MONDAY, JULY 05, 2004
Week ONE – ICELAND
Week One: Hi! I wish I had time to write everyone individually but…well…Le’me put it this way…aaaaaahhhhhh!—-I haven’t had time to do ANYthing personal since my arrival. Not even sleeping. Since it is 10:30pm and I have just gotten home (this is the first time I’ve been home before midnight–it’s been work work work since I got here) I thought I’d drop a line and tell you a bit about Iceland.
By the way–10:30 and the sun is shining.. and it keeps on shining in my windows till about 11:30… then there is a beautiful and, usually, dramatic sunset/sunrise for about 3 hours and then the sun shines in the windows again. It is never dark out – and so-sleep is not really possible. I have been consistently getting up about 4:00 or 5:00 am and I get alot of work done until I go into the office at 9:00…I’m VERY tired…but there is a beauty and excitement in the air and so sleep seems just… unnecessary and plain stupid to just lie in bed worrying about things.
So. I arrived last Monday morning and (of course) my luggage did NOT. Then the following morning we left to go on a location scout for 4 days…(my luggage had not yet caught up with me) and as I drove out into the wild fiords and mountain-scape that is Iceland…I realized that my luggage would probably NEVER catch up with me…Eventually it did…but I didn’t have time to open it and we were in different motels every night…so after awhile I didn’t even care anymore…I looked bad, smelled bad and felt bad… and was still wearing my sandals and peddle pushers (that I had gotten on the plane with in Toronto 5 days earlier-where it was 30 degrees C when we were standing near a Glacier shivering on Thursday. I think I have borrowed a coat from just about everyone in the crew by now. It is cold here about 6 degrees to 20 degrees depending on what minute you happen to be in. I have gone from a t-shirt to a down coat in less than an hour (on an hourly basis).
Enough about me. Iceland is everything that you dream it is. Beautiful. Stark. Remote. Full of Intrigue and Sagas (stories) – The Icelandic people were “the most literate people in the world” and so they wrote down the history of Europe in the very early days of settling. They are a story-laden people. There is a story around every corner… always funny, charming and filled with fantasy/superstition and tales of trolls, elves, fairies and the like… who are all, to some degree or another, pranksters, to be respected and revered…
Icelanders will often build a straight road around a mound in the ground because the ” hidden people” live there and you don’t want to disturb them….or else….I am in love with these tales and am putting the word out that I am looking for a script that involves all of these magical, mystical elements (which, by the way, the Icelanders don’t think are magical or strange in any way. The trolls and so on are just a fact of life. )
We have travelled from Reykjavik down to Vik- you will see it on the map on the most southern part of the island where we will shoot for most of the film. It’s a village of about 300 people – I have no idea where they will put us up…as there are about 100 people on the crew!!! I’m pretty sure it will not be fun…but…Vik is a HUGE tourist area because it is one of the most beautiful places – we will shoot there on cliffs that are higher than the grand canyon…on glaciers that are currently receding and shaping the mountains as they go (yes the ice age is still here) …on mountain streams that you can drink and bath in (if you like glacier-cold water) in lava fields that go on for as far as the eye can see (from the last time a volcano erupted – about 6 years ago) LAVA when it cools leaves a landscape that is not possible —weird shapes have bubbled up, frozen and stand eerie and beautiful…Moss that is 12 inches thick grows there and now it is covered in tiny flowers that are BRIGHT florescent pink, purple and blood red… It is – spooky, but it takes your breath away .. We are shooting on BLACK sand beaches that go on un-interrupted for MILES and there is not a soul on them (except of course for the “hidden people”:-) …We will shoot in caves that are carved by wind and volcanic eruptions deep in the earth…(with holes to the surface that put beams of light down into them and that any unsuspecting animal or human could fall into –which, of course, one of our characters in the movie does)…And we will shoot (and bathe in at lunchtime) in natural swimming pools which are steaming and hot with minerals spurting up from the centre of the earth in geysers of steam. The steam drifts up from these “hot springs” and floats across the mountaintops in rivers of clouds that surround the peaks… In all of our locations – there is no (I mean NO) sign of humans. Our film is set in 500 AD when the monks from Ireland set out in tiny boats made of skin and bone and trusted the hand of God to take them somewhere – this is how Iceland was originally settled and so the people are very religious (to this day)…All of the folklore is connected back to the time of Mary – but they are not stories that you have heard…(ex. the “hidden people” are the descendents of the children that Mary did not want God to see….hmmmmm).
Our first week of shooting is going to be in Hofn (pronounced HUPN) – which is on the East coast of Iceland about 7 hours drive from Reykjavik -the city that I am in now. In Hofn we will shoot the most challenging and most picturesque pictures for the movie in an Iceberg Lagoon. Beowulf and his men will sail their Viking ship – a HUGE wooden boat with curly cues at either end – through the iceberg lagoon to begin their journey. The iceberg lagoon made me CRY when I first saw it. It is truly THAT beautiful. There are hundreds of small to 10-story-high icebergs (blue ice when backlit by the always-low-in-the-sky sun) adrift in a small lake that is turquoise water- I mean a turquoise that is so bright it hurts your eyes…IF (If, being the operative word) we can get these shots (we can’t get the boat there at the moment and the most recent suggestion was that we fly the boat which is about the length o half a city block by helicopter into the lagoon—YIKES) they will be the shots that will make this movie stand above any you have seen. This is a place that is, to quote the script, “out of our world”.
Of course, HOW to make this all happen – has fallen upon my shoulders along with Sturla (the director and Arni Pall the designer)…and so now you see why sleep is also impossible. With that – I should probably try
to GET some sleep as the locals have told me that you must “either sleep before midnight or not at all”. So now, as the sun sets, I will try and get an hour in before midnight…I will try to write soon. Know that I am missing you all (when I have time) and REALLY wishing you were here so that you could see this place with me.
