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Finding the Holy Grail: Supernatural on Location! (teeny possible skippable spoiler at end)

Finding the Holy Grail: Supernatural on Location!

I’m pretty sure that every fan who comes to Vancouver hopes above all to encounter the Supernatural crew shooting on location – I know that’s been my Holy Grail for several years now, and in pursuit of it, I’ve driven to past and potential locations across the greater Vancouver area. Well, Thursday night, with the help of friends, I found it!

They were shooting part of episode 5.05 in New Westminster, inside a garage near the intersection of Stewardson Way and Royal Avenue. Since the garage door was down while they were shooting, I couldn’t spoil anyone about what was happening even if I wanted to (which I wouldn’t, not being a spoiler junkie myself). Both Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki were there, but it was too dark to get any photos. I didn’t even actually see them, but others in my group did, having a slightly different vantage point (as in, without a crew truck in the middle of it!). Jared wrapped for the night pretty much just as we arrived and was whisked off in a black SUV. Jensen – in a white dress shirt with red suspenders showing (hmm, maybe Dean Winchester saved the Dean Smith suit from It’s A Terrible Life?) – was on set for at least another hour, and waved to the little group of us as he, too, got picked up by the black SUV. The production assistant we were chatting with, a sweetheart named Nicole, said that the boys used to chat sometimes with fans on location and still will do it sometimes, but became much more guarded about when they’ll do it after returning to their trailer once to find three fans inside the trailer – a definitely uncool and unacceptable crossing of the line.

Although the boys were out of reach even of our camera lenses, one of the show’s three road-worthy Impalas was parked at the curb. Taking pictures of a black car on a dark street at night was a challenge, but we rose to the occasion! We had to stay about 10 feet away from her, but we could see her. We got closer to a police car also parked at the curb and used in the episode in a scene other than the one being shot inside the garage. My photos are up here: 

We were carefully polite, committed to not being a nuisance, and the crew, in response, were very accommodating. They shared interesting factoids. Each of the big trucks in the circus – the gathering of production vehicles parked adjacent to the shooting location, required to carry all of the equipment (lights, cameras, cables, generators, props, dressing rooms, props, cars, etc.) – costs about $300,000. There are three crews always working: a prep crew getting things ready for the upcoming work; the shooting crew, managing all the logistics and executing each day’s (and night’s!) work; and the wrap or post crew, finishing things up. According to Nicole, the shooting crew alone comprises 135 people when they’re working on location. She was working the perimeter, with her job including keeping the set safe and also being able to alert others on the crew whenever the cameras and sound were going to be rolling so the crew would know when they had to be quiet and when they could work freely. Some of the crew were loading lights and cables onto the truck in front of us, and whenever “Rolling!” was called, had to take special care not to make noise if they chose to keep working.

Nicole said that shooting for HD had forced a lot of changes because it was much harder to capture the dimensional sound that surround sound requires since the multiple microphones in use caught a lot of ambient sound that could be a problem. She said that they’d also had to change the makeup they used to avoid anything that would bring out the pores in the actors’ skin, because the HD cameras picked up and emphasized every detail. Another assistant who came to speak with us said that they generally shoot on location for only two days out of the eight that each episode typically requires, and that most of the interior sets are built at the studio because it’s a lot easier to shoot where you can set lights and maneuver cameras through removable (or nonexistent!) ceilings. The posted no parking signs for this location were for one day only, from 9:00 AM Thursday until 3:00 AM Friday, and they were packing up by 10:00 PM.

Nicole and others on the crew who chatted with us thanked us for watching the show, since their jobs relied on the ratings we brought to the it. They were very tolerant of our transparent (but carefully quiet!) enthusiasm, and were very happy to be working on the show and to share that enjoyment with us. Scotty, the lucky guy in charge of the Impala, even deliberately revved the engine for us when he fired her up to drive her away to the truck that would carry her back to the studio! She sounds sweet, even though her doors don’t really squeak – that sound is added in post-production.

With the shooting over and the trucks being packed with equipment, we made our farewells. Nicole said that since she wasn’t going to be needed on Friday (when we were told by another assistant director they’d be shooting in the studio), she would be working a different gig: being an extra on the new Twilight movie shooting somewhere in town. We wished her luck!

And so one of my dreams has finally come true. Now I’m looking forward to the convention!


Segregated for potential spoilers (highlight to read easily):

Episode 5.05 is currently titled Fallen Idols. Earlier titles reported for the episode included Celebrity Skin and American Idol. It’s being directed by James L. Conway, who directed last season’s It’s A Terrible Life. And yes, this is the episode in which Paris Hilton appears, but her scenes wrapped earlier in the week. A sign inside the garage proclaimed, “Canton Sheriff” and the plates on the fake cop car were Ohio ones, so one presumes the episode is set at least in part in Canton, Ohio.

Tags: cons, on location, real life, supernatural, television production

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