The Middle-Age Guide to Growing Up: Multitasking!


It was the night before the federal election. I’m a pollster. That’s like Christmas Eve, only it comes once every four years, like an Olympics. It’s an event you don’t want to miss. My crew was in field polling all day (it was Sunday), and we were getting ready to release our final poll of the election. We had to get it out before 10:30 EDT, though, because that was midnight in Newfoundland and the law says you can’t release any new polling on election day itself.

It was the night before the federal election. I’m an actor. I had a film gig I thought would start around noon and be done by dinner. I don’t get a lot of these, Actor, sometimes even Principal. Maybe three or four a year, so it’s like a part-time part-time job, with unusually high pay (about $100 an hour plus residuals and buy-out). It turned out my call time was 6 PM, though, and we wouldn’t wrap until well after 3 AM on election day.

Well, this was going to be a challenge. My call was 6 PM, makeup and wardrobe at 6:30 PM and in the holding room at 7 PM to be on set at about 7:30 or 8 PM. Right when I would be getting the final numbers from programming and writing the final release. Our 10:30 deadline was going to be in the middle of shooting, an hour before the lunch call at 11 PM.

The results of the election were relatively predictable, given the trends, and it was possible to draft a dummy release that projected the outcome and left spaces for the actual numbers. We prepared that the day before and put it on ice. The shoot was an exterior, a car crash scene, and I was a victim. The weather forecast was for one of the coldest days yet that fall, minus 5 overnight. I wore my long johns, a full union suit with a bottom flap.

Wardrobe was a nice Hugo Boss suit and tie, which was a little tight over the long johns, but started out warm. Make up was more interesting. We were shooting the aftermath of an accident in which I got sprayed in the face with flying glass. A large putty (well, resin these days) welt was built up around my eye socket and coloured purple with flecks of blood. Shards of silicone glass were embedded in the welt, and sprinkled across my face and glued on. The make up required me to stow my glasses as long as I had it on, so I was functionally blind until we wrapped.

The holding room was on the eleventh floor of a condo tower blocks away from the set, and was obviously not going to be a place I could retreat to once we were called. So I got to work. I had my computer and my phone, both charged, and, using the phone as a wifi hotspot, logged on to my e-mail. The final numbers hadn’t come in yet, there was nothing I could do but wait. After several fruitless tries, we were led to the set by an AD. I took my computer with me.

On set, it was windy (we were down in a tower canyon by the lake) and cold. There was a tent with a propane heater set up several hundred yards from where we were shooting, and it soon became everyone’s refuge. I had a parka I was wearing over the suit, dumping it for shots.

We rehearsed, and I realized I was too far from the action to see my cue to walk into the scene. With embarrassment, I asked another AD if he’d use his functional eyes to take the cue for me then wave his arm, a motion I could barely see in the dark.

We shot the master once, then again, then again. The crew was setting up for the final take when my iPhone pinged (the computer was in my bag in the tent). The numbers were in. It was now about 9 PM. I opened the text of the dummy release we’d written, then switched it for the phone screen, called my team, and switched back to the text. I started dictating the revisions to the dummy release, just as the First AD shouted “first positions, everybody”. I said “hold on, I’ll call you back in a few minutes”.

We finished with the master and then started setting up for the coverage. I usually follow the business of film making with interest, but I couldn’t even see where the camera was in the dark, and I could barely see enough to hit my marks.

I got back on the iPhone, and dialed the office, and opened the text again. We managed, by some magic juggling, to revise the release. By now it was about 10 PM.

We were deep into the coverage of a fairly complex, walking scene, and my close up was here. I did my first take straight at the camera, stumbling across the street and shouting that I had glass in my eyes and couldn’t see. A tow truck driver comes to my assistance and guides me to an ambulance. In the middle of the first take, the iPhone pinged. I quickly turned it to vibrate and hoped no one had heard. Three more takes, and there was a camera re-set for another angle.

I rushed over to the tent with my iPhone and checked the mail. The revised release was there, good-looking and ready to go. It was 10:10 PM. I texted in to the team to release to a popular youth-oriented news website just as the AD came up and said “there you are, we’ve been waiting, we’re set for your close-up”

The night didn’t end until 5 AM, and I went home and slept until 10 AM. I had voted in the advance polls so there was no need to leave the house on election day. In fact, I never left my pajamas. As I watched the results roll in later that night, it became clear our poll had been the most accurate prediction of all the many polls released in the final days of the campaign. Oh, and I can chew gum and walk at the same time, too.