Posted on Tues Jan. 28, 2003
Philadelphia Daily News
These folks can 'Hack' the arctic weather
Frigid filming goes on for TV show
By JIM NOLAN
Graphic: The winter so far
THE CITY has been on "Code Blue" weather alert since Jan. 10 - that's 18 straight days of either snow or sub-21 degree temperatures.
Punxsutawney Phil should just stay in his hole.
This winter is getting hard to hack.
But so far, it hasn't kept actors, directors and stagehands of the Philly-based CBS taxi-cop drama of the same name from carrying out their shooting schedule.
Yesterday, they were in one of the city's coldest places - atop the windswept Municipal Services Building plaza across from City Hall.
The elevated, granite plaza registered a frigid 17 degrees early yesterday afternoon - without the wind chill - which, as you know, is determined by how much hot air is blowing north from Council Chambers.
The TV scene featured "Hack" star David Morse chasing Martha Plimpton across the giant chess board sculpture. She apparently turns and punches him in the eye.
Now that's cold.
After the director yells "cut" and "print" - stagehands turn on the portable heaters. Then the stars (who are wearing long underwear underneath their costumes) are handed XXXL L.L. Bean puffy coats and head for the Winnebagoes.
"It's horrible, it's painful," said chilled-out producer Nan Bernstein, during a brief break indoors before scenes at the next location - outside the Wanamaker building.
The "Hack" cast and crew have been working 12 to 18 hours a day, five days a week on the streets of Philadelphia since August. They are scheduled to complete filming in mid-April.
But this extended cold snap has gotten so bad that after two days outside, Bernstein decided last Friday to suspend "must-freeze" TV and shoot half the day indoors.
"I've worked in Vermont during the winter and even in Vermont when its snowing it feels warmer," said Bernstein, who grew up in York.
"It's really, really too much out there. You can't move. You can't breathe."
It's not just affecting the TV types. Deputy Managing Director Robert Hess said some 2,500 homeless people are now packing city shelters - about 250 more a night than this time last year.
"It's cold," said Hess, cementing his bid for understatement of the year.
You don't have to explain winter to prop guys like Robert "Ratface" Holtzman, from Fishtown, who gather up the props and equipment after each scene.
"It's all about layers," said Ratface, who wore three pairs of pants, shirts, sweaters, coats, gloves and a fur-lined Klondike hat yesterday.
Exterior shooting for "Hack" has been cold, he said, though not quite as frigid as when he worked on the film "Twelve Monkeys."
Fortunately, most of the guys on the crew are from Philly and New York, not Hollywood. They are accustomed to winters without palm trees.
"The actors have been real troopers about it," said Ratface.
No wonder - Morse lives in Philadelphia. Co-star Andre Braugher lives in North Jersey. Only actor George Dzundza lives in Los Angeles. But he was lucky enough to be off this week.
Dzundza might just miss the warmest weather in weeks. Temperatures are supposed to rise a bit today, reaching near 30. Tomorrow could really warm up and hit 40 degrees. It could also snow or rain.
That's still too cold for John Flocco, an Italian Market merchant on 9th Street just south of Washington Avenue.
"You can't open up in this weather," said Flocco, 51, who owns a produce stand on the east side of the street.
"The tomatoes, bananas - they all have water in them. They'd freeze on the stand. And no greens, either."
So Flocco instead spent the day breaking up wooden produce crates with two helpers.
It was 19 degrees on the desolate block. But in Italian Market tradition, the men had started a fire in a large drum with some of the rotten wood.
The temperature around the fire?
A balmy 72 degrees.
Now that's a location we can hack.