Friday, August 15, 2008

Round Trip To Oz

by Craig Miller

[This was originally written and sent out in occasional installments, as the trip was taking place. With one exception, the text hasn’t been altered (except to correct typographical errors) but the photos have been added. A lot of photos. I did add a final section, just to be able to show you the photos of this spot Genny went out to one day while I was workingI . You’ll see why I posted it when you get to it.]

Part 1

It’s Sunday morning as I write this. Saturday afternoon by L.A. time. It’s been busy, which is why this is the first time I’ve had to scribble anything down. I think you may all know this but we’re in Australia, thanks to the production company I’m working for. I’ve written a movie that’s to be the pilot for a science fiction television series called Resistance. They brought me down for three weeks and, very generously, sprung for a ticket for Genny, too.

We left Los Angeles Monday night, June 16th, thanks to a ride to the airport from Becky Lilienfeld (much appreciated). The flights to Australia (first to Sydney and then a change of planes to Canberra) were long but mostly uneventful. Genny and I ended up seated separately because, by the time we had tickets from the production company, 70% of the seats on the flight were already booked and Qantas’s policy to save the last 30% to book at the ticket counter on the day of departure. So we each had an aisle seat a few rows apart, though on opposite sides of the plane.

While waiting to board, we noticed a group of young women in sports-style wheelchairs being preboarded. They each wore a jacket with “Australia” embroidered on the back. Because there were five of them, I guessed it was the official Australian Women’s Murder Ball team (Murder Ball is basketball in wheelchairs; a particularly physical activity). It turned out I was right. It also turned out that, when I got to my seat, one of the team members was in it. I said “I think you’re in my seat” and she explained that as she required a wheelchair, it was important for her to be on the aisle, to be able to get in and out of her seat. She offered that I could take the middle seat next to her. I told her I didn’t want to make her move but that I’d spent some effort making sure I had an aisle seat for a 15 hour flight, so I’d see if the flight attendants could find somewhere else for me.

I found the nearest flight attendant who turned my problem over to the purser. I told him I didn’t want to make her move but really wanted an aisle seat. He went to talk to the woman in my seat. He came back several minutes later and I could read on his face the bottom line of what transpired. He was going to make her move then realized, after discussion with her and possibly others that Qantas really didn’t want the bad press of having made a wheelchair-bound woman move. They found me another aisle seat. Fine by me.,

Much time passes. We made it to Sydney and I’ll spare you the saga of getting our luggage and clearing customs and travelling to another terminal in time to make our connecting flight. We did. Barely.

Eventually, we made it to Canberra, where it had magically turned to Wednesday morning. It is, I think 17 hours different between L.A. and Canberra but it’s easier for me to calculate it as it being 7 hours earlier, but tomorrow. (From here, you’re 7 hours later, but yesterday.)

Andrew Dillon, the producer-director of my film/show, picked us up. He drove us to the short-term apartment he’d rented for us, admitting he’d never been there but it was in a good, central area near (if you call a kilometer near) lots of restaurants and shops. It was small but fine. I think we’d have been happier if it had been a half-step nicer but we’ll be fine. Or had WiFi. (When I’ve been able to get on-line from the apartment, it’s from someone’s nearby unlocked WiFi set-up. Unfortunately, it’s pretty weak and I can’t always get it to work.) We dropped off our bags and off and all went to breakfast, which turned out to be my first meeting of the trip. About 40 minutes after getting off the plane. Oy.

Andrew Dillon, during one of our meetings later in the trip.

The meeting was fairly informal and was with Andrew and Bobby Farquhar, one of our stars. Bobby has been a ballet dancer, a martial artist, and an actor. He also runs the National ActingSchool in Canberra and has been responsible for a lot of successful Australian acting careers. He helped find much of our teenage cast. The meeting went well and neither Genny nor I fell asleep during it. But jetlag was hitting Genny pretty hard and we got a ride back to our apartment, where we unpacked and took a nap.

Cat who lives two doors down from our temporary apartment. Some occupants of the building are obviously here longer than others.

That evening at 5:30, we got picked up by a Donna Hanson, a local fan and the editor of several SF anthologies and non-fiction books. She’s also an aspiring novelist. She took us to dinner and then to the monthly meeting of the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, a group of professional writers and some aspiring. The dinner was great, at a very good restaurant called Sage, with half a dozen folks from the CSFG. It seems, being the nation’s capital, an awful lot of folks ­ including several of the ones at dinner – work for the government in one capacity or another.

Clockwise from left front: Genny, me, Robert (Bob) Phillips, Val Toh, Donna Hanson, Kylie Seluka

After dinner, we walked over to the room where the CSFG meets. I was their guest speaker. They’d asked me in advance of our trip if I would do it and I told them I couldn’t promise to be awake or, if I was awake, coherent but I’d try.

Things went quite well, actually. It was more of a ramble than a talk. I didn’t have a prepared speech. And there were a few times I’d get most of the way through an anecdote then think “why am I telling this story?” but usually found my way. They all seemed to enjoy it. Around 10:00, the evening was called to an end despite there being many questions still waiting to be asked and answered.

Donna offered to take us by a supermarket on the way back to our apartment. Despite being tired, we accepted her offer. One of the nice things about staying in an apartment rather than a hotel room is the presence of a kitchen. You don’t have to go out for three meals a day. Food in Australia is Very Expensive. Very. Less so once I remembered that a kilogram is equivalent to something like two pounds (rather than like half-a-pound – hey, a kilometer is like half a mile) but still very expensive. Hamburger works out to about US$3.50 a pound. A two-liter bottle of Diet Coke is US$2.50. Et cetera. Donna bought us a package of Tim Tams, a Very Nice cookie. Then she took us home, where Genny and I promptly got into bed and went to sleep.

Thursday morning, Genny and I were picked up by Andrew and off we went to meet Bobby again. This time we met at the Canberra Centre, a large shopping mall in the middle of downtown Canberra. First we went to a store where Genny and I could buy a cell phone (or, locally, a mobile) that will work here, unlike our US phones. Then we went shopping for prop eye glass frames for Bobby’s costume as Prof. Billings in my show. Once we’d found Just The Right Pair, Bobby went off one direction, Genny went off to spend the day shopping and wandering about Canberra, and Andrew and I went to the conference room at a local post house owned by one of the people working on our movie. We spent the day working on the script for some of the material we’d be shooting, determining the contents of the website for it, and I trimmed the series bible into a “mini-bible” for use with finance, licensing, and other folks who aren’t involved in the actual production aspects.

