THE MOVIE STARS OF MEADOWIND MINIATURES - 2002
As the Resource teacher in the Carman Collegiate, June is my busiest month, when I hurry about trying to complete year-end reports before the last day of school. One day last June, the School Office indicated I had yet another phone call. Year-end calls usually relate to materials being ordered, programming plans or next year's students. Added to the mix in June 2002, had been many calls in relation to getting our local fair organized and underway. A month earlier all the buildings that belonged to our Agricultural Society, except for the barns, has been lost in a tragic fire. I was wearing a two-peaked hat, one as the Resource Teacher finishing up a busy year, and another as President of the Dufferin Agricultural Society, which would host the annual summer fair in mid-July, an event that had taken place every year for the previous 122 years. How would I find room to add peaks for the stable groom, barn boss and exhibitor that I wanted to fit into the next couple of months, to say nothing of being the mother of the groom at our son's wedding in August. I wondered into which category this call would fall.
The caller introduced himself as Greg, the movie vehicle Coordinator for a company called Pink Caddy Productions. He stated he had heard that our family owned a "small ornate horse drawn vehicle". In March 2002 we had purchased a miniature vis-à-vis to take our daughter and her new husband from the church to their wedding reception. I presumed this was to what he was referring. He explained that early in July, Atlantis Alliance was shooting a movie in Winnipeg featuring Shirley MacLaine in the role of Mary Kay Ash, the founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics. Other actors would include Shannon Doherty, R. H. Thompson, and Parker Posey. A small horse drawn carriage was needed for a scene where Mary Kay would make one of her grand entrances into a convention in Dallas. For the last 10 days of June, Rod was doing demonstration drives at the Red River Exhibition in Winnipeg with our Eight Horse Hitch and had the Carriage there with him. I suggested that Greg should go to the exhibition park and look at the vehicle to determine if it would fit his needs.
A day or so later we were meeting with the Art Director to view the director's computer images of an appendage attached to the carriage to make it look like a crown. Together we examined the carriage to plan how to make the attachment removable. Soon we were delivering it to the studio where the construction would take place.
Now it was official. We were going to be in the movies! Our scene would start back stage where the star would board the carriage and then Rod would drive her to Center Stage where she would disembark and step up to the microphone amid a swirl of dry ice fog. Then the team would continue on across the stage. Because of the cramped quarters backstage and the limited camera angles, using all eight horses was out of the question; it was decided that two horses would be sufficient. Who would that be? Would it be prancy, dancy, Duke and Echo whose regular job as the wheel horses, is to be the brakes for the unit? Or what about Image and Tar, or Arthur and Kody who fill the sandwich as the swing and the point teams? Maybe the old guys, the lead team, Buckwheat and Chieftain should do the honours. That was it! These two fellows, at the ages of 11 and 12, to quote my friend Dwight, "have been in more parades than Santa Claus himself"! They would know exactly what to do and because they have such a trust in Rod, they will go anywhere he asks them to go, whether it is down the midway past the Ferris wheel or through a crowd of clapping, hooting school children.
Ten days later, the call came that our scene was ready to be filmed. On July 10, at 9:30 a.m. we arrived at the Winnipeg Centennial Concert Hall with Buckwheat and Chieftain. Our daughter Coreen and I would play the role of footmen while Rod would drive the team. As the horses hopped out of the trailer, we got the first glimpse of our transformed carriage on the loading dock. It was indeed sporting a large crown-shaped attachment - and was painted pink! "I'm sure they've covered it with a water soluble paint", I consoled Coreen and Rod as we made our way into the theatre, up the outside steps and the inside stairs and down the halls, drawing countless ooohs and ahhhs with every turn we made.
As soon as we were inside, there was much to do. First we led the horses around back stage and across the stage so that they could become acclimatized to the lights, the sounds and the footing. Next, hitched to the carriage, we took a couple of quick practice runs across the stage before actual rehearsals began. Soon, it was time to get into our costumes. While we took turns holding the horses, each of us ran off to "Costumes" where we were outfitted with long stockings, knickers, long sleeved shirts, canvass vests and velvet long-tail coats ornately decorated with several pounds (I'm sure) of metallic braid. In "Make-up" we donned goofy, poofy white wigs and then made our way back to the set.
