to see several old friends (25 to 30), from previous films, that's the best part.

Tom (the painter) tells us his 'Nun' stories from growing up in the Catholic Church in Chicago. Norm (townsman), my friend from Lost Room and Swing Vote, is a prolific writer himself, says it aggrevates his 'Angst'. We all laugh and joke way too much. Steve, Toms old buddy from 'The Hood' has even more stories (stick ball, no 'shovel handles' allowed). Tom 'Telephone Man' knows everone it seems, He's friendly, but we love it.

Marvin (train passenger) Big Steve (Blacksmith). Big Steve (Da Bear) is an actual blacksmith in real life, he makes knives and customizes things like guns, for use by us film junkies. After we had a robust lunch of 'spaghetti' (big noodles), flat peas and 'chicken parts', (Tom would have loved 'Beets and cottage cheeze'. Tom is a connoiseur of fine 'Beets') Big Steve needed to be 'Dirtied up' a bit by 'Dirt Devil' Lisa, the make-up artist. Rebecca, who does some Blacksmithing herself, kept saying to Lisa, "Dirtier" until Big Steve finally looked like 'Black Smith'.

Chris (the Taylor), Marty (visiting Salesman), Frank (real estate), and PJ (Real Estate), PJ is a very accomplished Photographer in real life. He displayed his extremely well done Headshots and other work to us. He is published in New Mexico Magazine and has a website at, He has done many things during his life, (including truck driver), and of course Bob (building supply owner). Many others that I have not had the pleasure to meet yet are in this days filming. Strangers are Friends that I have not yet met.

Low and behold, my infamous 'Rebecca' our ECA (extra's casting assistant), was waiting for us. I hugged her a big bunch, put on the 16 oz gloves, then went to my (red?) corner, to wait for her instructions on when to be quiet, when to move it on out, or just what to do and when. Rebecca always has the very latest in hairstyle..The wind blows and it changes.

Rebecca does things like hold up the door that had it's lag bolts pulling loose from the frame and making sure we have water. At one point Rebecca told us it was Chow time. She is so nice. If you look closely we are all hiding in the Hay, Grain and Feed Store until needed in each scene. We had to stand back from the windows.(Rebecca told us) The chimney actually smokes because 'Sarge' sits near a little pan of charcoal, pours some 'Frankencence' on it and proceeds to 'Blow Smoke'....By the way, "There is a lot of that going on in the filming industry"... It sure smells a heck of a lot better than that automatic smoker we used in Comanche Moon. 'Smoke Bump'?

At one point Rebecca proceeded to pick a tan jacket up from a chair. Another extra walked up to her and tried to take it from her. She resisted. He persisted. Finally he said "thats MY jacket". Rebecca had thought it was hers of the same color. She would have noticed as soon as she tried it on, because of the huge size difference. Nice try Rebecca, but "No cigar".

This is the same great western movie set town used in 3:10 to Yuma last month. It has a rail and station system for train shots. It is located on the Ford (formerly Cooks) Ranch. Ford is a fashion designer and leases this ranch set to film companies. The big aircraft propellor fan was not needed on these days, the wind blew naturally, a lot...

After our lunch was finished back at the chow Tent about 3:30 pm and we returned by van to the 'extras holding' Hay store, the call finally came, that included 'all background', including the "Carpenter' (myself). The little green train engine (Paul told me it was Imported from Arkansas) with two passenger cars and one freight car, was fired up with wood and chugged into town, It sort of coughs periodically, like a horse that has eaten some bad hay. Pretty, red haired, Renee Zellweger, stepped down along with the other passengers and proceeded to head for the Restaurant. The first shoot, had way too many people in the scene (overshadowed the Star) so we had to do it over with fewer people.

