Thursday, July 14, 2011

The "17 Miracle Workers"--T. C. Christensen and Ron Tanner

T. C. Christensen and his cousin, Ron Tanner, are the miracle workers for "17 Miracles."  They made it happen.  The interesting thing about them is that neither of them are "professionals."  Well, they actually are, but they don't do this for a living.  T. C. is a cinematographer and Ron, if I remember right, is a financial planner.  They do an amazingly professional job for not being "professionals," huh?

I wish I had the pictures that I took of T. C. Christensen as he worked on set.  It was incredible.  He was patience, quiet, professional in every moment.  I was amazed one night during the barn scene (I hope it made the cut in the movie).  It had been a very long day for everyone, but especially for him.  At midnight, he was still going strong.  I asked him if he weren't tired.  He looked at me puzzled, as if what kind of question was that.  His answer:  "I love doing this.  To me, this is fun!"  I did get the picture below when he was talking with some of the actors/extras.  Perhaps it is appropriate that this is the picture of T. C. that survived.  He always had time for people. 

There are some neat pictures of him, as well as others, at the website below.  (But don't go there until you have seen the pictures of our favorite Ron that are here!)

Ron Tanner, T. C.'s cousin, worked very closely with him on this movie.  He took charge of recruiting, organizing and verifying the extras.  In the movie, "Treasures in Heaven," he was called the producer and production manager.  I don't know if that is what he was called in "17 Miracles."  The thing that impressed me with Ron was his constant smile.  I know that there were some challenging days, when people who had promised to show up to be extras, didn't show up.  It put a lot of stress on him and T. C.  But Ron just kept on smiling.  I think that attitude in Ron and in T. C. was what made being an extra on this movie so fun, as well as kept everything so positive.

Ron, with his constant smile

Ron would arrange for all the extras, calling us the day before to let us know what time to arrive.  Then he was always checking that list. He would make sure we had shown up and signed his list.   I often thought of Santa Claus, "making a list and checking it twice," when I saw him.  As jolly as old St. Nick, it seemed to fit. 

Each day, Ron would have a list of all the extras (maybe the main actors/actresses too, for all I know).  We would have to sign a release so that we couldn't sue them.  I never saw anyone get injured, but I had a small mishap myself.  In one scene, I was given a heavy pot to hold.  In between retakes, I would set it down on the ground next to me.  I was positioned in front of a handcart with an axe tied on the back of it.  One time when I was standing back up from retrieving the pot, I hit the axe with my mouth.  Even though my mouth was closed , I chipped a tooth.  Thank goodness it was a very minor chip and needed little work.  It is my "souvenir" from the movie.

The Amazing Staff of "17 Miracles"--Props, Sets, Horses, and more

Bruce and his cute daughter were the prop people. 
There were many people who made "17 Miracles" happen.  The ones on the set were very talented people.  I wish that I had pictures of every one of them.  Unfortunately, the only ones I have that survived my camera’s “quirks” were taken pretty much the last day I was on set.  Whether their pictures are here or not, I hope that all the staff know they were important and appreciated.

In the picture to the left, you will notice the man on the right back of the picture.  I have to apologize to him.  I can't remember his name, though I know I knew it while I was on set.  He seemed to be T. C.'s right hand man during all the takes.  I don't know what he was called, but he worked mighty hard!  There was one other guy who also worked hard.  I thought I had a picture of him but can't find it.  He would move the gliding track to whatever position T. C. wanted.  It was heavy.  I don't think this man knew how much I watched him.  I was fascinated with his patience and diligence.  A great example.  He always did as he was asked--never complained, never commented that I heard anyway.  He just silently "did it!"  He was very serious.  I can't remember him ever smiling, except once. We were in the studio, close by the entrance.  Another extra asked me if I had been an extra before.  I explained and told them that it was my first and probably my last experience.  This guy was passing by as I made the last statement.  He looked over at me and said, "I bet not!"  I assured him that it would be, but he persisted that it wouldn't be my last time.  Not sure if that was a smile that he gave me or not, but the closest thing I had seen.                                    


Bruce and his daughter were in charge of props.  They would hand us a cooking pot, a basket, a shawl, a blanket, an axe,... oh and let's not forget those "wonderful eye glasses!"  Whatever you see in someone's hands or on them that doesn't qualify as costume, came from Bruce and his daughter. 

One of the most fascinating things to me was the way they made the "campfires."  Bruce had these black small pots filled with kerosene.  He would put them where the "fire" was to be and lit them up.  They would smoke so badly and smelled awful!  Some nights I would come home with that smell still stuck in my nostrils.  When it was time to fold up the scene, Bruce would come by and put a lid on the pot, which would suffocate the flames, and carry it away.  It was very efficient, and from a distance, quite authentic-looking.   I am looking forward to seeing how those fires will look in the movie.

Looks real, doesn't it?  

 The LDS movie studio in Provo has a very long trailer with dressing rooms and bathrooms. The trailer was normally on the movie studio lot and the main characters of the movie had them for dressing rooms.  When we were away from the studios, we all used these rooms.  There was no where else to go to change!

 I wish I would have taken a picture of the extras' dressing rooms.  We were limited to two rooms, which normally were in use and messy, so we would often get dressed in the aisles of the room where all the costumes were stored.  Not my most modest moments!  As I looked for an aisle to use, I would often run into other woman doing the same thing.  Thank goodness the men were never invited to those "dressing rooms."  The storage room had shelves going to the ceiling (It was a tall building!  Another lost picture).  The shelves were filled with containers of costumes.  Each container was identified as to type of costumes, time periods, gender orientations (boy, girl, man, woman), etc., which it contained.  I was amazed at the rows and rows of filled shelves.  It takes a lot to be a movie studio,

These are the "dressing trailers,"
used when away from the studio. 
Note the racks with hanging clothes
on the right center.


Jeff was one of several people (again, I never learned their official work name so I will call them an extra coordinator) who would tell us extras where to be and what to do.  Note the earphones hanging from his ear.  I assumed the "voice" that would tell them what to do was T. C. Christensen or someone close to him.  These people would set up the extras in the scenes for the results that were desired.  It could be very interesting.  Sometimes we would be all set up and then, Jeff or someone like him, would come and ask us to move this way or that.  They were continually asking us to not talk during the actually taping!  An interesting aspect of being an extra was that you might be seen but were not supposed to be heard--ever!  Because  mikes were very sensitive, we would be told to move our mouths like we were talking but not to make any sound.  That is harder to do than you would think--at least to make it look natural.  Try it sometime.

One night I was sitting at a "campfire" with four children and another woman.  There was a pot hanging over the "fire" and Bruce or his daughter--can't remember which one--came running and gave me a ladle.  Then we waited (a common thing) while the entire scene was readied.  While we waited the children were getting restless so I told them we would make some stone soup.  (There wasn't even water in the pots)  Their young faces looked blank.  I asked them if they had ever heard the story of stone soup.  With the exception of one, they hadn't!  So I started to tell them the story.  Russell, another extra cordinator like Jeff, came running up and said, "I don't know what you are doing, but keep doing it!  It looks great!  The children are paying attention and it just looks great!"  Well, by the time of the "take," I had finished the story almost, was unable to talk out loud and  just moving my mouth.  The children lost all interest!  So much for looking great.

Laurie was the make up artist.  She would  bring her daughter, Tiffany, and sometimes others, depending on the number of extras as well as the time demands, to help apply make up, fix hair dos, etc.  Even T. C.'s sister came.  I took an awesome picture of Lori working on "Brigham Young."   She is an artist!  He looked just like I imagine Brigham looking.  I also took a picture of her working some other time.  Unfortunately, both disappeared.  I did manage to get these pictures of Tiffany the day we were south of Provo.   

These pictures were taken in the trailer.  The woman being made up (I don't remember her name) came from a distance to be a "special" extra, meaning she had a little more exposure and may have even had a few lines. The dirt make up was even put on her teeth.  Yuk!  Glad I didn't have to have that done. 

Laurie’s father came one day to be an extra.  A little older gentleman, his descendents kept a watchful eye on him.  In the evening, I found myself standing close to him.  As we began to talk,  we realized we had some common ground—both had lived in Germany and attended the Berchtesgaden Serviceman Conferences.  Only it had been 10 years apart.  It was interesting to learn the differences.  Then another extra overheard our conversation and said that he had been in Kaiserslautern 10 years after I had been there.  He had never even heard about the servicemen conferences.  I hope that they weren’t discontinued.  They were a “mountain top experience.”  So special to those of us stationed overseas.  I had the opportunity to write the opening special program for two of them.  It was a great spiritual experience.  I know the Lord loves our servicemen!

