On Location: Northern Exposure

From the NKC Tribune, August 27, 1992

By M.J. "Squeak" Giaudrone

Hers is a Gentle Touch

Another job of importance with the show is that of key hair stylist. Rebecca Lynne is a freelance stylist from Seattle who started with the show as an assistant. Three months later she held the key position. Creativity seems to be Rebecca's long suit, and working with Elaine Miles (who plays the part of Dr. Joel Fleishman's nurse, Marilyn) is pure pleasure for her. "She has such wonderful hair and I can just do anything with it," Rebecca says.

A graduate of Jean Juarez in Seattle, Rebecca is on the set one-half to two hours' before the rest of the crew. She prides herself in being gentle with a head of hair, so that having one's hair done is a pleasant experience. Although there are other hairdressers on the set, Rebecca must oversee all that they do. The biggest challenge so far was doing the necessary heads of hair for the season finale, "[3.23]Cicely," which was set circa 1909. "Everyone's hair had to look like that era," Rebecca explains including the people in the streets--background people--as well as the key members of the cast. It takes a lot of research to duplicate the hairstyles of that period, but Universal Studios in Los Angeles has an enormous research library, she notes, so she is able to get whatever she needs via a fax machine.

'Mom's Medicine Kit'

Todd Smith, a 14-year veteran of Southwest Snohomish County Medical Services, is the senior medic on location with Northern Exposure. It is his primary duty to provide immediate medical attention in case of accidents or illness. As a paramedic with Movie Medics, an Edmonds-based firm, Todd is one of the many medical professionals and/or safety people who service the film industry's sets. While interviewing Todd, a crew member sat down beside him and announced, "I just got bonked on the head and I'm feeling kind of woozy." Todd gave him a brief physical evaluation--no apparent skull fracture--and prescribed preliminary treatment. I asked Todd what caused the "bonk" and he replied, "There are hazards everywhere." Electrical wires, props, machinery, etc. are all about the soundstage set, but On location you can add moving automobiles, local architectural phenomenons such as abnormally high sidewalks, temporary ramps--you name it.

Todd came on board with the show after having worked on another show created by Joshua Brand and John Falsey, A Day in the Life. When not on location, Todd says, the studio relies on in-town services such as ambulances, local doctors and hospitals. The most serious call Todd has had occurred when a crew member suffered a gall bladder attack. The most unusual, to date, occurred while filming near Rattlesnake Lake. "We kept hearing a call for help coming from the mountainside." Todd recalls. "We finally took off to see what the problem was. We discovered an elderly man---an epileptic with a withered arm and double vision. who had lost his balance and fallen. Because of the withered arm, he couldn't get up. Because of the doublevision. he couldn't see. The man had been dropped off at the base of the mountain by his wife, because he liked to climb the mountain--something he had always done." The man, fortunately, escaped with mild concussion. His wife did not escape without receiving some sound safety tips to consider before letting her husband venture up the mountain again.

Todd has been "career 911" since the 1970s. Although firefighting was his original choice, Todd soon Iearned that a significantly large percentage of that job is providing emergency medical services instead of putting out fires. As I left him I thought Todd's self description really seems to fit "I'm more like a mom with Mom's Medicine Kit." Todd was administering aspirin from his belly pack to another headache victim.

Polaroid(TM) and Position

If you are a student of film--cinema or video, even home-made movies--you are most keenly aware of little goofs in filming, i.e. what happened to the cigarette that was in the ashtray where a clean ashtray now sits? Why does that necktie look gray all of a sudden instead of blue? And, wasn't that window open a minute ago? Who closed it? The camera never left the star, and no one else was in the room.

The job of making sure little things like that don't happen belongs to Patrick Phillips. He is the set dresser. Patrick holds an Art History and Film degree from the university of Oregon. As many are aware, the Roslyn location is used more for exterior film action than internal. Internal shots--inside the doctor's office, the General Store, the Brick Tavern, etc., are filmed in Redmond on the soundstage. Patrick travels back and forth between the sets with a Polaroid(TM) camera, taking pictures of both in order to be able to dress the sets identically.

And while he doesn't have to necessarily move mountains, he does have to move walls. A good example is when the show focuses on John Corbett, AKA Chris the disk jockey. When Chris is being filmed in Roslyn, his background consists of break-apart walls and windows, because-of the confined area. If it is necessary to move a camera angle, Patrick can quickly move the walls out of the way to accommodate it. He then must be sure to put them back in their exact position for the next filming. That's the benefit of the Polaroid picture. Props, lighting, decorations--everything on the set has to be perfect.

Because most scenes are shot in segments, it is imperative that where a beige coffee cup was sitting at the end of a scene segment, an orange one best not be at the start-up of the next one. Most of the radio station set is adjustable. Chris has wooden boxes for bookshelves. Whether he stands or sits, the boxes can be raised or lowered as the director desires, without having to strip the shelves and transfer the contents to a different bookcase.

Keeping the vision of the production designer and assisting he property department are other major tasks belonging to Patrick. the shooting of the "Cicely" episode at the end of last season was, Patrick agrees, one of the most challenging because of the time period involved. Patrick packs a tool kit with him that looks similar to that of a carpenter, with one major exception. Sticking out high above the other items in the kit is a bottle of window cleaner, the sensitive eye of the television camera, when filming through a window, can pick up even the minutest speck or streak. That's why Patrick emphasizes, "I definitely do do windows."

Created 2/13/02
Cast, Crew & CharactersProduction NotesAwards & NominationsThe FansHome