Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Shooting Tiger in Orlando & Panther Crossings in Fort Meyers

Being a busy producer leads to being a b-a-a-a-a-d blogger. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. Get ready for yet another giant post because as usual I have a whole lot of stuff crammed into one fun-filled post.

Where shall I begin? I guess at the very beginning. The last couple of weeks have gone by frenzied and furious- yes, it was Fashion Week though I do not participate in any of that. My frenzy was doing production for a big Swiss client of mine. We were going to shoot an advertising campaign with Tiger Woods in Orlando and I was absolutely thrilled to get the job.

Doing a shoot in Orlando is a bit different from doing a shoot in NYC, first and foremost is that in Orlando, you have to drive. Being a born & bred New Yorker, I never had to drive so I never got my license. No worries there though because being the producer, I get to hire an assistant- an assistant who can drive! Any production is stressful. The client not only pay me to produce the shoot but they pay me to worry for them. Even when I have everything zipped up and in place: equipment rental, delivery times, crew hiring, travel logistics, etc., there are always fires to put out- gracefully of course.

Well, I wanted to break here and show you the yummy fab dinner I had at Nobu Next Door in Tribeca. My client who has become a very dear friend was in NYC a day befor leaving for our Orlando job because we had to squeeze in taping a video of Uma Thurman for a charity project. So when a client/dear friend comes to town, we get to go to a super fun dinner. She suggested Nobu because she had never been and after all these years, I had never been either. I called for a Sunday night reservation & they were booked til 10pm. Nice to know that Nobu is still going strong after all these years. We settled for their more casual counterpart- Nobu Next Door. Still pricey but more relaxed. Nobu has always been known for it's amazing sushi. Ah- what does famed sushi matter to a vegan? Absolutely nothing, except compassion for the sea creatures and environmental destruction due to over fishing, but the point is- a great restaurant is always that- great for everyone. Our waitress was well-versed and made sure to check what would be suitable for me and made sure to leave out the bonito where it would be snuck in...sneaky thing those bonito fish flakes are in Japanese establishments. Here's my fancy meal vegan style: oshitashi (spinach) sans bonito, ancho chile grilled eggplant & zucchini, Japanese eggplant broiled with miso sauce and for my entree- a gorgeous gathering of different delectable mushrooms. It was all delicious!

Dessert was some delicate sorbet minus the biscotti for me:
It was lovely and we had a great time. This is the kind of meal one needs before gearing up for a busy shoot week! Of course, the next morning, Uma was ill and had to cancel our video shoot- just as well, one less thing for me to worry about- well cancellations don't go that smoothly, but let's not get into it. My full focus was now Orlando.

As I was saying, things are a little different in Orlando. They shoot a lot of film & tv in Orlando. So a lot of their studios are huge soundstages which are just big cavernous, ugly spaces. I am used to studios with a couch area for the client etc. Turns out the space that I found for our shoot did have a couch area for clients. Thank goodness I called back to find out what the furniture looked like because we are not dealing with NYC cool studio here- the couches turned out to be mauve leather and the sitting area had definitely been decorated in the early 90's- with matching mauve floral paintings...I forgot to take pictures. They managed to have fake flowers that somehow looked like a display of dying flowers-quite impressive. Was offensive on so many levels- leather, mauve- I could go on.

Had to fix that, so the prop stylist that I hired to prop the shoot had to also prop a nice seating area that would be more amenable to my clients. Unfortunately, he rented leather seating, but he made it look nice nonetheless. It was actually a sexy little seating area and did wonders for the big ole' ugly soundstage.

We had a day at the studio when all the equipment etc was delivered and the next day was the pre-light. That's when the photographer sets up exactly how he wants to shoot everything so that when Tiger arrives the next day and we have him for all of three hours to shoot a billion things- that's how it's possible. So you can see one of the photo assistants below swinging away.
We actually had a stand-in model for Tiger and he actually does a lot of stand-in work for Tiger in Orlando.
I remembered to take some lunch photos on pre-light day, but was a bit more pre-occupied on shoot day- so no pics that day, but breakfast & lunch were plentiful. My dream is to have a vegan catering at a shoot one day. What I managed to do was save the pigs from my shoot though- I kept it down to chicken & fish, eggs and unfortunately milk. Below are grilled veggie sandwiches though the caterer snuck mayo or something creamy in there so none for me:

I ate from the Meditteranean platter and made sure there was no surreptitious mayo in the hummus. I had some hummus, stuffed grape leaves, olives& artichokes. I don't eat much on shoots anyway- feeding on nervous energy & lots of coffee with soy milk. Happily found four people in our crew of seventeen that take soy milk versus milk- and opened some of my Swiss client's eyes to how soymilk is perfectly delicious instead of torturing dairy cows and turning their babies into veal (again my vegetarian friends, pls educate yourselves about the dairy industry and just say no to dairy- it is as horrible as meat production and as we always like to quote- every glass of milk has a hunk of veal in it!).

