Maybe you’ve seen it on TV. It’s a crazy, edgy sketch-comedy television series called Caution: May Contain Nuts. And believe me, the show certainly contains a lot of bona fide Nuts.
This is the third season I’ve been their Production Still Photographer — shooting the actors, the action and behind the scenes for their promotion and art department.
For the past two and a half weeks I’ve been getting up at 4:00 am, driving to Edmonton to be on set at 6:00 am for a 12 hour day, then driving back home in time to introduce myself to whatever family members are around, do some real work for my other jobs and head to bed for a 4 hour snore-fest before another 4:00 am alarm.
And I’m a certified member of the Night Owl Club, so witnessing daily sunrises used to mean I was heading to bed instead of heading to work.
You have to be a Nut to work on the show. A sleep-deprived zombie Nut. And I have another crazy week to go.
And speaking of zombies, when I arrived on set one day at the usual ungodly hour, I walked into a weird world of ungodly zombies. We were filming at a school auditorium and there in the seats in front of the stage were at least two dozen creatures that were either horrific zombies or an official meeting of the World’s Ugliest People.
It was truly surreal.
It turns out that the scene we were shooting was a very funny sketch called The Zombie Awards — spoofing all the award shows that are cropping up on TV as fast as Bachelor, Bride and really bad Dancing With the Has-Beens reality shows. (Soon, I’m sure they’ll have Award Shows awarding the best Award Shows.)
Anyway, I soon learned that there is an actual registered Zombie Club in Edmonton. (Insert Edmonton City Council joke here.) It’s not a real Un-Dead group per se, but a surprisingly active club whose sole purpose is to dress up like zombies and have parties and slump around grunting and admiring each other’s costumes.
So when Caution: May Contain Nuts needed a bunch of zombies as Extras to play the audience at the Zombie Awards — voila! The un-dead were everywhere at 6 am!
The Nuts are a seriously talented bunch of actors (two of which, Aimee Beaudoin and James Higuchi graduated from the Red Deer College Motion Picture Arts Program) who write and perform comedy, and sing and dance and make the crew guffaw all day long. It’s one of the reasons I gladly hit the weary road and take several thousand photographs every week.
That and the fact that we get to work with all kinds of interesting people, some of whom are celebrity-type people who generally turn out to be the very nice celebrity-type people.
This particular zombie morning the guy playing the MC Award Presenter was guest star Joe Flaherty from the great Canadian comedy series SCTV. So we were all pretty impressed and nervous what with Count Floyd/Guy Caballero right there larger-than-life and all the zombies slumping around moaning and being dead.
Little did I know that I was soon to embarrass myself in front of them all, and especially right in front of Mr. Joe Flaherty.
The Director called “cut” after Joe had pulled the arm off of one of the award winning zombies for the fifth time when he tried to shake hands, and the first Assistant Director called for “stills” which meant I had about one minute to get up on stage and take photographs of Joe and the zombie while the crew set up for the next shot.
So in front of everybody I go bounding up the steps to the podium, up onto the stage and into the blinding lights and I promptly catch a running shoe on the top step. It wasn’t just a little stumble mind you, but a hurrying-too-fast flying flailing full-out crash.
I am stumbling out of control like a zombie in fast-forward, right toward our guest star and the armless zombie at the podium. And it was clear that I was going DOWN. Like a tonne of bricks. A classic face plant. Possibly taking important people and zombies down with me.
Thing is, I had two cameras with long heavy expensive lenses and large flash units slung over my shoulders at the time. Not a good thing in the face of an embarrassing, potentially damaging wipeout.
As I tripped over myself on my way to a bellyflop onto the hardwood floor I remember thinking: “Oh, this is going to be ugly.” And then I reacted completely without thinking which is the way I do most things, and I somehow grabbed my cameras, holding them in tight and I intentionally lurched forward tucking my head in and did the only thing I could do — a somersault.
Well, that’s what I was trying for. Whatever it was, I actually ended up rolling on the floor and flipping more or less up onto my feet face to face with Joe Flaherty. Relatively unscathed, cameras safe, my dignity in tatters.
And I hear that strangely familiar SCTV voice say, “Hey fella, you OK?” and then I hear the just plain strange sounds of zombies laughing from their seats in the audience.
I remember through my mortification introducing myself to Mr. Flaherty and taking a bunch of pictures and getting the heck out of there to nurse by embarrassment out at the craft services table, which is what movie people call the place all the delicious crew snacks are kept.
Joe turned out to be a terrific guy, but the cast and crew ribbed me for days about my “pratfall” in front of the special guest star.
Some of them even thought I had done it on purpose for a laugh, and a couple of the actors might have even been a little miffed that a lowly crew member was doing his own stunts in front of a celebrity and a bunch of zombies.
As for me, since I hadn’t even attempted a somersault since Grade 6 gym class when my random body parts were much more flexible and invincible, every bone in my body ached for three weeks.
And I limped around moaning like an absolute zombie.
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate.