Monday, May 24, 2010

Behind the Scenes

You know how people with big hair say it's "where I keep my secrets"? Well, I feel sort of the same about the poofy, damaged spools of blonde hair covering my head. My hair can get so wild when I wake up, my friends refer to it as "sex hair" or "the poodle". And now that it is getting hot in Burgos, it only gets wilder. But I digress. On this fine Monday morning, I took the time to deep-condition my hair, which I'd put through the wringer over the past few days. As I stood bent over my bathroom sink rinsing it free of conditioner, I was thinking about the reason my hair needed some special treatment to begin with. And the reason wasn't great sex. I'd been straightening, curling and teasing my hair for a part I was playing in a short film.
a horribly appropriate still from our production, WRONG
For the final project in my Film class, it was my assignment to write, shoot, and produce a short film with a group of classmates. My fellow Bostonian Sima and I joined a group consisting of our classmates Isabel, Juan, and Juan Carlos, who quickly became our amigos. As I thought about the four grueling days of night shoots, hectic schedules, and wardrobe malfunctions I realised how lucky I was to be here at that moment: hunched like Quasimodo and half-dead. But in Spain.
with my co-star Amiran, who is Georgian originally, but who cares
I've come to realise that coming to Burgos to participate in an immersion program so obscure that my own university's renowned international relations department doesn't even know it exists ... was probably one of the best decisions I've ever made. There are times that I wished I lived in a bigger city, like Madrid. But not only have I begun to appreciate the quirks of little Burgos, I take into account the unique opportunity I've had here.

For one thing, my castellano (español for español) has improved from the level of a slightly stupid five-year-old's to practicamente fluido. I still need to learn some situational vocabulary, but if I tried to count the number of words I have learned in addition to my newfound mastery of the vosotros form, my head would explode.

For another thing, and this being the main reason, I think of my Spanish friends. And this morning in particular, I was thinking about my Film group and our project. Being in a program of 3 American girls, we can tend to get tired of being together 100% of the time and get a bit snippy. And while being in a group of 20 American students (like in other study abroad programs) would be fun, it's been a really wild ride so far making friends with the teepeecal Espanissh.

We started out as classmates and ended up as housemates/pets/family and above all, friends. By the time we had to shoot the production, Sima and I had been sharing a mattress in Juan Carlos and Isabel's living room, dubbed ourselves their pets, made a giant American breakfast for a group of 8, and started calling Juan Carlos "Mom". It goes without saying we're very close.

* see footnote

The next time I have a calimocho, I'll be sure to toast to any given experience I've had with my co-stars/writers/producers. I now know how to make a Spanish tortilla (potato omelette), thanks to Juan Carlos. I've developed a mental rolodex of curse words and slang. And I'm never going to forget the muy interesante night our group and their housemates took us out to a teepeecal Espanissh joint called Patillas. With its walls plastered with newspaper clippings, wallet-sized ID photos, and mounted guitars, Patillas had character. As we sipped 1Euro Mahou's a man played guitar while a woman sang Spanish folk songs. And pretty soon, the whole bar was singing and clappign right along with them, requesting encore after encore. We ended up sharing a table with a middle-aged ballet instructor named Blanca. The woman defined hot mess as she drunkenly yet gracefully handed out her business card to us. All of 5 feet tall, she had three times my constitution for beer, so naturally, we all got along well. When the ancient bartender waved a picket sign that said "a la puta calle" (Get the fuck out!), we invited Blanca to come with us. The next stop was a rockabilly bar where Blanca and I decided we shared one soul. At the end of the night, we all exchanged phone numbers with our middle-aged reincarnated Spanish Tinkerbell.
One of my favourite photos ever, a very intense still I'm super proud of

That was only two weeks ago, but it has felt like forever considering how hard we've been working. The past 4 days have been non-stop line-memorizing, filming, and editting. Early mornings involved filming at Historical Burgos locations, such as the Gothic Cathedral or pilgrims' hostels. Late nights involved filming dinner over tapas and a brutal fight scene. Several brief scenes took hours to film if there were too many people in the street or one actor had trouble with his or her lines. And on the second day of shooting, someone forgot to pack the most important prop and we were stalled by over 90 minutes. After 4 days of stifling this exhausting assignment, we wrapped at 1 a.m. last night, set a date for the premier party, and said goodnight before going our separate ways to bed. All for a film we've calculated to be less than 10 minutes long.

Now on the morning after, I'm not just washing the grime of hard work but a little glamour of partaking in the film industry. What I do want to leave in my tangled mop of blonde, though, is the memory of being a part of something longer-lasting than a calimocho or a digital photograph. For the same reason that I have developed a lisp, consider clapping an art form, and drink Bailey's at lunchtime: because I've got reasons to call Spain home.
* photo courtesy of fellow blogger Sima Kalmens. To see her Spain/travel blog go to

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the blog! If you want to keep up with your Spanish online or on your iPhone a good service is ( Buen viaje!


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