My dream life, in case you haven’t noticed, has been on overdrive lately. Practically every night I’ve had at least two vivid ones; some of which are worth sharing, others are not. This morning’s dream was particularly vivid and beautiful, and here it is.
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I’m walking along a street near the waterfront here in Portland (on the east side of the river, just south of the Fremont bridge, if you’re familiar with Our Fair City) and I see a group of people surrounding a gate at the edge of what appears to be a movie set. Being on the outside, however, means that I can’t see what kind of movie set it is, since the perimeter is built of wood, and it’s all a façade anyway. I decide to walk over to the gate and the people and investigate the situation.
It’s a beautiful sunny day, but the end of autumn is near, so everyone is bundled up against the wind. The crowd turns out to be a group of actors and ‘regular’ people who are hoping to be cast as extras in this movie. It seems that one of the actors is a no-show, and they need one more male character for a speaking part. One of the production assistants sees me and assumes that I’m one of the group of people hoping to be an extra. She points at me and says, “You, there, it’s your lucky day! Come with me.” She turns and walks briskly toward the middle of the set. A few people nearby usher me through the crowd and guide me through the gate. I have a second to glance at my surroundings while I’m catching up to the assistant, and I notice that the set is built with a medieval theme. There is a town to my left, in the direction that we’re walking, and on the right is a large, grassy hill area that slopes down toward the river. One corner is raised, to accommodate a small crowd or chorus of singers, and the other corner is filled with a tall hut and a group of palm trees, surrounded by high grass and colorful plants. I catch up to the assistant, and she walks me down to the water’s edge, where a large boat is waiting. We walk across a thick wooden plank and climb aboard.
The boat, too, is part of the set. It’s built in a very stylized, medieval way, with white walls and dark wooden trim. This is where the actors and directors congregate when they aren’t busy, or when they’re waiting for their scene, or when they’re taking a break. This is also where the food service is located, so everyone has something food-related in their hands. “Congratulations,” the assistant tells me. “This is a great opportunity, and you’ll have fun. We’ll need to fit you with a costume, so I’ll need you to change out of your clothes. They’ll be safe in here,” meaning the room we’re in, “and you can help yourself to some food. I think you’ll find that we have a little bit of everything.”
I thank her and start to take off my many layers of clothing. It’s cold and windy outside, so I’m wearing a wool trench coat over my gray suit jacket and a black long-sleeved T-shirt. I remove all that stuff, followed by my jeans, until I’m standing in my underwear. An older lady wearing a track suit appears at my side with a large blue blanket, which she hands to me. I wrap it around myself. “You’re clearly a professional,” I tell her. “You knew to bring an extra set of clothes.”
“It’s true, I’ve done this before,” she says, smiling. We become instant friends. She makes it her mission, there and then, to look after me and to always know where I am, even if I don’t necessarily know. We walk over to the craft table and survey the food situation. There is raw fruit and fruit salad, some various creations that look almost (but not quite) like pizza, different types of cake, cookies, juices, and the requisite bottles of water are everywhere. My new friend and I sit down at a long table by the window, next to two young women. We make the usual chit-chat, and then the girl sitting next to me makes a face and drops her food onto her plate. “This isn’t vegan, there’s sausage on it,” she says disparagingly. “I was told specifically that these were vegan.”
“I know,” the girl across the table agrees. “I just got a piece of steak in mine.” They both visibly slump in their seats.
I say to the young woman next to me, “I’ll give that a try. I’d hate for it to go to waste. What is it?”
“You want an Eiro?” she replies, pronouncing it almost like ‘aero’.
“What’s an Eiro?” I ask.
“Kind of like a pizza with a really thin crust, but it’s this company’s own creation. They have a million different varieties, like crepes; sweet and savory.”
“Sounds good,” I say. “What’s on this one?”
She points at each of the ingredients as she finds one. “Sausage. . .peppers. . .cheese, obviously. . .and a bunch of vegetables.”
“Yum,” I say, and she hands me the plate. I take a bite and turn to look out the window. There is an action scene being filmed on the river with a lot of fast-moving boats and a battle scene. Our boat seems to have changed location, since we’re now a mile or so upriver, between the Morrison and Burnside bridges (again, if you’re familiar with Portland). Our boat is parked in the corner of the set, and boats are zooming all around us, with old-fashioned guns being fired, and people jumping from boat to boat. The camera boat is moving slowly between our boat and the action, so we’re able to see approximately what they’re filming. Our boat starts to move downstream on a sort of wooden track. I overhear someone explaining to a group of extras that the upper deck of our boat is used for cameras as well, and that lots of things do double duty in order to keep costs down.