Conference room in the production office, during a rare break

Eventually, Andrew brought me back to the apartment. Genny, inspired by the tales of all the local Canberrans who told us how they walk to work, walk here, and walk there, Genny decided to walk back from town to our apartment. She hadn’t quite realized how far away it was – about six kilometers. It was a lovely walk, passed many parks and such. But a long way none the less.

That night, Donna picked us up again and took us to the opening evening of a three-plus day writers event being held in Canberra. Lots of different writers speaking, apparently all free and sponsored by the government. Mostly “literary” authors but this night it was Garth Nix. There was a socializing period beforehand during which Genny and I were introduced to Garth and several other local authors and fans (most of whose names I’ll never remember). His talk was fun and I refrained from shouting out replies to the one-liners he let roll about the floor.

That's enough for one message. More to come.

Be warned.


Part 2

Friday morning, Andrew picked me up again. In the car was Nicholas Hope, another of our stars, who’d just flown in from Sydney. Nicholas is a well known actor in Australia (and Norway) but not as wellknown elsewhere. He was the star of a feature called Bad Boy Bubby about ten years ago, which is a cult sensation here. He’s also known for his theater work and is well liked by all the Big Name Stars in Australia. The three of us headed off to a sound stage where we met up with Bobby and our crew. Along the way, we spotted a “herd” (?) of kangaroos.

(According to the locals, kangaroos are incredibly stupid. They’re always hopping into traffic and getting killed. At one point, I saw a sign that said “Warning: Accident Zone” and had a picture of a kangaroo.)

We needed to shoot some scenes with Nicholas for a promo reel we’re putting together. The full shoot is now scheduled for August but Nicholas will be out of the country so we’re picking him up now. Nicholas did a great job and Bobby read opposite him from off-camera. We got some good stuff. We also shot interviews with Nicholas and Bobby for the website and DVD purposes. I wrote the questions and gave them to the 18 year old daughter of one of the crew to ask. (For a show aimed at a teen+ audience, I thought a younger, prettier interviewer would be better than any of us.) It turned out Andrew also wanted to get an on-camera interview with me, though I hadn’t written any questions for that, so Pru – our interviewer – and the crew made them up and threw them at me as we went. We wrapped in the early afternoon and I got taken back to the apartment.

That evening, we got picked up and taken to dinner with Andrew, several members of the key crew, Bobby and his son, and a few other people. A big family-style Thai dinner in the same downtown Canberra neighborhood we’d been for breakfast the first day, shopping the second day, etc. Then a walk down the block to a coffee place. Followed by a trip out to see The Incredible Hulk.

Movie tickets are even more expensive in Canberra than the food. Dinner and coffee (or, in our case, hot chocolate) was covered by the producers. Not the movie. I was aghast when our two tickets were $33.00. No soda. No popcorn. No nothing. $33.00. Wow. Still worse after we’d seen The Incredible Hulk. Not terrible. Better than the last Hulk movie, but…

Saturday morning I got picked up and went to a production meeting with Andrew, Richard our producer/UPM, and a couple other key crew. Andrew produced a photocopy of a story that had appeared in the morning paper. A reporter for the Canberra Times had been at our shoot on Friday and there was an article in Saturday’s paper about us. It was mostly accurate, too.

I was sitting with my shiny new laptop so immediately went to the paper’s website. But the Canberra Times didn’t load it onto their website. I contacted the paper about it via email, not complaining but asking where I could find it on their site. This was quite amusing to the Aussies at the meeting, because, they said, “only an American would do that”. Surprisingly quickly, the paper wrote back that they couldn’t possibly post all of their stories to the website. I replied I was surprised because most papers I know do just that, webspace being cheaper and more available than newspaper pages, and the stories are already all in electronic format. This was done in a friendly tone and I asked if they could send me an electronic version of the story. This was met with more amusement around the table. Until the paper wrote back ten minutes later, a bit embarrassed at their lack of web resources, saying that they recently merged with another company and hoped to do better in future, and included a PDF of the story. Suddenly the conference room went from amused to impressed and all asked if I could email them a copy of the PDF file.

Our meeting ran longer than scheduled by a couple hours so Genny and I ended up not being able to go sightseeing in the afternoon as we’d planned. Genny did wander around a bit in the morning and took a ride out into the countryside with Donna, who was taking her son to a birthday party out that way. Ironically, it was in the area where I’d been for our production meeting.

Genny got home in the late afternoon and we discussed our plans for our time in Sydney next week. They’re still mostly up in the air but the production is going to take us there on Wednesday (actually either late Tuesday night or incredibly early Wednesday morning – app. 4:00 am) for some rehearsals, publicity photos, and interviews with the rest of the main cast. Then we’ll have the next few days to play tourist before coming back to Canberra. Genny’s went to church for Mass because we don’t know our schedule for Sunday yet. She made dinner here in the apartment for us and then we walked over to Donna’s house for tea, conversation, and movie watching. (By coincidence, she lives about two blocks from our apartment.) We ended up seeing City of Lost Children, which is Very Weird. Donna gave us a copy of her book Australian Speculative Fiction: A Genre Overview which I had her sign to us. When I come back in August, I’ll bring her a copy of Space Cadets, the L.A.con IV-published anthology which I have a short story in (if you haven’t seen it, it was edited by Mike Resnick and the rest of the authors are a bit more established, like Larry Niven and Harry Turtledove).

Sunday, I “had the morning off” so once again, Donna (who’s been doing far more than we could ever expect or imagine) picked us up and took us to the Old Bus Depot Markets, a crafts and food fair in, well, you can figure that part out. It was nice, significantly smaller than the Strawberry Festival, but – not surprisingly – with a lot of stuff we don’t see in L.A.-area craft fairs. Including wool. Lots of wool ready for knitting. We picked up a couple gifts while we were there.

Then it was off to the National Museum. There we saw exhibits on the history of Australia. A large exhibit on the animals (who knew there’d long been a controversy on whether platypuses lay eggs – they do, tiny ones, that hatch after two weeks and then the itsy-bitsy baby is raised by the mother the way marsupials do), another on all the various animals and bugs that had been introduced and turned into a blight, and a large one on the indigenous population that was here prior to the coming of Europeans. A scattering of other exhibits as well.

