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....


reiskeks said...

I love all your nature photos so much :-) ! Is the black bird there a crow ? I love them so much, they are so smart and funny, and then, so many people are afraid of them and even throw stones on them when they see any... It is said a crow brings messages from other realities to our world, for me they bring at least happiness into my life.

VeggieGirl said...

wow, wow, WOW!!!! as usual, EVERY SINGLE picture that you took, and all the amazing, thorough details of the shoot and everything, are FANTASTIC!! I feel as if I was there with you, haha!! another wonderful post, vko :0)

bazu said...

Mmmmmm... have I ever told you I love your photos? Reading this post made me feel like I was on vacation- you've made me really miss Florida!

Pink Theory said...

Wowie! Your own assistant? Can I have your job? ;-P It sounds so exciting! All the food and photos look amazing. I'm glad that you and Fcat were able to enjoy his birthday and Florida!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

Please come here & produce, we have a vegan personal chef that we can have cater! hehe.

I'm glad the shoot went well. I haven't had the greatest luck when asking high end restaurants to veganize for me! I was working on a shoot in Napa Valley at a resort & the chef was NOT cool about making things vegan. I ate melon salads & lettuce wraps for 3 days- I was starving! haha.

I love the little mushrooms growing up through the wood & the last photo is DARLING!

Vegan_Noodle said...

So cool to hear a bit more about your work. Sounds stressful but exciting at the same time.
And how cool that the hotel had soymilk!! That's something I haven't seen before.
Your dinners looked fabulous. What a fun way to celebrate Fcat's birthday.
Hope all is going well!!

Vivacious Vegan said...

You have the best job! Sounds like a lot of stress and hard work but also a lot of fun.

I had to giggle a bit about the baked lays. It totally sounds like something I would do. I can't believe they managed to cram meat, dairy, eggs, and transfat all into one tiny chip! YUCK!

Theresa said...

Sounds like a FANTASTIC trip, even if you were crazy busy for most of it. Good food, good people, down to earth celebs... And lots of gorgeous beaches and wildlife. Perfect.

I love how you describe your hotel room as 'cozy'. It looks positively luxurious to me!

Emmie said...

Oh wow, some of your photos blow me away!

You have such an exciting life.. oh oh and I'm TOTALLY used to assisting so next time you phone ME, ok? (..must not mention that I assist elderly and sick people.. must not mention..OOPS!)

Anyway, what a wonderful post. Restaurants here just sigh at you when you ask them to make something vegan for you, even if it's just 'no mayo please'. When I ordered the vegan nacho plate at a restaurant this summer (yes they actually had an item called vegan!) it came out smothered in cheese sauce. Real cheese!

The Little Vegan said...

Great post... and blog :o)

(I hope they charged that guest for the nuts he stole!)

urban vegan said...

Yay! She's back We missed you.

Uma. Tiger. Ritz Carlton.

For some reason, my life seems so banal compared to yours...What lovely photos. I especially like the one of the lounge lizard.

Glad you ate well and got to do some relaxing. Happy belated b'day to Fcat. And welcoem back to Blogland.

Veganista said...

WOW, wonderful post! So much packed in! Of course I loved all the delicious food, but so interesting to get a glimpse into your job and the shoots too. I'm impressed at the veganized restaurant dishes too...they look fantastic.

The Little Vegan said...

Hehe omnipups-- I like that :o).

And I will have to give kimchee another try; maybe if I eat it enough times, my taste buds will get used to the distinct flavor.

Melody Polakow said...

I know you probably are sick of hearing it, but you lead such a glamorous life...
I'm sure the set up and production agle of a shoot like that is just totally insane, but to us, gentle readers, it sounds out of this world...

How gross that there is chicken fat in potato chips.. iiiikkk...

reiskeks said...

Thank you for visiting my blog :) I told my friends, the crows, to bring a special spirit message to you... ;)

scottishvegan said...

What an awesome post! I love that photo of the bird making off with the nut! I love that we get to go to work with you and see all your adventures, thanks for taking us with you!

flvegan said...

As an Orlando resident, I will definitely be checking out the Ritz!

And next time you're in FL, check out beautiful Captiva Island...


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