“The Shopping Cart Gang”

When the policeman on a motorcycle pulled up to our crew as we stood sipping coffee around a dumpster, I felt my heart sink with a silent sigh as I thought, “Ah, here it is. After five days of a flawless production with no issues or complications, here’s the problem. Finally.” The officer surveyed the group while squinting, his eyes ran along John holding the boom mic, Kenzie with a camera the size of a brick, and finally me, smoking a cigarette in torn clothes while standing next to a shopping cart full of recyclables.

“What are ya,” he inquired, “a shopping cart gang?”

I stared at him incredulously and replied, “Is that a thing?”

Mitch quickly stepped to the front of the group and said something that made everyone, including the policeman, laugh. I watched in stunned silence as Mitch explained the project to the policeman who nodded and smiled between hums of intrigue. After he made a few more jokes about the state I was in, the policeman wished us well and drove off, marking our first encounter with the community of Sydney.

The Shopping Cart Gang
“The Shopping Cart Gang”

Later in the day, while filming near another dumpster behind the post office, a female worker watched in intrigue as she smoked a cigarette, remaining silent during takes and keeping a respectful distance. After we wrapped filming on the location, she approached us to inquire about the project. I fumbled my way through explaining the plot of Bigsby while the rest of the crew interjected with important points which I had forgot to mention. Afterward, she began telling us stories about some of the homeless people she had known and met while working at the post office. The postal worker pointed to an electrical box surrounded by a concrete wall with the small bit of space between the two blocked by a wired fence. She explained that the fence was installed because homeless people had been sleeping in there during the winter months. The postal worker then began telling stories about one particularly well known homeless man from the community that had recently passed, laughing as she reminisced about how the police would interrogate him to find bottles of mouth wash he would often drink and pour them out. The postal worker didn’t mean to tell the stories to deride the man or the homeless community, but I found myself unable to find humor in any of them. I felt angry. Not at the postal worker, she was a very friendly and genuinely funny person. I was mad at the locked dumpsters behind groceries stores, the benches with divided seating, the fences installed beneath stairways, and the gates on alleyways. I was mad at Sydney, and Halifax, and all the other places I had been where actions had been taken to make life harder for the homeless and keep them off public property.

As we walked away, Mitch shook his head and said to me, “Just let him have his Listerine.” I thought about how glad I was to have Mitch on set and back in my life after a prolonged absence.

Bigsby on bench (2)
Bigsby – Charlotte Street, Sydney, NS.

Later that day, while filming in yet another dumpster behind an office supply store, the workers moving supplies in and out of the building quickly offered to move their vans out of the way before anyone even though of asking them about that. During takes they would stop working, remain silent, and watch, all smiling and laughing as I repeatedly fell out of a dumpster onto a bag of cans and screamed in feigned agony. Afterward, the workers and the manager approached us to inquire about the film, all expressing bewildered amusement and excited interest as we discussed the plot. Kenzie stepped into their warehouse to show the workers the take we had just filmed with the camera’s built in projector, and the manager offered to hang as many posters as we wanted in the large window at the front of the store.

As the crew left, graciously waving and bidding farewell to the workers, I realized that I simply could not have interacted with the community of Sydney in as cordial and friendly manner if not for my crew. I couldn’t count the amount of times someone politely asked a passerby to wait for us to finish our take or remain silent during filming, and their professional yet gracious discourse made for completely cooperative interaction with the community of Sydney, a town which I hold even more dear to my heart.

Fritz Bishop
Tar City Productions