On April 28th of 2009 I had the privilege of visiting the set of The Twilight Saga: New Moon in Vancouver, British Columbia. Being the intense fan that I am of all things Twilight and Stephenie Meyer, I actually began preparing myself for this chance way back in December by applying for a passport! I wasn’t going to miss out on such a huge opportunity because I couldn’t leave the country. Heck, I was willing to go to Italy if I had to. (And let me tell you, it would have been SUCH an immense hardship to have to go to Italy. Who really wants to visit a movie set in Europe anyway? Not me. Insert sarcastic face here.)
For as long as I’ve been involved in the Twilight Saga (and I think I can safely say that I’m kind of the momma bear of the fandom) I’ve taken the stand point of reporting on everything as I see it to bring it to the rest of the fandom who may not have had the same opportunities that I have had. Yes, I am just as fan gurlish over the actors as the next person (as you will see in my report), but I also think that the surrounding atmosphere and landscape is just as interesting. Incidentally, the landscape (or more specifically the weather) plays such a huge part in the filming that it’s virtually impossible to do a set report without commenting on it in some way.
In fact, if I may take this chance to put in a personal request to anyone who ever gets the chance to interview anyone involved in the film, let’s all agree in a new phrasing of a certain question. Please refrain from asking, “What was your biggest challenge with the film?” Because the answer is ALWAYS, “The weather.” Instead ask, “What was your biggest challenge with the film OTHER THAN the weather?” We will all learn so much more in the long run! Seriously. Wait until you hear EVERYONE talk about in our interviews. So, let’s ask a different question. The weather is bad. It’s supposed to be raining. That’s kind of the point. Let’s talk about something else.
But back on the topic of the set visit… I thought what I would do is share with you a step by step timeline of events as they happened to me on the evening of April 28th to give you a better idea of just how slowly or quickly things move on set.
7:45 pm – We are picked up by a large white van outside of the Pacific Palisades Hotel restaurant where we had just had a scrumptious dinner. Those going on set are Kimmy from His Golden Eyes, Kara from Twilight Moms (not to be confused with), Kara from Twilighters Anonymous, Kassie from Twilight Series Theories, and Matt from Twilight Source. (Did you notice all those “K” names? Yes, it was confusing introducing everyone.) OH! And me. I’m Lori (Alphie) from the Twilight Lexicon, but if you didn’t pick up on that by now then you need to check your web browser.
Ron was our driver. I don’t know if he works for Summit or if he just drives around Vancouver for a living. But like the five other resident Canadians I asked during my visit, Ron didn’t seem to know the name of the majestic mountain chain to the east. I should really just look it up…
Since Twilight fans are all about “playlists” I took note of the songs that were playing on the radio during our drive and found them rather apropos. “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5 hinted at the scene we would be seeing. “Time of My Life” by David Cook kind of summed up what I was feeling about going to visit the set, “Frozen” by Madonna warned me how my fingers and toes would feel at the end of the night, and “Chasing Cars” by Snow Patrol… well… I don’t have much to say about this song other than the fact that Matt and I harmonized very well as we sang along together. It was a Tuesday and we were missing American Idol after all…
The drive took about an hour. Now, Laura (Pel) and I got to Vancouver early so that we could get footage and pictures of the various locations used in the movie, which we will be sharing with you over the next few weeks. But on this drive, as we get closer and closer to the United States border, I am very aware that the set we will be visiting is Bella’s house because I had been there earlier in the week. We knew that Kristen and Taylor would be on set, but it wasn’t until we were well out of the city that I knew where we were going.
