Written by Ryszard Hunka/Jackie Carlos
The Hunts Point Produce Terminal in the Bronx.
It’s 6 am in the world’s largest fruit and vegetable wholesale market.
And we’ve been filming all night. The loading docks are crazy busy. Boxes of fruits and vegetables are stacked floor to ceiling all the way along the crowded loading docks. Everywhere, men race by in electric forklifts, moving boxes from truck to floor, from floor to truck. There’s intense action, and for many workers there, the novelty factor of a production crew from Canada invading their space, seems to be wearing off.
Naturally, we decide this is a good time to do some long traveling shots with the Steadicam. A Steadicam is a device that allows the camera to “float” by using added weights and the camera operator’s body as a counterbalance. Pierre, our cameraman, outfits himself with the 35 kilo contraption. Ryszard, the director is assigned to carry the “coat rack,” a stand that yes, looks like a coat rack, on which Pierre can place the Steadicam to rest between takes. We’ll get some beautiful walking shots, we think. So, bleary-eyed, we are running through a crowded loading dock, with our producer Jackie running interference, Pierre precariously squeezing past pallets and people, our audio operator Daniel diverting him before he crashes into a lift of lettuce, our friendly assigned security guard trailing along, and Ryszard the director, diligently running behind carrying a coat rack.
This is not our only parade that morning.
By 7:30 am, we rendezvous with the exuberant Lex Wilder. He’s a City Harvest food rescuer capable of charming dealers, who would much rather sell their produce, into donating thousands of kilograms to feed New York’s hungry. He sets a blistering pace.
Our production crew falls behind him, and the parade is growing. We’re joined by a public relations person wearing highly unsuitable footwear. She steps gingerly between the piles of spilled, and often rotting produce.
Lex sprints across parking lots, dodging giant transport trucks loaded with food. We’re in awe of his good humour, his easy camaraderie with everyone at Hunts Point, and his success in scoring pallets of peppers and eggplants. Finally, he is whisked away by his handler, and we’re left with our good-natured security attaché, as the sun rises over the Bronx, and glitters in the distance on the skyscrapers of Manhattan.
Our motley parade has one final mission.
Back down to four production crew members and our ever-present security guard, we try to find the elusive “scale” shot - a view of the market from above to convey its size. Alas, this building is only a few stories high and doesn’t promise the vista we’re hoping for. We decide to lug our heavy HD camera up anyway to try, and squeeze up a steep ladder, onto the roof.
The view is underwhelming, but the final moments with our security man are fascinating.
“Tsunami” is a personable young guy who looks as if he’s in his teens. He tells us about his dream to be a filmmaker, and how he works all night at the produce market to finance going to college during the day. Astoundingly, he tells us that also managed to fit in two tours of Iraq along the way.
As our motley parade clambers down we forget that we’re exhausted. Chance meetings and connections with young men like Tsunami are one of the bonuses of a production day that’s sometimes chaotic, but now and again takes you behind the scenes to a world you barely knew existed.
Waiting For Bananas
(with apologies to Samuel Beckett)
At the docks of the New York Container Terminal, Staten Island. Daytime. It is a beautiful day.
Waiting to film a ship loaded with bananas are: RYSZARD, the director, JACKIE, the producer, PIERRE, the Director of Photography, and DANIEL, the soundman.
Ryszard: It is a beautiful sunny day. Perfect to film a ship arriving.
Pierre: The light is perfect.
Jackie: It should be here soon.
(an hour passes)
Ryszard: Where is the ship? It should have arrived by now.
Jackie: They said it would come. It will come.
Pierre: It’s ok, the light is still perfect.
(two hours pass)
Ryszard: The ship it hasn’t arrived!
Jackie: I feel like a failure as a producer. They say it will be here.
Pierre: The light is not as good.
(another hour passes.)
Ryszard: Where is it? How can they not know when it will be here? My life is ruined!
Jackie: I found out it was stopped by the Coast Guard for a surprise inspection. Now we don’t know when it will come.
Pierre: Mon Dieu! I am losing the light. It is not perfect!
(three hours pass. Darkness.)
Jackie: Oh look! The ship it is coming! It is coming!
Ryszard: Hoorah! Pierre film the ship! Film the ship!
Pierre: Even though the light is not good, I am filming it. I am filming it!
Daniel: Would you guys shut up! I’m trying to record the audio!