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Part 1: Arrival In Montréal

With production of season three of Big Wolf On Campus quickly winding down, it dawned upon me that if I didn't make use of a long-standing invitation to visit the set, the opportunity would pass me by completely. I spent Tuesday, December 4th, visiting the Big Wolf studios, which happened to be the next-to-last day of taping. This ridiculously comprehensive summary covers pretty much everything I can remember in far, far too much detail.

The final traditional episode, What's The Story, Mourning Corey, was well underway, guest-starring Corey Feldman as himself on the hunt for his similarly named brother-in-arms, Corey Haim. Big Wolf co-creator and executive producer Peter Knight picked me up from my hotel around noon and, after a brief conversation, asked if I'd be interested in hearing a song of Danny's. The tune, which is apparently not titled "Sleeping With The Enemy" as the chorus would seem to indicate (I think Danny called it "Pillowbox" or something along those lines) is one of precious few songs that strike me as being both really great and something I could still imagine hearing on the radio. (Sorry if I sound pretentious, but I'm a former college radio DJ, and distaste for nearly everything has been brow-beaten into me.) Danny's music doesn't come across as an actor indulging himself, like Keanu Reeves with Dogstar or even Corey Feldman and his rather unimaginatively-titled group The Corey Feldman Band. Danny's immensely talented, and I'm looking forward to hearing more. Anyway, even before we had a chance to park, we ran into Domenic Di Rosa (no, not literally). Tim wasn't slated to appear in What's The Story..., but Dom seems to just get a kick out of hanging around on the set.

Peter took me around the Big Wolf offices and introduced me to much of the staff. The Merton statue from She Will, She Will Rock You and Stone Free is on prominent display in his office, holding a bouquet in one hand and alternately used as a coat rack of sorts. Peter proudly pulled out a vinyl copy of KISS' oft-maligned 1981 prog-rock concept album Music From 'The Elder', revealing that the cover inspired one of the final shots of Everybody Fang Chung Tonight, when Cassandra pays the Syndicate a late night visit. There's a fair amount of KISS fandom, genuine or not, throughout the offices. The 'KISS Big Wolf Goodbye' passes to the wrap party were clearly inspired by the band, and Danny has a monstrous poster (my faulty memory seems to point to Dynasty, but I'm probably misremembering) in his dressing room. The Elder revelation led to a brief swapping of trivia, and I offered the most obscure in-joke that came to mind. In Muffy The Werewolf Slayer, there's a shot of Merton in the Pleasantville High cafeteria, reading Fangoria. That issue had the New Brunswick-lensed Hemoglobin on the cover, a film that would later be released as Bleeders and was directed by Peter Svatek, who happened to helm Muffy. Svatek didn't get the reference, even when Danny spelled it out for him later.

Next, we hit one of the editing suites, where I noticed that the footage on-screen was letterboxed to 16x9. Being the film geek that I am, I asked if the series was shot on Super 16, which has become one of the formats of choice for many television shows future-proofing for HDTV and PAL Plus. I was floored to learn that this season is shot on HD video, skipping any celluloid intermediary steps entirely. Unlike most other HD series nowadays which bear that unmistakable high-constrast video appearance (Tales From The Neverending Story, to name one), Big Wolf still looks very film-like. The transition to video, apparently due in large part to Director of Photography John Dyer, was seamless, or at least seemed that way to me. Peter noted that he'd be interested in ABC Family letterboxing the series at some point. For the curious, the first two seasons where shot on Super 16, and John Dyer joined the series in its second season.

Among the other folks upstairs that I was introduced to was Bram Eisenthal, the publicist who sent me several autographed items that were doled out as part of a contest shortly after the launch of season three. That morning, Bram was passing around a newspaper article boasting Big Wolf's Feldman/Haim connection, a story that would likely be picked up by hundreds of papers throughout Canada. I also met Christian Gagné, the line producer for the series. Much of the success of season three can be attributed to Christian, who marshalled the limited resources available and eked out greater bang-for-the-buck than anyone thought feasible. Christian also provided a primer to Québécois profanity and discussed its religious-based origins at length.

Peter and I then hit the writing room, which I'm sure was given a significantly snazzier name that I've since forgotten. This is where the various Big Wolf scribes bounce ideas off each other and break episodes down act by act on a large white board. I don't recall what was on the board at the time, but Peter didn't feel it was representative of the process and cleared all the text off before I could snap any shots with my camera. A couple of covers from Filles d'Aujourd'hui, one with Danny and the other featuring Brandon, were taped on the door.

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