8:41 pm – We turned up the long drive to the house, passing dozens of eager fans waiting for a glimpse of their favorite star, and made our way past security. As the road dead ends, we turn and are instantly met with the bright, glaring lights surrounding the house. Now really, check the time. It’s nearly nine o’clock at night. It is dark out. And yet the whole area around the house is so bright that it was difficult to look at. Keep in mind that the house is white which only adds to the glare. It was probably one of the most interesting things that I learned from this set visit, which may seem lame to most people, but I just can’t help it! The scene on film is absolutely a night scene. When we all see it in the final film, it will look dark just as it should be. But when I stood there in person, it was bright enough that I could write on my note book and read what I was writing. I don’t know how they do that, but it was really cool.
8:48 pm – We meet up with Rachael, the on set publicist, who hands out the press passes to all of us and officially welcomes us to the set. Then we make our way down the road to where all the action is going on.
The set is a mock up replica of the house used as the Swan residence in Portland. For those of you worried about continuity from one film to the next, trust me, the production crew is all over that. We learned that the house was constructed in a warehouse and shipped piece by piece to this location where it was set up. It is 100% identical to the house used in Twilight right down to the placement of the overly large trees marking the path to the house as well as the little house across the street. We can see that there are lights and furniture and decorations in the house, but we are told that they are there to create the illusion that this is a real house. All the scenes filmed “inside” the house will be done on a sound stage. This set is for exterior only.
We are assigned position by a monitor that we are told was specifically set up just so that we can see what is being filmed. Unfortunately, the monitor had no sound. Ah well. Eventually it became pretty clear what was being said. Rachael tells us that she is going to bring Chris Weitz over to us and hopes to be able to bring Taylor and a few of the actors to talk to us.
8:53 pm – True to her word, Rachael introduces us to Chris Weitz and we all begin recording what became a whopping TWENTY-SIX minute interview. No joke, people. He was so so so great and just freely answered our questions in the most generous approach imaginable. I’m not going to spoil you with the content of that interview as I think it’s best taken from the man himself, but let me assure you that if you are still worried about the change in directors, your fears will be put to rest.
9:18 pm – Still reeling over the amount of content we got from the director, I didn’t quite notice the time here. I just kind of turned around and was stunned to see Billy Burke and Gil Birmingham standing in the street right next to us in full costume. Being the massive fan that I am of Billy Burke’s work in Twilight, I did get a bit fannish here, but was reminded by Matt and Kassie that I was thirty-four and should really calm down.
Since I was busy fan gurling, I totally missed the guy telling us to get out of the street because traffic was heading our way. Note: no Twilight admins were harmed in the process of this set visit.
Now for the big countdown…
9: 21 pm – Taylor Lautner arrives in long-haired wig. Last year’s wig looked like a remnant from the Hair Club For Men, this year’s wig…so much better.
9: 23 pm – Kristen Stewart arrives in an oversized coat. As tiny as she is, her presence leaves a huge mark on the set.
9: 24 pm – Graham Greene arrives giving us our first look at Harry Clearwater. (And again, my little fannish heart skips a beat that I’m actually standing this close to Kicking Bird. If you haven’t seen Dances With Wolves, go rent it!)
We spend a few minutes to take in the scope of where we are and what we are doing and who just stepped out of the various vehicles. As Laura has said many times over the last three years, the definition of “surreal” changes on a daily basis.
9:29 pm – I didn’t catch the exact time here, but this has to be one of my favorite moments from being on set. So imagine you’re an actor called to be on set and you arrive and see a bunch of wide eyed strangers with note books and recorders standing around in the cold off to the side. What do you do? This is exactly what happened to Gil Birmingham. He was standing right next to us for a few minutes, and I asked our rep if we could interview him and was told no since he was wired for the set. That didn’t bother me, so I let it alone. But Gil… oh it just makes me giggle thinking about it. He kept looking over his shoulder at us… and then he’d walk very nonchalantly a few steps… look over his shoulder at us… for at least two or three minutes until he finally asks me, “Who ARE you?” I explained that we were from various sites and we all introduced ourselves. He talked to us for a few minutes before he was called over to the set. Honestly, this is best played out with the visual because he was giving us the oddest looks.