The next try had 'the Carpenter' (myself) fixing the fence around the Church again, as pretty Red Haired Renee walks past, carrying her luggage. She acknowledged me, I touched my hat and nodded to her. Thats good, because I am her 'New Home' contractor. Paul my PA (production assistant) with his headset radio, was just off camera, hiding behind a small building extension near me, to the right side of the Church, 'queing' our "background Action"!. The 'Iron Horse' chugged past, the 'Natures Own' horse spooked, and Paul got trapped in his little corner by a large 'cowboy up', 'Meat, hair, and Bone', 'Hoofed' horse backing away from the 'Iron Horse'. A minor panic started to be evident as Paul was about to be squashed like a horse fly. Now that's the fun stuff that happens in the film industry, Hours of boredom, seconds of shear terror, Paul almost got into the scene. Great job Paul, maybe an academy award for 'Best Evasive Maneuver from a Horse'. Watch for it during the movie. Paul is in there, mixing it up with the horse.

It turns out that Paul is Ed Harris's brother from Oklahoma. He drove out here in September to help Ed Harris make this movie. Normally he works with a tree growing operation and told me he will probably go back to that trade when finished here. Hope he changes his mind, Paul is a fun guy. Paul has never owned a cellphone until this job, here in NM with Ed. You know those Oklahoma travelers! I'm safe, he has no way to even see what I wrote about him...WhaddaYaThank?.

After I had worked on that fence throughout the afternoon with the different camera angles, then "check'n the Gate" and the call came "It's a Wrap". Finished for the day, Sun was setting low on the horizon, tromp through Our dusty little 'western town' movie set, van ride back to base camp, change clothes in tent after a good dust off, turn in wardrobe, check out with Elizabeth and Rebecca, say bye-bye to all and drive 60 miles back to Albuquerque.

Have a cold beer while I write this blog, answer phone, 9:45pm, Wow's Elizabeth Gabel. They liked 'the Carpenter', the fence still needs work? I'm back to work and have to be there at 6:00am tomorrow. Night-Night all. What a fun way to pass the time in New Mexico and the Greatest Nation in the world. The United States of America, One Nation Under God.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Sandia Mountain La Luz Trail

17 October 2007 Just returned from another afternoon trek in the Sandia Mountains East of Albuquerque New Mexico. The Lower La Luz Trail head at the North end of Tramway blvd, has a parking area with a 3 dollar permit and nice restrooms. Very smart to use the restrooms just before you are 100 yards up the trail and realize that you now have to go back down. Been There, Done that. This trail is rated as difficult due to it's length of 7.5 miles (12km) one way and 3,500 foot (1066m) climb in altitude.

Today I had started to head for the back (East) side of the mountain, for another go at the old Canberra RB-57 crash site. While driving along the roadway, I noticed a huge cloud cover on the mountain top. Between clouds, a ray of sunshine showed the top covered in snow and ice. I turned around and took the lower hike instead. Smart move don't you think?

The temperature was in the 60's when I started up the low trail at the North end of Tramway blvd, 3,500 feet (1,066m) below the Mountain Crest. Hot when climbing the trail though. I layer my clothing so I started to shed layers quickly. After about a mile on the trail, the junction with the lower tram trail popped into view at the head of the first canyon. After stopping and resting, reading my book about a few more trails in the area, I started back down.

I wanted to be back before 4 today. Tomorrow is a long day. Appaloosa the movie with Ed Harris, Renee Zellweger, and Viggo Mortensen is filming near Galisteo New Mexico. I have a featured part as the retired ship Captain building Ed and Renee's house. I can't afford to be worn out and blow my part. I have a few more days on that set.

'Hamlett II' casting called for me to be in tonights shoot. I told them I just cannot make that one because of the hours overlapping with 'Appaloosa'. They usually run for 12 or more hours. I was in the scene with Katherine Keener at the El Pinto Restaurant a couple of weeks ago, so I told them maybe I should only do 'deep background' for now.

They agreed so that put me out of work with them for a while. Sounded like fun. They are using the old Rail Station Area in dowtown Albuquerque tonight. My strawberry blonde 'Stand in' (for Keener) friend told me it was a really cool, 'mystic' looking scene with all of the lights. I'm really sorry not to have been in it. Oh well, feast or famine, flood or drought, that's life in the desert. By the way enjoy life, it's pretty short and you just never know?

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 'Our Earth' 'Warm Earth' 'Cool Earth''Casting calls', click on 'In Production' and 'bulletin board' or 'for locals'. is another of my 'Blogs', I know what you are thinking!

