Loitering at the bus stop across the road from Great Pacific Pawnbrokers in New Westminster, Vancouver, I try not to look too conspicuous as the Supernatural (SPN) film crew prepares the location. But after several buses arrive and depart, without me on board, it’s fairly obvious I’m hanging out for a glimpse of the stars.
Fortunately, I’m not alone. There’s a young couple chatting animatedly as they steal glances across the road and a cluster of girls praying out loud that Jared (Padalecki) and Jensen (Ackles) will be acting today. Their excitement is contagious and, as I struggle to contain an uncharacteristic fit of the giggles, I have to remind myself that most of these fans are half my age. I’m way too old to be a groupie!
But then I do smile, recalling the episode Changing channels (from the fifth season) where Dean denies he is a fan of Dr Sexy MD only to come unstuck moments later as he confronts the Trickster. “You’re not Dr Sexy! Because I swore that a part of what makes Dr Sexy sexy is the fact that he wears cowboy boots not tennis shoes.”
Sam smirks and says “Yeah, you’re not a fan” and Dean replies “It’s a guilty pleasure”. Now I can totally relate.
So, how did this traveller from Melbourne, Australia, find herself at a SPN location?
It started as a bit of fun between two equally-obsessed SPN fans back home. I was going to visit my brother, who lives in Vancouver, and was ordered to keep my eyes peeled for Sam and Dean. I had no real intention of finding them. It was just a joke, the same way we’d joked about finding Mulder and Scully years earlier.
But this time, thanks largely to social networking, I stumble upon the location without much effort at all. Googling ‘Supernatural locations’, I find an article by Kevin McGran (of the Toronto Star), who writes about his quest to find SPN in order to keep his children happy. He enlists the help of SPN fans on Twitter to find locations and mentions the hash-tag #YVRshoots. By a stroke of good luck and/or impeccable timing my subsequent Twitter search hits the jackpot.
@DearHeartxoxo (who is passionately, not obsessively, dedicated to Supernatural) sends a tweet: “HAPPY DAY! #Supernatural will be filming all day in New West tomorrow on Canarvon St. #yvrshoots”.
My brother is bemused when I ask him how to get to New Westminster from Horseshoe Bay, as it’s not exactly on Vancouver’s list of ‘must-see’ places, and he kindly refrains from laughing when I reveal I’m in the process of re-discovering my inner-groupie. But he can’t resist a parting tongue-in-check comment, “Are you going to scream when the stars arrive?” My face reddens, “Of course not. Don’t be ridiculous!” But I’m thinking, “maybe just a little”.
As I make my way to the location, I begin to wonder if this is the most constructive way to spend my second last day in Vancouver. Not only is time limited, today, unlike most of the others in the last week, is bright and sunny, which leads to another disturbing thought. In six seasons of SPN how many times have we seen Sam and Dean enjoying a bright, sunny day? There was an episode in Season 2 where Dean finds himself in another reality, happily mowing his mother’s front lawn and… well, quite frankly, that’s the only sunny episode I can recall. I can’t help but have a sinking feeling there’ll be no SPN today.
I arrive in New Westminster at about 11am and, sure enough, there’s no sign of anything remotely supernatural. It’s only because my freakish luck continues (even without a rabbit’s foot) and I find a ‘Supernatural Notice of Filming’ detailing the schedule for much later in the day. The angels are clearly on my side; I would’ve given up if I hadn’t seen the notice.
When I return at 5pm, there are trucks, cranes, equipment and people everywhere. It’s still a game of patience, but I don’t mind. It’s oddly satisfying standing around watching the film crew standing around eating ice-creams, moving lights or cameras, eating pizzas and occasionally glancing across the road to check out the groupies gathered at the bus stop. I have a camera with a zoom lens and the slightly irrational fear I’ll be mistaken as crazed paparazzi by the bodyguard of Jared and Jensen (J2).
But all that is forgotten when J2 finally arrive; the 5-6 people on the fans-side-of-the-road can barely contain their excitement. It is, as Sam, under the influence of drugs in a mental institution, would say, aawwwwesome. Wide-eyed, we watch the filming – Sam and Dean walking into the shop, Sam and Dean walking out of the shop and Sam and Dean walking to their car (which is strangely blue and not very impala-looking). It’s oddly riveting stuff, for a scene with zero action, and is over way too quickly for my liking (especially after all that waiting around). Damn J2 for their fine acting; only requiring a couple of takes.
Luckily, Jared returns later to shoot a night scene (and by now, the fans-side-of-the-road has grown to a 30-strong crowd). To create the SPN look we’ve all come to know and love, a ‘wet-down’ truck sprays water across the road and ‘manufactured’ mist rises in the alleyway – and then we are ready for a slightly more action-packed scene. It’s fun, particularly when Jared accidentally breaks the car door and laughs his way through an entire take; perfect for end-of-season bloopers. I really hope it makes the DVD. It was also amusing to watch Jared, in Dean-like-fashion, hunt down the food on set (confirming the rumour I’d heard about J2 being opposite to their characters when it comes to food).
When I finally see the scenes in episode 7 of season 7, The Mentalists, it is two months later and I’m back in Australia. Even though the scenes only last about 90 seconds of a 40-minute show, it’s pretty cool to re-live the day. I now know how much work goes into creating even a fraction of an episode and have a newfound respect for everyone working on the show.
This unexpected ‘travel experience’ in Vancouver has only fuelled my SPN obsession and I’ve since discovered actors, directors, crew members, and, of course, thousands of SPN fans chatting across the Twitterverse. I admit, I’m still something of a reluctant groupie but I’m definitely not alone in this guilty pleasure.
Postscript: Earlier this year, I attended The Hub’s All Hell Breaks Loose Convention in Melbourne and had such a great time I’ve decided to return to Vancouver in 2013 for the three-day Salute to Supernatural (see my other blog: How far would you travel for a convention).
Have you ever seen a show being filmed or had an unexpected travel experience? I’d love to hear your thoughts.