Lotsa love from this rugged wild beautiful, magical place (oh to be able to just enjoy it:-)
SATURDAY, JULY 10, 2004
MORE ON ICELAND – WEEK 2
Hi All…Week Two- I have again gotten home before midnight…(miracles
will never cease)! I just wanted to drop a line to say thanks to those of you who sent me mail…I got it today but have just sat down to read them. Iceland is one of the “most computer savvy countries in the world” and so ALOT of our communication is done by email and I get about 50 a day all concerning work…Needless to say, this is both good and bad…Since our crew is coming from Canada, England and Iceland it is somewhat efficient to communicate this way since Iceland is also one of the most EXPENSIVE countries …but it is also extremely irritating and time consuming. But it is SO nice to get home and finally have a chance to read all the news from home and from friends (not foes:-). It is something I hope to try to keep up…these emails back and forth I mean, because it is a time when I can UN-wind (maybe-it will actually help me sleep). Who knows if I will ever actually be able to sleep a full night’s sleep…but – thanks Dad, Matt, Julia and Margot – perhaps I can dream of you all tonight instead of the work that is heating up around here and melting the glaciers.
I walked home tonight through Reykjavik (which I still don’t know how to spell). This is a town that just wakes up around this time of night…it is 11:00pm (YES the sun is still beating into the apartment where I live). All the houses are painted different colours and are small, funky and mostly clad in corrugated metal (we should have clad our house in Canada in this…it looks FANTASTIC and is very practical given the winds and ever changing weather)…Reykjavik is very pretty. People seem to take great pride in the decor of their homes and are very, (according to Sturla) proud of their “digs” and their outward appearance. The people are very attractive, dressed to the nines, fit, stylish, and blond and blue eyed. A striking people. Truly. (I feel like chopped liver-I don’t know what they do with people over 40-they must send them up to the mountains to pasture…the only ones I have seen so far work on the film!! 🙂 To make things worse, they (including the crew) are all smart, great sense of humour, quick-witted and enthusiastic. They work hard and are all very easy to get along with…I really really like them and apart from the huge work that is before us all…we do have a LOT of laughs! I used to think that I was quick witted but I have met my match and 20 times over here. The crew make me laugh a lot and so…the work is not as difficult. Yeeessss, it’s true, I am totally – totally stressed ….but today, for the first time….some of that stress is turning into…”you can only do so much” and it WILL happen- the impossible MUST happen. We must be ready to shoot in 4 weeks plus one day….YIKES!
I live in a top floor of a house which I LOVE. I have a beautiful modern apartment with slanted ceilings, hardwood floors, a PIANO, and a duvet!! that over looks the city…in the morning when I hook to the high-speed internet I will try to download a photo of the city that I took out of my window at midnight last night… so you can see-how light it is and my VIEW -out over the multicoloured homes and to the harbour full of ships and to the sea. (sorry dad – I’m not sending the photos, but I know you cant’ get them so maybe Brian will print them and bring them to you) This apartment is the most perfect place for me. It’s quiet, lovely and central…I am very comfortable here…Sturla’s assistant who’s name is Osk (means WISH) ((everyone’s name means something)) has bought me all that I need to survive and even set me up with some black out curtains so that I can try to sleep. My tiny fridge has now got milk , bread, eggs, cheese and wine…all that I need to survive. – OH and cereal for the middle of the night! 🙂 … Osk has a dog that I adore and have cuddled with endlessly…He reminds me a lot of Dylan…as a pup, and follows her everywhere …but always runs to me for tummy rubs or running REM cycles in the parking lot…(where I take most of my meetings -for privacy)…I am happy-if not healthy!. Sturla is brilliant and making sure that I am taken care of …except of course for working me into all hours of the night because the Man Does NOT seem to need sleep..
I have just found out about the MANY outdoor swimming pools and spas “spa capitol of the world” and plan on taking advantage of this on the weekend…(if work allows it) – I am already fried to a crisp (from the neck up) and am reminded that I must wear a hat at ALL times next that we are out – of -doors. PS: Marianna and Mom…the Canada hats are GOLDEN treasure which I have only, so far, given one away…to the beautiful, talented and charming “production designer Arni Pall” who wears it all the time and who, reciprocated with an “Iceland” ball cap for me… I am now almost hesitant to give the others away …as I don’t want to diminish the gift to him. He seemingly adores it…and I am so happy that I have more to give to my “favourites” on the crew. PSS Brian, thank YOU soooo much for the photos of our IS-LAND world – Georgian Bay has now intrigued and enchanted the folk who live in a paradise too.
Jul, thanks for the news from home and thanks ssssoooo much for telling me all about Matt’s play…I feel that i have missed a HUGE thing and am sooo happy to hear all about it and Him from the audience…Matt, I wish I could have been there…You know I wish that. I am reallllllly looking forward to you coming here.
On that I must close. It’s almost midnight and I HAVE to get in bed…I miss you all madly…Please keep sending your news…Margot, I am flattered to be your screensaver….(smile) Missing you all-WISH you were here. Love, love, love, Wendy…PS -looks like the Viking ship will be imported to the Iceberg lagoon on the side of an ocean liner ?????? More to come on that one…W.
oops no pics on this one…next time!
