At the end of the day, we did have a legitimate plan. Rigging 100 ft wide black drop cloths from our beach house all the way to the edge of the water would enable us to shoot the two scenes that simply had to take place on the beach at night and still shield all lights from the baby sea turtles, allowing them to hatch and scramble toward the water to their endangered hearts’ content.
This plan was good enough for the Collier County Fish and Wildlife Federation and the FL EPA. And even in Lee County, although yes, most houses diligently pulled their shutters down post 9pm, the lights from some clubs still illuminated the late night revelers along the coastline of Fort Myers, the party town directly north of Bonita Springs. So clearly, Turtle Time was willing to work with the community to allow man and turtle to exist symbiotically from May to October. These facts made us think our problem with Turtle Time Inc was not strictly environmental, it was also personal.
Why Turtle Time Inc would make it their personal mission to f**k with us was still unclear, but there was no doubt they were on this mission.
Every morning, we’d take deep breaths and cross our fingers as reps from Turtle Time patrolled the beach, checking for nests. At no point was one ever found in front of our property. But every morning, someone from Turtle Time would stop by the house and harass us about something, anything that might deem our property not “turtle friendly.”
One day a TT rep drove by on her golf cart with a few baby sea turtles in a bucket. They were totally cute. We all ran out to take a look at these adorable creatures. She yanked the bucket away and gave us a look as if we were personally responsible for the near extinction of the species.
Clearly, some sort of politics were in play here, and Andrea decided to take them on immediately. Meanwhile I began looking into other places we could film these scenes. Andrea made an appointment with the Collier County Film Commissioner, the Mayor of Bonita Springs, and the board who ran city hall.
This was the first week of August. Fortunately we had till mid September to figure this out. Unfortunately we had a million other things to figure out too, and could not be devoting every bit of our time to our turtle problem. But we treaded on.
I started calling recreational parks. I found a place a few hours north of us that, at first glance, seemed like it might be the answer to this entire mess. The Coral Springs Yacht Club was a public park with a beach area right on the gulf. But the shores were full of pebbles, not sand, so turtles didn’t nest there. This meant the park was exempt from all turtle laws. I called Michael, the manager of the Yacht Club and explained our situation.
For about 20 minutes, elation permeated. Michael was thrilled at the prospect of having a film shoot at the yacht club (for a pricey fee of course; but at this point, who cared). I simply had to submit a basic proposal for him to run by the town hall. But he assured me they would be as thrilled as he was.
20 minutes later, Michael called me back. He’d forgotten to ask, but he just wanted to make sure this was a PG teen film, as the town hall committee of Coral Springs were (surprise, surprise) extremely conservative.
“I mean you aren’t going to film a bunch of teenagers drinking or having sex or anything like that I assume,” he said, laughing at the absurdity. My spirits immediately sank.
This is a realistic teen film, not an after school special. Of course the teenagers in Still Green are drinking, smoking pot, and having sex. There is nudity, and unfortunately, both scenes we needed to film did involve some t & a. One was a sex scene; the other was a skinny dipping scene.
I thought about lying for a minute. But it seemed like telling the truth and potentially losing the location would be better than lying and getting caught.
I tried my best to explain to Michael that although Still Green would most likely be rated R, and that yes, the two scenes we were looking to film involved nudity, it was not gratuitous or in the least bit raunchy. I tried to explain that both scenes had a deeper spiritual meaning about the connection between man and animal, the beauty of a non traditional funeral, and the way people find comfort in a loss. Unfortunately, Michael most likely stopped listening after the word “nudity” because the moment it left my lips he immediately started backpedaling.,
I submitted a proposal, crossed my fingers, and hoped for the best.
I’d also found a hotel in Sanibel, right on the beach, that had gotten an exemption from Turtle Time because the hotel was under serious renovations. This grand hotel was a huge money maker for the town and needed to be finished before season started up again so the crews were allowed to work at night. And yes, to do this, they lit the beach. Doug was quick to point out the hypocrisy running here. I called the initially enthusiastic resort manager and submitted a proposal. But she called back and said all night activity involving lights had to be submitted to Turtle Time before they could get approval so this plan was dead in the water before it could even hatch, no pun intended. To be honest, one of the three shark attacks in the news had taken place in Sanibel, so I can’t say I was heartbroken about this plan not panning out.
We thought about renting another beach house for two days, somewhere up or down the coast, safely outside of Lee County and shooting the scenes where no one would be stalking our property looking for lights. In the event we did get caught, we could play dumb, pretend to be NYU students making some school project and claim we’d never heard of the sea turtle laws. I made a few calls in this direction but problems with this plan included the costs of renting a new place, the hassle of moving the production, and the extreme waste of money and time (of which we had neither) it would be to go though this, only to get there and find a turtle nest on the property or to get caught and have to stop filming.
Meanwhile, Andrea had her meetings. The film commissioner agreed to do what she could to help us.
The mayor was charmed by Andrea’s passion and sincerity, but he delivered some interesting and unexpected news. He admitted to Andrea that there had been pressure from Turtle Time Inc throughout their city council to shut our production down because of the turtle issue. He told Andrea that considering the amount of money, career opportunities, and media attention we’d brought into the community, he had no intention of doing this, but that everyone answered directly to Turtle Time when it came to sea turtle protection.
Andrea asked why Turtle Time would have such bad blood with us when we’d been nothing but compliant and in negotiation mode since the moment we’d arrived in town? We found out something totally weird.
Apparently, a man, and he wouldn’t reveal who, had called Turtle Time upon our arrival in town. He claimed that he had originally been a part of our film crew, but had quit the production when he realized how “self centered” and “Hollywood” we were in our lack of care for the environment. He claimed that our plan was to just shoot at night unbeknownst to Turtle Time, whether there were turtle nests on our property or not. He claimed he’d overheard us saying things such as “To hell with these turtles, we have a movie to shoot” He called Turtle Time and basically said everything he could have possibly said to make Still Green their worst enemy.
?????????????? Who was this mysterious man? More importantly, what the hell were we supposed to do about the turtles, Turtle Time Inc, and these two crucial scenes?