Do you remember the first time?
... a novella
When mentioning those "side projects" I keep talking about one of the biggest victims of procrastination would be my book.
Yes, I am writing ... have been writing a book.
And yes, it has not escaped me that this is a bit sad.
And my daughter never fails to point out the fact that it should have been finished by now. Especially as I came up with a total of 10 pages in the first three years of writing, but I have of late, and wherefore I know not, managed to get a move on.
The comedic novella will shed some light on independent filmmaking in the north of the republic and should be completed some time this summer. Yay!
I will have to point out that this is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Here's an excerpt of what to expect:
Chapter 1: Morning Glory and Make-Up Sex
Chapter 2: Pandemic at the Bottom of the Food Chain
Chapter 3: Snogging a Dead Horse
Chapter 4: The Shower Scene and Tits in a Twist
Chapter 5: A Dagger of the Mindless
Chapter 6: Why Kinski was a Pussycat
Chapter 7: 2011 - A Suburban Odyssey
Chapter 8: Life after Set
Chapter 9: The Writer's Wrath
Chapter 10: Booze, Borderline and a Canoe Trip
Chapter 11: Killing your Darlings
Chapter 12: ...than a Rose in his Grace
Chapter 13: Like a Friend
Chapter 14: Oh! You Pretty Things
Chapter 15: Glory Days
Chapter 16: A little Soul
When a friend w/ a strange fetish comes up to you and asks you to write a play about it, how do you react?
Do you run screaming into the night (or in my case the busy street at lunchtime)?
Do you tell her where to go, falling back on the more colourful aspects of your vocabulary?
Or do you call David Tennant and tell him there's a German bird out there out to get him and you just thought you'd let him know, so he's got a head start to make for the hills? You pause to think and realise you don't have David Tennant's phone number and you really don't give a toss anyway, as you casually grab your grande Chai Latte and visit your happy place.
"She must be kidding!" you think as you quite calmly and rationally inform her that there already is a play called "Stalking David Tennant" and you don't appreciate being a copycat...
Your friend laughs, shakes her gorgeous head, flutters her lashes at you and says that you will eventually come around to her way of thinking.
Three months and two root canals later you do.
Whilst sitting at the dentist's contemplating your existence and the teachings of Ram Dass and Swami Vivekananda in regards to pain while pondering, whether becoming a Hindu will actually make anaesthetic injections start working again, you have the most amazing insight: Let's make a film out of it.
True: You may not be re-inventing the wheel, but a) the Neanderthals never really claimed any patent and b) you have spent the last weeks in excruciating pain and when you ran out of money to fly to your dad to fix your teeth, you had to go see some German bird with the empathic vibe of a Romulan-Klingon hybrid inside the Neutral Zone.
You call your friend, promising a film, if she doesn't leak information about your slight weakness for Christopher Eccleston's accent ... She did, but that's another story.
And somebody else's book.
As your husband and daughter set out for the family vacation in France without you (thanks to the requirement to see a dentist on a regular basis and having a cool pack to share the bed with rather than more attractive things ... like, I dunno ... Jarvis Cocker ... never mind ...), you get to work on what was supposed to be a harmless little 10 minute mocumentary.
Once you hit page 92 it becomes clear you are going to have to make a feature ...
Your producer disagrees and tells you to edit scenes ... you comply. You still have 72 pages and your line producer tries to convince you it means 36 minutes of footage.
So you set out, following the wise advice of these ageing filmmaking virtuosos, and apply for funding ... over the next three months it will become painfully obvious to you why you should never trust a man in his fifties, who thinks it's okay to say the name "Kant" in a public place in the UK at lunchtime, to tell you how long your film will be ...
Whilst looking at the holiday snapshots your daughter and husband took and thinking "Gee, I wanted to go to Normandy to do research for my WW2 drama ... " you realise that the only way to make this film is to gather a crew and just do it.
So over the course of three months you hunt down every card-bearing film professional in town and then, after shooting a better not mentioned advert for postal gold in London, you pester an old friend in Wales about a director ...
