On-set and behind the scenes at Reginald the Vampire (Part 1)
A deeper dive into the cool stuff I saw, experienced, and learned as the TV show based on my books filmed its first season
This post is Part 1 of the follow-up to my Reginald the Vampire writeup. In it, I share much more detail, photos, and videos of my behind-the-scenes adventures on the TV set in Victoria, and at Comic Con.
This deep dive and others like it are available to paid members of my site. If you’d like to become one for $9/month and get access to all sorts of extra stuff, click here.
In my post entitled “Fat Vampire to Reginald the Vampire: The Journey So Far,” I mentioned that I visited the set of Reginald the Vampire — the TV show based on my Fat Vampire books. I also mentioned that I moderated the Reginald panel at San Diego Comic Con. That’s pretty much all I said, though: that I visited, and that I moderated.
This post goes deeper than that. A LOT deeper.
In fact, it goes so much deeper that the post editor told me I’d exceeded the maximum length allowed by Gmail. Because I don’t want things truncated when the email version of this post goes out, I’m cutting it into multiple parts. I’m not sure how many parts yet. A few at least, considering how many pictures and movies I have to share and how much I have to tell you.
People keep asking me, “What was it really like watching a cast and crew bring your characters to life? How does it really work, what did you really see, and what really goes on behind the scenes?”
In this series, I’ll answer those questions as best I can.
What’s below is the same report I gave to family and friends after I came home. You’ll learn everything they learned, stopping only where privacy and legal restrictions require.
So buckle up! I’m about to take you on an adventure into TV Land.
Let’s start with how I got invited to the set.
How? I invited myself. Let’s move on.
Seriously, though, the answer to the question was almost that simple. Nobody called and asked me to come. Nobody emailed. Nobody was looking for me to visit at all. I was the one who wanted to see what it was like on a TV set and to watch my characters come to life in front of me, so I made the first move. Which was really the only move made by anyone.
That doesn’t mean I faced resistance or that people didn’t want me on set. Quite the opposite. I think I surprised them with my forwardness, was all: just one more extroverted way I’m not like most authors. But like I said in my big writeup: Everybody’s got their own shit going on, and they’re not focused on you. So if you want something to happen, you’d better do it yourself.
I asked Harley Peyton, the showrunner, if a visit would be okay. Harley loved the idea and hooked me up with Caitlin, the associate producer, who helped make it happen. From there it was just a matter of booking travel and lodging and following instructions.
I wanted to be there while Jeremiah Chechik was directing, because Jeremiah and Harley were my first contacts on the project. Caitlin — or possibly one of several others who got involved once my visit became a thing — helped me find the best days to come. It was always only a guess, though — a distant shot at a moving target. Shooting runs on a schedule, but the schedule doesn’t always run on time. Things come up. Setups take longer than expected. A detail gets forgotten, or re-shoots are necessary, or it rains on a day they want to shoot outdoors.
Despite this, I hit my target. I did indeed end up being there while Jeremiah was directing. It all worked out, because coordinating wasn't that hard in the end.
Covid testing was what was hard. Or at least nerve-wracking.
Covid was an asshole. Not just to my travel plans. To everyone.
This was early 2022. My home state of Texas had mostly stopped caring about Covid by then, but Canada — and specifically the TV production — still cared very, very much.
It was all a big pain in the ass … but if I’m honest, the Covid hoops I had to jump through were a wise precaution. If any of the primary actors got Covid, the production would have to shut down for two weeks. The cost of doing so would have been crippling.
That said, what I did wasn’t just “taking precautions.” I had to go through a motherfucking Covid gauntlet if I planned to get anywhere near anyone.
First, the production sent me an at-home PCR test — the really accurate kind. I had to take that test within a certain window pre-departure, and then there were all sorts of things I needed to do to prove that I had, indeed, taken it correctly. After that, the FAA required that I take a separate, non-at-home PCR test within 72 hours of my flight because I was flying internationally.
It was all very stressful. Failing the at-home test would mean I couldn’t go. Failing the other test was even worse: If it came up positive, I’d have to cancel after the refund deadlines for my flight and AirBnb had passed. If that happened, I’d get all the fun of paying for the trip but not the fun of actually going on it.
And so I became incredibly paranoid, determined not to expose myself to even one speck of Covid before I left. I stayed away from everyone for two weeks, wearing a full-on N95 mask when I went anywhere. During this time, I also purchased and used five separate normal at-home Covid tests just to see if any were showing me as positive. I’m not sure why. So I wouldn’t be surprised, I guess.
