As most of you know, I went to Paris last week to catch a glimpse of filming of Fifty Shades Darker and Freed. It was an amazing trip and adventure with great people. I came home exhausted, overwhelmed, and emotional.
The idea for the trip started with an invitation from my friend and fellow podcaster, Vanessa, she invited me to come out for her birthday, which was the same as the last day of filming. It would be a great opportunity to celebrate both. With a brand new passport, love of travel and a really good excuse – I searched for flights!
I arrived before the rest of the group I would be staying with and used the time to meet a few other people I would not be staying with during the trip. I also did a little research for the book that I’m currently writing. That research took me to the Musee Lourve, Musee d’Orsay, and Normandy as well as just taking in the ambiance of Paris. Now I have to do the hard work of adding all my new found knowledge to something I already wrote. But if nothing else, this part of the trip made the trip worth it.
And then I got to meet some amazing people that I’ve spoken to soooo much online, and occasionally on a podcast, like Aviva. Aviva is someone who I have spent a lot of time working with on some different projects, and who helped to bridge the gap of something I noticed early on, but didn’t understand art enough to put all the pieces together. She connected my keen eye and her knowledge to discover the depth of Fifty Shades of Grey. So meeting Aviva was like putting the final piece of a puzzle in to place.
Next I finally met up with the group I would be staying with, some I had never met, but only had conversions with online. We spent our afternoon getting to know each other and getting to know Paris. Sunday evening we went out to dinner where we had planned a surprise birthday party for Vanessa, who turned the tables on me. All of a sudden she pulled a bottle of Bollinger out of a bag to celebrate my own birthday. It was so unexpected and a touching moment. That night ended up being about being with good friends and making memories that will last a lifetime.
Monday we opted for breakfast (more like brunch) near the Opera House since filming was planned there that evening. While leaving breakfast/bunch we ran into Eric Johnson. He was soooo sweet, stopped for pictures, and told us he had a 360 camera and was videoing around Paris for some (potentially) behind the scenes stuff. I can’t wait to see what makes the Behind the Scenes cuts!
Later on, walking the streets of Paris we ran into James Foley, he stopped for about 2 pictures and I was lucky enough to be in one! At the hotel we met Dana Brunetti. Eventually Erika, Eric, Jamie, and Dakota all came out. I was on the wrong side for a great view of them, but I did get to see them.
From there we decided to have a drink and a light snack (Nutella Crepe!) before going to the Opera House for filming. Unfortunately, we missed when Jamie came out to sign and some of the shots of Jamie and Dakota on the balcony. But we did manage to see them later that night when they got back to the hotel. They did not stop then and Dakota ran like a bird in flight into the hotel, we almost totally missed her.
The following day the only thing we really knew was that the call was probably after 10 AM and they were supposed to film a bike scene at the Louvre. We eventually heard through the rumor mill that the call was going to be in the late afternoon/early evening. My friends and I split up throughout the day to run different errands and take breaks, but we spent most of the day at the hotel waiting. We did get to see Erika, Dana, Nelson Coates, James Foley, John Schwartzman come and go. Eric Johnson stopped for a few selfies before leaving Paris too. Eventually Dakota arrived, it was another 2 or so hours before Jamie and she would leave for the set, which was around 9PM.
During the course of the day the crowd slowly grew, so what was a little more than a handful of people early on became a large group throughout the day. The hotel staff tried to manage the crowds and for a while did a really good job. But the crowd wasn’t good at following direction and making sure there was a aisle for hotel guests to use, that would explain why I got a little manhandled by a guest at one point. The later it got the worse it got and many people who arrived later ended up with better spots than people who had been there for hours. It was a frustrating experience.
Finally, Jamie Dornan came out of the hotel and when he came to the crowd to sign, the crowd rushed him. I’ve been in crowds like this before, where you do things you wouldn’t normally do and after wonder what the heck happened. But I’m mostly older and wiser now, so although I was towards the front, I couldn’t bring myself to rush Jamie. I appreciate him too much as an actor and quite frankly, it scared the shit out of me. I imagine it was even worse for Jamie. So I stayed back a bit and had my feet trampled, lost my purse and maybe a little bit of my soul in the process.
Once Jamie went to his car and the crowd calmed down, most people were in shock, but there were a few that seemed proud that they had gotten a selfie or a signature while they were being trampled, or doing the trampling. As for me, I found my purse and my friends and left before Dakota came out of the hotel. I had had enough of the crowd of people who cared more about a selfie, than about the person they wanted the selfie with.
Eventually, we made our way to the Louvre where we all had a chance to decompress, exchange stories and wait. Here I discovered my feet were full of footprints, my legs were a bit scraped up and I had a broken toenail. Nothing I wouldn’t survive physically, but if it wasn’t for my friends, I probably would have just gone back to the hotel and gone to bed for the night. Instead we had fun taking pictures of the Louvre and each other and just hanging out.
It was quite a while before the crew arrived for filming and when they did we got a couple different stories about where we had to go to watch. One thing was clear though, there were no photos to be taken. Eventually, we ended up in a spot with a little bit of a view and we got to see the last take of the movie and hear the clapping to celebrate the last take of the film. THAT’S A WRAP! That moment made it worth the adventure we had waiting to to get a glimpse of filming.
I think we got back to where we were staying around 6 AM, which was time for some of the girls to leave already.
But the story doesn’t end there. After a nap, I flew home (sleeping most of the way), and beating my luggage home by 23 hours. All of which was annoying and added to the stress of the situation, but wasn’t a big deal. The following morning when I finally made my way to work I found myself on the NYC Subway. For those of you who have never been on the subway, it’s the most impersonal place to be. There could be one person or 500 people on a train car and everyone just stares at a random spot not noticing anyone or anything, it’s actually an art form to exist on the subway this way, but one you learn quickly.
So I’m sitting there on the Subway decompressing everything from the feelings I had when Vanessa gave me my gift, to how I felt while being trampled and felt a few tears in my eyes. I’m not sure if they were happy tears or tears of exhaustion and frustration, but they wouldn’t go away no matter how much I stared at a crappy ad near the ceiling of the subway car. And then a woman across the aisle reached over to me and offered me some napkins for my tears. And so, in the most impersonal place in the world, a little bit of my soul returned.
Tuesday night while sitting at the Louvre, I had planned to share very little about Paris, I was tired and bitter. But I took some time to think about it. The people who wouldn’t hear the story are not the ones who made me bitter. And those who made me bitter were the ones who wouldn’t care what my story was. So thank the napkin lady for giving me my soul back, without her this post might not have existed.