Friday, July 24, 2009

Day Thirteen - Liesse, Laon, and Brouillet

Waking up in Reims is different than waking up in Paris. Here, there are no outside noises to speak of, even if the windows are open. It's simply a gradually increasing of the light that indicates the beginning of the day. The three rooms above the large meeting room that lies on one side of the inner courtyard were just recently redone, and I think that Roch, Scott, and myself were among the first to use them. They have worked out quite well, with Gerard living in the house itself and the rest of us out here. We're relatively independent and are able to work as much as we like, with ample space below for our equipment.

They're still bringing the internet up to speed within the building, with some connections working and others not yet, so I go to the community office to get online, swapping cables with the community computer and my own laptop. But it all works out. This morning it was the same - work on the conmputer until joining the Brothers for breakfast, after which Yves, Gerard and myself made our way to the cathedral for the 8 AM Mass. Along the way, Yves showed us the canons cloister area, and we stopped to read the historical marker that explained how the cloister was arranged, with separate shops, rooms, and even a jail. Directly next to the cathedral, the outlet led into a large side door to the cathedral that was used exclusively by the canons (On the right, in the picture). Currently, it is completely barred and no one can use it. I presume that they're waiting for the canons to return before opening it up again. Inside, that door leads directly to the choir stalls.

Mass today was said by the pastor of the cathedral parish, and he greeted us as we arrived at the small back chapel where the Mass would be. He had already written out a document giving us permission to film in the cathedral tomorrow; all done through the good graces and influence of Br. Christian, who grew up in Reims and knows the ropes quite well. Mass was as before, short and direct, with only some tourists walking through behind us as they stared at the collumns and stained glass windows.

As soon as we'd returned from Mass, we found Roch and Scott loading the van for our departure. And five minutes later we were off to Liesse. We had determined that the best route was to begin in Liesse and end in Brouillet, where we would again get the key to the small church from the owner of one of the champagne cellars nearby. The trip to Liesse was generally uneventful, driving through a number of small villages, with the roads getting less wide the closer we came to our destination.

At Liesse itself, we were all familiar with the setting, having been here before. Roch and Scott set up the scene in the side chapel dedicated to De La Salle. They fuss mightily with all the lights and the exposure and the 1001 details that are involved in setting up a shoot. Gerard patiently endures their futsing about, standing in his position for as long as it takes for them to line everything up just right. Finally, when the scene is recorded, it all goes relatively quickly. Gerard is well prepared in what he is going to saw, and we do a couple of takes because each time he will say it a bit differently or add something new. This way we will have a couple of options to choose from when we do the eventual editing of the film clips.

Having finished with Brouillet, it was on to Laon. We were especially keen to find the Rue de Freres, where the first school had been. This time, instead of parking in the general area outside of the medieval city, and then walking in, we drove right into the city and made our way through the tiny streets to just in front of the cathedral where a parking spot magically appeared for us. Then it took a while to figure out just where to go in order to find the Rue de Freres, but the tourist bureau was very helpful and made us a copy of a detailed map that would get us there. Walking from the cathedral, we went hither and yon until we came to a smallish 100 meter side street, with cars parked on one side and room for just one car to travel one-way down the street. They figured out a good perspective and we were soon set up for a short clip regarding the school in Laon and Adrien Nyel's involvement in the town.

Back at the cathedral, we debated between filming inside or outside of the place. Eventually, we found a spot in a quiet corner of the plaza that would show the great facade of the cathedral as a background. The clouds were coming and going, so it was difficult to predict a good exposure level, sending Roch and Scott into a tizzy. One minute it was overcast, the next minutes the sun was shining full blast. So several takes had to be done, and the final product will likely be a combination of scenes from various takes. We now know that whatever the final product is, it will include footage from our "B roll" archives, depending on the specific topic that Gerard brings up during his clip. For example, in front of the cathedral he spoke about the large statues of oxen that adorn the towers of the cathedral, in recognition of their work in bringing all of the rock for the building up from the valley floor. It's likely that during that segment, B roll footage of the those oxen would be shown, and it doesn't matter what the footage of Br. Gerard looks like. Such are the ways of film.

Now it was time for lunch. Instead of the tourist places lining the plaza, we walked down a ways to a walk-in sandwich shop where a lot of locals were lined up to order. Here we also ran into the lady who'd helped us at the tourist bureau. Here we ordered our sandwiches and ate them at the tables arranged just outside. We were in no rush, since we had arranged to get the church key in Brouillet t 4 PM and it was now just 1 PM.

A leisurely lunch completed, we got in the van and made our way to Brouillet, about 40 minutes or so away. Since we did have that major break period before our next appointment, I pulled over at a lake that we saw along the way and there each of us took a break - some sleeping, some walking, some reading. I took the umbrella, since it was raining, and walking along the lake to a nearby newer hotel and then returning in the bright sun. The umbrella was helpful both ways. Gerard noticed a golf course nearby and watched various golfers coming along and making their best efforts. In all, we stayed there about an hour before proceeding to Brouillet.

Another bit of driving and we came to the hamlet (?) where De La Salle's grandfather on his mother's side had a house, vineyard, and reputation as the local monseigneur. We got the key to the church from the owner of the Ariste & Son champagne cellar and proceeded to spen a good 90 minutes there filming. It took a while to get the right perspective, since we particularly wanted to show the pew where young De La Salle would sit next to his grandfather, who taught him to use the breviary during the holidays that were spent in this locale. Along with the prepared material that Br. Gerard used in the clips, I asked him a number of questions about Lasallian prayer which Gerard answered off-the-cuff and on film. A good bit of that would be very useful later on, I believe. He is better off-the-cuff than most of us would be when we were fully prepared, and the shoot was quite succesful.

Then we went back to return the key. Of course, we couldn't leave until we'd had a sample glass of champagne and a fine conversation with the daughter-in-law of the owner, who spoke English very well and would be in California soon for a champagne tasting in Redwood City. After the tasting and conversation, we bought some of the champage - which was quite excellent, by the way - and then made our way back to Reims, just 27 kilometers away.

Gerard noticed a stone plaque in the corner of the champagne cellars that mentioned De La Salle and Moet. Getting curious, he did some research online upon our return and found out that the name "Moet" had been given by Charles VII to one of those who stood and fought beside him, a Dutchman named LeClercq. When he ennobled him, LeClercq was given a new name. So half of De La Salle's ancestry is Dutch. I knew it! (Since I'm Dutch, I'm a bit prejudiced, but there you are.)

By now, most of us were ready for a short rest. While the others did that, I went into the downstairs museum of the Hotel De La Salle and set up the equipment to take several panorama photographs of the various rooms. The whole place is being renovated, and it's likely that in a year or so, all of the downstairs area will be under construction. So it was good to have the opportunity to record how it looks right now.

At around 7:45 PM, we went out for dinner at a local restaurant and a couple of hours later returned for a bit of planning for tomorrow. Then each of us began our nightly rituals - computer work, cleaning up, readying equipment for tomorrow, and so on - before retiring. These are very full days, but I believe that they will prove worthwhile.

(Note: Click on the small pictures to enlarge them.)