Part of the Bay Area News Group

my 15 minutes

By enelson
Wednesday, July 11th, 2007 at 11:06 pm in art, Bay Bridge, Caltrans, driving, Freeway collapse, Freeways, Funding, Safety.


As if all my histrionics over the MacArthur Maze collapse weren’t enough, someone is making a movie about the April 29 gasoline tanker truck mishap.

I know this because they interviewed me today for the movie, and it was so cool.

The short movie, with the working title of “Amazing,” is being done by the same people who brought us the Emmy Award-winning “The Bridge So Far,” which featured my predecessor, Sean Holstege, as one of two journalist talking heads for the comedic documentary.

Sean, alas, has gone on to a better place (Phoenix), or at least a growing newspaper market chock full of retirees who like the feel of newsprint between their fingers on Sunday morning.

But today was my chance to rub elbows in the genre of nonfiction cinema. I went to Sacramento, to a borrowed lobbyist’s office with a view of the Capitol building. I even got to meet director David L. Brown, the Scorsese of public works cinema.

For my segment, the cameras were pointed toward potted plants, not the seat of government. I suspect that was for the next interview subject, Caltrans Director Will Kempton.

I felt a little funny doing this gig (that’s what we in the film business call these things), as the chief sponsor of both the bridge and the maze film was the Professional Engineers of California Government, which had recently been a party to a story I wrote.

But I figured it was OK, because Kempton was the other party in the dispute, in which PECG would like the state to hire more of its members to do engineering for state projects, while Caltrans is contracting a lot of that work.

In short, I told it like it was: The MacArthur Maze disaster was a tale for the ages: A city gripped by fear, with comparisons to 9/11 (both involved fire and weak metal), a savior from the East (contractor C.C. Myers from Rancho Cordova) and a spiritual leader akin to the Dalai Lama (Will Kempton). There was also the populist/Frank Capra story, if you will, in which the Bay Area commuters banded together and took BART, thus sparing the area from gridlock in spite of my cynical predictions.  

There were many re-takes to make up for my inability to complete a spoken sentence without stumbling over my words. I was hoping for a makeup artist to hide my blemishes, but this was not Hollywood, and I was not ready for my close-up. Even with all the fuss, hot lights, many sips of water and one unscheduled two-minute break upon my request, this team of professionals managed to get it all done within the allotted hour.

When they finish the project, it’ll be pitched to the local TV stations and perhaps it’ll air sometime when people are awake.

As for me, I’ll be checking my mail for the free DVD. Sean’s still waiting for his.

Photo by Erik N. Nelson.

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