We then took Donna to lunch at All Things Chocolate. While they specialize in chocolate candies and pastries and such, they also have a small but very nice selection of non-chocolate items. We all ended up ordering the hot ham and jelly croissants and Donna and I each had a cup of hot dark chocolate whilst (see; there’s some Australian slipping in) Genny had the hot gia chocolate, a chocolate hazelnut drink. All were swell.

Then it was off to the Canberra Railroad Museum, which is only a few blocks from our apartment, though only open Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00 to 4:00 (except for the last few months, when it’s only been open on Sundays). It looks like a large, abandoned trainyard. While a number of the cars and locomotives (or “locos” as they like to call them) are restored, a lot of them look like they’re prepping for the train version of Road Warrior.

It’s an object lesson for science fiction fans. The CRM started out as a group of steam train nuts who’d gather once a month back in the mid-60s to talk about trains and show each other slides. Then, in the early ‘70s, the Canberra government acquired an old historic locomotive for a proposed transportation museum. Not yet having a place to put it, they asked this train club if they’d look after it. After much fear and debate, the train club said yes. They spent the next year’s worth of Saturday afternoons restoring it (it was in good shape but it wasn’t pristine, and you know how fans can be… ). But then they needed cars to go with it. The transportation museum never materialized but the club’s temporary husbandry of the loco exploded and the rest is a museum.

Donna brought us back to the apartment where we were then picked up by Andrew to go to a barbecue at his house (they really do love their “barbies”, mate). I would have invited Donna to come with us to the barbecue if it had been a big party but it was just going to be Andrew and his family, us, and about three other people involved with the film. On the way out and back to his place, we saw many kangaroos, some alone and others in herds/crowds/bunches/pouches/whatever you call them.

I haven’t mentioned that there are lots of birds here. Lots that you don’t see in the US, or don’t see commonly. All over Canberra there are flocks of wild cockatoos. Parrots and lorikeets, too. And black & white magpies. Different from the magpies in the states but just as loud. Also many that we don’t recognize.

More in a few days.

Craig.


Part 3

I haven’t mentioned the weather. It’s cold here. Genny would say it’s freezing. It’s winter down under and here in Canberra it’s in the mid-50s during the day and in the mid-30s at night. With occasional rain which, so far, has mostly comes down like a heavy drizzle. Not every day but often enough that I’ve taken to carrying an umbrella most days.

Monday we had the day free for sightseeing. Donna had her daughter, Erana, call and ask if she could take us to Questacon, the science museum. That sounded like fun and she soon picked us up and away we went.

Questacon is really cool. It’s very much aimed at kids but it’s a pretty terrific science museum. Virtually everything is hands-on and lots of stuff done in a “game” style. There’s a gravity/weightlessness exhibit in one of the first galleries. They have you take off your shoes, put on a jumpsuit over your clothes, and climb up to the top of a two-story-ish tall platform. There you grab hold of a bar (like you ­ or someone ­ might use for chin-ups) and lower yourself out a window until you’re hanging from the bar. You’re hanging over a giant slide, only the first, say, story and a half is back from you. Then they have you let go. They claim there’s a sense of weightlessness as you drop. Genny screamed pretty good as she was dropping down. Then you gently come in contact with the slide and it’s pretty much like a playground slide only you’re going fast enough you travel about 20 feet or so along its horizontal length. I, of course, was, ahem, far too much of a gentleman, cough cough, to do it myself and show Genny up by not screaming. Yeah. Uh-huh. Really. Cough cough. But I did get a couple pictures. One of Genny hanging there and one as a speeding blur. She said it was great but the girl in her mid-20s who did it just before Genny said her heart was still pounding. And there was that scream…

Genny on the "weightless slide" at Questacon. The slide is actually a foot or so behind you as you drop and it comes out to meet you several feet down.

Anyway, we had a great time exploring Questacon for a couple of hours and then we caught up with Erana and her 18 month old daughter, who’d been in the Extremely Little Children’s part of the museum. After a trip through the gift shop, we all walked down the block to the National Library. There we bought Erana lunch (and had lunch ourselves). In the Bookshop of the National Library we confirmed what we’d been told earlier: books are really expensive in Australia. Significantly more than in the US.

Then it was off to Old Parliament House, the former building that Australia’s Parliament stood in. It’s now in a larger, grander building immediately up the hill behind OPH. (Old Parliament House was built with the idea it would serve for 50 years, at which time it would be replaced by a better building where New Parliament House is. The plan worked, but it took 61 years. We took a tour with a terrific guide. Lots of amusing stories and a great knowledge of political structures in Australia, the US, and Great Britain.

Old Parliament House

Close up of the 3D official crest of Australia, the kangaroo and emu crest. You can see it in the upper right of the preceding photo of Old Parliament House.

While we waited for the tour to start, I was taken by the fact that Australia has a House of Representatives and a Senate. Shortly thereafter, Bob, our guide, told us that, much to my surprise, Australia didn’t become a united country – a Federation – until January 1, 1901. Before that it was separate states, acting on their own. When they joined together – with much backroom dealmaking as to where the capital would be, how the government would be structured, etc. – they chose the US model. With some British overlays – like a Prime Minister who calls elections when the mood arises. But their Senate has an equal number of senators from each state, and their House has representation based on population. And powers not expressly given to the federated government by their constitution reside in the states (unlike the UK, where powers not given to local areas reside in the central government).

The building, originally built in the late 1920s, is terrific. Lots of hand carved wood paneling, ornate moldings, etc. And different colored carpeting and upholstery – Green for the House side and red for the Senate – because red was more expensive and reserved for the “upper house”. Bob was full of stories about the people who occupied the various offices and reasons for this, that, or the other thing. Some of it just a tad scurrilous.


Erana and Yumi

Erana and her daughter Yumi wandered the building with us but left before the start of the tour. Yumi was getting tired.

After we finished the tour, we went around and took a few pictures. Then we went out and got a quick look at the “Aboriginal Tent Embassy”, used by Australia’s Abos to embarrass the government into granting them rights, etc. The government tore it down a few times but the Aborigines kept rebuilding it. Their fight for rights is apparently on-going. While the government is no longer taking aboriginal children away from their parents, a great number of the Aborigines are living in poverty and the Australian government makes a big show of helping them without accomplishing much. At least so say the papers (and the Aborigines).