I then took the production’s at-home test, held my breath, and exhaled loudly when it came up negative. The nail-biter last-minute test also came up clean. I still had to jump through a thousand hoops to cross the US/Canada border and prove myself to the production team, but at last I was good to go. I packed up and headed off. Hooray!
During my flight layover, Caitlin called with a welcome update and itinerary. She said she’d have a driver pick me up at the airport, then take me to the “circus” (more on that later) before taking me to the set. This was so I could get my Covid test.
“I already took the Covid test,” I told her.
“Not that one,” she said. “I mean the other Covid test. The one we have to take every three days here to be allowed near the set.”
“Hang on,” I said. “You’re telling me that I might get all the way up there … and then find out I’m not allowed to visit? I’ll just waste a lot of money to fly up to Victoria and sit alone in a room?”
She didn’t simply say “yes” for diplomatic reasons … but yeah, the answer to that question was yes.
I steeled myself for taking my third test, terrified I’d somehow contracted Covid in the day since taking my last test. I was already halfway there; it’s not like I had the option of cancelling even if I’d wanted to.
The stress returned. I flew on.
When I arrived in Canada, the customs agent gave me a Covid test to take and submit to the Canadian travel authorities. I was instructed to call someone on Skype when I got to my destination, then take the test while they watched me.
If you’re keeping count, that’s four tests. FOUR. Fortunately all were negative, but seriously what the fuck.
Enter my luxury chauffeur
The Victoria airport was small. It wasn’t hard to find my driver, because he was the only one standing around looking like he might be waiting for someone. I was hoping we’d do that thing where someone’s got your last name written on a piece of paper at baggage claim because I’ve never done that before, but no dice.
My driver’s name was Jeff — a Teamster, not a fancy man in a tuxedo named Jeeves. He was one of the production’s pool drivers, providing rides to anyone who needed to be driven. Jeff was awesome. We spent the drives just bullshitting, getting to know each other.
On that first day, after we’d connected enough for me to become devious, I said in a conspiratorial voice, “Jeff. Listen. I want the real tour. You hear me? Don’t give me the polished-up version. I want to see everything.”
He nodded intensely. “You got it.”
Our first stop was what Canadian film companies call “the circus,” which Jeff explained was a parking spot for all of the support vehicles and off-set trailers: a sort of in-the-field center of operations. (Americans call their “circuses” something different. I forget what.)
And there, Jeff proceeded to — as requested — show me everything.
He showed me where the power was plugged in. He showed me where the audio guys hung out when they weren’t on set. I learned a lot that day, such as where every wire goes and where every bolt on every truck is situated.
After I was sufficiently confused, Jeff moved on to show me various trailers and the various people inside them. Eventually we reached the hair-and-makeup trailer. Not used to giving tours, Jeff knocked on its door and asked “if it’s okay if Johnny comes in and says hi.”
Note that he didn’t say who the hell “Johnny” was. Or why the hell he’d be saying hi.
I entered, feeling like an interloping idiot. Inside, two actors were being made up. Em Haine, who plays Sarah, was in the chair closest to me. Aren Buchholz, who plays Todd, was in the far one. I said a pleasant but awkward hello to both of them. They said pleasant but confused hellos back.
Finally, after some even-more-awkward small talk, Em got to the point. She said, “So what exactly do you do with the production?” Translated, her real question was, Who are you and why are you here?
The access badge they’d given me had turned backwards. I flipped it around and said, “I wrote the book it’s based on.”
At this point she exploded out of the chair and, in clear defiance of all Covid protocol, gave me a hug while saying “shit” about ten times. Aren was more sanguine. It was easy to be more sanguine than Em’s reaction.
And that, my friends, is what it feels like to be a celebrity to the local celebrities. I got a similar, sort-of-starstruck reaction from almost everyone I met, including a Teamster friend of Jeff’s who Jeff told me was a big fan but too shy to ask me to sign his book.
It was weird. I’m not famous. It was so strange to have people treat me like I was.
Offices and muffler shops that look nothing like muffler shops
Jeff told me they were filming outside after sunset that night, and that meant the shooting day hadn’t begun yet. He explained that shooting days are twelve hours long, but it’s not a standard or consistent twelve hours. That particular day, they were starting at 2pm and hence had until 2am to work. (Amusingly, they call the halfway-through break “lunch” even if “lunch” happens at three in the morning.)