OLLIE’S FORAY INTO FILM A SOGGY AFFAIR: Times Colonist October 3, 2013

4 Oct

Screen Shot 2013-10-04 at 11.38.01 AMOrdinarily, Ollie the Pug’s tail is tightly curled like a pretzel. But on this morning it was straight, like a bread stick. A wet bread stick.

It happens when he’s unhappy. And Ollie was unhappy because he’d been out in the rain at Willows Beach for several hours straight.

Our dog resembled a wet bath-mat. If you looked up the definition of “misery” in the dictionary, Ollie’s sodden face could be the illustration.

But hey, he’s in showbiz.

Last weekend, the final scenes from Hattie’s Heist, an independent film, were shot at Willows Beach. It was a gusty, rainy day. Rainy in the sense of: “Let’s rustle up Noah and fast-track that ark.” A storm, really.

Hattie’s Heist is a bank-robber flick. The criminal mastermind is an old woman called Hattie. I’m not sure of the details, but apparently walkers and mobility scooters feature prominently. Think Breaking Bad for geezers, minus the meth labs, the murders and the bad attitude.

Ollie the Pug has a microscopic role in Hattie’s Heist. He plays a dog owned by the retired policeman who is Hattie’s boyfriend. The ex-cop is played by Vancouver’s Christopher Gaze, a jolly Englishman in a red bowtie and borrowed raincoat.

Gaze, 61, trained at Bristol’s Old Vic Theatre School and founded Bard on the Beach, Vancouver’s Shakespeare festival. This morning he performed with our pug dog, who lacks formal acting experience and enjoys eating tissue paper.

In one scene, Gaze led Ollie down a soggy path. There he encountered Hattie, played by Maxine Miller. Miller, in her mid-60s, rode a mobility scooter and wore a soaked faux-fur coat. She didn’t look like she was particularly enjoying her scooter ride.

“Let’s go swinging!” said Gaze to Miller, pointing to the playground swings with the ersatz gaiety of an actor caught in a rainstorm.

“It should be, ‘Let’s go swimming!” I whispered to my wife, who is also Ollie’s trainer.

“Because it’s so wet,” I added when she didn’t respond.

“Be quiet,” said my wife. Astonishing quantities of rain splashed off the hood of her raincoat.

As instructed, we’d arrived at Willows Beach Tea Room at 7:30 a.m. on a Saturday. Because of the deluge, I’d hoped shooting would be moved indoors. No such luck.

Director John Kent Harrison said we’d shoot outside. Apparently in films, when dealing with the unexpected, you just go with it. For example, Harrison told the folk congregated at the Willows Beach Tea Room that he’d once worked with a wild bear. Later, I realized he must have been talking about the film, A Bear Called Winnie, which he directed.

“You just follow the bear,” Harrison said solemnly. “Just follow the bear.”

Everyone nodded thoughtfully. To me, following a wild bear sounded more appealing than spending 21Ú2 straight hours in the rain. People were remarkably cheerful about it, though. Cameramen gamely wrapped their cameras and bodies in plastic bags.

“We are opting to play to the rain,” declared a crew member in the manner of a general leading his troops to certain death.

“Yay!” said Kristine Ash.

Ash is the owner and trainer of Tessie, a Yorkshire terrier who is the canine lead in Hattie’s Heist. Tessie wears racing goggles and a helmet. Sometimes she goes motorbike riding with Ash, who sported a Harley-Davidson jacket.

Ollie auditioned to be the doggie lead, but lost to Tessie, who’s super smart. Befitting a star, Tessie wore a collar decorated with rhinestones glued on by Ash. Ollie stared at blinged-out Tessie admiringly, perhaps hoping they could eat tissue paper together. She remained indifferent.

Tessie was cold, too. Luckily, she had a sweater and a cosy blanket. Ollie had no sweater or blanket. Miller noticed this as we huddled miserably in the Willows Beach changing room between shoots, taking refuge from the storm.

“Can somebody get this poor dog a blanket?” Miller said.

It sounded like an order — and Miller is the star. A plaid blanket was produced. Ollie was wrapped like a sausage roll. His bread-stick tail reassumed its customary curled position.

Driving home after the shoot, we — me, my wife and Ollie — all felt happy. “Too bad about the rain,” my wife said. “So uncomfortable for everyone.”

“Uncomfortable? Perhaps,” I said. “But as they say in the movies, ‘Sometimes you just have to follow the bear.’ ”

Adrian Chamberlain

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