SUNDAY, JULY 11, 2004
ICELAND RAINLAND SUNLAND – weekend 2
Hi everyone…Yesterday was Saturday and I took my newly arrived 2nd assistant director out to Vik to show her some of our locations. We left Reykjavik in blazing hot sunshine and 2 hours later were in rainy cold (November-like) weather. Of course I didn’t bring my raingear or heavy coat!!! I Will Learn one of these days. It was good to be driving and actually seeing how to get to the locations as last time I went I was driven and had my head in my scripts the whole way… so…needless to say we were lost more than once. There were a lot of tourists out there…it being the weekend and all and I find it hard to believe how many people were camping (all wearing winter gear covered by raingear) -This made me feel even more stupid-still in my summery city wear…We had many adventures that included driving up cliff faces, eating smoked salmon and cheese by the beach, (I eat smoked salmon every day) and….getting stranded! WE somehow put the car up on a rock which had caught under the undercarriage while we were driving a “goat path” into one of our locations…the rock rolled and lifted the car right up off of it’s two front tires rendering it useless…After much debate, (and swearing) we jacked up the car (I now, at 44 and 9/10’s years old KNOW how to jack up a car) – amazing what you can figure out when you have to. Remember, we were in the MIDDLE of NOWHERE -a lava field that goes on for as far as the eye can see… and of course, our cell phones didn’t work. After jacking up the front of the car- we piled rocks and moss under the two wheels and pushed and lifted with all our might until the car fell off the jack, onto the rocks we had put down…and we backed it out!!! It worked!!! Two Canadian girls jumping up and high-five-ing and whooping-it-up in our now-mud-covered summer clothes in the rain! The front bumper (and back bumper??? hmmmm???) is smashed —I don’t have a clue how this happened- (I’m hoping it was there before we got the car) but I’m sure to be in trouble about that one!
We then stopped on the way back (we hadn’t stopped on the way out) at a roadside spot where there are (literally) thousands of cairns built by the side of the road. You are supposed to stop and build a cairn for good luck. AND NOW WE KNEW WE NEEDED IT. There is an “Icelandic Saga” behind this “cairn building spot” that has to do with trolls and kings and so on —but that is another story.
Seems the cairn building worked for a little while because we just made it back to Vik and ran out of gas as we pulled into the gas station. Phew! Then – trying to be brave, we attempted putting gas ourselves into the vehicle…everything in Iceland is ultra-modern and all instructions are written in Icelandic…Well… after we were BOTH completely covered in gasoline (mingling with the mud from our earlier escapade) we asked for help to get the gas INTO the vehicle instead of reversing All over US!
We drove up a black volcanic road (which was very scary and precarious) into the mountains to visit our last location…the Danish Village -where we will shoot for about 3 weeks…The mountain was ringed in a cloud and the volcanic shapes were truly scary as they are supposed to be in the film. The black shifting road was even scarier…and I couldn’t find the location-so eventually we did a 400 point turn and headed back down the edge of the mountain to safety.
About 9:00pm at
nite we started back down the highway towards home. A young girl was hitch-hiking and we decided that we should pick her up. She came running to our car -happy to get out of the rain and jumped in the back seat and said, “Oh! Hi Wendy-it’s you! ” Aline, my second was flabbergasted and I didn’t recognise her either….only in Iceland. ….turns out she worked at one of the motels we had stayed at the previous week and NO -one forgets a film crew coming into town…let alone it’s wild eyed, wild haired pseudo-leader… Moi.
I am going to start a comic strip “you know you’re in Iceland when….” and all these things will be apart of it. Along with not being able to figure out to run ANY appliance – (I’ve had 4 “I LOVE LUCY” episodes with the washing machine). I’ve completely given up on the dryer and have laundry hanging all over my apartment. One of my favourites is “you know you’re in Iceland when…you have to jump up to the mirror in the bathroom to put in your contact lenses! 🙁 ….everyone in Iceland is at least a foot taller than me and I literally can NOT see in ANY mirror ANYWHERE —that is probably a good thing…in these days of little sleep and much stress.
On our way home from Vik we stopped (at about ten at night) at a place where you hike up into the mountain (yes it is still raining) and lo and behold there is the “hot-springs swimming pool” Whoooo-hooo!! We stripped off our gassy and muddy clothes and dove in! It’s hot -like a bath and full of minerals and we swam around for about an hour! HEAVEN in the rain -we were up in the clouds – literally and figuratively, AGAIN.
Then we drove home…as we drove out of the clouds the sun was finally setting and the clouds that were swirling around the car turned a blazing pink! I have NEVER seen something as beautiful (at least not that day) It was PURE magic…We were surrounded by BRIGHT pink and violet clouds-we were inside them…it was fantastic!!! At that moment my cell phone rang and it was Matt…he always knows when to call! I was delirious with the sights and feeling fresh and giddy from the swim…The sunset continued until 1:00 am when I got into bed – This is a weird and magical place.
With the mention of bed – I must go. I have worked all day today in my gorgeous apartment – alone – which has been good -I am finally beginning to get caught up on my work. It was hot and sunny all day today and I refused lots of invitations to swim and to barbeque…but I needed too to get away from everyone ….I did however sit and work on my deck for awhile so that was nice. To the office tomorrow…so my intention is to try to get a full night’s sleep. Here’s hoping…
Lotsa’ love your way… hope you all are happy and busy – I miss you madly. Wendy.
SUNDAY, JULY 18, 2004
ICEFLIGHT – Weekend 3
It is Sunday after a long and hectic week. On Friday the decision was made to “push” the beginning of the shoot for two weeks. Today would have left 3 weeks to shooting…it was not enough time to bring all of the elements together to begin shooting. (We still haven’t got a definitive answer on the Viking ship’s transportation to the ice lagoon!!! I now think that Fahad the trusty, salty leader of the Locations Department (and an ex-AD) has come up with the best solution. The bridge on this side of the iceberg lagoon is too small for the boat to be trailered through (we are short a measly and impossible 15 centimetres!) So we will trailer it to the bridge, crane it into the water below the ice lagoon, drive the crane to the other side of the bridge, lift it out of the water and back onto the trailer, trailer it about 500 meters to the launch pad and then crane it back into the water —INSIDE the ice lagoon. Then it takes a full day to fill the Viking ship with it’s ballast (500 tons (maybe it was 50) of rocks)!! This is the continuing saga of the Viking ship and altho’ it sounds like a HUGE undertaking – I believe still that it is THE beauty shot of the movie…watch for it on the poster!
