Friday, December 4, 2009

Hello, my name is Michelle Gautreau and I'm with Salt and Light TV

I woke up this morning slightly worried about the day ahead. I had been assigned to help the production crew with The Priests concert - which meant I would be working from 9 AM until after the concert and deconstruction of all the equipment. I tried to gather whatever energy I had and set off for work.

There was no time for tea this morning - just as soon as I arrived, we began loading the vans with equipment. I'm thankful so many gentlemen work for Salt and Light, because I didn't have to do any of the heavy loading. Once the vans were full, we set off on foot to the Basilica of St. Paul. Everyone assured me it was a five minute walk by foot, but I've come to distrust Canadians' assessment of time, and this is simply because of the speed at which they walk.

I've never been a really fast-paced person. Ben, my fiance, is over 6 feet tall and therefore has long legs. Whenever we're walking somewhere together, I have to struggle to keep up with him - being 5'3 gives you short legs and therefore a shorter stride. Here in Toronto, if you're not at least speed walking, you're considered geriatric. Being the stroller that I am, I might as well be 100 years old. It's not too bad if I'm walking by myself - I stick to the right side of the sidewalk and let everyone pass me. But if I'm walking in a group, I'm basically doing jazz runs (a move you do in marching band to span a lot of distance really quickly) to keep pace with everyone.

So I figured the walk to the Basilica was more like a 10-15 minute walk for me and other normal walking people. But I was ready for the challenge; I wiggled my toes a little to stretch out my feet and got ready for the walk. It was pretty chilly with some strong wind today. I've now found out that this is the reason Canadians walk so fast - no one wants to stay out long in this weather. The pace was faster than I expected. The cold weather and the quick walking quickly led to me being out of breath and sweating. I had to hold back my laughter - if anyone I knew was there we'd be cracking up over it all. I prayed as we approached each street that the crosswalk would be red and that we'd have to stop for traffic. Unfortunately, every intersection we approached was timed just right so that we could keep walking without slowing.

Eventually I began to see the steeple of the basilica and I quietly praised God and asked him to help me make it there without passing out. We finally made it inside and I was able to stand still; my calves burning and my feet throbbing. But, there is little rest for the weary - unloading of the van was essential. This process took sometime, as we were unloading at the same time as the Sony production crew. You had to walk up some stairs to get into the basilica as well, of which I tripped on multiple times, so that was difficult to do with heavy equipment.

I don't know how much I really contributed throughout set up. It's a very complicated system and it seems you need some pretty thorough understanding of filming events to know where things are supposed to go. Despite this, I did help with basic things and observed the more technical assignments. Our goal was to have everything going by 1:00, at which time the orchestra began practicing. When they arrived, we we're probably at 70%. They conducted their rehearsal as our technicians continued to tweak things and do sound checks. Without assignment, I stood off to the side and watched them rehearse - they were very good.

I finally found a way to be useful - taping cords. We tried cleaning up the pathways and cables, making sure no one would be tripping over our equipment. After this was completed, we were able to break for awhile until the actual priests were available for their rehearsal at 4:00. Two of my coworkers and I ran down a block to an Asian restaurant to grab some food. I just got some fried rice - knowing it'd keep me full for sometime.

I was really excited when I saw the priests come in - I mean, there are considered international celebrities. Their rehearsal with the orchestra was going to be our crew's test run of the filming tonight, because the entire event was going to be streamed live on their website and then eventually edited and replayed on their network. I watched their entire rehearsal, which was basically like a private concert. The Priests are phenomenal - I really was in awe of their ability. Two of the priests are brothers and the third is a childhood friend. They grew up singing for people, gaining the nickname the "Holy, Holy, Holy" priests. This was the first time I'd ever heard them. If you haven't, really - download their CD. It's great.

The live streaming of the concert began at 7:30, so everyone had to be at their assigned camera or location, ready to go, at 7:00. We broke for dinner around 6. We ended up at Subway, which I was thrilled about - I eat it at least once a week back home. Unfortunately, it tastes different here in Canada. I couldn't place the actual difference - the location and setup looked the same, so I naturally assumed it would taste the same. Whatever the difference, I found it off-putting and wasn't able to eat much of my sandwich. But I was still kind of full from the rice, so no big.

