2003 was one of the hottest summers on record for Calgary. At least it felt like it when my wardrobe was a black suit and tie. I was filming a TV movie called ‘A Matter of Family” (later retitled “Family Sins”) starring Kirstie Alley and Will Patton. (Let me preface this by saying Kirstie was a lot of fun, very sweet to me, and this story should have no reflection on her.) On this particular day I spent 12 full hours waiting to be called on set. Not bad, right? 12 hours to sleep, eat, read, and watch TV? Nope. At that time I didn’t have the foresight to have brought a book, iPods were for the rich, you needed a shuttle to get to Crafty…and then there was my trailer.
For the most part trailers sound more glamorous than they really are. A typical trailer for a beginning actor is little more than an outhouse from the 70’s. One truck could contain 6 “trailers.” Bad faux-wood paneling, a prison style toilet, a TV (that works if you’re lucky), a VCR (which never works) and a little bench that looks like it would fold out to a slightly bigger bench, but doesn’t. All in all, about 6 square feet of outdated, sad accommodation.
At around noon, the temperature rose to over 30 degrees Celsius, with no signs of stopping. The shade that my room provided was no longer useful. I stood up from my ceiling-staring to try the air-conditioning. It was non-existent. I wandered outside in the hopes of tracking down a teamster who would fix the problem. However, everyone from Transport was suspiciously absent. I was alone in a parking lot decorated with the mirage-like heat waves that distort the horizon. With no chair or umbrella, I had little choice but to sit in my sauna-like trailer. I spent another hour re-examining my life before the septic tank started to make itself known to me. To this day I don’t know what the problem was, but the entire trucks septic system had begun to percolate and overflow. The memory of that smell has me gagging as I write this.
Close to 2:00pm the 3rd AD walked past my trailer to find me, outside, hunched over on my steps, sweating and sunburned.
“What the hell are you doing?! It’s +30 out here!” She chastised.
“They’re not going to need you on set for hours. Get in your trailer, you’ll die out here!”
“I can’t. It’s a form of hell in there.”
She stepped over me and opened the door to my trailer. She didn’t make it inside.
“Oh my god. What happened?”
“I don’t know. No air conditioning. Something wrong with the septic.”
“Do you need anything?”
She was called back to set as she hollered over her shoulder, “I’ll find Transport and get them to fix it for you.”
3:00pm – Another AD hurried past my stairs. I got up and ran after him,
“Excuse me! Are you here to fix my trailer?”
I explained the situation
“I’d like to help you man, but Kirstie’s new trailer just arrived and we’ve got our hands full.”
“What’s wrong with her old trailer?”
He shrugged sympathetically and ran around the corner. I stood for a beat wondering if now was the moment I would become the angry actor who demands attention. I was at a loss. I had only been doing film & TV for 2 years. Is this how it happens? I demand Air-conditioning and the absence of sewage, the next thing you know Production is paying Hair & Make-Up to come to my house before my call-time to wake me from a drug-induced coma by rubbing my back and ensuring me that I am talented and successful? (That was the job of a Make-Up artist friend of mine, true story.) It’s a slippery slope. I don’t want to be that guy.
An obnoxious back-up beeper coming from the corner the AD disappeared around interrupted my fortune telling. I walked around to witness the arrival of Kirstie Alley’s new home away from home. It was mammoth. It was indulgent. It was damn near the size of the house I grew up in. Around it, were all the Locations guys, like chickens guiding in a Zeppelin. I meekly shuffled back to my sewer, where the shadow of a large gruff man stirred me to attention.
“You the one complaining about your trailer?”
“Ya, it smells like…”
“Here!” He interrupted me.
At first I wasn’t sure what he was handing me.
“What is this?”
“I dunno, Citrus Sparkle, or some damn thing. Hang it on the wall.” he barked as he walked away without a look back.
And so I took this man’s gift and hung it in my trailer. The absurdity of this solution and their treatment of me was now so ridiculous, I laughed and found humility. It would one day make a great story. And with the incessant beeping of Kirstie’s Sky-Scraper drifting through the open window, I took a picture of my new “Air Freshener,” an oil rag, dipped in dish soap, hanging on a bungee…