I researched several hotels but how fortunate that The Ritz Carlton happened to be the closest hotel to the studio- really close so I was obligated (cough cough) to book it. It's a great perk to stay at a nice place on a job. Our room was quite cozy.

And our bathroom had a tub & a shower, though there was no time for a relaxing bubble bath...

Our first night, leisurely crew dinner was at the more formal restaurant at The Ritz called Norman's. It's star chef, Norman Van Aken's new world cuisine resturant. I have never had a veganized meal at formal famed chef's place and I was in for a treat. The waiter had suggestions for me from the chef. I started with a watercress salad with strawberries & almonds. It was delicious.
After that an intermezzo of lemon sorbet to cleanse the palate...yummy!

And then homemade tofu pan-seared in a delicate tomato-spiced sauce- they had veganized a pan-seared fish dish and substituted tofu. It was amazing.

Eveything was quite perfect. Everyone was well-fed. To date, the best vegan meal I have ever had was in Orlando and not in NYC!

The next night was dinner at the more casual place at the Ritz and they made me an extremely delicious entree of sauteed eggplant and other veggies. Absolutely tasty. I was extremely impressed by the quality of the food at The Ritz in Orlando. Dining well at the end of a busy work day is really important and for this vegan producer, I was beyond surprised to be eating this well at work.

The day of the shoot went brilliantly. Tiger Woods was extremely gracious, cool and down-to-earth. It's all in the upbringing- his parents raised him well and that made for a super talented, billionaire the nicest, most relaxed celebrity I have ever met. He had a stuffed Tigger golf club cover and drove himself to the shoot. How more down to earth could he get? Well actually, instead of just staying in the green room with his agent, he actually hung out in the studio. There are no pictures or autographs when we shoot celebs because we want them to be comfortable. So alas, no pics to show- I forgot to take pics of the enormous spread of food I had ordered shoot day. But I did get a nice big hug from Tiger Woods to thank me, it was unexpected and since I'm small, he definitely needed to bend down to hug me. I think I reminded him of his small Asian mother. Whatever it was- it was super sweet and most importantly, the shoot went really well.

As the crew broke down the set, I needed to figure out what we were going to do for Fcat's birthday dinner. It was nice that we could be together on his birthday even if we were working.

After wrapping up the set and making sure everyone took care of what they needed to take care of, I knew the pool was calling us. Well actually, I was so tired that when I got back to the room, I fell asleep for about half an hour while Fcat made some work phone calls. After that, we rushed down to the pool to catch whatever sun was left before the afternoon rain set in.

A few guests had been there all day dipping in the pool.
We had some drinks.

And other guests made off with some nuts.

And then it started to rain. Turned out to be a bit more than afternoon Florida rain...more of a big storm. Lounge chairs were swept into the pool. We took cover at the outside bar- how convenient. The storm was amazing.

It lasted for some time. At the end of it all, guests adapted quite easily- lounging in the chairs that turned into pool floaties.

Fcat and I ended up back at Norman's for his birthday dinner. It was such a beautiful room with the storm still whirling outside and the food so good- it was perfect. I had a different salad this time.

But the same yummy entree because it was so good.

Fcat had a lovely birthday evening and we decided that we would stay longer through the weekend and drive down to Fcat's mother's condo on Marco Island. We awoke to have breakfast with our Swiss client who are really more family to us than clients. The hotel had a great breakfast buffet where I had a gorgeous selection of fruit, whole wheat toast and potatoes. Did I already gush about what a great hotel The Ritz is? They had soymilk! I have been at tons of nice hotels and no one ever has soymilk. I heart The Ritz at Grande Lakes bug time. Everyone was leaving that morning so breakfastwas bittersweet. We were all glad that the shoot was done, but always sad to say goodbye.

Off to Marco Island we go! The drive down to the southwest coast of Florida took some time. We had a couple of things to take care of like switch out the giant Expedition that was rented for the shoot to a smaller car...Rain & storms had been forecasted for the entire weekend but we decided that even in the rain, we would get some down time by the beach. Well lucky us, it turned to be the most gorgeous weather.

The condo had the most amazing views of the water. All I could do was take pics of the sea and the sky from the wraparound balcony. Every stress I ever had just disappeared into that lovely landscape.

The beach the next day was spectacular and I discovered that I can't stop collecting shells- dangerous on a shell beach (I always made sure no one was living in the shells- that wouldn't be very vegan now would it?).
Nature on Marco Island was simply delightful. We saved that leaf camouflaged butterfly from the pool. I loved all the birds that congregated on the beach in the morning and the little mushrooms that grew on the walk down to the beach. We were even rewarded with a rainbow after an afternoon downpour.

