On A Lifetime Of Camp
I taught my ‘film in a week camp’ last week and even though it was the long weekend, I still started the camp on the holiday Monday. Ugh, I’m not always good with details. So half of the 4 kids who signed up for the camp were not going to be there and Jack’s daycare would be closed. Long story short, Jack ended up coming to the camp. I wasn’t sure how it would be to have my son go to my camp. Would he act up? Would I treat him differently? Would he just want to sit in the corner and play Minecraft?
I’ve worked with my dad over the years. When I was ten, I played an alien in Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie, but I ended up on the cutting room floor – thanks dad. Honestly, I didn’t really care. I liked missing school and the craft service chili more than acting. Movie making is tedious work. Although I do remember John Belushi and Dan Akroyd (in full Blues Brothers regalia) visiting my dad and Cheech on the set. They were both shooting at Universal. The Blues Brothers weren’t that friendly. Gotta say, comedians on the whole are pretty serious when they aren’t performing, or maybe it’s the cocaine.
I also went to camps. One summer my mom enrolled me in a sports day camp: the Olympic Boys and Girls Camp. It was not my thing, at all. It was hot and smoggy and I don’t like sports. My counselor, who I thought was so cool and pretty, decided that I needed a nickname so she called me P.C. instead of Precious. That says it all doesn’t it? I am many things, but I am not someone you would ever call P.C.. Needless to say, I did not flourish at that camp even though I really wanted her to like me. She was 17 and blonde and wore these cool shorts that you tied up like a fabric diaper. We made up a dance to the Copacabana. I got a ribbon for best beginner tennis player.
I mostly went to dance camp, Al Gilbert’s Dance Camp, to be more precise. I’d be in dance class all day long, learning jazz, tap, and ballet routines. We even went on the road to places like Dallas and Atlanta to meet other likeminded hoofers. One summer, I broke my arm skate boarding the week before camp started. I had a cast above my elbow. But I still went to camp. They put me in the back for all the routines because my cast was distracting. At night, my fingers would be swollen and purple from over-exertion.
So back to my camp. We decided to make a zombie movie and call it Brain BBQ. Jack came up with the title. That night I wrote the script and Jack sat next to me offering up some funny lines. He also insisted I add in a part where he chases the others with a chainsaw because we had bought a fake one for Halloween. My son and I were collaborators. Funny thing is, I’m better in that mode. I tend to check out in relationships. It’s a family trait. We tend to retreat to our respective rooms. But a creative endeavor takes away the strain of small talk and I feel more myself, am able to connect more.
It was a fun and exhausting week. The kids all worked really hard and I was lucky to have the help of a very patient and talented D.O.P. (thanks Zach). Sarah came and taught them a version of the Thriller dance and Wes, Sarah, and Audrey even played a part in the movie. And Jack was great. He had fun, didn’t play the mom card (too often), and worked well with the other kids. And I didn’t have a nervous breakdown, it was a truly rewarding experience as corny as that may sound. And I think we made a pretty awesome movie.
Here it is…
Precious Chong is a writer and actor living in Toronto. She’s also a professional stilt walker and the daughter of cult movie hero Tommy Chong. She has a podcast with Melissa Story called Sex and the Single Parent.