She puts you in touch with someone crazy enough to fly to Germany to make a film without a budget in spite of years of experience. There is a catch, though: He can only spare you one week ...
(And he really is pathologically insane.)
Thanks to Easyjet pricing, one week turned into 6 days and you have to rely on German efficiency to keep the machine rolling ...
And yes, it is really just a myth to prevent people from taking their business to China.
So how do you film a feature in a week?
You find the most desperate cast and crew on the planet put them together in a two bedroom flat for 6 days and if they don't eat the ones at the bottom of the food chain when your catering stops functioning, you will have a movie to be proud of ...
... you may think ...
(...little do you know that three years later you will still be editing ...)
Chapter 1 - Morning Glory and Make-Up Sex
It is exactly ... 4:30 a.m. and your head is throbbing from another night of tossing and turning, whilst worrying half the crew won't show up for today's meeting.
Last week's "stress toothache" has turned out to be another pulpitis, requiring you to see your local dentist. Still remembering the previous year's encounter with T'Pring, you decide it's wise to see that elderly gentleman above the bank. He's roughly your father's age and his surgery hasn't seen any new equipment since 1984, giving it just enough of a British touch to make the man trustworthy.
Your original plan of combining will power and ibuprofen to make it through the six weeks before you go back to the UK to see your dad, sadly, didn't work out, as your jaw was very keen on throbbing like unrelieved morning glory after a trip to the Playboy Mansion.
Your plan to lose about six pounds to fit into your costume worked out quite well, though, thanks to the requirement to see the afore mentioned dentist and your steadfast refusal to comply with what logic obviously dictated.
So, slimmed down, hungry and throbbing, you curse your tooth, and head across the street to see the ancient oral physician who reminds you a bit of Patrick Troughton's 2nd Doctor in an oversized smock.
Being your father's daughter, a former dental nurse and also a bit of a chicken, you inform the Doctor of what procedure you expect is required. It doesn't take him too long to convince you to open your mouth and have him have a look for himself ... and to confirm that you were right all along.
He's a chatty sort of Doctor and quite happily recalls the good old days whilst giving you an anaesthetic injection in your lower jaw. Only mildly irritated by this, you wait for him to finish his sentence. You don't want to be rude after all, but it still strikes you as odd that he would inject your lower jaw, when it is a tooth in your upper jaw that requires a root canal.
The Doctor stops for breath and you politely inquire how he feels about an injection in the right place, since the teeth in your lower jaw don't really hurt all that much. He chuckles, says something along the lines of "Gee, that's never happened to me before." ... and gets to work again, whilst you're wondering whether you should throw a packet of Jelly Babies at him and then run out while he's distracted. As the morning glory in your upper jaw is still throbbing, whilst your lower jaw has gone completely numb, you decide it's too much of a hassle.
Surprisingly, the second injection worked a lot better than the ones T'Pring provided last year and the Doctor seems to actually know what he's doing, so you just lean back and enjoy the ride. After he drilled through your filling with his rather elaborate sonic screwdriver, relief sets in and after another fifteen minutes you leave the surgery with a now familiar taste in your completely numb mouth as well as a profound sense of accomplishment: Your will power has overcome your warped nerves and you can now see a dentist again, trusting that you won't feel a thing.
So you do what any self-respecting daddy's girl would do: you call your father and inform him of Patrick Troughton's results. He doesn't sound too surprised about the Doctor's theory that your grating your teeth may play a significant part in your tooth's premature demise.
You ponder on this as you lie in bed, trying to unclench your jaws, resisting the temptation to call everyone and make sure they'll actually show up.
There it is again: That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach. That sense of impending doom. Okay, yes, there has been a volcano eruption, but the airport is still open.
Okay, and yes, your lead actress has e-mailed you a few days ago, asking you to change the script unless you want to be the cause of her marriage falling apart. (And yes, you still curse your conscience for stopping you from replacing her after that little stunt.)
Then there's that bloke w/ all the equipment who never even bothers replying to an e-mail and whom you have to call persistently before getting a "no, everything's in my diary".