9: 33 pm – While the crew is setting up the first shot, Wyck Godfrey, the producer, comes over to introduce himself to us and promises to chat with us in a few minutes. Having met Wyck before on the set last year, I was excited to talk to him again and hopefully get some more great stories. Remember, he’s the one who told us about filming the meadow scene and waiting for the exact right moment for the sun to come out… which it did. Yeah, that’s the same guy. Only this year he wasn’t dripping wet and frozen stiff from the ice cold rain on the beach.
9: 34 pm – The first rehearsal for the first shot is called. The scene that we will have the privilege of seeing is out of chapter three of New Moon where Charlie Swan has gathered his friends together to help search for Bella. The scene ends with Sam walking out of the woods (wearing shorts only) carrying Bella. Bella’s truck and Charlie’s Police Cruiser are parked in front of the house with the cast standing in a semi-circle around the vehicles. From left to right stood Graham Green (Harry), Billy Burke (Charlie), Taylor Lautner (Jacob), and Gil Birmingham (Billy). Well, Gil was sitting in his wheel chair, but you get the picture.
9:36 pm – Wyck takes this chance to talk to us as he promised. Again, I don’t want to spoil the content of that interview, but he whispered the whole time making our personal recording very difficult to hear. Thank goodness Pel managed to enhance the recording. Having met Wyck last year on set, I noticed that he seemed much more at ease with the franchise, but more secretive at the same time. Still, he did give us one tidbit of information that every fan will be happy to hear about! But like I said, I’m not going to spoil that for you. You will just have to wait! Muhahaha!!
And now for the real heart of why we were there – to see the filming process! Now pay attention to how quickly this all goes.
9:48 pm – Take one is called. Billy Burke walks into the shot and delivers his lines looking very worried and parental until Jacob alerts him that Sam has found Bella, at which point he runs over to her and… cut.
9: 51 pm – Take two is called. The same action plays out and… OOPS! Chris cuts too soon and immediately scolds himself saying, “Now, why did I cut? Bad director! Bad!”
9:54 pm – Take three is called with the same action.
9: 59 pm – Take four is called and immediately held for a plane to fly over head. Everyone holds position until the sound is too faint to hear and by 10:01 they resume action.
10:03 pm – Take five is called of the same shot.
They break to set up for a different angle of the same scene.
10: 05 pm - Wyck pops back over with a better answer to one of our previous questions which leads to a few more questions which leads to more reassurance that the film is in good hands. In all, we were granted about twenty minutes of interview time with Wyck and loads of great information that will answer some of the most pressing questions fans have been wondering about.
10: 17 pm – Again I’m not too clear on the time of this as it was a conversation that happened rather casually, but we started talking to this guy who had been on set near us the whole time. We assumed he was an assistant or someone on the crew. But after a few short questions we learned that he was the owner of the property where they were filming. He said he hadn’t read any of the books and that he watched a little bit of the film, but not the whole thing. Even still, he gets to come out and watch them film whenever he wants. How would you like to be that guy? The stories I’m sure he could tell would fill dozens of reports like this!
10: 21 pm – Up until this point we’ve been watching them set up the camera for what we assume will be a close up of Billy Burke. Sure enough, when the rehearsal is called, Billy steps into frame for a close up shot of his anxious father face concerned for his daughter’s safety.
For you Taylor fans out there, in this scene Jacob has only one line: “Charlie.” It is Charlie’s cue to turn around and see Bella in Sam’s arms and go running to her. One line – one word. In all seriousness, before the rehearsal for the close up, Taylor asked the woman watching the script, “What my line again?” He got quite a laugh from the crew.
10: 25 pm - Rehearsal for the close up was called.