Part of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy


The Aboriginal Tent Embassy Flag


More of the Aboriginal Tent Embassy

After that, we walked back to our apartment. The first part of the trip took us through part of the National Gallery’s sculpture garden.


In the Sculpture Garden of the National Gallery


For a sense of scale of the previous photo


The Pond at the National Gallery Sculpture Garden


Another view

From there we walked along the lake (a man-made lake in the middle of the city), and then along the road. It was a Long Walk. Several kilometers, longer because it had gotten dark and colder. Especially for Genny, who’d accidentally left her gloves in Erana’s car. Eventually we got home and Genny made us dinner.


Part of the man-made lake in the middle of Canberra


More of the lake as we continued our walk home. It was now getting dark. The area was full of black swans and some type of gull.

A little while later, Donna appeared at our door. She’d picked up Genny’s gloves from Erana (who works evenings as a nurse, so was now at work). She was off to see her mother, who’s ailing after some minor surgery. She invited us to come over to her house later to watch TV. We gladly accepted and about 8:30 walked the two blocks over to her place.

Donna has a lovely home, a townhouse of sorts, she shares with her 12 year old son. (She also has three kids in their 20s, two daughters who live in Canberra and a son who lives elsewhere.) She made us hot tea; ­ something we’re drinking a lot of here, far more than we drink at home. Even inside most people’s homes, it’s pretty cool. Energy costs are even higher in Australia than in the states, so I imagine that’s why they have their thermostats set down low.

Not counting cable and satellite, Australia seems to have four channels of television. And whenever I’ve looked at it in the room, there’s nothing on but football/soccer or reality shows. I know they have other programming – some native, some they buy from us – but I’ve yet to find it. Donna suggested we watch a DVD, and after she browsed through her many drawers of DVDs (mostly science fiction, horror, and Jane Austen), we ended up picking The City of Lost Children. A truly bizarre movie. Genny has a feeling she’s seen it before but I can’t imagine having seen it and forgetting it. Forgetting details of the plot, sure; it’s pretty hard to follow. But not the film itself.

Afterward, we walked back home and to sleep.

Tuesday morning, Andrew picked me up and we dropped Genny off at the Australian War Memorial, to sightsee while he and I went back to work. The War Memorial is a large place; somewhere almost everyone has said we should visit. I’m hoping to see it later this trip.

Andrew took me out to the production office, which I’ve mentioned before. It’s an on-line editing, duplicating, and other facility, with several racks of burners and two rooms with, I think, three Avids. It’s on five acres, with the owner's large-ish house off to one side, and the production building off to the other. A large front yard with what would be a swimming pool-size pond if they weren’t in the middle of a multi-year drought, and four dogs and a cat in between it all. In back is the majority of the land, with several horses.


Roger's horses, out back of the production office

Anyway, we were to be off to Sydney this afternoon, so Andrew and I worked on last minute prep for our rehearsal/photo shoot day tomorrow. Script changes, storyboards to check, and work on the series bible/presentation for the layout folks who were going to be turning it into a fancy-schmancy document.



Two of Roger's dogs, out front of the office. They're saying, "For God's sake, let us in where it's warm."

Once again, Roger Hagelaar, the owner of DiskTech, the post-production facility, ordered us all hamburgers. Andrew says Roger lives on burgers. The first time he did this, he didn’t ask what we wanted and they came the Australian way: with “the lot”. With everything. And their everything is a lot more than ours. Lettuce and tomato. Cheese. Bacon (though they mean more like Canadian Bacon or Back Bacon, not the kind we have in the US). Grilled onions. Pineapple. A fried egg. And beets (or, as they call it, beetroot). Ugh. Much peeling off of unwanted items ensued before I ate mine.


Roger, at work in the back of his facility while we monopolize the front

This time, I asked for just bacon and cheese, lettuce and tomato. In what Andrew and Roger described as a typical Australian way of listening to orders, the burger came with the lettuce, tomato, and bacon. No cheese. Plus beets and onions. *sigh*

Mid-afternoon, we headed back into the city. We dropped off some stuff for printing (Roger had run out of paper) then picked up Robert, our still man. Then it was off to the apartment to get Genny, who had just arrived. She’d walked back from the War Memorial and misjudged where it was and how much time it would take. She’d thought it was closer than Old Parliament house, which we’d walked from the other day. But it was further.

After getting her and our suitcase (we’re staying in Sydney for a few days afterward), she piled in and we went to get the printing then hit the road for Canberra. It’s a three hour drive on the only highway that connects the two cities. Along the way we saw highway markers warning of wombats crossing the road. We saw no wombats, but we did spy herds/troops/whatevers of kangaroos in the fields to either side.

We stopped on the outskirts of Sydney twice. The first time was to pick up a small HD video camera and a light package. Then we drove on and stopped at one of Andrew’s favorite restaurants, with the striking name of “Ribs and Rumps”. You can probably guess what they serve.

Genny and I ended up sharing a rack of lamb ribs. We’d first had lamb ribs in Kansas City a couple years ago at the suggestion of local friends there and thought they were great. I haven’t been able to find them in Los Angeles. Once again, they were really good.

Then it was off to downtown Sydney, across Harbor Bridge, with a view of the Sydney Opera House at night. We spent the night at the Marriott. After a brief meeting with Andrew, I came back to our room and we went to sleep.

The next day, Genny went off sightseeing in mid-town Sydney while Andrew, Robert, and I headed over to the studio stage that had been rented for the day’s work. Genny went to St Mary’s Cathedral, which she said was impressive. The Pope is coming to Sydney in a couple of days for World Youth Day (a five-day long “day”; I guess it’s part of that how long are the “six days” of creation thing) and the Cathedral is being refurbished to make it spiffy for his visit.

We’re staying in Sydney with our friends John Maizels and Lorraine Toucani. She’s an American who moved down here 15 or so years ago. They live in the northern suburb of Chatswood but Lorraine was in town for a dental appointment so, in the mid-afternoon, picked Genny and our suitcase up and they drove out to the house.


Lorraine Toucani and John Maizels

Meanwhile, we had our “teenage” cast in. (Teenage by Hollywood standards; they range from 13 to 22.) Additionally we had Jane Badler, Diana from the V series, who now lives in Australia. She’ll be playing the mother of one of our teens. Her role in the pilot film is small, but she’ll be recurring in the series. And she’s a major part of the promo reel we were to be shooting this trip but will now be shooting when I come back in (tentatively) August.