And you don't even want to get started on the producer ... or his little sidekick, the line-producer/production manager, as neither of them are doing their jobs, but turning the work you had already done for them upside down, w/ the result that no one has a clue anymore as to what he or she will have to do when the machine starts rolling.
It's little things like these that make you appear a bit on edge, but hey, you're only human.
At this point it has become painfully obvious that you will not be getting any more sleep and might as well do something constructive with your time.
Commercial airliners and the odd military plane have painted elaborate patterns across the dawn-stained sky and you make your way through the quiet flat, as you listen to distant noises from the airport. As long as they're still flying, one of your problems might solve itself. You head for the kitchen and put the kettle on. You are too anxious to eat and settle for a cup of tea and a glass of orange juice, going over the producer's schedule again.
After having made a couple of modifications here and there, you decide the thing makes sense again. You put the paperwork aside and look at the marriage-threatening script once more. It is still hard to fathom for you as to where exactly it could be making someone's husband look like a complete tit, but you decide it's not really your problem and you secretly hope the girl does not show up, so you can replace her with an understudy you had already organised.
You are too tired to feel bad about these thoughts. She had let you down in the past after all. If she didn't show up, then you wouldn't be responsible. The more you ponder on this, the more you start feeling like a complete and utter twat. So you stop thinking about it and worry about the fact that your scene partner is obscenely good-looking and that after six weeks of no sleep you are more likely to look like his nanny rather than his romantic interest. Too bad you didn't get an understudy for yourself ... ah yes, it's because you are the understudy for that lady who got knocked up.
You make a mental note not write for female leads anymore.
All your fellow-feminists will probably label you as a sell-out, now.
And where is that ruddy lucky mug of yours?!
Maybe chocolate would help. It probably would.
Too bad you made a resolution to live healthily only last week... and there is no chocolate in the house.
At least you find your mug and partial order has been restored.
Whilst you wait for your tea to cool down enough to drink, you fix your daughter's school snacks and listen to the rhythmical hum of your dishwasher. Your mind has gone completely blank and this would be a welcome change, however, you feel that you have forgotten something important.
...but let's not go there.
The morning drags on w/out too much excitement, highlighted only by your neurotic cat's defecation of your kitchen floor.
It is exactly 8:30 a.m. when you wake up in a puddle of your own saliva as the phone keeps on ringing somewhere under a pile of pillows in your daughter's bed. You waddle over to her room and dig around for a bit, until you find the phone and answer it.
"Good morning" your producer's voice booms through the receiver, "Ready to go shopping?"
Ah, yes. That's the thing you forgot: The producer was going to help you get some additional food for tonight's BBQ and then drive to Hamburg City Airport with you to pick up the director and his personal sidekick, hereafter referred to as "Surly Wanker" and "D.P. Mackerel".
You are quite excited to meet Surly, as he claims to have worked as a BBC producer for 6 years before deciding to go freelance. As for D.P.: He is supposed to be some boy genius.
The trip to the shops proves to be quite insightful and shall later be remembered as one of the many warning signs you chose to ignore.
You have drawn up a nice little shopping list, you have pocketed 200 out of the 700 Euros your parents have contributed to your catering budget and you are ready to inventory the lot back at "the office" along with the donations from the organic shop for your week of filming.
As you push your trolley through the near-vacant Aldi mart, you tick off items on your shopping list and try to ignore your producer's less-than-covert-yet-quite-successful attempts to smuggle bottles of white into your trolley.
When you reach the check-out you politely enquire after the purpose of these 8 bottles of white.
"For the BBQ." your producer replies.
You try to explain to him that it will be quite difficult to have a staff meeting when people are drinking wine and that the only reason you're having a BBQ is that you don't have enough room to sit everybody down at a table upstairs in your "office" which, really, is just a two bedroom flat.
"Well, everyone else thinks it's a party." is your producer's explanation and you give up arguing with him, as you pull your wallet out of the back pocket of your jeans and wonder whether make-up sex will make your husband forget about exactly how much of your hard-earned savings you are going to spend on this catastrophe waiting to happen.
