“People!” he shouted, his megaphone at full power.
“That sure got their attention, Mr Mendenhall,” his assistant and chief camera operator, the hugely talented Russian Victoria Sergeyeva, remarked.
“I hope so, Vicky,” he said, as Victoria flinched at the abbreviation of her name that she so hated (and the fat old sod knows it, which is probably why he does it, she thought), “the construction crew has worked their socks off building this set, and our schedule says we gotta start shooting today, else the backers are likely to pull out.”
Turning back to his megaphone and sweating profusely in the summer heat, he called out, “Positions, people. Scene one. Let’s have the street milling with you; busy, busy day. I want some trash cans in the street, PROPS!”
While the extras moved to the marks they had memorised, Allis Nilsson, head of props, came rushing in closely followed by three of her team, each carrying large trash cans overflowing with polystyrene ‘waste’. “Sorry, Mr Mendenhall, Sir,” she said, “only my copy of the script says the bins aren’t needed until scene fifteen. The residents put them out in the evening. Sir.”
“Who’s in charge here, Allis; who? The scriptwriters?” Allis looked away and scratched at the back of her hand. Her breathing became shallow and rapid. She knew better than to respond when Roly-Poly was in this frame of mind.
“Well? Speak up. Who?” he asked again.
“S-sir?” she replied, quietly and hesitantly through trembling lips. She loved her job; the challenges of getting the scene exactly right every time; the ability to use all her creativity to bring life to polystyrene and papier-maché, creating convincingly real-looking articles from ultra-lightweight materials. What she didn’t like, though, and what gave rise to regular nightmares, were these all-too-frequent run-ins with overweight, washed-up, has-beens of directors who still thought themselves something special; some kind of demi-god.
“I am,” he bellowed. “I, Roland Mendenhall. I am in charge. This is my set; my movie. Although what a multiple Oscar-winning director of my stature is doing, working on an urban wildlife flick is beyond even my comprehension.”
Allis signalled to her people to put the bins out. “Quickly,” she mouthed silently, urging them on with a flick of her fingers.
The props crew placed the bins and carefully arranged the ‘waste’ around them.
Victoria disappeared off to the director’s trailer, returning a moment later with a pitcher of water, a glass, and a small handful of pills.
“Medication, Mr Mendenhall?” she said, offering him the pills and a glass of water.
“Sure. Didn’t take them yet,” he replied, tossing the tablets and capsules into his mouth and washing them down with the water. “Hit me again,” he said, presenting the empty glass to Victoria. She refilled it and handed it back to him.
“I thought not, Boss. You really should try not to get so angry, you know.”
“I know, Vicky,” he said. “Y’know, this may be just a docutainment movie, but it’s gonna be the best goddam presentation of urban wildlife this business has ever seen. Where are we with special effects?”
“M M M are standing by for it, Sir, but they’ll need our raw footage first.”
“Fifteen to forty-three, Sir.”
“Fine. Let’s get these early scenes in the can first. They’re easy enough; one or two takes each should do it. Can we wind them up today?”
“Tomorrow would be a better bet, Sir.”
“I guess you’re right, Vicky.”
“That’s why you pay me, Mr Mendenhall.”
“Okay. We’ll do that, then. Runner!”
Rosa Arroyo ran up to her director, stood smartly to attention, and shouted out in a voice much larger than she, “Sir, yes sir!”
Roland turned to Victoria, “Does she have to do that?” he asked, sotto voce, “scares me, every time.”
“Just her way, Mr Mendenhall,” Victoria replied, equally quietly, “her father is… was a drill sergeant in the Marines.”
“Can you let the actors know that we’re ready for them, please, Rosa?” he said, recoiling slightly in readiness for…
“Sir, yes Sir!”
Once the lead actors were in position, the megaphone came back into play.
“Twentieth century foxes scene one, take one… and … ACTION.”
The clapper operator snapped the clapper shut, the actors started performing their rehearsed actions and lines, and the extras milled around the street displaying a purposefulness they didn’t, in reality, possess. Without warning, the director raised the megaphone to his lips and, with a face that was almost purple with rage, the very veins standing out on his forehead and neck as though carrying five times their normal complement of blood, he yelled, “Cut, Cut, Cut! For Chrissakes CUT!”
“What ever’s up, Boss?” Victoria asked, perplexed, while the actors and extras looked around with more-than-usually blank expressions.
Roland pointed a finger in the general direction of the street, although it was shaking so violently that his assistant couldn’t make out exactly where it was pointing.
“Who put that goddam sign there?” he hollered.
I wrote this in response to Kreative Kue 45, issued on this site earlier this week. Feel free to join in; just follow the link.