Left to right: Andrew Dillon, Gemma Pranita, Jessica Smith, Kain O'Keefe, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Cooper Drabsch, Adrian Lee, and me

During the course of the day, we did several things. We rehearsed the scenes for the promo reel with the cast, which was cool. The auditions had all been when I was in Los Angeles, but they provided me with videos of it all, so I was involved with selecting the cast. But this was the first time I’d met them face to face. Or was able to work with them on the undercurrents to the scenes. They all seem really nice, really good kids and all are talented. A couple seem like they could go on to major careers. Our youngest actress, Alycia Debnam-Carey, is particularly good.

Additionally, we had hair and makeup people there and we got them into costumes for publicity photos. We used the camera package to record interviews for use on our website (in progress) and DVDs (to come ((we hope)) ). We used mostly the same questions I’d written for interviews with the two adult regulars that we’d shot back in Canberra.

We have four recurring bad guys in the show but only two have been cast so far. Of those two, one’s another teenager and the other, a big muscular guy is a former star of both the US and Australian versions of Gladiators (or in the US, American Gladiator), who performs under the name Vulcan though his real name is John Seru. They, too, were in for the shoot.

Erin Mullally and John "Vulcan" Seru, in front of a cool building we're using as a location

Things went really well and we think we got everything we need.

At the end of a long day, we wrapped the location and Andrew drove me up to Chatswood to join Genny and Lorraine. Ironically, John is in Los Angeles this week, at the SMPTE (Society of Motion Picture & Television Engineers) Board of Governors meeting. I think his title is president of the Asia-Pacific chapter and he’s part of a team putting together a qualifications program for Australia to establish that people who want jobs actually know what they’re doing. He should be back on Saturday morning (which is part of why we’re staying over until mid-day Sunday, rather than going back to Canberra on Saturday afternoon.)

Lorraine had cooked a lamb roast for dinner and invited Andrew to stay as well but he demurred, saying he was exhausted and just wanted to get back to the hotel, order some room service, and get to sleep early. So I bid Andrew farewell until my return to Canberra. Or so I thought.

John and Lorraine have a large and beautiful house on a quiet street. Dinner was delicious and we talked at length about the world in general, our plans for while we were in Sydney, etc.

Eventually, we went off to the guest room and to bed. I had a meeting at an animation company in Sydney scheduled in the late morning but other than that, the next few days were to be dedicated to sightseeing.

That’s all for this chapter. Return to this theater next week for another exciting chapter of Australia Calling.

Craig.


Part 4

Thursday morning we got up and, after breakfast, took the train into the city center with Lorraine playing native guide. (Lorraine works for IBM in Sydney and while she usually works from home ­ or in other cities and countries doing training ­ she had a meeting in town so it was convenient for her to give us the lay of the land in getting back and forth.) From the station, Genny and I walked over to where my meeting was to be held, to make sure I knew where it was. Then we wandered around a bit in the general area, stopping in the gift shop of the Australia Museum to pick up a couple things for gifts that Genny had spotted the day before.

Then I went off to my meeting while she continued looking around the area. My meeting ran long. After an hour and a half, Genny showed up looking for me. (We only have the one phone in Australia. I’d told her I’d call when my meeting was done, to find out where she was, but she’d gotten concerned because of how long this had run.) We were about done – and one of the people I was meeting with was now a half hour late for her lunch meeting – so we finished up and then Genny and I went out to see some sights.

We walked through the city for a while then went into Paddy’s Market. It’s a large indoor hall with about 800 booths selling a variety of stuff from Aboriginal art (original and simulations) to tee-shirts. We wandered through there for a bit and picked up a few souvenirs.

From there we went to the Powerhouse Museum. Named for Sir Terrence Powerhouse, an early prime minister of Australia. Well, okay, really it’s named that because it’s inside a former power plant. Lorraine and John are members and highly recommended it, and they were right. It’s not geared to any one theme and its holdings are all over the map. We first went to their “Space” section, with reproductions of satellites and space craft, some real ones, and a great array of displays and photo exhibits. A really good exhibit, though it only takes up a small part of the first level.


Part of the Space exhibit at the Powerhouse Museum. The shiny silver ball is a replica of Sputnik 1 and was one of many such replicas on display.

We then went through most of the rest of that level, with displays on radiation and chemistry, fireworks, robotics, etc. etc. We made it through most of the first floor and then went up to the third floor. We walked through the early musical instruments display, a steam locomotive and sample cars, the toy robots, an actual Watt steam engine, the “innovation” section (much about inventions, discoveries, and scientific developments by Australians), and had barely made a dent on this floor when a museum employee came around to tell us the museum was closing.

We left the museum to walk over to the train station. Our plan was to take Lorraine out to dinner. As we walked, I saw a store with a big sign saying “Pie Shop”. Being an American, I thought “Oh, we can bring back a pie for dessert,” but, of course, as we got closer, we could read the shop’s other signs, letting us know the varieties of meat pies they were selling. (Sorry, no priest.)

Eventually we got to the train station and caught the train back to Chatswood. Lorraine had offered to pick us up at the station (it’s about 2.5 kilometers from there to their house) so on the train we called to let her know we were coming. She picked us up and we went back home. We told Lorraine we wanted to take her out to dinner and she suggested a favorite Vietnamese restaurant of theirs, so off we went. Dinner was excellent. Then it was home again for conversation and tea.

As I think I mentioned, my email access in Canberra was spotty. I could hook into the server at the production house but in our apartment, the proffered WiFi was mostly non-existent. Or so slow as to effectively be non-existent. John’s a tech guy so all over the house are cables for connecting to the internet (plus a WiFi set up, but Lorraine didn’t know how to log onto it and since this laptop is just a couple weeks old, I don’t know how to do it either if I need a password).

While we were walking around the Powerhouse Museum, Andrew had called. He wanted to let me know about a meeting that had happened earlier in the day, and to ask me to look at some layout samples for some production materials.. After we were back from dinner and had had our tea (and some delicious pastries Lorraine had purchased earlier), I got on-line and went through them, sending him detailed notes. And then to bed.

Friday, Lorraine gave Genny and me a ride to the train station and took the train into the center of town (Town Hall Station, to be precise). From there we walked out to Darling Harbor, where we caught a ferry that took us across the bay to the Taronga Zoo. You can get to the zoo by car, but it’s a 45 minute drive. They ferry takes 12 and has a lot better views. Whilst on the ferry (note the Australian use of “whilst”), I took pictures of the Sydney Harbor Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, and various other sites of interest.