It is back at "the office" when you inventory both the shopping and the donations that you decide that in spite of popular belief make-up sex doesn't really make up for anything and that you have to work really hard to make this project a success or else this epic failure waiting to happen shall be engraved on your tombstone one day.
Chapter 2: Pandemic at the Bottom of the Food Chain
EXT. INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF BREMEN - DAY
It is roughly 7:45 a.m., as you arrive at your first location for the day. Although it is still quite early, the day promises glorious weather and the eagerness to get started is only slightly marred by the fact that whilst a bunch of extras are waiting (rather forlornly) outside the school office, Surly and D.P. as well as the camera crew are ready to set up and all actors are on set ...
... the producer, his line-producer sidekick as well as your catering are, sadly, not there.
It's not really that anyone really misses either the producer or the line-producer, who finished roughly four of the eight bottles of white amongst themselves last night, but as some people actually made use of the staff meeting to discuss work matters and it got kind of late ...
... well, roughly 90% of the people present were sort of looking forward to some coffee this morning.
The coffee, that is in the producer's boot along with the rest of the catering.
You are about to send one of the assistants off to get some coffee from a nearby bakery when the line producer drives up to the school, followed by the producer.
INT. CORRIDOR INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL OF BREMEN - DAY
As the extras start queuing outside and the producer is trying to get the coffee machines to work, you stop wondering where the hell the casting person in charge of the extras is and quite calmly start washing cucumbers and lettuce for the sandwiches that should have already been made.
The extras file into the not yet vacant school cafeteria with the smell of coffee finally filling the air. Your casting director has found her way to the set by now and although one of your actors hasn't made an appearance yet, you start to feel like you are in control of the situation again ... even though keeping things under control really never was your job to begin with.
The line producer is outside smoking a fag, Surly, D.P. and the sound guys are setting up the first scene whilst the lead actor is in make-up and your producer is watching the coffee machines.
You have just finished washing the cucumbers and the students are finally clearing the cafeteria as two of your camera guys come to you in search of food, each possessively clinging to a plastic cup of coffee. "Are those cucumber sandwiches?" asks Camera 3. "Not yet." you reply, not quite sure what he is getting at. "Man, you can't serve us cucumber and lettuce sandwiches." adds Camera 2. "Why not? I have to make some use of this box of freebies." you point out.
"You know why that shop gave you all those for free, right?" Camera 3 asks. "Yes?" you reply hesitantly.
"The intestinal germ ... ", adds Camera 2, "Where have you been the past week?"
You contemplate a retort, but then decide it's not really his fault that you had to do three people's jobs on top of your own, and instead let him explain to you what the problem is.
It turns out that after a volcano eruption, your female lead's domestic drama and your root canal ... things could indeed get worse.
Your "free catering" consists of exactly those vegetables that officials strongly recommend to avoid like the plague at the moment due to a number of people having been struck down by a dangerous intestinal germ. Apparently there have even been fatalities and imports from Spain and Italy are currently under suspicion of carrying said germ.
Your suggestion of giving the produce a good scrub doesn't convince your crew. Nor does your indignant "But it's OGRANIC!" weaken their resolve not to eat the veg, unless it's cooked. So you decide to serve cheese and beetroot sandwiches, much to the dismay of your German crew members.
When you hit the last sandwich your producer saunters over to you and suggests he can finish up. You just look at him, shake your head and take the tray over to the crew table.
While there is a casting person on set, who is supposed to liaise with the extras, this person is busy watching the scenes, rather than make sure the lunch for the people working an 18 hour shift is not eaten by the people with a two hour shift ... who, quite frankly, have plenty of biscuits at their disposal.
By the time the first crew actually have five minutes to sit down and eat, the extras have eaten all the sandwiches and taken off.
You have to get into costume for your first scene and with neither the costumes nor the make-up person in sight you get ready without them and put on the first thing you can find; a way too short skirt and a none too flattering tight t-shirt that is definitely not your colour. On the way outside you pass them having a cigarette break.
EXT. THOMAS-MANN-STRASSE - DAY
The line-producer, who had been introduced to you as "production manager" starts shouting at you for turning up late for the scene. You decide not to bother asking him if he is serious and instead press on to discuss your scene with Surly and his boy genius.
