Ah, winter. No time of year looks so different from its actual reality. For those of us living in Northern climes, the end to this season cannot come soon enough. In honor of it being March, I daringly unsnapped the hood from my parka this morning, using only earmuffs and a scarf. Walking proud, I was.
Recently I started watching a Syfy channel show called “Helix”. It is about an outbreak of a mutant killer virus at a research station, and the CDC team sent to fix the problem. Of course, turns out there are far more nefarious things going on, and the plot twists come so fast and furious. The show isn’t great but it is great fun.
The locale for this research station is supposed to be in the Arctic, and there are frequent references to the -40 degree temperatures that exist outside. Despite that, the scenes shot outside the station are among the most laughably lame attempts to show cold I’ve ever seen.
A typical outside scene in Helix features a wind machine going full tilt, spraying soap flakes in all directions with a great howling wind sound. The people, however, appear like they are experiencing a balmy late fall day. No one is shown with a scarf wound around their hood to muffle their neck and provide a way to warm air before breathing it. Nope, these folks spend their time outside with an uncovered face having long conversations. Their noses never run and their eyelashes don’t freeze. When they finally go back inside, we never see anyone dripping snow onto the floor or see them trying to warm cold fingers.
Watching this has made me realize there’s money to be made as a winter weather consultant for the film industry, and I’m ready to be that person. My shingle is out. For a reasonable sum and a plane ticket to warm SoCal (or even just for the plane ticket) I will work with the set designers, costumers and directors to ensure that portrayals of cold weather are done correctly.
Among the services I will provide:
The all-pervasive, but seldom discussed byproduct of cold weather is over-productive mucus glands. Nothing ruins the perceived realism of a winter scene than seeing characters without this telltale sign of a truly cold day.
As snot wrangler, I’ll work with makeup artists to ensure that actors are given the right amount of snot at the right time. Anytime a character goes inside after being outdoors they should be shown with weepy eyes and red cheeks. Directors will receive a snot check-list to follow that includes direction on which character types would carry tissues, and which would use whatever item of clothing was handy. I’ll do extensive work with costumers to make sure that scarves, mittens and coat sleeves all bear the telltale marks of dried snot wipes. Finally, I’ll work with the Foley engineers until the absolute right noise is found for snot-snuffling.
Newsflash for people raised in SoCal: snow is made of water, and easily reverts to a liquid state.
In this role, I will make sure that, despite the use of Styrofoam and soap flakes, an adequate and appropriate use of puddles and drips is used in winter scenes. Never again will you see an actor go from outside to inside and remain perfectly dry. Set designs will be tweaked to add realistic looking puddles and wet spots to all entry ways. Actors shown in falling snow will be lightly sprayed to portray what happens when cold snow meets warm skin.
Winter’s dirty little secret is that it is the dirtiest season of the year. Cars are covered with a salt rime and coats are spotted with a mix of mud and salt. Scarves and gloves are stiff with snot. Go inside and it gets worse; carpeting is gritty with salt and stained from tracked in frozen dirt. Floors come in two types; wet dirty puddles or dried with crusted salt and dirt.
I will make sure that the grimy side of winter is shown in set design and costumes.
Social interaction evaluator
When the temperature is -20 (f), people walk with their hands in their pockets and hunched over to minimize exposure. Standing is never still; people hop from foot to foot or sway back and forth to generate some heat. No one wants to stand outside and have a conversation.
I’ll review the script and make sure there are no obvious misses, such as long conversations held in subzero weather. Any conversations that are left in will be edited to match the environment.
For example, the script may contain this:
Sarah: Sam, we need to talk. I’ve been thinking about you, and what we fought about. I realize how wrong I was to let you go. I love you, and I want you back in my life just as you are, not as I think you should be. If you still want to start that restaurant, I’ll support you 100%”
Sam: I knew you’d be back. Welcome to “Sarah’s Diner” (said while pulling down tarp hiding sign on building).
Sarah: Oh Sam, we can finally rekindle our relationship (cut to distance scene showing couple embracing).
Here’s how I would fix this scene:
Sarah: Sam? Is that you? Great Russian winter hat, it looks really warm. It’s so fucking cold I can’t stand it. My eyelashes are freezing shut and I can’t feel my feet, so I’ll make this quick. My apartment is freezing and I remember how warm you were. Want to hook up again? I need a good night’s sleep.
Sam: Sarah! Yes, it’s me. I hardly recognized you with the scarf wound around your face. Sounds good to me, there’s a pile of snow in front of my place I don’t want to shovel.
So, in conclusion, if you are a Hollywood movie producer reading this blog post, I would love to come out to LA to work on your movie. Or even for an interview. In the meantime, I’ll start packing my summer clothes.