The pictures below are miscellaneous ones that I took during filming.  If I had planned on doing a blog while in the midst of being an extra, I would have been more careful with retaking lost pictures and taking certain other ones.  Since I didn't, these wil have to do.

Bruce talking with Dianne.  Notice the equipment in the background.
It takes a lot of equipment to make a movie.
It all has to be transported when doing scenes away from the studio.

Yes, they even had to bring horses out for one scene.
This horse and  buggy, used for filming, became a fun ride for one couple.
I unfortunately missed the shot during the filming.
I will be interested to see it in the movie...if it survived the cuts.
This couple got a ride in the buggy. 
Unfortunately, I didn’t get the picture taken during the filming. 
Hopefully, I will see it in the movie.

I put in a large copy of this picture so that you might see the details of all the equipment.  The metal track in the middle of the picture is one that the camera would be mounted on.  Then T. C. would set on a chair behind the camera.  He and camera could glide back and forth, or side to side to get a smooth take.  The mike was mounted on the big long pole you can see sticking up in the air on the right center.  That guy would hold it up above the speakers for an incredible amount of time.  I know that the combination pole and mike were heavy!

I got this picture of Annie giving directions.  So I am just going to throw it in too.
Preparation for a take was a hectic time, especially for these workers.
Everyone is trying to get their costumes, get dressed and get out to the set at the same time.
This pictures gives a small clue.

Many people were involved in the making of  "17 Miracles."
They made it positive for all--including the lowly extras.
To them, a special Thank you!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Amazing Staff of "17 Miracles"--The Costume Ladies

Annie, who interrupted her busy work
with wardrobe, to "pose" for this picture
       I can not tell you what the correct term is for those who work on a set of a movie.  I can tell you that those who worked on the "17 Miracles" set were truly amazing people.  It was a special experience to watch them and work underneath them.  I was there for three weeks.  During that time, I never saw any type of discord.  Everyone seemed to be in harmony in an unbelievable way.  From the costume room to the make up , from numerous props to heavy equipment, the work was continual each day.  Often, these people were there hours before any of the filming began, getting everything ready so the preparations for the director/cinematographer (T. C. Christensen), actors, actresses, and yes, even the lowly extras would come to a smooth operation.   These extraordinary individuals would be there first in the mornings, last, often into the wee hours, at night.  Still, you could not ask for a more congenial group of people.  It was hard work.  It wasn’t always easy with the peculiarities of the people they had to work with.  Always, there were smiles.  Always, it was pleasant.   It is no wonder that the movie carries such a spirit about it, because the spirit on set was always one of peace, harmony, and Christ-like interaction.  One of the extras, Dianne, said that she had been an extra in some non-Mormon movies.  She said there was a stark difference in the atmosphere and feeling on the sets.

 I was very disappointed that so many of my pictures weren’t retained by my camera.  Many of them were the pictures I took of the staff working.  I hope you will enjoy the ones I got.  I thought I would start with the wardrobe crew.  They were so impressive.  I only got pictures of Annie and Sonja, but there was also a sister missionary that helped many days.  She was as wonderful as the other two.  I just didn't think of taking pictures all the time. 
One of Annie's many jobs was "dirting" us.
Here she is "dirting" Rebecca


 Annie and Sonja would come on set, after everyone had their costumes, and make sure everyone looked "good."  They might retie our bonnets for us--or even exchange them for a different one.  They would be there to make sure all was perfect.  I didn't get the names of the two other extras being prepared here.  I hope they might see this and recognize themselves. 

 Dianne wanted her picture taken with Annie and Sonja that last day.  What a trio!  Of course, I had to have mine taken to with these wonderful women who did such a marvellous work with the costumes.  You will note that I didn't quite straighten my apron after removing my camera from its case, which is  hanging on my skirt.  The secret is out....I would pin the case with camera under my apron so that I could have it handy when I wanted to take pictures!