When you meet them at the end of the school driveway your daughter, who is also in the film, informs you that her drama teacher (who was supposed to fill in as an extra) had to leave, but her music teacher has agreed to take her place. After one of the supporting actors had already not bothered to show up in the morning and one of the extras had read the part, you decide to give in to karma ... Okay, maybe you decide the universe is a bitch ... and contemplate why it is always you who forgets to duck when the shit hits the fan.
But that's karma for you, innit?
It is now half past four in the afternoon. People vaguely have a clue as to what they are supposed to do and no one has openly rebelled yet, given the fact that no one has had any lunch and the make-up artist and costumes person have finished the last packet of biscuits during their extended cigarette break.
You even have a seal off permit for the road. And whilst it is grand to have an opportunity to park your production vehicles anywhere you like and to seal off any location you are using, it would probably be even grander if you actually had production vehicles and people to help seal off locations.
But as you only have the two winos in charge, some extras, the make-up and costumes biscuits and a camera crew ... well, there really isn't anyone left to seal off the road.
So you simply wait for traffic to die down in between takes which usually have to be aborted thanks to some twat driving his BMW through your shot.
You are about halfway through the scene when the producer informs you that the crew really needs something to eat. It takes you about fifty seconds to realise that it is his not-too-subtle way of asking you to give him money. Since you haven't even had breakfast yet, you tell him where to go ... at great length.
It is nearly six thirty p.m. when you wrap the scene and are ready to move camp. You and your daughter ride the bike across town back to your flat whilst everyone else heads to the next location via the golden arches.
Your daughter is upset about not getting any takeaway so you ask your husband to make sure she gets some food and then you join the rest of the team at your best friend's flat.
EXT. NEUENLANDER STRASSE 50 - DUSK
When you get there nothing has been set up and everyone seems to be waiting for you to tell them what to do. Your producer tells you that you need to get the director to get a move on, as it is getting dark, all the while ignoring your interjections that both scenes take place at night.
Eventually you give up, nick a couple of your co-star's chips and head up to the third floor. Surly and D.P. are a bit upset with the "bad equipment", whilst the German camera operators are reluctant to inform you that they are convinced D.P. doesn't have a clue as to what he is doing.
But that, too, is another story.
It's just safe to say that filming with an open shutter gives you better results and no one bothered to tell you that D.P.'s shutters were ... well, not open. Even today you keep telling yourself that you didn't need to know things like that since your official job description was "screenwriter" until the producer informed you he was broke. However, knowing better now you are fully aware that you shouldn't have started shooting a film unless you knew better.
Too late to duck, now!
INT. SOMEONE'S LOUNGE - DUSK
You are wearing a much more flattering costume for this scene, only slightly marred by the fact that you are now about five inches taller than your beau. The director decides to shoot the scene with you sitting down on the settee. This, luckily, makes your co-star appear taller than you.
Unfortunately, the rather warped camera angle makes your already long nose appear even larger and the producer keeps nagging you to get a move on so you rush through the awkward scene without rehearsals only to find that by the time you hit the next location you all have to wait another 90 minutes for it to get dark.
EXT. BUNTENTORSTEINWEG / FRIEDENSTREPPE - DUSK
The producer keeps going on about how no one told him it was supposed to be a night shoot. You let that pass and do what any self-respecting artiste would do in a situation like that: You go and get yourself the largest helping of ice cream you can find and let the men sort it out amongst themselves.
The ice cream would feel a lot better if you weren't back in the skimpy costume from before or if it was about ten degrees warmer outside ... and for the first time you feel like having a drink yourself. As you look up, you notice that your producer and his sidekick seem to have had the exact same idea ... and acted on it, too.
Your two male co-stars show up: Jason, the obscenely good-looking Mel Gibson clone who is supposed to play your lover and Adrian, the more rugged-looking Russell Crowe type who plays your husband. You ask the latter what he is still doing on set and he replies that he is under the impression you might need another pair of hands. After a somewhat sulky retort as to why he thinks you are in charge he tells you that you are the only person on set who seems to have a clue what scene we are supposed to be shooting.
