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No Time to Monkey Around

Big Break Mexico
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“People go to the zoo and they like the lion because it's scary. And the bear because it's intense, but the monkey makes people laugh.” – Lorne Michaels

Every day on a Big Break shoot is long and draining for everyone.  For the crew, it’s an absolute bear.  It’s hot, it’s tiring…it’s intense.  For the contestants facing elimination, it’s definitely intense, but also knowing that you’re one bad shot away from losing it all, is…well…scary.  Even though every day of the 2 weeks are crazy and long, inevitably, there’s always one day that is just flat out longer and crazier than the rest.  That day was this one.  Episode 7 was a bear, a lion…and yes…even a monkey.

Welcome back to my (Big Break Lead Producer, Brendan Havens) incoherent thoughts and ramblings as it pertains to this week’s episode of Big Break Mexico.

This day to end all days starts as usual, with contestants arriving for breakfast around 6am.  What was unseen by the viewers in the episode proper was that once breakfast concluded, we shot all of Team Aztec’s matches for the “Last Break” competition before the actual show’s competition day even began.  This was no small feat, as this online competition is produced the same way a normal challenge is shot for the series itself.  The full crew is on hand and it takes approximately 2 hours to shoot all three matches.  Once that is done, the crew seamlessly transitions to the actual series competition.  Now, if this were a “normal” day of competition, the rest of this day would not be quite as harrowing for the crew.  However, this was no normal day.  All the eliminated competitors were coming back for the 2nd challenge of the day, and a certain golf legend named Lorena Ochoa was to compete with all of them in the said challenge.  Now, successfully executing ONE reveal is tricky enough.  What made the logistics of these reveals even trickier (other than the fact that there were TWO reveals that needed to happen) is that Lorena could not be seen by ANY of the contestants…and we only had a three hour window in which she was available to participate in the challenge.  I do believe at one point during this part of the day I seriously wondered if we do this just to test the bounds of our own sanity.  Let’s put it this way…we could all EASILY plead insanity in a court of law…and no one would even blink.

While the eliminated contestants reacquainted themselves with their teammates, Lorena was stealthily escorted out to the 7th hole of the golf course, basically right under their noses and with tight planning and great execution by our Production Management staff, we pulled it off and Lorena arrived at the 7th green with only our crew having any clue as to what was going on.  Now that phase 1 of this reveal-o-rific afternoon was complete, we now had to hide Lorena again so all the contestants could be shuttled out to the challenge without seeing her before the big reveal.  Once again, this grown up game of hide-and-seek was played to perfection, as all 12 contestants were completely unaware of the Hall-of-Fame legend hiding behind the hill on the 8th tee box.  Now, I do understand that the contestants were all waiting for someone to show up at some time during the day as they were clued in to it at breakfast.  But, even with the expectation of the “friends old and new”, the realization of what was being expected is still a very important reaction to capture.  That is why we go thru these painstaking measures to get that 1st initial, raw reaction.  It’s always going to be a memorable reaction when these players get their 1st glimpse, their 1st realization that one of the all-time greats of the game will be joining them for a challenge.

As we all saw in the episode, the actual reveal and subsequent challenge went off without a hitch.  Lorena even had enough time to break some glass (on her 1st swing, nonetheless) and even spent some time with the contestants (completely spontaneously, mind you) giving them all some invaluable career advise.  A VERY classy move by an equally classy woman.

So, great!  Job well done.  Now we can go to the pool, right?!?!  Wrong.  We still had an Elimination Challenge to shoot (cue the 'Price is Right' Losing Horn).

After a quick break for lunch, we all headed back to the course, Matt chooses Stefanie to play against and away we go on the par 3, 2nd hole.  You may have noticed that the shadows were quite long by the end of this challenge.  That’s because by the time Stefanie made that lonely walk off the show, it was right around 6pm.  On a normal day, we’re off the course around 3pm.  With the crew completely exhausted and ready to get out of the sun and into some AC, something amazing happened.  A family of monkeys who lives in the trees off of the 5th green began making their daily, pre-dusk trek across the treetops of the 5th green and into the woods between the 6th green and the 7th fairway.  Instead of sauntering off to our carts and back to the hotel, the entire crew gathered around the 5th green to watch this family of monkeys fearlessly leap from treetop to treetop directly above our heads.  It was truly an amazing sight and was something we never would have experienced if we hadn’t been on that hole, at that time of day.

Once all the monkeys all made their way across the green and into their nighttime home of the thick jungle, we all kinda looked at each other and laughed.  It was then that our Associate Director, Todd Biermann, turned to me and said, “You know what, when you ask anybody about today, nobody’s gonna remember the 12-hour day.  You know what they’re gonna remember and what they’re gonna talk about…THE MONKEYS!”

The day was intense and the logistical nightmares were quite scary at times, but in the end, the monkeys made us laugh…and that’s what we’ll remember.