After the painful decision to move the beginning of the shoot was made, it of course meant a flurry of activity rescheduling and moving everything to work two weeks later. One of the “positives” of this decision is that it is now possible that the cast and crew might have somewhere to live during the shoot. The summer tourist season will have ended opening up hotels and making room for our gang to live. It also means that now Sturla (the director) Jan, (the Director of Photography) Arni Pall (the Designer) and me, will have more time to gain creative momentum and make changes and additions to the shoot that will impact the film’s beauty, intrigue and action!
Sadly, this means that I won’t be home until the end of October but I have settled in here and am injected with enthusiasm for the film again after another trip out of the city into the wilds of Iceland. We left early Saturday morning to drive the line producer, Mark to all the locations. We had still not found a few of the places that the script needed – so this was a “scout” for new locations as well as a revisit to the ones that are already chosen. It was great fun to see Mark react in awe as we drove from one gorgeous place to another. It was warm and sunny all weekend which gave us a false sense of ease – (it’s usually such temperamental weather- windy, cold and angry)…but this weekend was an exception and again I’m sun burned.
We found a few new locations on this trip… which meant we saw new amazing places… 🙂 The first being the “world famous-Blue Lagoon” This is a place where people come from all over the world to soak in the warm turquoise (everything here is turquoise!) hot spring pools, on which some savvy business person has built a spa…people lay around in the water with white, mineral laden mud on their faces steam rising off the water… getting massages on tables just under the hot water…somewhere between bizarre and inviting. We will shoot the sea hag’s world here in the misty calm waters surrounded by jagged black lava.
We then went on to Vik where most of our locations are. Went around to them all and ended up in DANE LAND, our main location, at sunset…The construction/art dept crews have just started to bring sticks and logs to begin building the village… but apart from that there is little sign of humans…lots of shaggy sheep…and the occasional lucky camper on the edge of paradise…but quiet and serene, dusky and brooding.
We ventured off to check out the nearby land for caves… We scrambled along extremely dangerous cliff faces (on all fours for me) that overlook, what seems like, all of Iceland to the sea…there we found a new Grendel’s cave in edge of the cliff..(Grendel is the loveable horrible troll in the movie). There was a small opening in the rock face which we ducked down and went into…Then we all lit lighters, and matches and flashed our cameras to see where we were…and more importantly, whether we should continue any further…what we had accidentally discovered was a sand bottomed cave, shaped like a PERFECT upside down bowl…It was sooo beautiful , simple and perfect…this huge room of perfect geometrical proportions…and…when our matches went out and we were again thrown into darkness…we noticed that we could now see the walls of the cave. The walls glow with some kind of phosphorescent rock or algae or salt…the glowing cave… Grendel’s digs.
We sat until about midnight at the mouth of the cave overlooking a stupendous view from this extraordinary height…. then we made our way back down to the hotel for some sleep. Again, I didn’t want to sleep…I wished I could have stayed there all night to drink in the view…we made a pact that we would try to bring sleeping bags and spend a nite.
Today we saw many MORE fabulous things (I’m starting to fail in the superlative department) and ended the day in a prop plane (20 seater) from Hofn home to Reykjavik…. This topped things off…Sturla charmed the pilot and, instead of taking his usual route, we flew, just below the clouds, literally, THROUGH the mountains and skimmed the top of the glacial ice fields!!!! We swooped down over the place where the last volcano erupted (6 (YIKES) years ago)…pools of (again) turquoise and green water, blinding ice shining, I could see where some brave soul had cross country-skied near by. The ice fields are endless, the ice miles thick, mountain tops peeking out of the whiteness…what can I say…WOW! The entire planeload of passengers had faces glued to the windows and we bounced from window to window all pointing, and ooohing and aaahing…
You know you’re in Iceland when….you ask the commercial pilot to show you the sites….and ….he does!!!!
So ends another day in the Icelandic saga of “Wendy In Iceland” …. Wishing everyone could be here with me in the land of outlandishly expensive living (30$ for a coffee and croissant) and cheap, beautiful, thrills…
To bed now…it is raining and so it is darker (yeah)! than normally at this time of night… Icebergs, Ice-lagoons, Blue Lagoons and Glaciers, Love and love.
MONDAY, AUGUST 02, 2004
You know you’re in Iceland when…
You have to jump up to the mirror to put in your contact lenses-(everyone’s so damn tall here!)
You can’t figure out how to work the washer, the dryer, the toaster, the coffee machine or…flush the toilet.
You’re wearing your down coat in July (as a party dress)
You’re in a force ten gale and it’s raining from somewhere BELOW you.
You ask the commercial Iceland Pilot to fly the plane over the glacier, the volcano and anything else that’s scenic…and he does!
You’re eating ice that was last served to dinosaurs.
You clap two stones together to get the attention of the director (who’s standing on a glacier) and you start a landslide! (no joke)
You sit on the toilet and your feet don’t reach the ground – there’s that tall thing again…
You pick up a hitchhiker (after only being here for 1 week) and the hitchhiker gets in the car and says, “oh Hi Wendy”
You’re watching the sunset at 11:30 pm….which turns immediately into a sunrise…Suntan lotion necessary in bed.
The bar you’re in closes the black-out curtains at midnight…to make it feel dark-like a bar should be.
You’re opening the dryer with a shovel…or you have to go back to school to finish that engineer degree.
The gasoline bounces back out and covers you instead of going into the tank of the car…(no more self-serve for moi).
You’re driving INSIDE a florescent pink cloud (at 11:00 pm)! -(yes- it’s still July)
Your 3 cappuccinos and 3 croissants cost 3500 kroner or a mere …70 dollars!!!!
You are stopped on the highway by a traffic jam…which turns out to be created by 30 wild horses on the road
You ask whether the “seal” on the menu is meat or fish …me being vegetarian and all…..
The answer to the above question is “I don’t know….but it tastes a lot like PUFFIN”
The next question is “Is this tuna?” ….and the answer is, “No, marinated horse meat” and I pass.
I’m still, two days later trying to get my clothes out of the dryer.
I still haven’t seen myself in a mirror (other than the rear-view mirror in the car-where I now apply my contact lenses).
Your rental car has a sign on the dashboard “NOT MADE FOR HIGHLAND DRIVING”.
You ignore the sign on your dashboard and are soon trying to read Icelandic instructions on Jacking up the Car.
You drive through the tunnel under the sea and feel elated that it is so dark…sleep could be possible here.
MONDAY, AUGUST 09, 2004
Weekend #5 (3 weeks to shooting)
Hi All, Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve written…but see last week’s entry below: as I have now got my official BLOG up and running on the website www.beowulfandgrendel.com and I wanted to get my list started of “you know you’re in Iceland when…” So that is now on the website and these letters going back to weekend #1 will soon be attached to my page on the site…(hopefully photos and all). Our website is getting tons of hits (even tho’ we haven’t officially launched it). Now you can tell friends and relatives to go there to read these weekly reports from the eyes of the first Assistant Director, yours truly.
I spent my birthday out in Vik where Sturla and Jan (the DOP) and I were working for 4 days this past week- shot listing and figuring out the creative and technical needs of each scene. We got completely soaked (many times) and eventually went to cover – a nearby motel/restaurant where most of the crew will be put up when we spend 7 1/2 weeks shooting around Vik. Horse meat was again on the menu-alongside the whale (I think that’s not considered good for vegetarians—even tho’ I’m Veg plus bacon) and neither looked very appetizing so I passed and again ate all types of smoked salmon, trout, cod and halibut, flatfish, round fish, bluefish, new fish…It’s fresh, plentiful and truly delicious -so YES mom, I’m eating!!! Herring and Egg in the morning (if it’s good enough for Beowulf it’s good enough for me), Smoked salmon sandwiches or lobster and scallop soup for lunch and fish and horse smorgasbord for dinner…yummmm.
Anyhow thanks for all the birthday greetings from afar! I spent MY day on top of cliffs amongst the clouds (where all good angels should be) (yeah right!) and kept getting phone-calls and good tidings from all over the world! Funny that I was so far away and have never had so much attention on my birthday! The prep schedule had announced that it was my birthday and that I was looking for waterproof gifts. The Crew here all responded; not with waterproof but with warmth…from Icelandic wool long johns & angora socks to Icelandic Schnapps, to Birthday greetings sung on the phone, to a campfire in my honour on the black sand beach, and a chocolate cake, to a shiny lucky stone (my favourite) given to me by the non-English speaking carpenter (elf?) who said that the first time he saw me he knew that it was time to give up his lucky stone….Hopefully I don’t need it that much…but I am cherishing it in any case!
It is full on work here…but we occasionally get together to eat and drink and be merry about all of the incidents and problems and comedies that have stricken us that day, or that week. There is a lot of laughter and the problems melt, or get solved, and we carry on. When we are out on location, away from the city and the office – everything seems possible. The vistas never get tiring, the breathtaking landscape is a force that empowers both the film and us personally. If you asked me how I felt… at the end of a long day of working out there from dawn till dusk – I would say I feel Happy! This world is different than any you have seen. I am often wet, cold and shivering, hair whipping my face, head bowed against the rain, legs spread to stop the wind from throwing me off a cliff, hands muddy and cut from scaling the rocks, face fried to a crisp from the sun and wind, and I am deliriously happy. It is stunning. It stuns you to the core every time you see it. Nature. Iceland.
I know that you are all waiting with baited breath to hear about the ongoing saga of the Viking Ship and how we will get it into the Iceberg lagoon for our first day of filming…Let me put it this way – We haven’t got a clue!!! There seems to be a lot of talk and no action at this point…They are putting the boat into the water this week so that it can soak up after being in a museum for a few years…That will take ten days for the wood to expand so that it doesn’t leak…WE HOPE… and then it will SOME how begin it’s incredible journey to get in the movies. Last I heard, they were talking about towing it! (remember this ship sailed only 6 years ago from Iceland to New York)…..hmmmm….to be continued…
The sun has set (boo hoo) it’s only 10:30pm!! (and now I miss it) But at least I am finally getting a few hours of dark and dreamy sleep before I wake up to start worrying about whether my computer will work tomorrow…My Movie Magic program has crashed and I seemingly have lost the ENTIRE show —I know that this CANNOT be possible – since I have my lucky stone and a really good computer guy (Jon, the website designer) at the office waiting for me. So I’m off to bed.
Missing you…wishing you were all here…to see what I see. Love and Love. Wendy.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 20, 2004
Week 6 (2-oops -no- 3 weeks to shooting)
A little hicup. We have postponed the shoot one extra week….NO we still don’t know how the Viking ship will get into the iceberg lagoon…but we went out this week to see the beautiful boat (red WOOL sails et al) and met with the mighty styrimanna (steeringman or pilot) of the boat and I am now confident that it will get there..somehow. The street that I live on is called Styrimannastigur (pilot of boats street) near the harbour so there is something mysterious and serendipidous about this whole thing. As everything in Iceland is…Mysterious and serendipidous.
This week has been filled with ups and downs. Anyone in the business will tell you that films are always plagued with problems and elations – ours seems plagued and blessed with more than our share of both.
We went this week to continue shot-listing our scenes that we are shooting out in Vik. The trip began with a snow-mobile ride out onto the glacier where we will shoot a scene for the movie. It was the “hottest day in the history of Iceland” and we were dressed in ski-doo suits and gazoo helmuts under which we had t-shirts and summer clothes. We were standing on ice fields that were 400 meters thick. …no ice fishing here.
YOU KNOW YOU’RE IN ICELAND WHEN…
…you have to stop the snowmachine because the director gets a conference call (good thing for those vibrating phones) …your companion is showing a LOT of cleavage even with a ski-doo suit on!