Sydney Opera House, from the ferry taking us out to the Taronga Zoo

The ferry docks at the foot of the hill on which the zoo is built and you take a sky tram up the hill to the main entrance to the zoo. A cool view can be had back toward the city and, looking down, at the elephant enclosure and others.


The view back toward Sydney from the Taronga Zoo sky tram

You may have noticed a pattern in these trip reports. Things are expensive in Australia. Food in markets. Newspapers (a copy of The Canberra Times is $2). Restaurants. And so are museums and zoos and such. Some museums are free, others are as much as $26. The Taronga Zoo is $39 a person (although there are discounts available, like a 15% discount if you use a Visa card).

We stopped at the Visitor Information booth and got a map. The zoo winds its way from the top of the hill down to the bottom, where you can walk out to the dock to catch the ferry. We started at the top and went through Wild Australia, with lots of indigenous Aussie animals in very close enclosures. It wasn’t quite possible to reach out and touch them but it wouldn’t have taken too much effort to reach the roos and wallabies and koalas and such.


Kangaroo so close he's almost daring us to try to touch him

We then wandered around looking for other exhibits of interest. It’s a poorly laid out zoo, with lots of tree and bush lined pathways running from one side to another with one or no enclosures along the way. And if the particular animal isn’t out on display, it seems like you’re going a long way for nothing. Also, instead of every pathway connecting into another (if not several others), unlike most zoos, a number of the pathways at Taronga are deadends.


Giraffe in the Taronga Zoo with the Sydney skyline, including the Opera House, in the distance across the bay

We frequently had trouble figuring out where we were and at one point I stopped a couple of zoo employees and asked them for help. They looked at our map and said “That’s a terrible map. The zoo isn’t laid out like that at all.” They gave us directions and we went our separate ways.

I just really like this picture

Genny was getting quite frustrated because a number of enclosures didn’t have any animals in them. It’s one thing with small animals but there were no visible gorillas, no visible Orangs, no visible gibbons, in their respective enclosures. And these weren’t gigantic enclosures with lots of hidden areas. She got to the point of saying “let’s just go” but I said that I wanted to try for the otters and red pandas, each of which was shown on the map. She said okay but then we got to the lion enclosure and there were none to be seen. Now she was completely fed up and started to walk away. I called to her to turn around. Just as she’d walked off, the male lion had come out from I-can’t-figure-out-where and walked right up to the glass and stopped. Genny came back over. The lion, after being watched by the crowd for a couple moments, took a few steps and let another group gaze upon him. Then he dutifully turned face on and roared. Then the lioness came out to be seen.

More pleased with the zoo, we continued on and ended up finding a few highly populated routes. We found the otter enclosure, with five river otters. The red panda enclosure only had one red panda, but he was possibly the most active red panda I’ve ever seen, coming but the fence several times, walking up onto easily seen branches, etc. I took many photos and a couple of short movies.



An assortment of photos from the Taronga Zoo. I had them artfully laid out but can't figure out how to do anything but one over the other on this blog.


The female lion posed so graciously

I know what you're thinking...

Red pandas are my favorite exotic animal


And this guy was as active as any red panda I've seen in any zoo anywhere

In packing, we forgot to take extra batteries and the set in the camera died while we were at the zoo. Four AA batteries cost me $10 at the zoo’s gift shop. (Later during our stay in Sydney, John and Lorraine took us to an electronics shop and I picked up a pack of 24 batteries for $13.)


I dare you to touch that pole with your tongue

Eventually, we decided we wanted to make the 3:15 ferry. If we missed it, the next wouldn’t be until 4:45, and that would be the last one on the ferry line we were using. So we hiked back up to the top of the zoo, in order to go to the gift shop, where Genny talked me into buying more stuffed animals than I probably should have. (They were a favorite brand, Hansa, at quite good prices. We didn’t buy anything BIG. But we did buy several, of various Aussie animals we’d seen here or elsewhere.) Then it was back in the sky tram for the ride down the hill to the ferry dock. About 15 minutes later, the ferry came. What we didn’t know when we choose this ferry line was that they don’t go straight back. They stop at Circular Quay and three other places around the harbor area before they get back to the Darling Harbor dock. The stops aren’t long but the trip back took much longer than we’d expected.

It was now late enough that we couldn’t really go anywhere else – we’d hoped to get another hour or so at the Powerhouse Museum but it closes at 5:00 and there wasn’t enough time to walk there and get to see anything. So we stopped at a bakery in Chinatown for a fruit tart dessert then continued walking to the train station.

Lorraine again picked us up from the train station and we went back to her house where we, eventually, ate the rest of the lamb roast (from Wednesday evening) along with all new side dishes. Yum.

Saturday morning, John returned from Los Angeles. After a 14+ hour flight, he was tired, although he stayed up long enough to have breakfast. We didn’t know how long he’d be up but decided it was better to let him rest and we planned on seeing him that evening and in the morning before we headed back to Canberra. So off we went for more sightseeing.

Due to scheduled track repairs, the trains weren’t running on the North Shore line Saturday or Sunday. But Lorraine volunteers with a dog rescue group and they save dogs from being euthanized by the pound by getting them on their last day, taking them to a vet to be checked, and then out to facility where the dogs can live until they’re adopted. She was going into the city to pick up dogs from the vet to take out to their new home so drove us in near to Town Hall.

From there, we walked out to Darling Harbor, where the Sydney Aquarium and Australia Wildlife World sit side by side.

Wildlife World and the Sydney Aquarium as seen from the ferry taking us out to the Taronga Zoo

Prior to coming to Australia, Genny had done some research and found something called the Privileges Card. It’s a discount card, good all over Australia (although, it turns out, mainly in Canberra), for discounts on museums, zoos, restaurants, and a host of other things. The card cost us $25 for 30 days and we’ve saved around $150 so far. Both the Aquarium and Wildlife World take the card with a 2 for 1 discount (there are other discounts if you’re only one). Each of them cost $29.50 per person so between these two places alone, we save $59.

Each of the places was pretty great. They’re run by the same company, Sydney Attractions, and they do a good job.