10: 27 pm – Chaske Spencer came over at this point to talk to us. We weren’t allowed to record this section, so we all agreed to swap notes to make sure that everyone gets all the pertinent information. It should be noted that Chaske is VERY tall. Tall doesn’t even seem to do him justice. I have no clue how tall he is really, but standing next to Kristen Stewart, who is TINY, Chaske really does look massive. And since his costume consisted of only a pair of shorts, I can happily report that he totally looks the part of a Quileute wolf… not that I was looking at his chest or anything. No… I’m too old for such things. (Insert smirk here.)
I’d also like to make you all aware of just how these guys are staying in shape while on set. They are literally working out while they are working! Chaske had a trainer who followed him around the set at all times. When he wasn’t busy doing what he needed to do, the trainer would pull out an exercise rubber band and they would do bicep curls or something like that. Again… not that I was looking at the rippling pectorals or anything. I just found it interesting how devoted they all seemed to not just stay in shape but to really be as physically fit as the book describes them to be.
Also, in case anyone is worried about how cold the shot was and how scantily clad Chaske was, between takes he was given a very warm, thick coat to wear. Even still, he left it hanging open. Considering that I couldn’t feel my toes by this point, I was impressed with how he seemed to be impervious to the cold. Now that’s what I call getting into character!
10: 36 pm – Take one of Billy Burke’s close up was called.
10: 42 pm – Take two of the close up was called. I noticed that Kristen Stewart was watching from the warmth of the production tent.
10: 44 pm – Take three of the close up was called. Now I notice that Chaske has joined Kristen in the production tent. Considering that these two have basically spent the shoot this far in the woods, I can’t blame them for taking a moment to get warm.
10: 47 pm – Chris calls for a reset for another shot. It appears that they are done with this initial scene and are ready to film the more personal scene of Charlie taking Bella from Sam and her emotional breakdown over being abandoned by Edward.
10: 52 pm – They rehearse Charlie getting to Bella and start setting a few other things in place for the official take.
We notice that Taylor and Kristen are standing in the street in front of the house talking to Rachel. We hope this means that we will be given a chance to talk to them.
10: 55 pm - Sure enough, Taylor comes over to us to chat for about five minutes. He is just as sweet and personable as he was a year ago, but it’s obvious that he’s wiser from his experiences with Twilight and My Own Worst Enemy. (Not sure if you all watched that show, but Taylor was fantastic in it!) His smile is as bright as ever. And his wig… well having personally seen the wig they used for Twilight I can assure you that the wig he was wearing this time around was SOOOOO much better! When he left, Kimmy summed it up perfectly by declaring, “He’s so Jacob-y!”
After he left, he walked over to talk to Kristen for a moment. We were told that she would not be talking to us, which we all understood and respected, because she was prepping for some pretty emotionally intense scene work.
11:07 pm – To our surprise, and the surprise of our rep as well as Rachel, Kristen approached us to say hello. She couldn’t really talk to us because she was getting ready for one of the biggest emotional scenes she would have to do in the film, but it was great that she cared enough to come and thank us for stopping by. Again, Kimmy’s reaction was priceless. I would have loved to have a camera just to get some of her expressions on film!
And then it all ended. Sigh…
We headed back to the van to reluctantly return our badges and head off the set. The crowd of fans waiting on the outskirts of the set had multiplied and dozens of cameras flashed as we drove by. Hate to disappoint you guys, but it was just us! Somewhere out there is a very bad shot of six frozen yet thrilled fans leaving the set.
Believe it or not, the conversation on the way home wasn’t all about the visit. Sure, we all relived certain moments and compared notes, but we talked about other things, too. Really, what do you do after an experience like that? I got back to the hotel and replayed every moment to Laura and immediately started plotting out how this set report would look written out. My brain was on overload from the experience and still is to a point.
But all good things come to an end. The set visit… this report… the massive e-mail chain in the admin inbox about the set visit… they have reached their end. Now we move on to bringing you the interviews on our Fansite Fridays and a few other goodies to help pass the time until November 20th when we all get to see the final product!
Check out the reports of our companions on the set:
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