…the road is rerouted/rebuilt every 2 weeks because the ice 100 feet below the road is melting!
…the producer is making Ice Angels in the snow…(and he thinks it will help) : -)
Our snowmobile ride was to the very top of the glacier where we all got off the machines and layed in the snow to make ice angels! Line Producer, Director and all! The big hot sun was busy melting and making mirrages. Rivers of water sped across the blue ice. We stepped over fissures that you couldn’t see the bottom of. (yikes). We tossed snow balls at each other and picked a spot to shoot. Our guide (the Beowulf of the Glacier) warned us “that our location might not be there when we come back in October”. Oh. …Well. Whatever. ..the road might not be there either.
We came down from our “high” and went on to Dane Land (our main set) which is being built in the wild mountains near Vik. The carpenters (lovely, burley elves – all of 7 of them) have the “beerhall” set shape up and I am amazed at the size of the building and the amount of work that they have accomplished over the week. (all from driftwood, rocks, brush and telephone poles!) The set is being built (apart from the telephone poles) in the way they would have built it then (500 A.D.) with period tools, and one chainsaw! Everything is hand-hewn and hand put together. A site that even the locals all stop to see. Our location for the Dane Village is breathtaking. Eerie. Other worldly. From the village perched on a rocky cliff there is a 360 degree veiw, uninterupted by anything modern…except a radio tower on a neighbouring mountain which they have offered to paint in camoflage for us or perhaps have it dropped down…. We decide that we will simply avoid that one blight on the landscape in favour of our cell phones (an Icelandic must-have-accessory) and the only way we can communicate with each other.
There was “no room at the inn(s)” the night we needed to stay in Vik so we decided to camp at our “Daneland”. A beautiful, private, spot, and besides, it was the “warmest nite of the year”. We each set up our tents. Sturla teased me about being “Miss Canadian Camper” when I chose a spot protected from the winds in a rocky outcrop overlooking the outskirts of the “village in progress”. (I, in fact, missed my Matt to set up the tiny tent with no rocks and—with Icelandic instructions). But I eventually figured it out.
Sturla instead, chose the mossy hill overlooking the Beer Hall – the highest point for miles around. He finished setting up his tent and started down the hill to join us. Right at that moment, the wind picked up and his tent, sleeping bag and all, tumbled across the hillside, down OVER the edge of the cliff and into the valley far below… We chased after it and rescued it and he stopped teasing me…We worked late into the nite….listening to Hilmar (the composer’s) beautiful, inspiring music as Jan our DOP typed into his laptop under the light of the moon… We went to bed and slept on Iceland’s legendary12 inch thick moss and awoke to the sound of our carpenter’s hammering the next morning.
Iceland continues to amaze and delight.
Happy Birthday Midget! Missing everyone. I’m very, very tired. But healthy and happy (because I’m now on the Icelandic Echinecea- COD LIVER OIL once a day….Yeeeeech….. Oh and by the way, the dryer that my clothes have been stuck in….It’s a washer!!!
More YOU KNOW YOU’RE IN ICELAND WHEN…
You can call just about anyone Jon (pronounced Yon) and you are correct about 50 percent of the time.
You give up vegetarianism for smoked “self seasoning meat” ….lamb…(okay so I’m a quitter)
You give up on your ultra modern laundry machines all together and send it out….it costs 210 Canadian dollars to get it back.
You have an “elf” living on your deck – who moves things around and you are enchanted…until it steals the armchair in your living room.
The best kept secret re: entertainment in this town is …The Volcano Show….or the gay pride parade!
The wind today is created by a melee of PUFFINS.
You don’t look twice at a “cute little waterfall” if it’s under 200 feet tall.
The film you are working on is “short of everything except love”….a quote from our intrepid designer…
more soon….stay tuned.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 12, 2004
Cute, romantic and FREEZING
Hi Everyone!!! Sorry it’s been so long…we are SHOOTING and of course I no longer have time to keep in touch. Matt is finally here tho’ and dressed as a Viking …well needless to say…he looks GREAT and gives me less time to spend on the email…Yahoo!
We began shooting last week and the first day was the iceberg lagoon! YES the boat got into the water, mere hours before we shot…it was very exciting-(as my hair turned grey(er) ! And soooo beautiful in that berg lagoon…really. totally worth it! then the next day we shot the big sword fight in a hurricane style winds – then the 3rd day, we shot in knee deep mud, horizontal rain, fog and MORE big winds. It has been a very hard week…but we have gotten the MOST amazing shots!
I am finally settled into a tiny little cabin in Vik…it’s cute, romantic and FREEZING bloody cold!!! I am happy to be out of the hotel in Hofn and am happy to finish the first week of shooting…there are tons of stories…but I haven’t got time to tell them all….I have a cold and am hunkered down trying to recuperate before it all starts again this week…Missing you all-thanks for sending me news from home…
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 03, 2004
Hi everyone, we worked hard and long hours this week including Saturday so today I’m beat. The weather is continuing to pelt us with wind and rain and is pretty much unbearable to work in. We are experiencing the fallout from the hurricanes in Florida…it is really really BAD weather…the rain comes horizontally and I can barely stand in the wind. We must, however continue to shoot. The morale is low. (including mine), as it is horrific circumstances to shoot in and the work goes at half the pace. But the show must go on…so I have spent the day rescheduling the movie to TRY to make it workable in this dark and stormy weather…which means that I have had to add three more days to the end and means that if they except the inevitable, I won’t be home till the first week of Nov. Boo Hoo…sure seems like a LONG time since I’ve been home…and I sure do miss it and everyone. Luckily Matt is here with me or I probably would have quit a while ago. Matt is having fun as a Viking but I know he really feels bad for me when I come home soaked to the bone and cannot even walk I’m so tired. He has encouraged me to quit a few times, but I have made it this far and I really would leave, but I feel bound to help Sturla and the film. I think that the film continues to BREATH great Icy breaths and that we continue, despite all problems, to make a beautiful, intriguing story.
