Our Day At &Amp;Quot;Extreme Makeover: Home Edition&Amp;Quot; - Kitchen Pyrotechnics Blog at Allrecipes.com - 250319

Kitchen Pyrotechnics

Our Day at "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" 
Sep. 16, 2011 11:41 am 
Updated: Sep. 21, 2011 5:44 pm
Last Friday we spent the day on the set of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”  We had been asked to donate our time and equipment to the project of turning a house into an erupting volcano during demolition.  While this was the first “volcano house” we have ever made, in the pyrotechnics world strange requests are nothing new.  With little more information than that, we loaded up the truck with anything we thought might be useful and made the 8 hour trek to Medford, Ore.
We brought along my brother-in-law Mike, an extremely clever and all-around good guy that you want on a project like this.  He seems to relish a challenge and figuring out how to safely provide what the producers wanted with little time and no advanced plan was indeed a challenge.  Also along for the ride was my 10-year-old daughter, Kate.  I have never allowed her to miss school for a pyro job but I decided to make an exception since it is for a charitable cause and a unique chance for her to see what we do from behind the scenes.
I bring the children along to many of our shows and projects but we always watch it from afar, as a member of the audience.  When it is a “paying gig,” professionalism is paramount and dragging the family around backstage is a no-no in our book.  As is gaping at celebrities, asking for autographs, and taking photos (unless it’s of the actual pyrotechnics for our business use.)
But this was an entirely different experience and we were warmly welcomed by the producers, directors, crew, and stars of the show.  
The entertainment industry is an incredibly jaded business.  It’s all about money, schedules, and status.  Surly road crews, stressed out managers, and performers with serious diva attitudes are the norm.  But there was no evidence of that here.  Everyone seemed to be aware of the higher purpose they were serving.  Reminders of the family they were helping were everywhere and that goal was always in the forefront of everything going on.
We arrived on the scene around 3pm and the entire neighborhood was a warren of activity.  There were vehicles, equipment, tents, and trailers everywhere.  And people.  Thousands of volunteers in blue shirts and white hardhats swarmed around the construction site. 
In a unique situation, there was room for them to start the new house before the old house was demolished.  We were shocked that the foundation for the new house had just been poured the previous morning.  In the 7 hours that we were there, it went from an incomplete stick frame to a fully enclosed and almost completely roofed structure.  The hourly progress was astounding.  They really do build it in 106 hours.
But our project was over at the old house.  Rick and Mike worked inside the sweltering house along with Kai, an expert in television and movie special effects.  Together, they rigged a platform inside the house that would shoot 30ft high flames and spew smoke and simulated ash and pumice out of a hole they cut in the roof.
At dusk, Rick and Mike hunkered down inside the 120 degree house, filled with explosives and blinding smoke to fire off the effects.  Kate and I gathered in front of the house with the cast and a small group of volunteers to film the ensuing mayhem.
Most of the day, Kate was pretty bored even with the carte blanche we were given to explore the vast off-screen production site.  She got a pretty good taste of how dull and repetitious filming anything can be.  But this finale was exciting and fun.  She and I were standing up front with the cast during the taping, in between carpenter Paige Hemmis and special guest, “Extreme Makeover: Weightloss Edition” host Chris Powell.  Since everyone else around us, except the cast, is wearing blue volunteer shirts, we will probably stand out when the episode airs.  A prospect that thrills Kate but not so much for me.  I’m much happier behind the scenes.
The effects went off spectacularly and everyone was pleased with the final product.   We were exhausted but elated on our long 8 hour journey home.  You see, we had to get home by daybreak Saturday to take much needed showers before heading up to Everett, less Mike and Kate, to oversee the pyrotechnics at the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus.  Three shows on Saturday and two on Sunday.  Such is the life of a pyrotechnician.
The episode we were involved in will probably air sometime in October.  It’s their 200th episode.  If you happen to see it, just remember:  the camera adds 10 (or is it 20?) pounds!  LOL
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One of the many practice flame columns
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The new house under rapid construction
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Kate and Paige
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Kate and Chris
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Sep. 16, 2011 11:54 am
Very cool. My husband is an architect and did the plans for an Extreme Makeover remodel a couple of years ago. It was a really great experience.
Sep. 16, 2011 12:35 pm
That's so neat, BN! As cheesy as the show can sometimes be, they really do a wonderful thing for a deserving family. It felt good to be a small part of the whole process.
Sep. 16, 2011 4:00 pm
Ooooh, WOW! What an experience for all of you! I really enjoy the "extreme Makeover" shows. I be watching to catch your episode! The action pics are thrilling! BN, what a great gift, for your family to also be a part of this kind of giving.!
Sep. 16, 2011 4:01 pm
Sep. 16, 2011 4:27 pm
How cool! I skimmed at first and thought "just what I would like to do to my house!" Then I read it, neat that you guys got to do that and get pictures!
Sep. 16, 2011 4:30 pm
At last, we get the details! Thanks, Michelle. I admit to being star-struck even though we spent 8 yrs living smack dab between Malibu and Santa Barbara. Stars by the dozens lived and shopped near us. But still, I get all goofy. I just think it's way too cool that you and BN got to take part in something special, and for such a good reason.
