Back at the beginning of March, my husband and I were working for a big company, in a software studio in my town, with a bunch of other people on a project (meaning, maintaining and developing a piece of software that is already on the market and people do use). Then, as does happen in the software industry, the company cut the project, laying off everyone who worked on it, including both me and my husband. Now this was only half of a bad thing. We had known layoffs were coming and the first person who was going to be cut was me, so I was not surprised, and we had already decided that we were comfortable with me not working, and I was actually looking forward to being a housewife for a while. My husband getting laid off, well, that was a shock, but we're comfortable enough to be able to live for a year probably without jobs.
Now, before you think that this becomes a tale of woe, I'll just tell you how that part all came out. Two weeks later, the company sold the project to another company, and the new company offered everyone on the team positions to continue working on it. So, we were very lucky and are employed. So, on to the more interesting part of the story.
A couple of days after being laid off, we started wondering what we should do with our time, and I remarked as a joke that since I had just received my passport for the Britain trip, "I'm going to hop a train to Victoria and chase down David Tennant while he's filming Gracepoint." My husband turned to me and said, completely serious, "That's a fantastic idea. You should do it."
I was floored, on all levels. First, my husband, who's very protective of me and thinks that traveling is the number one way of putting yourself into danger, just told me to go ahead and travel to another country alone. Second, while he's not the jealous type in any way, it's another story completely to allow your wife to go stalk a celebrity. And third, yes, there's always money considerations. We're comfortable, but we're not rich. I dismissed the idea at once, saying I was just joking, and he repeated that he thought it was a good idea. And I said no. I wanted to travel, and seeing Victoria would be great, but the main purpose would be to find Mr. Tennant, and the idea of that was just too creepy.
But of course, the concept of watching a show being filmed, especially one that I actually cared about, and possibly meeting him pretty much stuck in my mind. We talked about it a few times: he kept saying I should do it and I kept saying no. Then we got hired by the new company and we went back to work, and I said, "Well, that pretty much clinches it there. No way I'm going to take time off to do something this stupid." And my husband said, "You should. You should go." I don't remember what finally changed my mind, but on some Wednesday, I finally said, "Ok, I'm going to do it," and I was on a train on Saturday morning.
The trip itself was a wonderful experience. I was traveling alone, exploring wherever I wanted to go, learning how to deal with things on my own - passports, credit cards, new customs, how to get around, etc. As I'm not much of a talker, I made a conscious effort to strike up conversations with strangers, and part of the wonder of the trip was meeting these people and hearing their stories. I didn't rent a car, and that turned out to be a good thing: when you're walking or taking the public transportation, rather than driving and trying to figure out the roads, you get to look around and actually see the place you're exploring. There are tons of things you'll miss if you're just driving by them, trying to find the right road to turn down.
Victoria is a beautiful place. It's large enough to have a good cultural presence, but small enough that you don't feel you're lost in an urban landscape. One of the things I loved doing was just walking around the downtown area, watching the people. I also visited a couple of the nearby towns, and in general, it was lovely. It's a place I'd love to retire to. Well, I'd love to move there now, but that's not going to happen, so I'll just think about retirement.
As for my reason for traveling there, I did some research before leaving and made a list of locations where they were filming Gracepoint. Oak Bay was being used for the main street of the town, a beach park (I think it was called Island View) was the setting for most of the cliffside filming, Sidney was the location of the building used for the police station, and I think the church was located somewhere near Butchart Gardens (definitely on the west side of the peninsula, anyway). I made a number of trips into Oak Bay and determined that while they had filmed there in the past, there were no plans to do so soon - the film crew notified the residents of the town ahead of time whenever they were going to film. I did get to see the Gracepoint Journal building, though.
Island View park was not accessible by bus, and the church figured in so few scenes that I decided to avoid going there, so I took the bus up to Sidney. As it turned off the highway, I could see on the right a big parking lot by the visitor's center that was filled with huge white trailers and vans, like around forty of them, and I knew I was in the right place. After debarking, I went to the parking lot and found a guy there, who told me that they were filming at the police station today and gave me directions. I found it very easily, but the attendant outside its parking lot said they would be filming inside all day and evening and I would not get to see anything; the actors were already on set, so I'd have to wait a good twelve hours to see them leave.
Well, I tried. But Sidney's a pretty little town, so it was time to explore it. I wandered off and had lunch in a pub overlooking the seaside (too expensive, two tiny little pieces of fish and a small cup of fries), then wandered through the marina, then down a path above the water that passed a long L-shaped pier jutting out into the water and led down towards some nice beach apartments.