When the afternoon rains set in, you could see a blanket of clouds hovering.
The only thing to upset our perfect weekend- not the weather, but the Baked BBQ Lays. It was late and we were tired when we went food shopping late in the evening. I ALWAYS read labels, except when I bought these chips. Read on- there's chicken fat, eggs, dairy & transfat in them...and Fcat noticed giant hives on my face not long after eating a handful of chips which is when I looked at the label again. Argh!!!!!!!!

Well despite that, Fcat and I had a magical weekend on Marco Island. We worked hard and we got to really relax for a few days. It's an ideal way to work and an ideal way to celebrate Fcat's birthday. Ah yes, I mentioned panther crossings in the title of this post- well stylistically it worked as a big cat theme but I don't really have much to say about it. Driving back and forth in Fort Meyers on the way to Marco and back, I noticed signs on the road that made you aware that you were in panther crossing area- like deer crossings signs upstate. I can't imagine panthers darting across the roads. I hate how we displace wildlife as we overpopulate the world and encroach on nature.

All in all, a perfect way to work and play. I heart the beach and even just two days made a world of difference. Back to NY and back to reality, this might have to be my new screensaver....

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Gone Tiger Shooting...

Thank you my dear friends for all your sweet & caring comments on my last post. It really means a lot to me to know that there is such an amazing support & concern out there amongst our vegan blog world.

Sorry to not have let everyone know sooner, but I am down in Orlando as I said- shooting tiger...don't worry, trying to do it as humane & vegan as possible. Will be back next week with pics of all the gory details.

Hope everyone is doing well!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Mixed Blessings

I have started this post a few times now since last weekend and I can't seem to write anything, so it will just have to be what it is. It has been sixteen years since my mother has been gone, but the pain of losing her is still as real as it was that last day of August 1991. I was nineteen and SKO was a year old. My mother had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and succumbed two months later. Up until her sickness, my mother was happy, vibrant and strong. She was forty-one when she died and none of us were prepared, least of all me.

Time is a big piece of the healing process and for the most part, I have come to terms with her death. This year's anniversary though hit me like a ton of bricks due to my Florida trip. After Disney, SKO & I returned to Tampa where she lives with my dad, stepmom & our half-brother & sister. The night before I was to head back to NY, SKO put on some old home movies of mom & SKO as a wee baby.

SKO played the videotape. There was a woman's voice narrating. I was confused as to who was speaking. After a few seconds I realized that the woman's voice was my mother's. I felt as if I had the wind knocked out of me. The pain & shock of not recognizing my own mother's voice hurt almost as much as losing her. I had lost her again and this pain was irrevocable. My mind scrambled as I listened on and watched the tapes to try to grasp at connecting with her voice, but nothing came. As I told SKO this, she who has no memory of our mother at all said that mommy's voice sounded like a cross between grandma & auntie (my mother's sister) and that fact I did recognize and tried to take comfort in that.

I still remember one of my first thoughts upon returning home on the day she died. I realized that I could call for her and she would never again respond. One of my greatest fears was that I would slowly lose my memories of her and now here it is, I have already lost another piece of her. Her voice is gone from those memories that I grasp so tightly. It is completely and utterly devastating.

Needless to say, I was not feeling well for the holiday weekend but it really helped to go to the cemetery with my grandmother. It was Fcat's first visit and I was glad that he was there. I touched my mother's plaque and it comforted me as if I was touching her because I knew that her body was underneath. The visit to the cemetery brought me some peace. I am thankful for the close relationship that I have with my grandmother and my unique realtionship with SKO- both made closer because my mother is no longer here.

The weekend came and we had been invited to a barn party in New Jersey. It was the last thing I wanted to do, but I forced myself to go and it turned out to be the best thing for me. Fcat helped turn a sad weekend into one of the best weekends I have had in a long time.

We began with a light lunch at Candle Cafe before our two hour drive to New Jersey. There was foccacia with tomato sauce, corn chowder with baked pita chips and seitan chimchurri. Delicious healing food from Candle Cafe was exactly what I needed. The last image is the yummy falafel, hummus, tabbouli plate that I got from our favorite Israeli restaurant- we had this the day after the barn party.

Fcat's friends have a lovely piece of property in Hopewell, NJ. The barn was all decked out for drinks, dinner and jam session with several musician guests. It was really fun. The couple also have some kitties and goats on their property. The cats were hard to photograph but they were truly a different breed from my urban, stay at home Booboo. These cats were country living, barn cats. They were very sweet but always on the prowl and super alert. The goats which they keep as companions and possibly for tax purposes- these "girls" as they were referred to were as sweet as can be. Wanting so much attention that one of them almost got tangled up in the fence because she wanted to be petted so badly. I had no idea that goats were such attention hounds. This was my first time- up close with goats. I think the guests were laughing at what a silly city girl I am, spending all my time with the goats. Little did I know that this would not be my only goat encounter for the weekend!
The next day was really the best day ever! We had decided to keep our rental car for one more day. I have been wanting to visit Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen, NY since forever, so I thought we could make the trip- turns out that it's 5hrs from NYC. Not at all feasible since we had gotten such a late start. Then Fcat remembered that there was a closer farm sanctuary still upstate but nearby. I went online and found Woodstock Farm Sanctuary. It was an easy 2hr drive from the city and after visiting the animals, we could hang out in Woodstock. Perfect!