Sep. 16, 2011 4:56 pm
Thanks, Mamaw, it was a very fun and exciting day for us. It didn't even feel like work...probably because I was hanging out with the cast and crew while the guys worked so hard inside that house. They did such a fantastic job and I am really proud of the work they did.
Sep. 16, 2011 4:59 pm
Cat, I think I took around 100 pictures spanning the entire day. I am a terrible photographer so it took that many to get a few good ones! When I took the pic of Kate & Paige, Paige had to tell me how to hold down the shutter button on my camera. When I took the pic of Kate and Chris, Chris had to remind me to take off the lens cap. I'm working on it! :)
Sep. 16, 2011 5:05 pm
Michele, how awesome for you and yours, cool blog!
Sep. 16, 2011 5:15 pm
Duffy, it took me this long to recover from that weekend of extreme sleep deprivation! So I finally got around to writing about it. It's kind of odd working with celebrity. You are supposed to act like they are just "Joe Shmoe" but some of them kind of expect you to treat them different. It can be uncomfortable. But there are some big stars that are so nice and down to earth. And then there are some...well, it's probably best left unsaid! haha
Sep. 16, 2011 5:17 pm
Thanks, Raedwulf. It was really a positive and uplifting experience. I'm really glad my daughter got to experience it with me.
Sep. 16, 2011 5:39 pm
Michelle - I've think I've met them, LOL! But yes, most are very nice people. I've never intruded, but Holy Cow! When you're tasting the newest offerings at your favorite winery, talking to the vintner (he was in love with Steve, or at least his credit card, lol) and Owen Wilson strolls in... well, wow! I have to admit, being known to the owner made me feel special that day, because OW wasn't. And in WineWorld, being on a first name basis with the vintner is the true measure of your place in the hierarchy. It also means they'll open ANYTHING for you. :D
Sep. 16, 2011 7:12 pm
Thanks so much for the background information, including the fact that everyone involved with the project was so nice!
Sep. 16, 2011 8:10 pm
Very cool. Thanks for sharing.
Sep. 16, 2011 9:09 pm
Duffy, that's great! I love your story about the vintner and Owen Wilson.
Sep. 16, 2011 9:11 pm
Littleviews, it was important to me to try to convey how different the atmosphere was on this set than others. Everyone was so happy to be there and so friendly. I expected it to be more faked for the camera (now who's jaded!)
Sep. 16, 2011 9:12 pm
Thank you, Magnolia! :)
Sep. 16, 2011 9:26 pm
Wow, how amazing! And to be involved in such a project must have been heartwarming!
Sep. 17, 2011 8:16 am
dang! i read this yesterday and thought i had posted it. i guess not, sorry. but, i think ya should know we love ya! great folks working their brains out to help someone in need!! i'll certainly be looking forward to watching!! give yourself a slap on the back! the great northwest strikes again with TERRIFIC people!!!
Sep. 17, 2011 12:34 pm
Lobster, it was a heartwarming experience. It will be something we will always remember.
Sep. 17, 2011 12:37 pm
Thanks, gderr! :) The GREAT northwest is right. I can't believe how many people came out to volunteer their time on that project. And they were SO happy to do it. Generosity and giving back lives on!
Sep. 17, 2011 1:04 pm
Oh, one other quick thing I forgot to add: when we went without knowing anything about the family who the house was for. Turns out they have 2 autistic children. I have a 19 yr old son with autism. There are no coincidences. :)
Sep. 17, 2011 2:32 pm
Oh Michelle, I asked a certain cook how she got such great photos of her food and she said, "I take 50 shots to get it right." 20, 50,100 who cares :) as long as you get a cool pic at least once. Right? And you are right again there are no coincidences in life :)(:
Sep. 17, 2011 6:59 pm
love is alive in giving back to others, thank you michelle for what ya did!
Sep. 17, 2011 9:28 pm
Cat, I had a professional photog tell me the same thing. Thank goodness for digital photography! I would go broke processing that much film!!
Sep. 17, 2011 9:36 pm
gderr, thank you! I love what you said "love is alive in giving back to others." That is so true and one very important lesson that I hope to convey to my children.
Sep. 18, 2011 9:21 am
Amen! LOLOL!
Sep. 18, 2011 9:40 am
Wow Michelle...a couple of thoughts. First off, how cool that you and your family do this for a living. I bet you do have some interesting stories to tell. Secondly, a year ago the Extreme team was here in our city (Salem) also doing a makeover on the Oregon State Deaf school. It was the first time they had done an undertaking like that and re-built their fund raising and local attraction of a haunted house. That one aired last Halloween. It is right by my work and we all took a shift and contributed our small part. You are so right it is a wonderful feeling to be involved in a project that gives back like this one does. Third thing, I was in Grants Pass last weekend, had I known, I would have swung another 20 miles south to be witness to this.