From where we’re sitting, we have an excellent view of everything. I sit and watch the action, and hear a sudden bang as a boat sporting a vertical plywood structure slams into the side of the Burnside bridge, and the plywood structure falls into the water. Nothing else is damaged, and no one is hurt. We can see the agitated director on his boat, flailing his arms and yelling to one of his assistants that they should have known how high the water level is, because this is Portland in the winter, and it rains more, and this had better not happen again or else.
The director decides to take that entire shot once again, so all the boats have to turn around and go back to their original positions in the shot. Coming back, our boat is in such a position that we can see the wooden track we’re traveling in. My new woman friend says, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this before.”
“It’s pretty brilliant,” I tell her, “like having a dolly track in the water. It’s anchored to the shore instead of to the river bottom. We can go as fast as we want, up or down the river, and we always line up in exactly the same way.”
We wait until our boat is parked in its position for the shot, then we turn back to our food. I take two more bites of my Eiro, and I’m chewing when the production assistant appears. She motions for me to come to where she is, and says, “Okay, it’s time for you.” I stand up, adjust the blue blanket that I’m wrapped in, and walk over to join her.
She takes me back across the plank, through the small ‘town’ area, and across to the top of the grassy hill, overlooking the hut and the chorus area. By now, this part of the set is buzzing with activity. The shot that’s being filmed is a large-scale musical number, and some small speakers rise out of the grass to pipe in music, so that the characters can sing and dance along to the actual soundtrack. The characters are like characters from a childrens’ book, about eight feet tall, with oversized heads and bodies, and many of them with exaggerated buck teeth. There is indeed a chorus of singers in the corner, and in the hut are the most important characters (and the tallest, at almost ten feet); the king and queen of the tribe.
It’s absolutely enchanting to watch, and all the human-character actors and extras are sitting on the hillside looking down and watching the proceedings. My old woman friend and I look for a spot on the synthetic grass, which is very uncomfortable and slippery. There are small indented areas that are designed for people to sit in, but they’re too small, and the hill is too steep, so people are having difficulty getting comfortable. The two of us sit along the edge of the set, overlooking the town area, next to a thick wooden rail.
She says, “You should have asked for a carry-out plate. You hardly got to eat any of your food.”
“I know,” I say. “I guess I’ll have to grab some later, if I get the chance.”
She looks around a little, sees a group of friends waving at her, and excuses herself to walk over and say hello to them. I sit and watch the action for a while, and then I hear a few people saying my name quietly. I turn to see someone telling the production assistant where I am, and pointing in my direction. She sees me and motions for me to come up to where she is. I stand and start to walk toward her, but I am stopped by a row of people who are lying on their backs in the grass. “This is not a walk-through,” one lady tells me. “You’ll have to go around. It’s too steep here, you might fall if you come this way.”
I stop at her feet, and I feel my own feet start to slip, so I lean forward to stabilize myself. A couple guys at the end of the row laugh and give me a thumbs-up, motioning me to walk in their direction, slowly. One of them laughs and says encouragingly, “You’re an actor. It takes more than a little hill to stop you!” I walk to the middle aisle and start up the hill. Someone from a different row calls out to me, “You’d better run. People get paid for things like this.” I see a girl in a long, shiny black dress climbing the hill ahead of me, who seems to be heading in the direction I need to go, so I run after her. As I pass the assistant, she smiles and tells me, “Just go through there and into that building to meet with the director. You’ll see.”
“Thanks,” I say, jogging after the girl, who disappears at the end of the fake-cobblestone road behind a glass door. I arrive a few seconds later and poke my head in the door. She’s already slipped out of her dress and is standing there naked, getting her costume ready. I turn back around and see a larger, double glass door. open it, and walk into a large, empty room with a fake-stone floor and a large fireplace on one wall. I’m still wearing only the blue blanket, and I’m starting to feel a bit self-conscious about it. No one else is in this large room, so I walk toward a little door at the back of the room, and that’s when the director appears. He’s dark-haired and in his mid-forties, wearing a black dress shirt and slacks, with wire-frame sunglasses.
“Greetings,” he says, and gives me a smile. I walk over and shake his hand. He gives me a smile and says, “Looks like you could use a costume.” He motions to a door I hadn’t noticed before, that’s built into the fireplace wall. “Come right in here, and we’ll get you started.” I reach to open the door, and that’s when I wake up.
* * * * *
I could have happily slept for many more hours, living in that dream. It was absolutely amazing; full of such color and beauty. Ahhhhh.