Thirty six years ago in 1971, I was walking across the 'Main Street' within the New Mexico State Fairgrounds in Albuquerque. A small swap meet was being held there. A loud hissing roar would interrupt the silence every few seconds. Looking up through the trees, I watched as Sid Cutter, A local pilot who owned Cutter Aviation, floated down into a clear space with his new present from his wife, A brightly colored Hot Air Balloon.

This was one of a rare new toy for the 'well to do'. The entire world had very few of these innovative marvels at that time, possibly no more than 40. The basket was a sparse aluminum framed device with only a floor and railing. A single burner, that went out on regular occasions, was the heat source. Wooden matches were carried by the box. A CB radio was a luxury.

Time and interest later, a few more bright Balloons appeared over Albuquerque. Soon they became a somewhat regular apparition during the cooler weather necessary for flying. They encouraged dogs to start barking and howling. They landed in the streets, on rooftops, and sometimes got tangled in the overhead electrical wiring. The fire department was often called to rescue the unfortunate pilots. A few of which, sorry to say, do not survive their mishaps. It has happened this year as well. Their undaunted spirit survives.

Soon there were enough of them to form a small flying club of sorts (10)? Competition in 'balloonsmanship' of course quickly followed. The Coronado Shopping Center parking lot, in 1972 hosted a small early event (the first?) that we watched over, from the tenth floor balcony of the Landmark apartments. My wife's parents lived there at the time. A park near Kirtland Base was used at one time. It's close proximity to the airport was not really helpful.

Raven was one small company that built them, including Sid Cutters first one, countless others soon followed. Ben Abruzzo, The Sandia Ski area and Tramway 'promoter', with the financial support of Albuquerque 'Icon' Robert Nordhaus, of 'The Tenth Mountain Division" fame.

Ben Abruzzo eventually became an ardent balloonist and soon flew all over the world, setting many world records with them.

After a while the New Mexico State Fairgrounds became the site of the first 'world' competition event. There must have been at least 50 brilliant colored balloons present at the time.

We watched from the surrounding streets as they drifted over the entire city. The Airport soon declared them as a hazard to aircraft. The move from the core city to the northern edge (at that time) solved the problem....for a while. The city grew past the balloon field and another move or two later, the city finally set up a special area for this event which brought tens of millions of dollars in business to the city in tourism.

Now the new area hosts many other events, is fully equipped with many venues for entertainment as well as the annual event that started the whole thing. There is even an 'ER' on site with paramedics. The balloonists arrive from all over the world now, twenty two countries this year. This is 'The Premeir World Balloning' event. The current lower valued US dollar is making it very attractive for the world travelers to attend again. In many past years the lower valued foreign currency discouraged travel to, and investments in the USA. Now it's our turn for tourists to visit and spend 'their' money in the USA. It has already made a sizeable dent, ahead of schedule, in our foreign Trade debt. "It's A good thing", as Martha Stewart says.

The city has installed a, state of the art, watering system using water diverted from the Rio Grande River to irrigate the lush grassy field. The early days of New Mexico ballooning, meant dirt and weeds that tended to be detrimental to the balloons. That is all changed today and the pilots love it. The total attendance is reported to be over One Million, another "Good Thing". Funwise.

We drove the motor home out on thursday, a day early to get a good spot, and set it up for three days and nights. The family grandchildren have stayed with us overnight for the last three years. This is a big deal for them. Saturday morning arrives quickly with the 'flutter' and 'whine' of the News Chopper overhead at 5am. The children played together the night before, so slept in, until almost 7am. A breakfast of cinnamon rolls, sausage patties and hot chocolate prepared them for the mornings running and chasing.

The school buses circle the RV park every few minutes to shuttle us to the field north of the massive RV park. The children ran from balloon to balloon, collecting the 'cards' about each brightly unique balloon and crew. With 750 balloons (max limit now) inflating in waves all over the field, this involves lots of running around. The atmosphere is charged with excitement. This is the most photographed event in the world. Kodak supported it for years until the advent of the digital camera.