Sep. 18, 2011 12:38 pm
Avon, that's too bad you didn't know about the project. Grants Pass is just down the road! How wonderful you were able to volunteer for the Oregon Deaf School remodel. That was a great episode. To anyone who has a chance to volunteer for one of these projects, I highly recommend it. It's a great experience.
Sep. 18, 2011 1:08 pm
Awesome blog! I worked for Ringling and know the rigors we put the pyro techs through. But I loved them the best. I'll be looking for you on the show! Best of luck!
Sep. 18, 2011 2:51 pm
Wow, Karisma, working for Ringling must have been quite the experience! A lot of hard work goes into that show. Thanks for the comment!!
Sep. 18, 2011 5:09 pm
What a cool experience. I love that show. It is so nice to have a show that helps deserving people. We will have to look for you on the show.
Sep. 18, 2011 5:41 pm
About 5 years ago, EM came to Corvallis and our company participated. We were very much hands-on being go-fers for everthing from bottled water to nails to picking up food from the local restaurants who donated meals for the "hundreds" of folks it takes to Extremely Makeover a house. I had NO idea it was such a huge operation. They even had traffic cops on duty because of all the looky loos. Great experience. I'm so glad you get to be a part of it all. Thanks for sharing.
Sep. 18, 2011 8:49 pm
Occasional, it is nice to have a show with a positive message that really helps people. That's my kind of "reality" show!
Sep. 18, 2011 8:51 pm
Candice, thanks for sharing your experience with the show. It's amazing how many people are willing to give a little to help someone they don't even know. I'm so glad your experience with the show was a good one too.
Sep. 18, 2011 11:44 pm
One of my favorite shows! How exciting to be a part of it. Congratulations, can't wait to see it. Now if I can just get them to come and redo the building where I work with the disabled. :)
Sep. 19, 2011 7:41 am
skyb53, go onto their website & fill out an application to be a recipient of a makeover. It can't hurt and, while I'm sure they get tons of requests, SOMEONE'S gonna get it! I'll be rooting for you :) Thanks for your nice comments!
Sep. 19, 2011 2:32 pm
I've often thought it would be an awesome experience to take part in an Extreme Makeover: Home Edition rebuild. How awesome is it that your pyrotechnics company was chosen to participate in such an incredible episode! I don't have cable or satellite TV, but I'll be sure to ask my mother to watch for your episode to air and have her DVR it for me!
Sep. 19, 2011 4:03 pm
Keri, I hope you're able to see it. The pyro will be awesome! haha And I was just thinking, with everyone on here saying they will watch the episode, they may get a ratings spike thanks to AR!! :)
Sep. 20, 2011 5:41 am
How exciting. I witnessed Mt. St Helen's go off and it was boring by comparison :) It is so nice to hear that this is a very positive experience. My son worked at VIP services for DisneyWorld years ago and he had some doozies. Good and bad. Some of his favs.......Susan Lucci, Christi Brinkley, Joan Lunden and many others. Some of his not so favs......well we won't go there :)
Sep. 20, 2011 6:18 am
Wow, so awesome! The show makes me cry with happiness and gratitude at the kindness of people, every time! How lovely and lucky for you to participate!
Sep. 20, 2011 10:45 am
Sep. 20, 2011 7:37 pm
Maui, I agree...don't go there! LOL I prefer to just tell people about the wonderful, kind celebritys out there. Our volcano house was definately more Mauna Loa than St. Helens!!
Sep. 20, 2011 7:40 pm
Dee, I have heard that too. I hope it's just over-exaggerated in the media. The goal is to make life better for these people, not saddle them with a burden.
Sep. 20, 2011 7:42 pm
Sarah, I actually stopped watching the show regularly a while back because I ALWAYS cry...and I hate to cry! :) I got choked up a few times during the taping. But I will watch this episode...and probably cry like always. Oh well, I'll have tissue on hand.
Sep. 21, 2011 5:00 am
Michelle, I know...my husband won't watch it anymore because he's sick of crying, ha. I get teary just thinking of the shows I've seen!
Sep. 21, 2011 5:44 pm
I can't wait for this episode! I loved hearing the details that you shared with us and it makes me appreciate what Extreme does for these families even more. I feel like I 'know' some cool inside information now, thanks for a great blog Michelle. Now, where did I leave that box of tissues.....
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Michelle Smith Wuscher

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About Me
I am the mother of 3 - 22 & 19 yr old boys and a 10 yr old girl. We have a pyrotechnics company and get to experience fun events all over the state and country. After a lifetime of rarely leaving Washington State, I love experiencing new foods during our travels.
My favorite things to cook
Just about anything except baking. I like to "wing it" when I am cooking which isn't good for baking. And it's also a problem when everyone loves something I made. It can be difficult to come up with the same thing twice. We dine at restaurants the majority of the time but I love being able to make a home-cooked meal for my family.
My cooking tragedies
When I was about 10, my sister and I tried to make a recipe for Shepherds Pie that used instant mashed potatoes but we neglected to prepare the potatoes before adding them on top. It turned out glue-like but the adults did a great job of eating some of it and telling us it was "just fine". But there was a lot of water consummed with that meal!!!
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