Some weeks ago, my best friend from my radio days in London put me in touch with a colleague of his who was coming over to San Francisco to do some filming. Initially she was just after location advice and local knowledge, but then she asked if I knew anyone who had a van and could drive the crew around while they were here; I offered my services, as my schedule was basically open for those days. When she asked if I had any particular expertise or skills for dealing with film crews, I replied that as a zen priest, I have an abundance of patience.
Anyone who has spent any time around filming will know how time-consuming it is to get everything to be to the crew’s satisfaction, and this was no different, even with just two camera operators and one subject (one reason I was happy to stick to radio in my previous career was the comparative simplicity of execution, both in and out of the studio). I got to spend many hours sitting in the rented truck while re-takes were done, different cameras set up and footage reviewed. None of that was especially challenging, and since the people were all delightful to hang out with, and the locations picturesque (I had my camera with me at all times), the long days were not a problem.
For me, the main practice element was being in charge of a large pick-up truck. When I picked them up at the airport, the English crew were astonished at the size of the vehicle, though by American standards it did not stand out – living at Tassajara I had driven trucks of that size on many occasions, so was quite used to them, though I remain wary about parallel parking.
Driving the visitors up from the airport, they got to experience not only the beauty of the city – the sun was going down as we crossed over to the East Bay, but the subsequent longueurs as we sat in typical rush hour traffic for the next hour. It was suggested that we institute a little forfeit game, whereby anyone who complained about the state of the traffic had to tell the team a joke, and I quickly exhausted my limited repertoire.
The hardest part of the day for me was driving back after dropping the crew off at their hotel, some way off in the East Bay, starting to feel tired after the hours of driving and waiting. I felt challenged not just by the fast-paced heavy freeway traffic (though I was very glad that almost everyone reduced speed when we were hit by those heavy rains) but also by negotiating the frequently stagnant lines coming over the Bay Bridge and into the city, and then finally by looping around my neighbourhood trying to find an easy spot to park the behemoth. In the end, it was never as bad as I feared, though I noticed how much more relaxed I felt leaving early in the morning over the weekend when there was nobody on the roads, and when I came back to quickly find an overnight parking place just where I needed one to be.
The crew managed to wrap the shooting right on schedule, which allowed me, through some miracle of the traffic, to get to my small group on time on Monday evening. After I had left the truck back at the airport on Tuesday morning, I was aware not only of a nice sense of completion, but also of relief that I was not responsible for a vehicle any more; it did seem to be such an unwieldy thing to be taking around the city, for all its convenience.
One downside for me was that, apart from a small amount of walking, I did not get any meaningful exercise for the duration, so since then I have been keen to get out and about on my bike and on foot, weather notwithstanding; coming after a less-than-active December as well, I feel I am almost starting from scratch, and have to keep my patience to the fore for that process.
Loading up the truck
Looming morning skies in the East Bay hills
Turned out nice again
Catching the last of the light.