May The Force Be With You

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Sometimes there is doubt surrounding these columns, my father-in-law, will ask, “did that really happen?” Sometimes I’ll even ask this question myself. What you are about to read would be a good case in point;

My PRACTICAL SILESIAN WIFE was on a 24hour duty, leaving me with our five and four year old girls. We were coming out of the Market Square in Gliwice after a bit of shopping so I had the following on my person; a Star Wars Magazine, a bag of cranberries and a five-litre box of apple juice. Taking the shortest route home, we inadvertently turned onto a film-set.

Yep, a film-set. Before I knew it, a crew member (my guess is he was an assistant director) told me to get off the street as fast as I could. No problem, I told him. He walked with me down the street. A few seconds into the walk, his tone got panicky – he told me I wasn’t moving fast enough, the crew had a shot lined up and I needed to be gone. I was doing my best, but it wasn’t easy, not with my hands full and trying to make two tired children walk in straight line.

It wasn’t good enough for this guy, whom I later found out was called Robert. I’ve been around a few film sets and I know there is always someone putting pressure on the ADs and it’s their job to pass that pressure on. I understood where he was coming from and there was an option for me at this stage to put my head down, accept his low-level aggression and say nothing. But I couldn’t. You see, if there’s a whiff of coercion, or a lack of consideration, I don’t go quietly. I stopped and told Robert to relax, told him I’d be off the street in two minutes. I wasn’t prepared for what happened next –

Robert kinda, sorta, tried to pick me up. Or tackle me, I’m not sure. I’d like to think Robert is a good guy, and he doesn’t do this regularly, but there is a tendency among certain Polish men to go primitive at the slightest bit of stress. Irish film crews get just as anxious, but they’ll turn on the charm, or use hard logic to get what they want. Violence wouldn’t be the last option. It wouldn’t even be an option.

My daughters were holding on to my legs as he rammed himself into me. A few gasps went up from the film crew and assorted extras. There was more than a touch of Brokeback Mountain in the way one of his hands went between my legs and the other looped over my shoulder. But he couldn’t move me, largely due to the weight of the five litres of apple juice. Next thing I knew I was surrounded by four other film crew guys, coming on heavy with threats. These were no rough hooligans. They were middle-class, English-speaking guys and from the language they were using my children didn’t seem to exist. I don’t like fighting. I’m not good at it and with this in mind, I went all Gandhi on their asses; I sat down and had myself a peaceful protest.

So they said they were going to call the police. I told them this was a good idea. So I just sat there in the middle of this film set. Strange feeling having forty people glare at you, while the four film crew guys kept shouting in my face. And all because I didn’t jump fast enough when they shouted. Couldn’t they have given me thirty extra seconds to get off the street? It’s only a film for godsakes, my wife has been in ER rooms with less hysteria. I was verbally attacked by two drunks a year ago, but I have to say, this was worse.

And it begs the question, what kind of attitude is prevalent among a film crew, where a man who is going home with his daughters can be forcibly manhandled for…what? Not walking quick enough? I asked Robert to apologize. He wouldn’t apologize. The City cops arrived, took one look at the scene and walked away. Ten minutes later the film’s producer came over and asked me to leave. I said I would if Robert and the Gang of Four apologised.

She asked Robert to apologise and his reaction was insane – he ran five metres, threw off his jacket and started screaming at the ground. (If their film has half the drama of the ten minutes they wasted with me, then it’s going to be a hit). I took one look at this and realized Robert’s problems ran deeper than I initially thought. I told the producer, Gosia, that I would go, and I walked with my girls down the street. I tried to get it across to her how wrong their attitude was. I told her there was a way of dealing with the public who mistakenly walk through a public film set. Gosia looked at me and laughed before she walked away.

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