I escaped. That's the only way I can describe the series of events over the last few days. I had been in New Orleans for less than a week, having just arrived to work on a film called "Deja Vu" for the better part of 4 months. I had moved into a nice hotel, bought groceries, and was getting ready to live in the Big Easy for the duration. However, my sister was in Montgomery with her new baby and I decided to drive up to visit her and my parents over the weekend. I left New Orleans on Friday night, traveling east on I-10, with little to no traffic to slow my journey. Sure, I had been watching the Weather Channel to see what Katrina might do, but it never really occurred to me that it might slam into where I was staying.
Boy, was I wrong.
I arrived in Montgomery late Friday night. I was greeted by my family and got to meet the newest edition to the clan, my nephew, Ben. I slept well in my parent's house, expecting to stay for a couple days, then drive back to New Orleans on Sunday to resume work at the start of the week. Those plans abruptly changed with a call from my boss, Robin, on Saturday morning. Katrina had picked up speed in the Gulf of Mexico and was now nearing Category 5 strength. And it was heading right for where I had been staying less than 24 hours before. The film company was chartering a plane that afternoon to fly the film crew out of town and back to Los Angeles. Robin told me to stay put in Montgomery and not try to head back to New Orleans. I-10 had been shut down and the Governor of Louisiana had issued a mandatory evacuation of the city. It was uncertain if the film would be able to continue. Hell, it was uncertain if the city itself would still exist after it was all said and done. Katrina was coming and there was nothing we could do but get out of the way.
A year ago, I was in Monroeville, Alabama working on a film called "Heavens Fall" when Hurrican Ivan barrelled through town. The heavens truly did fall on that day in September, bringing a temporary halt to our production and causing massive damage to the town itself. Thankfully, no one was killed, but it left an indelible mark on my life. It's ironic that the film I am working now is called "Deja Vu." Watching the news reports today about the damage and flooding Katrina has brought with her makes me sad, not simply for the shut down of the film, but for the devastation and loss of life. I was only in town to make a movie, but there are families shattered and communities ruined because of the fury of Mother Nature. And that's not even counting the impact Katrina has had on towns hit even harder, like Gulfport and Biloxi, Mississippi.
Things like this really put everything in perspective for me. Many people I have encountered in the film business concern themselves only with the film they are working on at the moment, believing it is the most important thing in the world to the detriment of everything else around them. And I will admit, I have been guilty of feeling that way on more than one occasion on more than one film. But movies are just movies. It's entertainment, nothing more. Katrina is the real deal. The impact she leaves behind is far more profound or important than any film.