I must run now and get back to work…I really miss y’all and hope you survived , once again, the hurricanes (real and imagined) …Lotsa lotsa love, moi. Please send news…I really miss hearing from everyone. Xoxo
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2004
Hi All, I’ve had another difficult week, but it ended okay. We shot till 3:00 am last nite, and are now in night shooting for the next week. But last nite was warm and clear and no wind (surprise) so it went really well. And there were the most amazing northern lights I have ever seen. The northern lights are so so beautiful here…and almost every nite now. The film is really impossible when the weather is impossible. The wind and rain and cold have been really wreaking havoc on the production and on me! Today is sunny and warm…and I have gotten up early to enjoy the weather. When it is nice out, it is Beautiful and I love being here. Iceland is still a real beauty…I just wish I had some time to enjoy it. I am beginning to really miss home.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2004
We’re not in Kansas anymore!
We’re not in Kansas anymore. A wind sand storm 38 meters per second winds and flying ROCKS (7 windshields later) – not kidding…has shut down our shoot again. We lost our basecamp AGAIN – This makes 4 or 5 giant food tents that have simply disapeared -gone: ripped to shreads, disapeared into the big orange cloud in the sky-(that is swirling sand).. God/Odin is camping out in style these days. He has several of the rooves of our huts, some lighting equipment …a few coffeepots, probably some of our sheep and a crew member or two. I could not walk, in fact big burly grips were being blown off their trucks and could not carry any equipment. I was assisted by my two 6 foot tall AD’s holding me down as we battened down bent truck backs and ripped up winnebago’s windows. We taped plastic onto windshields and convoyed the crew down from the mountain as boulders blew down onto the roads and onto our windows…blowing out 7 different vehicles windows. This
is Iceland at it’s angriest. We start again tomorrow…with hope and a crew who is outfitted in swimming goggles (that’s a site unto itself) …we are sandblasted but not defeated. Pics below. The bad weather pic is sand in the air…we count ourselves lucky…it snowed two feet of snow just east of here. Waterfalls are frozen…All highways are closed…we must shoot with
cast that is stuck here…no one gets in -no one gets out….the adventure continues. Love to all. WINDY.
Thank God or Odin
….and I am up at 4:00 in the morning. I can’t sleep. The reason is that I cannot get the LATEST car accident out of my head. Yes, I said the latest. I found out at 6:00 pm that my Trailer AD, Evan, (who is gold and I love him like a little brother. He has learned fast and worked his butt off). He was the last remaining Canadian AD that started the picture…(that hadn’t quit or been let go). He was in a car crash last nite that totaled our AD vehicle “Defender”. Totaled is not the word, apparently it’s in 3 pieces and mostly crushed. The key grip was with him and was thrown from the car, luckily as it turns out; the passenger side of the car was flat. The police have said that they cannot believe that either of them are alive. Christian, the grip is in the hosp with cuts and bruises and banged up insides. But he will be out tomorrow or the next day, Evan, is in shock…but unhurt.
I have heard the graphic details of the accident, and it is keeping me awake. Evan trying to find Christian, when he found him, he thought he was dead. etc. I am confused, angry, upset, hurt and elated that they are okay. This myriad of emotions stems from the fact that the dead “Defender” is My department’s I always take it on the weekend and because we wrapped at 3:00am on Friday… I did not. Evan took it, as the department considers the car “ours”. They swerved to avoid one of the many sheep that are ALWAYS on the highway. The sheep survived. The jeep flipped. They are alive. Thank God or Odin-they are okay. There is a cloud that hangs over the film. The same curse on the film that brings rains when we need sunshine for a scene, brings hurricanes that wipes out our locations and our base camp, the same curse that threatens us everyday, strikes again. Yet the same luck that moves the film forward holds. The two sweet, stupid kids were unhurt.
The accident was found by, who else? (you know you’re in Iceland when…) one of our crew members driving back from Rekyavik…When he came upon the accident, he thought that it was me. (my car). Our walkie talkies are spread all over the highway. (this is the only funny image I can conjure ). I hate those damn walkies that seldom work in the driving rain that is Iceland.
This is the third major car accident on the picture. I don’t count the many cars off the road, stuck in ditches, due to fog or fender benders in the off-road driving, the 25 or so flat tires that have gotten cast or equipment or crew to the various locations late. The first accident was on the eve of the first day of shooting. A van load of our crew had a head on collision on the longest bridge in the country (the bridges are one car width only and the driver was apparently playing chicken with another car)…The crew was threatened with adhering to speed limits, wearing seatbelts and never drinking and driving (as I think it was questionable whether the driver of that car had had a few). The message was 0 tolerance. Two weekends ago the second accident. Our stuntman was walking home from the main hotel to the town 5 km down the road where some of us live. He was hit by one of our drivers. Again, the troll who curses and blesses this film was present. The stuntman suffered some broken bones but is alive and will not suffer any life long injuries.
Andrew Rai Berzins wrote this: My little theory: the trolls are actually trying to help out – and, knowing chaos is a cool thing on screen, they’re offering you every thing they can….But it’s just a theory.
Well thanks for listening to me rant…the saga, good, bad, ugly continues.