The launch used to be done in one 'mass ascencion' until the number of balloons approached 1000. The total chaos of the entire sky filled with these brilliant, colored ornaments, was fantastic to watch in the early years. Of course all fun must end some time. Now they are limited to one hundred per wave and regulated so that the, once common, mid-air collisions are rare.

This year we were treated to the new, all black of course, 'Darth Vader' balloon of Benoit Lambert and Benoit Michel from Belgium. A large number of the crew were dressed in real 'Storm Trooper' uniforms to maintain security. The crowd around it was fantastic, the kids were in awe, the mystique hung in the air. The regulars are always popular with their special shapes. The 'not to be missed' event called 'Special Shapes', draws a huge crowd.

The always popular 'Balloon Glow' in the evenings darkness, draws all back again and again. Fireworks displays are the finale to end many evenings. The Garduno's Mexican Restaurant, as well as many other food service venues are busy and fun with entertainment. The popular, Aztec Dancers performed on the Midway Stage during the mornings we were watching. The upper deck at Garduno's, provides a great view of the field, day and night.

Be informed to prepare for an overall high traffic event (tens of thousands). The temperature is usually very cool after nightfall. The temperature also can be quite warm during the day. Wear layers, carry a backpack to carry the layers and a plentiful supply of water, and camera gear, tripods?. The sky divers and the Aerobatic pilots doing their tricks seem to fill the time during the day along with many other attractions. The Grandchildren rushed over to see the landing of the military 'Blackhawk' Helo, and check it out.

The prestigious 'Gordon Bennett' as well as other helium balloon races, is also interesting to observe, with their scheduled evening lift-offs sometimes dropping ballast water or sand. The helium balloons are usually from Europe and the crews are different from the 'hot air' crews. this years event was 'The Americas Challenge'. The distance winner was 2Nd time winner, USA's Andy Cayton and Stuart Engle his co pilot. A total distance of 1,055 miles and landing in Kipling Saskacatchawan. #2 and #3 went about 450 miles.

Our military does special shows from time to time. I personally would enjoy seeing the V-22 'Osprey' up close, we have a flight of these 'super helos' usually stationed here at 'Kirtland' Base unless they are on a mission. I enjoy watching these 'engineering wonders' fly over my home on their daily flight paths.

Of course you can always buy any drink or food on the midway, along with countless other things, at many of the dozens of little and large, tent booths set up. If the weather co-operates, the vendors can see a very profitable event. If it doesn't, a financial disaster is possible for the un-initiated. Over all, the event is very much enjoyed by everyone. The Airlines are booked for weeks in advance, as are the popular hotels and motels.

The advertised, 'shuttles' with entry fee included, are the very best way to go. 'Park N Ride' removes the traffic anxiety as well as the ($10:00) parking dilemma. $6:00 more, gets adults in the gate, children under 12 are free. This can be tiring, so do not try it without some moral support to keep you going. Kids are the best.

Most of the walkways are paved so wheelchairs can be used. The grass launch field is wet in the mornings so wear proper shoes. In the evenings, the hundreds of launch sites are lit by little LED's in Green and blue. They are best seen from an elevated area and form a pattern similar to runway lights, pretty. this would have made a great 'Biplane' landing field back in the early part of the 1900's.

The 'Fiesta' is running from 06 Oct 07 to the following Sunday 14 October. One full week of events for all to enjoy. So far the weather has been beautiful. This is the first time in 7 years to have 9 days of great flying. If you get tired of balloons, the Greek Festival with it's always fun Greek Food, is on The 7Th of October (Sunday). Las Golindrina's (the Swallows) historic village, near Santa Fe, has a fall re-enactment of the past, again zesty Mexican Food is plentiful. The Sandia Tramway and Mountain Hiking awaits the adventurous.

Santa Fe is an attraction to be enjoyed often. It is nearly impossible to see all of this historic area during the one week of 'Balloon Fiesta'. Plan to return year after year to enjoy the Great American Southwest. We love you and look forward for your next trip.

Send a note to Nancy Pelosi if you desire. I don't appreciate what she is attempting to do to the United States of America, One Nation under GOD.