Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Whip-It press conference

Drew Barrymore (the director and Smashley Simpson)

Being a photographer that lives in Toronto and photographs derby on a regular basis I was a bit disappointed that I wasn’t around to shoot one of the largest derby events, if not the largest roller skating events in Toronto during the Toronto International Film Festival. ToRD had a tie in with the launch of Whip It, a movie with Drew Barrymore, Ellen Page, Daniel Stern, among others.

I was in Detroit with Hammer City's Hawkeye and Scotty Ho photographing them scrimmage with the Detroit derby girls. Travel is always good. The Detroit venue was awesome. The Detroit girls were also pretty good about having some stranger show up and photograph them.

It just seems weird that I manage to see more derby events outside my city then within it. Photographing the Hammer city roller girls in Hamilton, going to Vegas for RollerCon, Montreal for the Beast of the East, Portland for last year’s Nationals and of course there's all the little and large towns following the Hammer City Girls playing their away games (Akron, Wilkes-Barre, Fort Wayne, Chicago, Greenville). Geez, I seem to get around.

Not photographing the Whip-It event felt like I was missing something monumental. Seeing the photos on Facebook taken by some of the people that went gave me a small glimpse to what happened. Crowded and packed. Not a big fan of crowded and packed. So I was okay with that.

As the gods of derby, the universe unfolding, fate, or God (with a capital G) would have it, that was not the end of the Whip-It experience. I received a phone call from Miss Carriage last night asking if I wanted to photograph the press conference at the Sutton Place hotel today. Seems I would be photographing Drew and Ellen after all.

Ellen Page (Bliss Cavendar) talks about the difficulty of skating on a banked track.

We started filing into the press room on the second floor at about 10:50. Drew and the rest of the cast wouldn’t be in the room until 11:30. A line of videographers were spread out across the back room. There were also some photographers clumped at the front right of the room next to the place where the cast would be giving speeches.

The photographers around me were pretty great. Making sure we all had enough room to get our shot. Before long the cast came out. Drew’s place card was conveniently located right in front of us.

I’m always impressed at what actors have to go through. For about a minute or two, Drew was bombarded with camera flashes and photographers asking her to face a certain direction “This way Drew”, “Over here Drew”, “Hey Drew”. Only one guy managed to get a Please and Thank You in. He was from L.A. Just because it’s our jobs as photographers to get images of the celebrities doesn’t mean we should chuck our manners out the window. The photographer from L.A. impressed me.

The press room.

Then the discussion panel began. While talking about filming of the movie one reporter kept firing her arm up in the air to ask a question. As we hadn't gotten to the Q&A portion of the talk this became annoying. I could imagine the videographers shooting daggers out of their eyes as her arm came up into their frame getting in the way of any good footage they might have been getting.

When the room was opened up for Q&A this reporter was asked to speak. She asked Drew how she felt about the death of Patrick Swayze. That was her burning question. I was in awe at the distasteful question being put forth. Unless Swayze was part of the cast, and he wasn't, a movie discussion should not be the time or place to bring something like this up. I was floored.

At the same time I was quite impressed by Drew's response given that she had just heard of his death from this reporter (way to go reporter).

Alia Shawkat (Pash) reacts to the second reporter's question.

A second reporter was recognized to ask his question. He started off by talking about Donnie Darko and then flew into "How do you feel about Patrick Swayze's death?". I thought "Didn't you listen to her previous answer? You a**h*le!". I said the last word out loud. At least loud enough for Miss Carriage, who was seated next to me, to hear. I think she responded with something like "you could derby check him". It's possible that that's what I thought I heard. She probably said "Holy cow" or some phrase with less violence involved.

I mean really, what do these reporters expect to hear? "He was a guy with bad breath?", "He was the father of my secret child.", "He had a thing for going to bars after filming Road House". I realize that sensationalism does sell newspapers but can't we leave that crap for the rag magazines? What happened to real journalism and integrity? As I type this I realize I'm sounding pretty naive.

Later on in the day I was checking out a lot of the local online newspapers about their take on the press conference. Most of them decided to focus on the unfortunate death of Patrick Swayze and didn't print anything about the movie at all. Bunch of jerks.