For the rest of the day, several people whose job it was to tuck us in here, or wiggle something there, to keep us looking spiffy, followed us around. Even the horses were draped with pink and gold covers and proudly bobbed the pink plumes, which graced the tops of their heads. Remember, this was early July and the outside temperature along with the heat of the stage lights and heavy costumes quickly negated any effect the air conditioning might have had.
Many rehearsals later, we were hot, sweaty, hungry and even starting to get just a little irritable. Coreen had developed a full-blown migraine because by now it was 1:30 p.m. and her 6:30 breakfast was a long way down. As we completed "just one more shot" she began to wilt and was soon looking for the nearest garbage can. After being tended to by the First Aid people and getting some lunch into her, she began to feel a little more human and we continued to rehearse. The horses were so patient with all of the commotion and with every trip across the stage, they gave their best. On occasion the dry ice made the floor a little slippery so we had to make sure the footing had enough traction for them to start up again after stopping. We wondered if we were doing something wrong, because there were so many rehearsals but it turned out that the dancers had difficulty with coordinating moves, as well as a pair of split pants!
In the movie business, when the actual filming takes place it is referred to as "on the day" or the "day of". As shots were being set up during the rehearsal, the "second team" would sit in so that measurements could be taken. Finally, "the day" came and the stars who had been waiting in their rooms back stage replaced the "second team", who had been standing in until that time. Ms. MacLaine was very focused on the task at hand and mainly kept to herself when she was on the set. However, she expressed concern for Coreen's well being and even had one of her assistants bring one of her herbal remedies for upset stomach. And she, like everyone else, couldn't resist commenting on the little horses.
The hands of the clock continued to turn and the pattern of rehearsal and filming continued as well. By 6:30 p.m. we thought we must have been getting close to being finished because there was more focus on another part of the story.
Chieftain and Buckwheat had already won the hearts of everyone, not only because like all miniature horses they are a novelty and they're so cute, but because of their patience and exemplary behaviour. Time and time again, a new person would come by and be shocked that they were standing beside "real horses"! At the supper break, we took them outside to have a snack on the boulevard and to stretch their legs. They literally stopped traffic! Motorists couldn't believe their eyes!
Back inside again, we found ourselves a comfy spot back stage and waited for the director to call for the horses. Near midnight, we wondered if there had been a mistake. Were we really still needed? Yes indeed. Another idea for a scene involving the horses had come up. This time the scene was shot back stage with Coreen attempting to assist a ruffled Mary Kay (Ms MacLaine) into the carriage. When we finally finished this shot, the clock showed 12:35 a.m. We had been on the set for 15 hours.
During the time we had between filming, we examined our carriage more closely. Our agreement with the company had been that they would rent our carriage and attach a temporary fixture, which we would be allowed to keep when our carriage was returned to us in its original state. Imagine our heartache when we realized that the alterations to our carriage had been made permanent. Parts that got in the way of attaching the crown had been sawed off and the attachment had been welded to the frame. It seems that there had been a communication breakdown somewhere and the instruction to make a fixture that could be attached temporarily had been lost along the way.
Greg stood by us throughout our negotiations with the company and eventually the situation was resolved. We were able to keep the original carriage in its altered state and a new carriage was ordered. Unfortunately, we were unable to use the carriage during the summer months for a family reunion, another wedding, parades and a horse drawn vehicle display because it didn't arrive until September. We look forward the future when we can take it with us to a number of events. Who knows, we may even be able to take the altered carriage, the "pink pumpkin" as we have dubbed it, out to some of the events as well.
"Hell on Heels: The Battle of Mary Kay" was aired in the
fall we pulled up our chairs with popcorn in hand. When all was said
and done, our "appearance" lasted about 10 seconds and the
horses could hardly be seen because of the dancers in front of them!
Oh well, I guess that's show biz! At least we can brag about being
in the movies with Shirley MacLaine! Better still, we can brag that
movie stars live right here on our farm. Buckwheat and Chieftain have
always been stars in our eyes, but now they have hit the big screen,
be it ever so briefly!
Proud to be Canadian!
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