For goodness' sake, woman, duck!
"You 'right?" he asks after you have drifted off to your happy place again.
You're not, but you're not going to admit that, are you? He hands you a cold burger with an empathic smile ... and you start crying.
Oh, good job keeping it together!
Now you've got two blokes staring at you in slight bewilderment. One tells you he's going to "... uhm, go in search of ... erm ... some fags ..." and quickly takes off. The other (still clutching that burger) asks you what's wrong and you explain that you are a vegetarian.
There is a brief pause and then you both start laughing.
Chapter 3: Snogging a Dead Horse
INT. KID'S BEDROOM - DAWN
There it is again: The throbbing in your head. Your tooth is less belligerent, but the headache is quite persistent. Nothing a little ibuprofen won't remedy. Or a good night's sleep.
Aye, there's the rub.
Sleep has become a rare commodity for the ... erm, we'll figure out your exact position later, but in rock'n roll you'd be referred to as the local arsehole.
Little do you know that about 20 hours from now you will be extremely arseholed indeed ... and not in a good way.
But that, too, is another story.
You try to stretch and immediately (and quite accidentally) kick one of your cats off the edge of the futon mattress you are currently sharing with them and your husband, who is snoring in ignorant bliss a couple of feet from you. He, too, has no clue what the week still has in store for you.
You follow the now indignantly meowing cat across the room and manage to only stumble over two boxes of equipment and stub only one toe on your daughter's bed on your way to the kitchen.
Too bad it is the toe that is already hurting from last night's last scene.
JUMP CUT TO:
EXT. BUNTENTORSTEINWEG / FRIEDENSTREPPE - NIGHT
Yep, exactly THAT scene. The one you had been dreading all along. The one where you had to snog that complete (and obscenely attractive) stranger ... who thankfully was just as uneasy about the scene as you were.
Someone had once told you that rehearsals helped.
Ah, yes, that was your first semester acting teacher at drama school.
Pah, what did he know anyway?! Rehearsals are for the faint-hearted (like you?).
In the director's defence: You did rehearse a little. And it would probably have helped a lot, too.
... if it wasn't for those two pre-adolescent kids that kept mocking you in spite of the camera assistant's attempts to coax the little monsters off the set.
It would have been funny, too, if you hadn't felt like Mrs Robinson at the time.
You really need to get over yourself.
... and kill the make-up person instead.
The funny thing was that neither you nor your scene partner were particularly worried about the kiss. It was meant to look awkward and ... well, awkward ... you are good at that.
No, that was not the problem. You were both worried about being gay.
You can do angry, you can do intense ... you can do awkward. But gay? What's there to be gay about? What a stupid word is gay anyway? Who has time to be gay?
Mildly amused, perhaps. But gay?
You haven't been in a gay mood since you won the spelling contest in primary school.
So here you were: Two intensely awkward people worried about their authentic portrayal of alcohol-induced gaiety. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, for starters: You were in heels again, but this time you were supposed to get up and snog.
As you bent down towards your partner's face for a rehearsal kiss, you couldn't stop feeling like a teen-aged geek who had managed to land a date with the head cheerleader.
Yo da man!
Only, you weren't. You were supposed to be the cheerleader. A six foot three inches, thirty-three year old ... cheerleader.
You were certain at that point that you were going to be sick but, luckily, Surly (the "director") agreed with you. This simply wouldn't do.
As the men huddled together to discuss the solution, Jason (da hunk), asked you if it was alright if he smoked and you agreed as long as he would donate you a snout as well. Surprisingly not taken aback by your request, he lit two fags and handed one to you and explained that he was normally a non-smoker, but that he was quite nervous about being happy on cue.
That made you feel better. Not gay. But better.
One of the benefits of being a non-smoker when smoking a fag is the nicotine rush that kicks in almost instantaneously. Both you and Jason started to feel fairly giddy fairly quickly and when you kicked off your shoes to shoot the scene barefoot it didn't even feel like such a bad idea.