When we got back to the basilica, I was told the host of the live webcast show wanted to do streeters - which means to get people from the crowd to do quick interviews with. It was my responsibility to find two people to interview. I was handed a clipboard with media release forms and was instructed to start scoping the crowd for candidates. I was a little nervous, but I've never had issues with talking to strangers (you have to do this when you're looking for people to interview for the newspaper) so I welcomed the challenge.

I started to walk the aisles of the church, scoping the crowds for a put-together individual that looked talkative. I finally spotted a candidate. I approached them, media badge and all, and smiled. "Hello sir. My name is Michelle, and I'm with Salt and Light Television." I had a whole little talk down - we're doing a live webcast of the concert and we're looking for individuals who would be interested in answering a few questions live, ect and so on. I expected that most people would be interested in participating, but I got turned down several times; always a cool feeling.

Despite the "no thank yous", I enjoyed the reaction I got when I approached people. I was dressed in all black, which all the crew had to do, and was wearing a press badge - so people immediately knew I was on the "inside". I'd approach one person or a couple, but everyone in the surrounding rows or seats would lean in and listen to what I was saying. They'd "Oh" and "Wow" or nod at each other - "Yeah, she said Salt and Light - we love that channel" to one another; it was great. And of course I got stopped by people, asking me where the washroom was, were there programs available, how long would the concert be, where would be a good seat - I loved being able to help them.

I was finally able to find two willing participants and I got them ready for the live feed. I had to get information from them and then prompt them for the questions that would be asked. The webcast was done in front of the crowd, so we had a little audience watching us the whole time. I stood off to the side as the interview took process and just watched - the process was exhilarating. I was pretty much hooked to TV production at this point.

After this, I hung out in command central, the room we had all the live feed coming to where we were recording and streaming on the internet. A few minutes to the start of the show, the priests came to wait in this room. I wished them all good luck and held the door open for them as they walked onto the altar.

I stayed in command central and watched how they controlled the filming and pieced together the live image. There was a lot of "stand by Camera 3, Camera 2 on now...Camera 4, pan out some, when we go to you, pan slowly to the right. Ok switching to Camera 4, Camera 1 stand by, Camera 4, pan to the right, keep going, keep going, ok stop..." The organization and assertiveness needed for this job is overwhelming. The concert passed quickly; I think it lasted maybe an hour and ten minutes or so. It was decided during the concert that we would do streeters for the closing webcast. I wasn't sure how I'd be able to get people, because I had a hard time doing that when I had 20 minutes. This time I had maybe 2 minutes max to find someone.

One of the crew told me that Father Rosica was sitting with the new Auxiliary Bishop of Canada. I was told as soon as The Priests exited the stage, I'd have to run over there, get the bishop and then basically push him into the live show. The concert ended, applause began, and I heard, "Ok, go!" My speed walking/running from earlier in the day prepared me. I ducked low and quickly made my way to Father Rosica as people began to get up to leave. I got permission from the bishop and quickly lead him back to where the show was just starting and ushered him over to the host. We had made it in time - I breathed a sigh of relief.

Deconstruction of the set began immediately. The process went a lot faster than the assemble, but by this time I was really tired and my feet hurt - not to mention it was really cold outside and I didn't feel like moving things in the wind. But despite all that, it was a team effort and I threw myself into the work. We had things packed up and ready to go back to the station by 10:00 - which surprised me.

When we made it back to the station, we formed an assembly line of sorts to pass equipment through the doors. I was a runner - I picked up equipment from the pile they formed at the door inside. When we finally had everything put away, everyone began to clap and thank each other for the work they had done. Everyone was tired and we quickly all said goodnight and got ready to head home.

It was a really tiring and fun day. Looking back on the week, I feel like I'm starting to find my place in everything. I've experienced so much already and I'm sure there's much more to come. I'm thankful I was able to overcome my hesitations about going on this trip with the help of those I respect and love dearly. I know this is going to be such a rewarding and memorable experience.

To quote one of the songs The Priest sang, which is based on the Irish Blessing - until we meet again, may God hold you ever in the palm of His hand.

Love and stuff,



  1. Congratulations Slovakian Voice Over Star! Sounds like Canada is quite exciting, eh.

  2. Ha, thanks! It is very exciting - I have to be careful not to get too hooked :)