I did manage to find one article that was worth posting a link to. I have to commend the writer of the National Post, Brad Frenette, for writing such a great review of the press conference by passing on the Patrick Swayze comments and sticking to the discussion about the movie making and the cast. You can read his article here (http://www.nationalpost.com/arts/toronto-film-festival/story.html?id=1996754).

The movie poster

Me with my new Wicked Skatewear T-shirt

Miss Carriage holds up one of our press passes

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Chocolate Bacon

Leanna with some curly fries.

Every few years the Canadian National Exhibition features some weird kind of food that you can't get too readily or anywhere else. A few years ago it was the deep fried mars or snickers bar. There's the CNE standard food of Tiny Tom donuts, the ice cream sandwich or the ice cream and strawberry covered funnel cakes... mmmm... funnel cakes.

I went to the CNE with Leanna with the express purpose of finding the booth that sells this year flavour, the chocolate covered bacon. I know what you're thinking... "Eeew. What the heck kind of abomination of food is that?" and "Who in their right mind would try that kind of stuff let alone pay money for it?".

The answer is... if you really haven't put the dots together by now it's the writer of this blog entry. If this is your first blog entry that you're reading of mine then yes, it is I, the guinea pig of flavourdom, the foodie adventurer, trailblazer of the taste bud. If you've been reading past blogs you should have figured out by now that I'm a person that likes to try different things (at least food wise). After all if the French can like eating mayo and fries, why can't we? BTW, mayonnaise also works with pirogies.

Granted your taste buds may disagree with mine but at least you'll know that you won't die from it, unless you have a food allergy or choke on the thing in question... okay, well you'll know that I didn't die from it.

Chocolate Bacon, it looked pretty much like this poster photo

After doing a few logistical sweeps walking around the CNE grounds we finally came across the booth selling the bacon covered in chocolate. I ordered one plate and we shared it.

The bacon brain washing begins

I was disappointed. Here's my taste bud breakdown of the experience...
  1. first, you taste the chocolate
  2. it was like syrup (in fact, I think it was)
  3. the flavor of chocolate dissipates to uncover the bacon flavour
  4. the bacon was soggy and not crispy enough.
  5. then it was just like eating soggy bacon
Soggy bacon... blah. Had the bacon been crispy it might have made the experience more enjoyable. I had to get that greasy taste out of my mouth. I bought a corn dog.

Leanna displays the 12 inch corn dog

To maximize the food eating experience at the CNE we ended up at the food building where we picked up a funnel cake complete with strawberry (what looked like sludge, very tasty sludge) and vanilla ice cream.

Strawberries and vanilla ice cream on a funnel cake

It was a nice cold/warm like of like hot apple pie with ice cream experience.

There was a free ice skating show themed to the title "Movie Magic" featuring Elvis Stojko. We managed to get second row seats, right behind the row of seats reserved for the VIPs and as luck would have it the two seats of the front row that were directly in front of us weren't there. We had a nice clear unobstructed view of the show, right in the center.

It was at this time I wished I had brought my 70-200mm lens.... ugh. Despite this I still managed to luck out and get some half decent photos using the 28-70mm. The skaters, including Elvis, skated right up to us. Woo hoo!!

Movie Magic Moulin Rouge on ice!

Elvis Stojko skates to the theme music from Kill Bill

Nice lighting on Elvis Stojko

Elvis skates by saying "Hello" to his fans

From the skating rink we made our way to the Dufferin gate to leave. We heard music coming from the bandstand. "Hey, is that the Pointer Sisters?", "It is! It is the Pointer Sisters". We detoured from the exit to go see them (another free show). Unfortunately we missed the first half or so but managed to get in for the last half while they were singing the song "Neutron Dance" from Beverly Hills Cop.

The Pointer Sisters

I managed to get up close to take a few photos before security shooed us away. I think I started a photographer photo pit it. Other people seeing me taking photos started to flood the front of the stage.

Leanna in front of the Dufferin Gate

On the way out I tried to pose Leanna under the lit arch to make it look like a pirate hat.