In 2009 we were tasked to build a set on the ice pack for a Honda Pilot commercial. It was no small undertaking. The set would be 5 miles of road, over which the Honda Pilot and a dogteam would race side by side. Each driver eying the other, wondering who had chosen the best means of travel.
In the storyboards it looked great. In the real world it was a challenge to say the least. To realize the boards we went north to Barrow, Alaska.
Thirty Inupiat and a small art department from Anchorage geared up to build the ice road. The pack itself is a formidable material to work with. It's alive, stretching, heaving, moaning and groaning; at least this time of year. It was spring, early May in the high arctic. On the 9th the sun set for the last time for 80 days.
For a week and a half we labored, plotting our road across the ice pack. We broke up large blocks of ice with pick axes. We drove over those blocks with snowmachines hauling weighted down sleds to compress the ice chunks. We filled in the gaps with snow. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Ten days later we had an ice road. It was a beautiful thing.
The director arrived and came out to the "set". By now we had 24 hours of daylight. Harold, our local polar bear guard was perched above us on an ice ridge. "Better shoot it now, the wind is going to shift and move the pack west" he said. The director shrugged him off, announcing to the crew we would shoot in the morning after a full nights rest.
Later that night, Search and Rescue helicopters launched. The whip of their blades cutting swathes through our sleep. The pack had broken off. Whalers caught on the broken shelf were being plucked off lest they drift out on a floe.
Next morning, our director announced he would fly out to find out set. An hour later he was back, a blank look on his face telling us our set was now 20 miles out. What had taken us 10 days to build now gone in less than a few hours. Nature had won.
We re-grouped. Necessity being the mother of invention, a new concept evolved. One that involved a frozen in ice berg, a shorter road, a different lens and we were once again underway. It was afterall, that old Hollywood story - the show must go on and it did.