And the kissing scene didn't seem that awkward, either ... given that you were busy being in a lot of pain, since Jason was giving an award-winning performance whilst pivoting his trainer-clad foot on your very bare big toe.
The subsequent hobble was being interpreted as a blissful drunk stumble and you wrapped for the day at exactly 2:30 a.m.
INT. KTICHEN - DAWN
Now, at exactly 3:50 a.m. you feel a certain pang of loss, as that scene did work out rather well and all warmed-up you are eager to prove that you can be a thorough-going professional on all levels.
Ah well, you will be shooting the actual binge-drinking scene later tonight and you are no longer self-conscious, knowing that even the really, really pretty actors get nervous.
It is 4:30 am and you feel refreshed after a morning shower. You are peeling veg and busying yourself making two pots of chili; one vegetarian and one regular chili. The scraping from the hall confirms that your cat has decided to use the litter box for a change.
Today will be a good day.
Well, a better day.
And better is good.
Better is not bad.
Better is better than bad.
Then again, bad is better than really bad.
And yesterday was a really, really bad day.
... but today will be better.
You sigh and nibble a cucumber. Only to hurriedly spit it out again, as you haven't washed it yet and there is still that thing with the intestinal bug.
You take another bite of the cucumber and continue cutting veg.
You didn't get finished yesterday and Jason is flying back to London tomorrow morning at six. So you need to film all of his remaining scenes today. Theoretically, this isn't such a big deal, but unfortunately there are a couple of night scenes involved as well. At least today you have enough food ready. All you have to do is pick up about forty bread rolls on the way to the first location. Since you are still a couple of vehicles short, you and Jason will be riding your bikes to the set.
You hear stirring in your bed-room, which is currently not just part of the film's set, but also serving as a place to kip for the out-of-towners. Today it's Jason's turn. Tomorrow, once he's back in London, you will be picking up David from the train station. David is hailing from Berlin and in town for a supporting role.
Five minutes later (at 4:50 am) Jason stumbles out of the bedroom and past you towards the bathroom. You gleefully take note that he is not that pretty in the morning, either.
Still prettier than you. But not that pretty.
When Jason comes into the kitchen after his shower and shave (pretty again, albeit with rather dark circles under his eyes) he makes the very British mistake of asking you if you need any help.
You ponder on this for a beat and decide to be German about it, as you hand him a knife and tell him he can peel some potatoes.
Feeling slightly guilty, you also hand him a steaming mug of freshly made coffee.
There's that German efficiency again.
When the food is ready at 5:30 a.m. your husband and daughter also find their way into the kitchen. Your husband goes directly for the coffee and your daughter grabs a bowl of cereal, happily munching, as the grown-ups are still trying to get the fluff out of their brains.
Your husband asks how many scenes you will be shooting today. You tell him that he really does not want to know. When he asks who will pick you up to take you to the first location, you almost choke on your Coke Zero (which you had promised yourself you wouldn't drink anymore).
"What's so funny?" he asks, slightly bewildered. The extent of your producer's incompetence has not hit him yet, it would appear.
"You don't actually believe anyone will bother to pick us up, do you?"
"Erm, okay ... so how are you going to get there?"
"We will be taking the bikes."
It is now Jason's turn to splutter, but being British, he is too polite to voice anything remotely resembling disapproval. Instead he coughs, wipes the coffee spittle off his chin and excuses himself, muttering something along the lines of "Going to brush my teeth."
EXT. BACK YARD - DAY
30 Minutes later you are in the garage, pumping up the back tyre of your bike. You let Jason ride your bike (as his legs are shorter than yours) and take your husband's slightly bigger bike for the trip to the city centre Irish pub where you will be filming the first scene of the day.
There are four items on your shopping list: 40 bread rolls, cheese, wine ... and cherry juice to replace the wine in the bottles for tonight's binge drinking scene. Given that you have to be on set at 6:30 a.m. and the shop does not open before 7, you decide to get the rolls and cheese at the nearest baker's, and stop for the rest after finishing with all the city centre locations.