We went to the Aquarium first and saw all manner of aquatic life ­ mostly creatures that are from Australia. Not just fish. Platypuses. (Platypii?). Crocodiles. Sea horses. Sharks. A really great “walk through the glass tube under the sharks” area, with a much longer tube – actually two of them, one going, one returning – and you walked rather than riding a slide-walk, so you could spend as much time as you wanted. There was another area with seals. And a Great Barrier Reef area. Plus touch-pools and other cool aquarium stuff.


Craig about to be eaten by the entrance to the Sydney Aquarium


An assortment of photos from the Sydney Aquarium




Clownfish obligingly posing in a Finding Nemo sort of way

A platypus, who swim with their eyes, noses, and mouths closed, flailing blindly while they hunt for food. Let "intelligent design" explain that

From the Aquarium, we went over to Wildlife World. I’d have liked it better if the first floor wasn't devoted to bugs and snakes. Lots and lots of bugs and snakes. (Behind glass, thankfully.) Australia has some of the most poisonous insects, spiders, snakes, and reptiles on the planet. Not to mention the only venomous mammal on the planet (the platypus). And they like showing them off. Genny looked at all of them but I mostly moved through these areas quickly.

Finally, we got to the other floors, with lots of Australian animals, roos to wombats to an assortment of colorful birds. Echidnas, emus, and sugar gliders. All sorts of animals. There was also a large room filled with butterflies.


Genny on the other side of the koala enclosure, with intervening koala

Kangaroos eating their veggies

Lorakeets

Butterflies begatting butterflies

After Wildlife World, we went back to the Aquarium for a bit. (The tickets were full day tickets, so we could go in and out as we pleased.)

Between the two places, many photos were taken. As you can tell.

It got to be late so we hiked back through Chinatown, picking up more desserts, and caught the Bus-in-lieu-of-the-train that Sydney had running. It wasn’t a significant problem – we took the train two stops then got filtered onto the bus. But the bus driver wasn’t calling out the stops and they weren’t very well marked. By asking people getting off where we were, we managed to keep track and got off at the right place, across the street from the train station near them.

John picked us up at the train station this time. We went back and they were making a leg of lamb. The four of us had a delightful dinner, John telling us about his time in L.A.

John suggested we all go out to a movie. In a nearby Sydney suburb, some people had taken over an old theater. They’d multi-plexed the main floor. But they took the upper floor, extended the balcony all the way forward, and rebuilt it into a 1930s movie palace. Complete with Wurlitzer organ that rises up from the floor. Who could resist?

We raced off to the theater and got in just as the organist started playing.. It was a very large, very ornate theater and the sound was really good. (The seats weren’t as comfortable as they might be but not terrible.)

The movie we saw was a little out of place – Mongol – although it was quite good.

Then home and to bed.

Sunday morning, we had a lovely breakfast, complete with lox and bagels. The lox was imported from Tasmania (the packaging made quite a big deal out of its place of origin) but despite that, it was quite tasty.

After breakfast, we packed, and John and Lorraine drove us to the bus and train depot in the center of Sydney. They stayed with us until we got on the bus and then we headed back to Canberra.

Three and a quarter hours later, about 4:00 pm, we were in Canberra, where the wonderful Donna had volunteered to pick us up. She did and drove us back to our apartment. She invited us to come over for dinner later with her son and one of her daughters. We were only two glad to accept.

After she left, we walked over to the Fyshwick Markets nearby our apartment.. This is a collection of shops, mainly produce or meats or seafood, with a couple of bakeries. We tried to find a dessert or something to take over with us, so as not to come empty handed. But the markets are only open Thursday through Sunday, and by Sunday afternoon, the shopkeepers are deep discounting everything. We did pick up some produce for our apartment (including a package of “cherry tomatoes,” the smallest of which was at least double the size of anything called a cherry tomato in the US) but the bakeries were sold out of pretty much everything.

Eventually, we got to Donna’s and dinner was great. The first course was a cream of cauliflower soup made from scratch. Genny and I were both trepidatious. Neither of us likes cauliflower. But the soup was great. Donna seems talented at everything she does. The rest of dinner was excellent as well. Donna’s daughter left, racing to get home before her boyfriend ate the ice cream he’d bought for her. Her son was sent off to bed. We stayed and chatted over tea for a bit, then walked home.

Will they survive? Is Donna stalking them, or are they stalking Donna? Tune in for our next exciting episode.

Craig.

Part 5

Now that we’re back in Canberra, the week’s mostly a blur. I’d hoped to get a bit more time for sightseeing with Genny but during the day Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, I was with Andrew all day at the production office. What’d we do? I can’t really go into too much detail but our days included:

Selecting from the 1,000+ photos that were taken at the photo shoot in Sydney.

Editing the interviews with the actors as well as editing Nicholas Hope’s scene into a reel with the storyboards (Andrew working the Avid, me commenting and making suggestions).

Working with the layout company on the “bible/presentation” going out to distributors and international networks/channels, etc.

Notes for some re-writes on the script (and while I don’t agree with all of Andrew’s suggestions, he’s more than willing to discuss them all and I can usually talk him out of the ones I think don’t work. And, of course, some of his notes are good and I’m happy to make them.)

Working with Chucky Kenway, our storyboard artist. (Chucky did the boards for Babe, Mad Max, The Matrix trilogy, among others.)

Etc. Etc. Etc.

The sandwich shop out here in Murrumbateman (it’s a semi-rural suburb about 30 kilometers from the center of Canberra) still doesn’t believe people don’t want beets and onions on their sandwiches. But, other than that hardship, the work’s been good. And very useful.

Genny’s been on her own, sightseeing and shopping, during the days I was working. Another fan, Chris Andrews, took her to the National Art Gallery. He’d brought his daughter along, because schools are just getting out, but she found the NAG less than exciting, so after a little bit, he took her home and left Genny to explore. After a time at the Gallery, Genny walked next store to the High Court building and looked around there. She thought she’d walk home but it started raining, so she called Chris, the fan who’d taken her to the Gallery, and he came back to pick her up and bring her back to the apartment.

Truthfully, I’m not completely sure what she did the other days. At least not specifically. Although I know there was shopping. And Friday she spent part of the day packing for our early Sunday morning flight home.

One of the writers we’d met the first night we were in Australia had asked at that time if we’d like to come to her house for dinner one evening. We said sure. While we were in Sydney, I received email from Donna asking if Tuesday of this week would be good for going to Val’s house for dinner. After checking with Genny, I said sure, so Tuesday evening Donna picked us up and drove us and her son to Val & Mike’s house for dinner.