Love to you and yours. May the bad troll leave you (and I) alone and the good ones slip you favours now and then. Xo W.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 22, 2004
Hurricanes and fire
This week was rather unbelievable – we were down 2 days (not just the one I told you about) due to winds and dust storms…we had on the second day 160 km/hour winds!!! Hurricane style and all roads etc were closed…official wind warning was issued and I literally got blown up in the air about a foot and smacked onto my stomach! Then we shot again in the mead hall our main set which survived the hurricane! About halfway thru the day with 150 cast, crew and extras inside, a fire started under the center of the hall and we had to evacuate and put my childhood skills to test (as well as my blood pressure) we got everyone out, safely and in an orderly fashion then we all ran bucket brigade and fire pumps from the (smartly and laughable) placed child’s swimming pool of water that had been placed there as a precaution…LUCKY precaution..it saved the hall and the film!!! Matt’s birthday tomorrow…we go into Rek for the nite…looking forward to some rest to heal my cold and sorrowful bones. Today was warm and sunny and we got some AMAZING beautiful footage…love and love ,. Wendy
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 28, 2004
Dancing along the precipice of disaster
I have just gotten home from hell day. (nothing new there) but the pool that Beowulf was supposed to dive into wouldn’t hold water-LITTERALLY and so began the disaster de jour. The day never recovered. The (hot for Gerry) water leaked out of the pool as fast as I could have it pumped in (from 3 hot water trucks-which filled up at the hot water spring-fed river—only available in Iceland)- We only achieved half of our day. But I knew that when we arrived to find the pool not working-and our first shot was made with 10 minutes to lunch…
Altho’ we dance along the precipice of disaster, we must continue to search for beauty and fearlessness.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2004
Frostbite and bandages
Matt has gone home. I have another 10 days or so…don’t know if I’ll make it. My feet are crying out to be freed from 15 hours a day on them…I have one toe that got frostbite – and I have 3 that are bandaged due to really BAD blisters (black sand in the sock syndrome) I can hardly walk…but the set nurse has given me massive amounts of creams and bandages so hopefully I will make the final week. I have bought so many boots here to try to rectify the tired, wet, cold, sore, blistered feet here that it makes Imalda Marcos (or whatever her name was) look frugal! Hope to leave here next Sunday…but the film is still in trouble and whether we make it or not still remains to be seen. Miss you all… Xoxox Wendy.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2004
One week to go.
Well my feet are now swollen beyond recognition and I had to soak them in salt water for an hour to quell the feeling that they had been bitten by a hundred fire ants. Now I am sitting perched with them up but I’m pretty sure sleep will be next to impossible. I don’t know if they are still thawing from the glacier or whether they have been re-frozen today, or whether I’m alergic to the medicine, my boots or they have just “given up” entirely. But, well it seems like it’s all about my feet these last few days… An AD’s two tools are walkie-talkies and feet…Since the stupid walkies rarely work here due to being soaked by rain, frozen by sleet, dropped on the rocks, sandblasted or thrown out of a moving vehicle; my feet are my only remaining allie and they have quit on me too.
The stress continues.
We have only one day off this week as we are trying to play catch up…so everyone is overtired, frustrated and angry…I, of course have to work tomorrow – the “day off” so I am pretty much beside myself. There are a few fun moments in each day, but at this point they are few and far between. Sadly, my heart has left Iceland…in more ways than one.
There’s no place like home.
I can’t wait to come home now. I miss everyone and everything and it is so cold here now that it is unpleasant even on a rain/snow free day. I miss you all and now that Matt is gone and I have another week here in my “shack” alone I hope that you will all write and tell me your news so I don’t feel so alone in the hour or two that I am awake here… Love to everyone…sending heaps of good thoughts –
Happy Halloween from me -going out this year as a frozen troll
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 07, 2004
It’s a WRAP!!!!
It’s 6:00 am and I have just gotten home. We wrapped an hour ago (five minutes over our scheduled wrap time (what else is new?) We finished shooting in the sea hag cave. The last shot; we poured all of the blood that we had into the pond and the waterfall, and as the pool turned red, and Beowulf thinks he has finally killed the last troll…the filming ended.
An appropriate end. We called a picture wrap on Gerry, and the crew, champagne was popped and Gerry, dressed as Beowulf, and Spencer, dressed as the sea-hag, jumped, hand in hand, into the pool of blood. Kisses and speeches and congratulations, laughter and tears as we said good night to the filming of Beowulf and Grendel.
Just in time. The wrap crew arrived to tell us that that there was 10 cm of snow on the mountain where they were wrapping out Mead Hall…seems we just made it out of there in the nick of time. Down by the sea where we were shooting the cave it was warm and windy and raining…The lights went out and the trucks were loaded amidst handshaking, elation and exhaustion and just a tiny bit of sadness.
I must sleep now. Wrap party in 12 hours. Good byes will be hard. I look forward to coming home. I look forward to sleeping and NOT worrying about what disasters will strike tomorrow. I will, after all be sad to leave stunning, wild, dreamy, interminable Iceland – I think I will take a drive, before I leave for Rek, to see Mead hall in the snow. An homage to Arni Pall.
Love and love. W.
MONDAY, NOVEMBER 08, 2004
Everything but locust
Not home yet, my last email from Europe’s Western most point. Sitting in a café in Reykjavik, drinking café au lait and overlooking the cobble stone street. Waiting for my driver -very posh- to pick me up to take me to the airport to go home. I have been in a lovely hotel for two days sleeping and trying to recover. (both from the shoot and from the wrap party:-)
I am fully expecting the post film blues to set in, as I wind down, but I have many things to keep me busy, including attending a screening of “Such A Long Journey” the film I shot with Sturla in India at a World Literacy Charity Event. Where Sturla will be interviewed by Michael Ondattche so that should be fun. From one extreme to another.
I spent yesterday sleeping and shopping and have purchased wool, wool, and more wool…and have VERY full suitcases to somehow get home. The final adventure will be getting through customs and then flying over the volcano that erupted last week (fifty miles from our set) and shot 15 km into the air. It was on all the international news as all air traffic over iceland was diverted!!! Filming was not interupted…except to watch the most incredible sunset I have EVER seen (because of the ash in the air) and then an hour later the most Beautiful, Spectacular Northern lights…That makes the only disaster that we didn’t encounter a plague of locusts….not likely that that will happen in the next few hours before I get on a plane.
PHEW…I made it.