Observer

I spent today watching TV be produced before my eyes. Fringe, the great sci-fi series that's about to enter its fifth and final season, was filming on location just around the corner from me in Vancouver. It's one thing to love a show, but it's an entirely different experience to see it made. You kind of overlook how many people it takes to make a show, from the camera crew to the guy just holding back pedestrians from walking into shot.

It was quite the experience to see it all be pieced together, with Observers and roaming the park in front of my eyes. If that wasn't cool enough, while at first it looked like it was just a second unit crew, we discovered that some of the main cast, including Anna Torv, were up in a building preparing to shoot guns and other weapons towards those in the park. Season five, episode five, for those playing at home.

They had closed off two streets surrounding a park, with police on hand to divert traffic and ensure there weren't any problems. The space was populated by many pedestrians that would walk through despite people in fluoro vests waving at them to stop. There was a crane on one corner that was prepping for an aerial shot, while large lorries and a convoy of cars were queued on the other street for a screeching entry. There were massive fans that blew leaves and shook the trees for a nice post-apocalyptic atmosphere.

I'd found a seat on a bench, and there was another woman on the next bench along. As background actors started to trickle in, we were asked to shift a little further along and out of shot. I got the feeling she was here deliberately and sure enough, she was wearing a vest with the Fringe logo on it. She was Australian too, and as we watched the action some more friends she knew came past. It was my first taste of crazy fandom. You know, the ones that edge into creepy.

While I was hanging around at the edges and enjoying the opportunity to watch a TV show being made, these people were the kind of cringeworthy superfans that tried to proselytise curious onlookers who asked what was being filmed. "It's the best show on TV, you haven't even heard of it?!" Wince. They also acted like they knew the crew, when it was obvious to everyone else they were the kind of obnoxious hangers-on that made their lives harder. One girl dropped past who happened to be the author of the self-guided tour I'd followed earlier, and she was fairly normal, as was another fan about my age. Though one did ask if I was the guy who had posted on the Fringe forums about the walking tour, which was a surprisingly accurate stab in the dark and put me off balance for a moment. These fans pay unnerving attention.

As I was chatting to them, I learnt more about the Australian woman who I had met first. It turns out, she was definitely way out there on the stalker spectrum. She, in her forties, had quit her job, sold her house and all her possessions, to move over to Vancouver and buy a house two doors down from where Joshua Jackson lives. She is spending all her time watching as much of the filming as she can, because it's her last chance since the show is ending. And so she... moved here. Two doors from a cast member. And finds out every time they film. And watches. There was tension between her and another fan since she felt she should have been in charge of the Fringe fan convention that recently happened. Creepy, creepy vibes.

I went to get lunch and when I wandered back the filming had shifted to an alley. As the afternoon wore on we saw them piece together a scene. First, they exited the building and into a van. Next, at the other end, they got out of the van and ran off. They did that in multiple angles, then returned back the other side and did the drive down the middle, stopping and starting as inside an argument took place. I'm pretty sure I have a good idea of what the entire day's sequence was about, but I'll save the spoilers for another time.

I was taking photos and tweeting them mostly for those of my friends that are Fringe fans. Most weren't even hashtagged. And yet somehow, my tweets got picked up and quite widely circulated. People must honestly have been searching Twitter for 'Anna Torv' mentions and found me. I was reblogged on Facebook (17 likes and counting). I was retweeted, favourited, and followed more than in recent memory. Fringe fan sites had posted links to my tweets and offered readers advice about which ones were spoilers. I hadn't put any thought to that, since it wasn't for anyone but my friends. Very strange to see it mysteriously blow up as I became eyes on the ground for the fan populace at large.

Despite one of the cast members passing by within a couple of metres of me, I didn't trouble them for a photo. I was happy enough just being in the area. I wouldn't be surprised if the creepy fan village was part of the reason why they got into their shuttle buses at the end of the day and left pretty much straight away. Well, that, and one of them had been in Toronto last night and must have taken a red eye to get home for shooting. Ouch.

I learnt a lot about the filming process during the day, like how long it can take to set up shots and how much standing around there can be. It made me excited by the idea of writing television and seeing it brought to life, though obviously not on that kind of scale (yet). And I learnt about the kind of passion that it can engender in some fans, for whatever reason. If Ricky Gervais wanted to do a follow-up to Extras, he should go one step more removed and focus on fans. That's a show waiting to happen. A walk through to a slightly seedy Chinatown ended an interesting day with a nice Vietnamese noodle soup. No intestinal monsters or pregnancies, sadly.