Words and picture commentary by sweet set soldier Stefanie. The videos are a nice addition. We haven’t had too much of that and video commentary is always fun
Admittedly I have not read the Water for Elephants (insert gasp), so while at the sets and base camp I may have missed out on some nuances that book fans would without doubt know, and can call me out on! I usually read books after seeing the movie, but I am planning to make an exception for WFE!
I found out about the TN/GA shoot from your website and then immediately started doing research trying to figure out where the most likely shooting locations were. It worked out that the same weekend WFE was going to be in TN was the same weekend I was going to already be up that way. Luckily my friend, Brittany, was all for visiting the WFE sets on our way home from Nashville. (I’d won a trip to the Eclipse premiere and she was the one who went with me so we were on the same page about the whole “seeing Rob in person” thing. hehe) Once in Chattanooga we headed to the TVRM (Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum), and walked around a bit. We saw the crew working on the caboose, and it looked like they were putting new doors on it, as well as new railing, and adding some other details.
I have to give props to the guys that were out there working Sunday (and also Tuesday when we were at base camp—that’s literally the hottest I’ve ever been in my life! I think the heat index was 105, and then it rained!). I was born and raised in the South but I can’t stand the heat. I commend their work effort. Whew!
After TVRM, we headed into downtown Chattanooga. We may or may not have been hoping to magically stumble across Rob. No sightings that day though. If you’re ever near Chattanooga check it out because it’s a beautiful little city. After sweating off about 5 pounds from walking around, we made our way to Chickamauga. Let me stop right here and say that while, yes it was insanely muggy when we got there and I don’t know how the cast and crew were able to stand the heat–in wool much less!–, it is so gorgeous out there!
It’s in a valley and all down that road there are cows, donkeys, horses, goats, etc…While we were taking pictures of the house, the lady who owns it drove up to us and we spoke for a bit. I asked her if it’d been really crazy there ever since it’d gotten out that filming was happening at her house. She said it had been, but that it had calmed down a bit since they wrapped Friday. Can you imagine having no one give a hoot about your empty house that’s in the middle of nowhere, then all of a sudden people of all ages are stopping by to take pictures of it?!
Cut to Tuesday, August 3: We headed back up to Chattanooga and got there around 11:15 that morning, but when we got to TVRM the Benzini trains were gone. Luckily, the day before I’d read that they might not be filming at the museum, and so I did some detective work with the help of Google maps and kind of guesstimated as to where else they might be if not at TVRM. Back to Tuesday morning: It took us no time at all to get to Chattanooga, but we ended up driving around for an hour trying to figure out how to get to the set. We’d come across those yellow signs that direct you to set, so I knew we were in the right place, we just weren’t allowed to go through. By some miracle, we were let through at one of the road blocks, and then finally spotted base camp! They were shooting on and around the bridge that was to the right of us, but they were too far into the woods for us to actually see the filming take place. However, the TVRM 610 engine they were using to pull the train cars went by on the bridge a couple of times.
We got to see the finished product of the caboose, and as you can see in the video there were some guys just hanging out on one of the train cars! It was exciting because you could hear the train behind the trees and there was always a moment of anticipation as to whether or not it’d be passing by us again. In the video you can see that some of the train cars clearly say “Tennessee Valley” on the side facing us, however, as you can see in the other pictures I took they do in fact have signs posted on them that say “Benzini Bros. Circus”. Also, because the plywood is visible on our side of “Benzini” containers we realized that they must be shooting the opposite side of the train.
Not even 45 minutes after we got there Rob’s SUV drove down from the set and passed right by us. I wasn’t even sure it was him, but I could see the outline of the back of his head through the tinted windows and then was like, “Oh yeah, that’s him!” So we proceeded, ehem, very quickly across the street toward the actors’ trailers. There may have been running/scurrying on my part! While Tuesday wasn’t our first time seeing him, (we saw him when he came into the theatre at the premiere but we weren’t exactly in the front row LOL), it was great because we were much closer this time around. By the time we left that night at around 8:15, there were at least 100 fans at base camp. Throughout the day the numbers had grown, but it blew me away just how many people showed up. I apologize ahead of time for my Rob pics. While taking them I didn’t realize I hadn’t zoomed in all the way! Bummer.
Overall, we had a blast. I know I’ve complained about the heat, but honestly, in the grand scheme of things that was nothing. This was one of those rare opportunities that we had to take and just tough it out with the heat! When is Rob ever in the South? Never! So while it was hot, we got over it because we knew we were getting to witness some pretty awesome stuff. I can’t wait to see this movie! The part I’m most excited about is the cinematography. They’ve shot in some great locations and I have a feeling this is going to be a beautiful film. I hope y’all like the pictures. Maybe once I’ve read WFE I’ll be able to appreciate them even more!
Agreed, Stefanie! This will be a gorgeous film. We’re all excited about the cinematography.