The farm was lovely and the animals even lovelier. Mind you, this city vegan has never visited a farm before nor have I ever come in contact with farm animals before except for the goats from the other day. So you can imagine how absolutely delighted I was. Below is an image of the sanctuary and Dylan who is the sweetest prettiest little boy and the torture device that he didn't have to experience. He was destined for the veal crate being a byproduct of the dairy industry. Every glass of milk/chunk of cheese/stick of butter has got a heaping ton of veal & torture in it, so please say no to dairy products and think of Dylan being playful, happy & getting to spend his time just being a young curious little calf.

Did I mention what a big goat weekend it turned out to be? There were goats galore at the sanctuary. Many of them rescued from backroom slaughterhouses of Brooklyn where goat is common meat in Caribbean & Muslim diets. Apparently some Muslims pick out their goats and watch them get slaughtered- I actually think that the practice at least reminds them that their meat came from a living creature versus people who gobble down their burgers and steak with no thought as to what breathing, real animal had to sacrifice it's life to become food on a plate. Perhaps if more people had to watch the slaughter, we would have many more vegans in this country.

The goats were simply divine. They loved attention.
Then there were chickens, glorious, squawking chickens & roosters. They were all so pretty with their full plumage and red combs. Sadly factory farmed chickens' combs hang over their eyes because they do not get enough vitamins for their combs to be upright. There were also the rescued broiler hens who were all so overweight that they had a hard time moving around- except when it came time to eat (which is what evil, greedy people bred them to do-eat as much as possible so that people enjoy bigger drumsticks and thighs)- boy did they hustle when it was feeding time. Apparently, these rescued broiler hens do not live very long lives because they are unnaturally overweight. On the other hand I learned that the egg laying hens live a tortured existence for two long years. Whether or not they are kept in battery cages (free range eggs are little better living in a dark barn crammed with hens where less than 50% ever get outdoors), the egg industry is as heartless as dairy & meat where debeaking without anesthesia & killing useless males is common practice. I cannot even imagine six hens crammed into each side of the battery cage- 12 hens in total, living that way for two tortured years constantly laying eggs until they die. Unbelievably sad. What I can't seem to understand is how vegetarians who understand the horror of factory farming & meat yet they cannot seem to grasp the same exact horror of dairy & egg production. Mind-boggling.

Last but not least- a parade of pigs. Peaceful, sleepy and sweet as can be. My favorite was Judy, pictured sleeping with her face in the sun and with her head on my knee for scratches & love. She was divine. I wanted to adopt her and Fcat decided that we would adopt her together. Pigs are really large animals. It's so funny to see them walking around so daintily in their high-heel like hooves.
After playing with the animals, we had worked up an appetite. Our guide at the sanctuary suggested Garden Cafe, a vegan restaurant in Woodstock. We got a great little table out in the garden and the menu was packed with delicious suggestions. There was mint iced tea and vegan ceasar salad with croutons & almonds (the key here was yummy vegenaise). Fcat had an Indian spiced chickpea & veggie enchilada. The spices were amazing and the green apple slices with garlic was especially tasty. I ordered a Caribbean rum marinaded seitan served on mashed plaintain patty with pineapple. The side vegetables went perfectly with the dish. And the kale was so flavorful that I'm mad that I forgot to ask why it was so damn good. I have to say that this restaurant has made the best vegan meal that I have ever had- every dish was packed with flavor. Fcat & I were so full from our meal- the portions were quite large (NYC prices but not NYC portions), yet I still wanted to take a peek at the dessert menu. Well thank goodness that we did that...

We had the most stupendous, mouth-watering strawberry shortcake on the face of this planet. Yes, you can image how good it was that I would resort to such a statement. The scones were fresh out of the oven and warm, topped with luscious strawberries and creamy topping. Oh and let's not forget the chocolate mint- the mint with the natural hint of chocolate was absolute perfection- so much so that I want you to see this scrumptiousness up close.
It was a perfect end to a perfect day. I end this post with pics of Joey, a goat kid who escaped from a Brooklyn slaughterhouse along his mother & father. I am grateful that there are farm sanctuaries where these beautiful creatures can live happy & free.

Nonviolence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all living beings, we are all savages. - Thomas Edison
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