Today I heard yet another hurricane is forming up at the Gulf of Mexico and headed towards us. Well, “us” might be a bit of an exaggeration, since we are quite far up north in Louisiana, but the predictions are saying that it might reach up to hear as well – if nothing else, rains and crazy winds should show up some time tomorrow. If worse comes to worst, we might have to shelter ourselves for a bit, as it’s always possible wind throws something unwanted in the air, but usually the destruction up here in Jackson, Louisiana, is minimal – at least compared to New Orleans.
Speaking of which, I visited New Orleans during the weekend. Our trip consisted of both scouting and a bit of vibe-catching, as well as of some chilling and relaxing. Located about two hour drive south-southwest from where we are, one can’t help but fall in love with the slightly scruffy nature of Louisiana, still all green and weather pitch perfect with sun – but worst moisture has already given way for the upcoming winter.
The city itself is beyond beautiful. Formed in the 1700’s and brought to history books by its’ both dark and illustrious history of slavery and commerce, New Orleans is also known as a birthplace of some of the most important music in Western world: jazz and blues. The city has been torn apart time and again by hurricanes – latest total devastation was Katrina just under ten years ago – but it has managed to keep its’ stunning beauty, culture and spirit alive.
Now, another hurricane has swept across its’ streets, pandemic called Covid-19. This one has left the city’s businesses in pretty sad state, with many of them closed and those still operating, operating only at 20% capacity. But the flow of tourists hasn’t stopped, and while the otherwise packed streets are now delightfully easy to navigate, thousands of people do gather in the weekends to listen to some of the best street musicians anywhere, enjoy Hurricanes (local strong drink) and many of city’s nice little bars.
And yeah, just like everywhere, while daytime people wear their masks nicely, by the time the sun sets over Bourbon Street, those nuisances come off especially on young folk and partying begins. This is one of the reasons Louisiana does have quite big spike in Covid infections.
Our task was to visit local Voodoo shops to get an idea of how they are in this area, as I had never been in one. Voodoo is here taken semi seriously, and while the stores are touristy trinket joints, there is a certain, eerie aura behind it all, one you want to respect, no matter if you believe in stuff like this or not. We did leave cigarettes and coins to Baron Samedi’s altar and refrained from rattling the spirits that still roam in the streets and swamps in and around the city.
I found myself eventually sitting down with our team and enjoying a beer, some fried alligator and a po-boy (local kind of bread), basking in sunlight and listening to smooth jazz notes bouncing up and down the mildly crowded streets. The team was buzzing on about production stuff, but I zoned out, for a moment taking in the fact that the job I’m doing, making movies for international audiences, can be sometimes just pretty damn awesome, and I’m not ashamed of saying that.
We enjoyed our stay there so much we decided to book hotel rooms and stay overnight, and do some shopping the day after. By nightfall, streets were flooded with freaks of every size and shape you can imagine, artists, teenage drunks and party-goers, but we (wisely, I think) decided to avoid the crowded places, but found a nice bourbon-and-cigar -type of bar close by. There, one of our producer’s business partners told us the most amazing stories from his times in Syrian and Russian special forces, climbing Mount Everest and living quite an extraordinary life, finally finding his way to USA and making it his home.
It was a privilege to see the beautiful city of New Orleans and I am coming back with my wife one day to show her this unbelievable gem of a city one day.
While storm of one type might be falling on land in Louisiana soon, another one is to follow, and that’s the one I’m more worried of. Obviously, I’m talking about the upcoming presidential elections. The tension is in the air, there’s no question about it. I spent the other night listening to a Trump supporter going on about his views on Black Lives Matter and “the left” (whatever that means here in USA anyway…). I wasn’t feeling like an argument so I rather nodded my way through it, making mental notes for further writings, but you could find yourself in a very heated discussion if you wished so very easily over here.
Still, what really worries me are the most religious and fanatical lonely Internet message board neo-nazis who will wake up on 4th of November to a four-year season with Democratic president. Yes, I strongly believe that the country is just fed up with the chaos Trump is causing and that there’s only one possible outcome of the elections. It’s clear Trump won’t go down without a fight, and I’m a bit concerned whether or not the basement-Bubbas are going to just let go easily, especially knowing their access to heavy armament if needed. Whatever is happening after the elections, one thing is clear: this nation is divided beyond easy repair, and needs a long line of wise bi-partisan leaders to steer it back to the greatness it once was.
Production-wise, we are moving swiftly towards the first block of shootings. There’s still quite a lot to be done, but I’ve already started scribbling my storyboards and we have a script everyone’s happy about, so in that sense it’s a relief. The way this film is produced between USA and UK is a bit of a juggle, and I’ll tell you about it one day as the coast is clear, but for now, it’s looking pretty good we’ll get cameras rolling in about two weeks. Everything Covid-related has been settled, which has been one of the biggest struggles from the beginning, and here’s hoping no dramatic, earth-shaking surprises are lurking around the corners.
Anyway, y’all stay healthy and in good spirits, while we can see storm clouds gathering, or more precisely, we might feel we are already in the eye of the storm, a new day will soon shine!