Val is a psychologist who works for the Australian military. Mike is a trainer, like Genny, so they hit it off. And his company might even have some work for her. They have a great big white, fluffy Samoyed dog named Buffy (for guess who?). Dinner was great and had a main course of roast kangaroo. Donna put the lie to the American image of Australians we have that the national dish is roo: this was the first time she’d eaten kangaroo..

Val Toh and her husband Mark Richards

On Wednesday, though, I got the day off. Donna told us on Sunday that she’d arranged to take the day off on Wednesday and offered to drive us into the countryside to see a different part of the area. So Monday, I told Andrew I’d like to get Wednesday off, and so it was arranged.

Donna picked us up around 10:30 am and we drove out to Tidbinbilla, an area around 40 km outside of town. Our first stop was the Deep Space Telescope complex. It’s not the one depicted in The Dish, the movie about Australia’s part in the Apollo 12 moon landing, but very similar. It was pretty cool.

The entrance to the Deep Space telescope complex

Here there are four large radio telescopes, the largest being 70 meters across. In the midst of them all is a small space museum, mostly containing reproductions of lunar and Mars landers (including a photo showing three different Mars landers, including the upcoming one Noel’s brother is a project manager for). But there are also a number of “actual” space items, like moon rocks and uniforms and the actual switch thrown at the last moment so the video from the surface of the moon, sent by the Apollo 12 astronauts, wouldn’t be upside-down. The whole thing is free to explore. There’s a snack bar/restaurant called the Moon Rock Cafe there and we bought Donna lunch.

Donna Hanson and Genny outside the Moon Rock Cafe

We next headed on to the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, a few kilometers away. Here there’s a 28 km roadway that runs through and around the reserve, from which you can see animals wandering about. There are also parking areas every now and then, where you can park and take nature walks or see “enclosures” with different animals.

A mob of kangaroos at Tidbinbilla

There were a couple of emus walking along the rode at one point, and several different size groups of kangaroos, among many other animals. Donna said it was the first time she’d seen a platypus not in an aquarium or zoo.

An emu walking along the road that runs through the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve

Donna Hanson and me walking through Tidbinbilla

That evening, we took Donna to a fancy-ish “bush tucka” restaurant we’d heard about. The restaurant describes itself as “modern and native Australian” but apparently the local term for it is “bush tucker”. Crocodile, kangaroo, emu, barramundi, and various native herbs, spices, fruits, and vegetables. Among the appetizers (“entrees” in Australia) and entrees (“mains” in Oz) we sampled prawns, kangaroo, and emu. Everything was quite tasty.

Thursday night, Genny and I ate at home. Friday evening – tonight as I write this – Donna is having a party of the local SF crowd in our honor. Saturday, Andrew and his family and Genny and I will drive down to Bateman’s Bay on the coast (about a 2 hour drive) where we’ll visit with one of the investors in our production. He was up in Canberra earlier in our stay and kept insisting we should come visit him while we’re here.


Part of the beach in Bateman's Bay


Genny helping Andrew's daughter Vanessa search for sea shell "treasure"


The view from the restaurant where we ate lunch in Bateman's Bay

Sunday morning, our flight is scheduled to leave Canberra at 8:00 am. Hopefully, all will go smoothly. We’ll arrive back in Los Angeles about half an hour earlier than that, 7:30 am on Sunday.

This is likely the last chance I’ll have to write or post anything so I’m guessing on what’s to come.

See you soon.

Craig.


Part Last

Figured I'd let you all know we're home safe and sound. It’s now Sunday, July 6th. We left Canberra on Sunday at 7:30 am and arrived in Los Angeles on Sunday at 7:00 am. Amazing how that works.

We got here with two of our three suitcases; two made the connection between Canberra and Sydney but, somehow, one missed the plane. Allegedly Qantas has it and will deliver it to us sometime tomorrow.

Lorien Gray kindly picked us up at the airport. We got home and dropped off the luggage that landed with us; took Lorien out for breakfast; picked up our cars from my mother's driveway (where they were living while we were in Australia); took home our housesitter; and then took a nap for a few hours. Haven't checked the mail – postal or e – yet but all things in their time.

Talk soon.

Best, Craig.


Part The Addendum

One of the days I was working, two of the local science fiction writers group took Genny out sightseeing. Among the places they brought her to was this fence out in the middle of nowhere. It didn’t fence anything off, or in, or out. It was just a fence. It’s a pretty amazing fence. I wasn’t there but thought I really needed to share these photos.












Mik Bennett and Gillian Polack at "the fence"


A closer shot of Mik Bennett and Gillian Polack


Genny and Gillian Polack at "the fence"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
All photos by Craig Miller or Genny Dazzo. As you can probably tell, we're not really photographers. We don't often take photos. And even though we brought the camera with us, it didn't really occur to me until well into the trip to carry it around and take pictures. Which is why parts of this are lacking in illustrations. Oh well. Please use your imagination whenever there isn't a photo. And even when there is. -Craig.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Very, well written. It was interesting to hear about your journey in full after meeting the two of you here in the wild greys of Canberra .It was a pleasure to meet you both if all be it for to short a time. One wishes for lots of investors and huge budgets. I trust you had both a wonderful and productive time here in Aus and that LA treats you with good health and happiness.
Resistance is still moving forward and Andrew is past the starting line, he is a workaholic with a smile and inspiring nature. A rare thing in the business.

Anyhow as the song goes ..we will meet again don’t know where don’t know when…

With the highest regard Bobby Farquhar

Anonymous said...

jane badler fan of France I am happy that Jane has obtained a role in your series, even if the role is small

http://www.janebadler.supersite.fr/

level-head said...

It was indeed a very enjoyable read. I found myself reliving parts of my own and my Lady's trips to Oz, including the same zoo and one of the same restaurants.

I wish you tremendous success in your endeavors. Your fame and renown have grown in my mind since first hearing your name mentioned a day or so ago; I've written a hard SF novel that is a sequel to a Disney movie (WALL•E, set nine years later) and you were recommended as "a great figure in the science fiction and fandom world" -- and someone who likely knew an agent who would talk to Disney about it.

But in the meantime, I've been more and more impressed. Many months have passed since you wrote this, and it is my sincere hope that production and all other aspects of this venture have gone well -- or are still going well.

With any luck, you will win every battle that presents itself, and enjoy a well-earned Peace de Resistance.

===|==============/ Level Head