Everyone laughs when you pull on an orange mustang suit at the Thunderdome.
You’re instantly transformed into an oversized Oompa Loompa or a character from “Armageddon,” waddling toward your date with destiny. But it’s all part of the fun and good for some comic relief– especially when it’s on national television.
I saw the call for “talent” on the Skagway Bulletin Board: a search for locals excited about Ocean Raft Alaska. So I went on the hunt for friends who were as equally excited about stardom as I. I found Julianne and Haylie.
Our casting call featured the three of us crammed in front of a webcam, answering questions about why we love Ocean Raft and why we’re in Skagway. And somehow, we sealed the deal. Two weeks later we were up at 5 a.m., getting “cute and lively” for our 6 a.m. close-up: two things that do not go together. I am not a morning person, but I rallied.
This wasn’t my first time on TV. I was a reenactor on Alaska Haunting last fall, a show covering ghostly encounters at the Red Onion Saloon. Now having been involved in two different shows on two different networks, I have learned one constant to be true: you’ve got to hurry up and wait.
We sat inside the dome on Congress Way for what seemed like forever, watching breakfast sandwiches and smoothies float by as we listened to the grumbling in our bellies. But fame isn’t for the faint of heart, or stomach.
Thankfully the crew droned out the sound of our empty midsections with their charm and ease. Not only did they put up with our shenanigans, but they laughed along with us or maybe at us. Regardless, we were all laughing. And soon the hunger subsided.
Unexpected friends and new faces drifted into the dome. They would be riding the fame train too as extras in the boat. The 6 a.m. call time had us all wiping the sleep from our eyes, while still trying to remain “cute and lively.” And finally, the time came to suit up.
The room was suddenly filled with a horde of Oompa Loompas, all waddling around, giggling and pointing at one another. We were mic’d up and warned that each sound box cost $500, “So don’t break it.” And then we headed toward open water.
Our Director of Photography called us “Team Totes Adorbs” and occasionally “Charlie’s Angels,” probably due to our glamorous look. Added to the beauty was our graceful entrance. We were filmed getting into the raft via the “seal roll,” an elegant belly flop onto and over the boat’s outer tube. We straddled our rubber saddles and looked into the face of two Go Pro Hero 4s, up close and personal.
The boat was geared up with a total of six Go Pro cameras, two on the bow, two in the back and two in our faces, strategically placed to capture our best angles. A second boat followed along side, stationed with at least three cameras, one of which filmed in slow motion. And then there was the drone, which managed to hit the boat’s antenna only once.
Cameramen hopped between boats, sometimes filming eagles and sometimes filming us, making us susceptible to three very up-close shots. And through it all we laughed.
Ocean Raft is known for its high speeds and exciting turns. After last Saturday, no one on board is a stranger to those 360-degree spins. To get the perfect shot, Captain Heather spun us around and around and around again. Each time we had to smile, laugh and artfully scream. The first, second and even third time came naturally. But by the fifth or sixth, the excitement had begun to wear off. Thankfully by the final go-round, it was purely for the drone; so holding on was really all that mattered.
The show requires a plot. So we three were often reminded to talk about what we were seeing. “Talk about the waterfalls! Tell us everything you’re thinking.” That may have been taken too literally at times. It’s easy to forget that Alan in the back can hear everything you’re saying. Those $500 boxes certainly do the job.
We traversed the coves and falls that grace the Taiya Inlet and were reminded of the beauty we live in every day. It’s easy to become complacent and forget that we live in a rainforest filled with such a variety of flora and fauna. The hustle and bustle of buses and cruise ships can certainly make summer daunting and tiring, but remembering to breathe in the salty sea air and soak up the warm summer sun can make all the difference.
We certainly had time to soak it up. Our raft floated in the waves while the drone flew overhead, capturing shot after shot of falls and rock walls. Those Go Pros have more than a few minutes of naptime caught on film.
Around noon we headed back to town, drowsy from the sun and a bit lightheaded from a lack of food. After disrobing, grabbing lunch with the crew and a few minutes of shuteye in a patch of grass, it was time for our interviews. Sans orange suits, we perched “naturally” in front the Small Boat Harbor, drinking ice-cold water and talking about our day: over and over and over again, with a boom mic hovering just below us and our wind-matted hair clinging beautifully to our heads. All glamour, all the time.
But after eight hours of shooting, we still weren’t done. The three of us had to return the next morning to get shots of us suiting up and taking a handful of “selfies” to show just how much fun we were having. Did it even happen if you don’t have a selfie to show for it?
Our true glamour shot came at the very end. In our full-bodied, orange suits we walked down the dock toward our raft, while our DP filmed with his slow motion camera, in true “Charlie’s Angels” fashion.
We filmed some introductory interviews, said goodbye to our fantastic crew and headed back to our trailers: my 2007 Honda Civic.
In all, our time with the crew came to about 10 hours. That’s a lot of film considering our Ocean Raft segment will be five to 10 minutes in the hour-long “Alaska: Water and Ice” on the Travel Channel. It’s a reminder of how much work goes into each movie, show and even commercial that we see. It requires an extreme amount of dedication, talent and commitment to make it happen. I am excited to have been a very small part of that.
If you’re interested in seeing our claim to fame, or maybe just our striking windswept look, tune in to Travel Channel sometime around Christmas. You’ll be greeted by three neon-orange marshmallows, pointing, laughing and loving their life in Alaska.