As I passed the entrance to the pier, I saw electrical cables running from the vans parked up on the road above, down through the brick circle I was standing on, out onto the pier, all the way to the end, and I knew it had to be for the filming. They started wheeling down carts of equipment, and one of the workers said that yes, they were going to be filming something in about an hour.
Well, it turned out to be about three hours, but it was worth the wait. I was quite frozen at the end of it, since I wasn't dressed quite warmly enough for the 50-degree weather and the wind chill from the constant ocean breeze, but I met production company workers, a couple who happened to be wandering past and stopped to watch the filming (though they ended up leaving before it started), and another couple who were visiting Sidney as part of their video travel blog, where they were visiting places in the U.S. and Canada that had been mentioned in song. And after about two hours of watching the production workers set up and then wait and wait and wait, Mr. Tennant arrived on set.
I have to admit I wasn't ready. He and the director came to assess the set (I assume), and they just sort of showed up. I fumbled trying to get my camera out of my backpack, with my heart absolutely racing, but by the time I got it, they had already walked out to the pier. The workers told me that no one was allowed to talk to the actors at all, but I could stand to the side and take pictures if I wanted. They stayed out on the end of the pier for about fifteen minutes, then returned back to the van that brought them, and this time, I was ready, getting a number of nice shots and hearing Mr. Tenannt's glorious Scottish brogue as they passed by. (After his first appearance arriving on set, once my heart calmed down, I had no further anxiety, but I will admit that hearing his voice in person made me melt.)
They returned another hour later to do the actual filming. By this time, I was the only gawker there; everyone else who wasn't part of the production had left. Mr. Tennant arrived, came down to the brick circle, on the edge of which I was standing, then turned around and started searching his pockets for something he was missing. He then walked out onto the pier about halfway, where they wired him for sound (I think).
Watching the filming was an interesting experience. The set was at the far end of the pier, a good two hundred feet (at least) from the shore, and no one other than those directly involved in the filming were allowed on the pier. Of course, they were in radio contact with the people on the shore, and whenever they did a take, the shore people called out, "Rolling!" We had to be completely silent because the microphones all the way out there would hear us, and in fact, they had to abort a couple of takes when passersby on the shore were picked up during the dialogue. I really couldn't see much, but it was still fascinating, and they did probably twelve to fifteen takes.
After they were done, Mr. Tennant left the pier chatting with a security guard and a woman (a producer, maybe?). I took more shots as they approached, but put my camera down because I wanted to see him directly without staring at the camera screen. When they reached the center of the brick circle, they stopped, about ten feet in front of me, and stood there for about ten seconds. I thought about calling out at that point, but as I noted before, I was told by the set manager that I was not to try to approach the actors at all, so I didn't. After that pause, Mr. Tennant looked directly at me for a moment, then resumed walking up to the van. In hindsight, I think the set manager was wrong, or at least I interpreted her wrong, and that now that the filming of the scene was over, he was expecting to be approached by fans, and he knew that I was the only person there that wasn't part of the production (and I'm sure he saw me taking pictures earlier). I do regret not calling out, but I know what to do the next time.
So, the trip was a success. But more than that. Even though I got to see Mr. Tennant in person, which was the whole point, the whole experience means so much more to me. I stepped out of my little box for a few days and went and explored the world on my own, all by myself. Canada isn't much different from the U.S., but I went to a foreign country and tried my best to meet people and do new things. This was the first time I've ever traveled anywhere without a real purpose (e.g. to go to school, to visit relatives, to meet up with friends, or for business), just for myself. And you know what? I owe it all to my husband for the most part, and to Doctor Who and David Tennant, too. I would never have even thought about doing such a thing without all three of them, as is evidenced by the fact that it took me over 40 years to try. I wouldn't have traveled to see any other actor, and part of my decision to go in the first place was because the Doctor, to me, symbolizes exploring and reaching beyond yourself, something that I try to apply to my life every day. So, thank you to all three.
Lastly, here are a few pictures proving my success. I have a lot of better pictures of Mr. Tennant, but, well, they're mine and I like them that way. :)
Gracepoint banner on street posts in Oak Bay:
Mr. Tennant arriving on set. The second person from the left is the other actor in the scene:
"Penance" scene - screenshot from Episode 3 with inset of my shot from the shore during the filming: