A few months back, my friend and I stopped at the office after work for a dose of ambiance and personality-enhancing libations. Bellied up beside us sat a fine young man who introduced himself and explained that he was visiting from California to work on production of a commercial. That explained his clean-cut bearing and fancy iPhone… Meanwhile, as I was looking for extra work, I bought him another designer draft and set to work selling my wares.
Long story short, I met the rest of the crew and subsequently went to work as a production assistant. It really should be mentioned that I came into this with a wee bit of skill beyond the audacity of last call as I had recently completed a brief gig as a movie production assistant for a Disney film that was supposedly taking place here.
When a person that is well-versed in coastal fisheries and the subtle nuances of the Alaska drinking culture signs on to work as a cog in the wheel of an established So-Cal film venture, all parties stand to gain a bit of insight on how the other half lives and works. I certainly benefited from the experience of seeing how the extensive conception and launch of vignettes were pieced and parced to ultimately yield a 60-second commercial, and on the flipside, I suspect that these visitors learned a bit about our “little drinking town with a fishing problem.”
Fast-forward to January 2009, when the completed commercial is officially out: it’s accessible on youTube (and now, WSW!). A haunting melody sets the mood for a provocative little peek into the world of Sitka, Alaska where,
“…At the end of the day… everyone’s attention turns to the sea…”
Screeeeeeech! WTF? I was not notified of this! Where is my memo?
Let’s examine further, shall we?
On opening, a sweet-faced child is eagerly tracing a cryptic message onto foggy window glass. Is this a sign, a hidden code, or a warning, perhaps? The accordion music builds slightly, and tension mounts as a float plane glides across the water and birds scatter away from a lone bicyclist on a eerily quiet street.
At nine seconds, another layer is revealed when a fetching young woman is depicted hanging a strand of abalone shells on a clothesline. While this appears innocent to the untrained eye, any coastal Alaskan person – particularly of the female persuasion, would notice certain incongruencies that indicate the sinister undertones of the entire scenario, beginning with the obvious: The mystery of raingear floating in the breeze. Aha – big red flag! Absolutely no one hangs raingear by the elastic suspenders because the wind action will cause irrevocable stretching. In fact, no one hangs raingear, period – or much else, for that matter – on an outdoors clothesline here simply because of the rain forest factor: clothing doesn’t dry outside, it mildews.
Now, for the perplexing strand of abalone shells: What does it mean?!? To the casual observer, it most likely implies that we Sitka chicks always hang our seashells out to dry; however, to the insider, the statement is less than transpicuous: Women are communicating in code. Perhaps they are telling each other that there is a fabric sale at the local craft store, or maybe that its safe to hide the guns, keep the abalones, but my gut says its most likely a cue – not to each other, but to their lovers (read: luh-vuz) – that the coast is clear!
I back this notion up with the submission that most of our commercial fleet does not day-fish… Rather, the aggregate fleet generally goes to sea for significantly longer stretches of time in order to work within the parameters of weather conditions, biomass, and regulations. That said, if a person were to plan ahead, it would, hypothetically, be a nearly ideal scenario in which to carry out any order of precarious liaison. Taking things a step further, one could speculate that if a more clandestine version of foul play were to occur in sleepy Sitka, while everyone’s attention was “turned to the sea,” this might elucidate the eager anticipation that prompts both young and old to run to the docks and wait for the arrival of frickin’ sea salt!
I’m just sayin’…
So there you have it: Winter in Alaska. A time when a chickee with a wee bit more imagination than she can contain all to herself has to do the word vomit thing all over her laptop, and then share it with you by pushing the “publish” button. Well yeah, that, and relishing memories of a great experience with the California crew from Gardiner, Inc. who knew how to make work and play come together seamlessly. I had so much fun learning about commercial production, and even more long-term jollification trying to second-guess just what our efforts would yield when all was said and done. By golly, I think the Cargill Salt commercial came out quite nice and am mighty proud to have been a part of the production. Sure would love to elaborate, but I gotta go hang something up on the clothesline right now.
*Thanks Avanta7 for the ab pic