Monday, July 13, 2009

Throwing Stones: behind the scenes

Considering the feature story written by world champion Jill Officer in the November 2008 issue of The Curling News, we shall assume you recall hearing about a new Canadian TV comedy series called Throwing Stones.

An exclusive online excerpt of that story follows... in a bit.

The show tells the tale of five women trying to stay afloat amidst the chaos of life: demanding children, high-maintenance husbands, mortgages that keep them awake at night, uninspiring jobs, and all the challenges that come from being a wife, a mother and more significantly, a woman.

And all is forgotten, all is left behind, when they meet weekly at the West Kildonan Curling Club in Winnipeg.

The show uses the principles of curling as a metaphor for life. Patti (played by Academy Award winner Patty Duke) believes that all the lessons, rules and wisdom you need in life, you can learn from curling. Every episode begins with Patti philosophizing about one aspect of curling. It is this principle of curling and its larger application to life that is explored in each episode.

Throwing Stones
was an original pilot developed and produced for the CBC. We heard earlier this spring that CBC had turned down the show, due to both the economy and new programming guidelines. This, of course, totally sucks.

But it also means that the pilot will be airing on July 15 – this Wednesday – with very little publicity or promotion. As such, the show producers are asking curlers to tune in on July 15 and, if you like the show, send your feedback (ie. your righteous anger) directly to CBC via this webpage.

So do tune in. Meanwhile, here’s an excerpt or two from Jill Officer’s behind-the-scenes column back in November... which you would have received, along with the photo above (taken by Joey Isford) if you had subscribed to The Curling News ...

Patti Duke, the Hail Mary and 21 bucks an hour

Standing on the ice pretending to talk to my pretend teammate, I felt a little ridiculous. My lips were moving, but no sounds were coming out. I also had more expression than when I’m really talking – and I think I’m generally pretty expressive.

This was my first experience as an actress – no wonder it’s called acting; youre not really doing anything, at least for the “extras” on set, which is where I fit in. A curling-themed pilot for a CBC TV series was being shot on location at West Kildonan Curling Club in Winnipeg. The rink was turned into a film set in September when film producers took over the building, painted some touch-ups and set up shop for three days of shooting Throwing Stones – a series with a very Men with Brooms feel to it (ie. a little unrealistic).

The series stars Oscar winner and three-time Emmy Award winner Anna Marie “Patty” Duke. Well, she at least *edited to prevent spoilers* until she *edited to prevent spoilers* which I know my editor would want me to point out *edited to prevent spoilers* and was very similar to *edited to prevent spoilers* the Scotties in 2005 – and then *edited to prevent spoilers*.

Weeks before the shoot, an email circulated by a local casting company (and editor gk) was asking for female curlers between the ages of 20 and 60 to bring their skills to the set as background curlers. Given that the pay started at $21 an hour (overtime was more) I thought, hey, why not? That way I could throw a few rocks, see what this was all about and, of course, have something to write about for The Curling News.

The call time for us “skilled” workers was about 9:00am. I showed up to find a number of my fellow local competitors – Chelsea Carey, Kaleigh Strath, Cheri-Ann Loder, Jill Proctor – and many more. For some of the younger girls like Kaleigh, it was a chance to change their status as a starving student – for a couple of weeks anyway – and make a few hundred bucks in a day even though they had to skip class to do it. Can you blame them? Heck no!

As extras, even we had to go through wardrobe, make-up and hair. Wardrobe was a challenge. We were asked to bring clothing with no logos and we couldnt bring anything black, white or red. That was a problem for me as it would be for many competitive curlers who have sponsor logos plastered all over their curling gear and the stuff that doesnt have logos consists of the popular colours of… black, white or red.

I raided my closets of sweatshirts, curling clothes, etc, but I couldnt find anything that fit the rules. The only logo that was approved was Asham, but even then my Asham sweatshirts were red and black. Ugh! I eventually had to raid moms closet where I found a plain pink sweatshirt that ended up being my wardrobe of choice by the pros.

After pretending to talk to someone, doing monotonous tasks in the background, faking yelling “hurry” while my pretend teammates avoided the huge lighting equipment that covered half of our sheet, playing cards in the downtime and then basically being on the ice for five hours straight not really doing anything – including never throwing a rock – it was time to call it a wrap for the day, some 14 hours later!

We think actors and other entertainers live the good life, but getting a taste of what its like to be on a film set has proven to me that its not all that easy. Granted we didnt get the golden treatment, like our own trailer nor a bed to rest our head on, but having to “hang around” all day is, believe it or not, absolutely exhausting. By 11:00pm my legs were stiff, my back ached and the sound of “thats a wrap” was enough to make me peel right out of there despite the discomfort I was feeling.

Imagine that, huh? I could write the headline for gk right now: “Elite athlete isnt even in good enough shape to stand around for 14 hours.”

Really though, I would challenge any high-performance athlete – from any sport – to stand in the cold for hours on end, dressed for a regular curling game, but not doing any throwing or sweeping. Somehow I think anyone would feel the same way.

I wonder how Connie Laliberte fared: as the “consultant” helping out the production crew, she was there longer than anyone, but at least she had things to do… including setting up. And I think about that Men With Brooms flick, too… amazing to think that nearly a hundred of my fellow competitors went through something similar, some of them for multiple days. My “extra” sources tell me that for those who returned to filming over the next two days – I could not – also spent 12 to 14 hours on set… including one night which finally wrapped at 4:00am! OMG!

I was so exhausted after the first day I was actually thankful I didnt return to the miming, standing around in the cold and passing time.

I was, however, thankful for the $350 cheque that arrived in the mail a few weeks later.

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