Working Crew on Survivor TV Show: pt 3 – Mishaps and Misadventures Behind Scenes
In my last Thailand Survivor update, Crew Life, I left off in the thick of frenzy busyness. My immediate supervisor, Wendy, and I were running around doing the work of three people, since Wendy’s immediate boss had quit a few days into the production.
We were still waiting for her replacement to arrive from Australia. Meanwhile, we and our Thai crew were busy pitching tents and filling them with beds, cabinets, tables and linens.
The head of our Unit Department was out with dengue fever for two weeks. His assistant, Kat, worked directly with Wendy and I as our ‘co-ordinator’ between the office and field, telling us which tasks needed to be done next. Kat managed the office work and decision making while Wendy and I were out in the field, implementing orders.
As the first month of production set-up rolled along Wendy, Kat, and I became progressively more exhausted. While Wendy and I were doing the work of three, Kat was covering for the Head Boss.
Then Kat’s boyfriend fell victim to dengue fever and was shipped to the hospital on the Thai mainland. Kat soon became emotionally fried. We were all yearning for a much-needed day off.
That’s when it happened: Wendy and I had an accident…
In order to get around the sprawling town we were building on Koh Tarutao island and to haul tents, room contents and Thai staff, we drove big bulky ATVs with trailers attached. On my second day of crew work, the production team had taught me how to drive the ATVs and handed one over to me. Those dune buggies were great fun to drive. Except one day… I ran over Wendy! Big Ooopps!
Actually, I didn’t run her over. Not completely. She had jumped off the ATV to push from behind when we got stuck in deep sand. While pushing, the back wheel cover pinned her leg against a big log. Blam!
Quite luckily, I looked back and stopped. Thankfully, Wendy only suffered a big bash along her shin– a bruised bone and muscles. Ouch!
Wendy believed it happened because we were both over-exhausted and weren’t thinking clearly.
The first few days after the accident, we thought Wendy was fine. But gradually her leg became so painful that she couldn’t sleep. The medics sent her off to the hospital on the Thai mainland for an x-ray.
As it turned out, her leg wasn’t broken but did have a serious infection. She stayed in the hospital for 2 1/2 days, which gave her a much-needed rest. She’d been working 10 days longer than me without a day off.
However, Wendy’s departure meant that I was now the only one doing the work of three! At that point, three weeks into production set-up, Wendy and I had been pressed to get everything done in time, as a team of two. Now I had to finish it on my own.
We were at a crucial point in the production set-up. It was just one week before ‘Critical Mass’: the arrival of all the producers, directors, and large crew of camera, sound, lighting and production people.
The entire purpose of our job from the start was to be completely prepared for that mass arrival of the film crew.
Wouldn’t you know it: just then the girl hired to replace Wendy’s supervisor finally arrived. I know it seems like that would have been good thing. However, to the contrary, she needed to be trained.
Guess who was there to train her? Me! I thought, “Now wait a second, I’m supposed to train this girl to be my boss and make a huge salary while I’ve been working nearly for free on Thai wages? And I’m running everything. What?!”
That was just too much for me, and I told Kat so. I told her that if our boss wanted to hire me to train someone he could, but it wasn’t part of my current job description. In response, he extended my bonus another week.
About that same time, Kat had had enough herself. She left to visit her boyfriend in the hospital.
Literally, everyone in my unit had gone off to the hospital except me. The head boss was out with dengue fever. Wendy had a severely infected leg. And Kat was nursing her boyfriend in hospital.
As a result, I ended up running everything while simultaneously training the new girl, Ruby, to replace me! There I was, running an entire department of Survivor Thailand!
Critical Mass week was fast approaching. When the film crew arrived, it was our job to escort them to their new homes: the hundreds of tents we’d pitched and organized. We were about to be confronted with masses of arrivals.
Luckily, Ruby had done that particular job before. She didn’t need to be trained from scratch. She just needed to learn the specific organization and locations for this particular production. Thankfully, she turned out to be quite competent and jumped right in.
But for about two days while Ruby got up to speed, I was basically running the whole unit department housing show! And I loved it!
The extra responsibility did take it’s toll in exhaustion, especially since by then I’d been working on entire month without a day off. The last day or two I got really close to the breaking point. I was sure to let everyone know I was ready to crack. I needed a day off real bad…
Finally things eased up. Wendy got back from the hospital. She couldn’t walk or get around but she could direct things from the office. Our big boss also finally got back after recuperating from dengue fever. Kat returned a day later.
And so, at long long last, one month and one day of production work later, I finally got a day off. In fact, I got two days off. I needed them and everyone knew it.
I was so exhausted that I slept the entire first day. I slept in my tent until morning, then slept out on the beach until it rained, then climbed back into my tent for more sleep. I managed to get up long enough to eat lunch, then went back for more sleep. Later I ate dinner then slept again until morning.
That did the trick. By the second day I finally felt like myself again. I was rested and energetic. I rode my bike across the island and over the mountains to the spot where the art department had been busily building the main film set, a replica Thai temple. It was an amazingly authentic, full-sized replica.
Back at the main production area, I walked around taking pictures of the tent city we’d built, our Thai labor crew, the art department team making props, and of many new friends.
Later I kayaked up a river to explore a very cool cave with two cameramen. That trip ended dramatically when one guy slipped getting back into his kayak and a flying paddle cut open his forehead! He had to paddle back with blood pouring down his face.
When we arrived back at the production, the poor guy had to endure a long radio search to find the medic. It was after hours. Eventually the medic appeared and deftly sewed three stitches in his forehead.
In any event, my two days off did me a world of good. When I got back to work people said I looked 5 years younger. That’s always nice to hear. :)
Join me on my next update when I relate the crazy, horrid mess that unfolded during Critical Mass week at our carefully-prepared tent city.
Meanwhile, you might like to read my previous update: Crew Life on Survivor Thailand