It had to be the worst job on the lot.
I had moved heaven and earth to get a job in the movies, not as an actor, but as one of those essential background types that kept everything going.
Props, wardrobe, clapper boy, someone significant, where I’d get my name among the other few hundred at the end of the film.
But script deliverer? At the end of everyone’s pent up anger when the previous day went badly, after issues with the script caused filming delays and actor revolt.
And don’t get me started on the director. Not a job I’d want.
From the moment he said through clenched teeth, “shut it down, this script is..” and then a string of expletives, followed by “useless.”
I could have done better.
After delivering what was a last-minute change requested by the lead actor, and a small rewrite around it, I stayed to watch the magic happen.
Well out of the way of course.
It went well till they got to the last line when for some unaccountable reason, the actress burst into giggles.
I could see why. It had a very rude connotation that some might pick up on, especially if I could.
And that was where the day ended, two pages short, adding to the other delays making the total days behind schedule to 12.
We were perilously close to being shut down.
The production company I worked for did not make A grade blockbusters. We were more about creating quality entertaining films for the cable channels. It was not rocket science, just have a brilliant script, good actors, a schedule, and get it done. There were another 25 waiting in the wings, keeping everyone busy.
Yesterday it was a period romance, today it’s got a Sci-Fi ring to it, tomorrow, a romantic comedy. Same set, different props, same actors, same crew, different script but more of the same.
It was a formula and it worked
Until it didn’t. And usually, the reason it didn’t came down to the script. Or an actor dies halfway through, and it’s reshot with a replacement, or shut down and come back later.
Out problem was the script. Or more specifically, the scriptwriter.
The rumour mill had been working overtime before the shoot started, that the scriptwriter was the brother of the A-List actress that was married to the director’s brother. Some convoluted set of relationships that could easily pass as the plot of a film itself.
The thing is, he was a dilettante, thinking he could trade on his sister’s name, and no one was having any of it. I don’t think he quite grasped the concept that his sister would not take his side if the director finally kicked him out.
She knew the value of favours, and this was the only one she would use for him.
And what made matters worse was the script was a really good one, if only he’d stop playing with it.
Oliver Fosdyke was in his room, a small box attached to the meeting room for the crew of the shoot, where we all met the last thing to go over the next day’s shoot.
I knocked on the door, and he looked up sharply. He’d heard what happened at the shoot.
“Directors not happy. I expect you’ll need some ammo for the meeting, which gives you about a half-hour. He wants tomorrow’s pages, unchanged for what he read the other day, the fix you fixed, fixed, that is so it doesn’t make the leading lady laugh.”
“The man’s a philistine.”
“He’s the director. I don’t think you need me to tell you he can fire you.”
“I’d like to see him try?”
“OK, put it this way, he has fifteen solid hits, an Academy Award nomination, and a schedule that would break a camel’s back. You have, oh, yes, this is your first script. I think a little humility might go a long way, Oliver. Aside from the fact I need this job. You’ve got twenty-five minutes now.”
“Has my sister been talking to you? David.”
“You’d know if she had. I’d be the one fainting on the floor.”
I came back to the meeting room five minutes early to see one of the cinematography assistants eating salad out of a plastic container.
“Where’s everyone?” I asked her.
“Meetings moved back an hour. Director got haul up to the main office. Hope it’s not bad news.”
So did I.
The script pages were sitting on the table, and I picked one up and scanned through it.
Damn. The foolish man had not made the necessary changes. This was going to be the end of him, defying common sense. Fortunately, I’d kept the pages of the original script, with a minor change I thought was needed, and substituted them.
Someone had to try and save him.
“You drew the short straw, you know, David.” She said.
“The man is impossible to work with. I told HR you were good at working with impossible people, so they took you on. Don’t thank me now, but I will want the favour repaid.”
Madeleine. She had been at the recruitment session with a hundred others vying for 20 priceless jobs. She had succeeded, I’d failed, only to get a phone call three days later asking if I was still interested. I thought luck had something to do with it.
“I’m not sure, now, if I should thank you.”
“Oh, you will. Now ask me if I want to have dinner with you tomorrow.”
I shrugged. I didn’t understand her, or women in general.
“Would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow night?”
“Yes, I would.” She smiled, and then went back to her salad.
There were thirty people in a room that should only have twenty. Fortunately, meetings didn’t last very long.
We got through everything, except the script.
The director picked it up and scanned through the pages, apparently satisfied. Except, when he got to the last page…
“Kevin? Who the hell is Kevin? Oliver?”
Oliver looked like a deer caught in the headlights, so I jumped in quickly, “An improvisation that takes away that humorous result in the final scene we were shooting. Oliver and I were throwing ideas around and we came back to a point you made in the first script read-through, that point where you could feel there was something unsaid but couldn’t quite put your finger on it.”
Oliver looked up, after reading the line, not annoyed, but intrigued.
“I’ll let David have his moment in the spotlight,” and gave me the death stare.
Something was going to hit the fan when we got back to the office.
“As I was saying, we’ve moved that thing into a sort of reality because there will be a post-it note pad on the bench with the name Kevin written on it and underlined. We’ve added two lines, but the thing is, instead of ending the way it did, Larry’s eyes go down to the bench, sees the name, and adds rather sharply, ‘who’s Kevin?’ She looks all quizzical, sees the note, and says, “I don’t know, I must have written it down for some reason, but not recently.”
“Which then feeds into the follow on from that the next day, where there is a slight tension between the two whereas everything had been bright and easy, which then leads to Larry’s suspicion that she is seeing someone else.”
Which in my view cleared up a continuity issue that the continuity people should have caught, and hadn’t.
“Then, just for interest’s sake, who is this Kevin?
I shrugged. “It doesn’t really matter, but it could be explained with a single line from Mary’s sister when they’re discussing Larry’s apparent change in demeanour, where she notices the tap in the kitchen is not dripping, so something like, I see you got that annoying tap fixed, at which point Mary says, oh, that Kevin. He was the plumber. But you can see the opening for misinterpretation.”
“Real life impinging on art, I like it. Well, done Oliver. Make sure everyone has the script amendments before the day is out. Nothing else?” A look around the table, then, “Let’s make it happen tomorrow. David, walk with me.”
As I got up, I could see Oliver.
“After the director’s done with you, can you come back?”
It was not a bad-tempered tone, but it still had an edge. No point putting it off.
In the corner, I could see Madeleine with a smirk. Like most, she didn’t like Oliver, and I’m sure she couldn’t quite believe he could have thought of the Kevin angle.
“Far enough away from the building, the director said, “Did Oliver come up with that scenario?”
“It fits the script and follows the nuances he was getting across. I think he just forgot, momentarily, there were some gaps in the continuity, which, I know from experience, are easy to miss unless you get to the sixth or seventh edit. It helps when you read it out loud, like the first run through, and you picked it up.”
“OK, I’ll come right out with it, did you write those changes?”
“Do you want me to lie?”
“Why would you bother?”
“Because it’s a great script, it just has a few gaps if you like.”
“How many more are there?”
“Three, which I’ve fixed, so no one will ever know, and I don’t think Oliver will object. Not now, anyway.”
“Well, that’s your job, keeping the bear in his cage. Here,” he slipped some paper into my hand, keeping it covered, “Madeleine likes French Champagne. Treat her right, OK.”
“Yes, sir. Always.”
“Good man. Now go get your bollocking.”
© Charles Heath 2022