INT. HEGARTY'S IRISH PUB - DAY
Today is a sort-of better day than yesterday. When you reach Hegarty's Irish Pub, you find your producer and his side-kick already waiting for you. Most of the crew are there, too ... and the smell of coffee confirms that a certain amount of guilt has worked its charm and your producer bothered to at least try and do his job.
You ask him to seal off the smoker's lounge for crew and cast and tell him in the most direct tone you can find to keep the extras the hell away from the crew food. There will be a separate table for those who will only be on set for a couple of hours after all.
To make sure the bread rolls are safe you ask Adrian, the Russell Crowe clone, to guard them with his life and you don't even bother asking him whatever possessed him to show up on set at this hour (given he won't be needed until much later in the afternoon), as you are simply grateful someone you can trust to be professional is there to have your back.
Jason is looking around with a slightly nervous expression. You ask him what is the matter and he replies that he was hoping to practise with the band before we start shooting. You tell him that that was indeed the plan-
... and then you see what's the problem.
"Gerhard?" you ask the line producer.
He turns around, munching one of the bread rolls you provided: "Yes?"
You take a deep breath and think of Lancashire-accented unicorns doing a little dance on some remote space station. Then you speak, carefully choosing the most inoffensive words you can find:
"Where's the fuckin' band?"
"Band?" the line producer coughs. He then proceeds to start leafing through his call sheets, promptly drops the lot on the floor and you choose to ignore him.
You turn to the producer instead:
"Peter, can you please get someone to pick up the band?"
Peter, too, has been taken by surprise, as he was busy getting himself some breakfast. He tells you that he needs to finish his coffee first und you tell him where exactly you feel he should stick that coffee and that you would be very happy to help him find that place, if he is too incompetent for that as well. Muttering something along the lines of "No reason to get personal", he sets off to borrow the sound engineer's car keys.
Jason is still standing there, not sure what to do and slightly intimidated by your free use of the more colourful aspects of your vocabulary.
Surly and D.P. show up. Surly seems quite relaxed for someone who is surrounded by obvious chaos.
It only takes a moment to realise he simply hadn't grasped the gravity of the situation yet. He tells you there is really nothing you can do about it and you might as well get something to eat ... He then proceeds to discuss camera set-ups with his crew.
The singer of the band, meanwhile, has already shown up and is busy complaining about the lack of organisation. You choose to ignore her and disappear in the smoker's lounge to get into your costume. Jason follows you and immediately turns beet-red and on his heels when you start getting changed. Adrian is unperturbed by this and simply follows Jason with his gaze. You stare for a beat and then comment: "Oh, I forgot about that." Adrian wants to know if all British men were this uptight and you reply that they are only like this in the presence of women and that their behaviour is quite different down the pub.
"Better not tell him I said that." You add after a beat, as you slip into the unflattering costume from the previous day.
The singer marches in and starts complaining. You tell her that she should speak to the line-producer as he has re-written your schedule so many times you have lost track of what is supposed to happen. She storms out and you sigh.
This is the point when Adrian hands you a cheese sandwich and pats you on the shoulder. He then walks off to chat with Jason.
When you are done tying the ribbons of your platform sandals the band walks in. The drummer asks you why they were supposed to wait for someone to pick them up at six when no one showed up before seven anyway. You tell him that you would get back to him on that as soon as you have figured out whom to give a bollocking for this; in the meantime they are welcome to help themselves to some breakfast.
You are getting your make-up done and trying not to fall asleep as you watch your line-producer sort through his paperwork and the producer helping himself to a glass of Aldi Grauburgunder. Where exactly he found the white wine you do not know and you do not really care either, as long as he doesn't do any more driving today.
You're done with your make-up and watching the band rehearse with Jason. He is not THAT pretty you keep telling yourself whilst avoiding your reflection in the mirror. Your co-star, Pamela, struts over to you. She looks pale but otherwise in good humour. Smiling she turns to you and says "You look like shit."
"And a good morning to you, too." You reply tartly.
"What's got your tits in a twist?"
"Will you look at that?!"
"What? The hunk with the guitar?"
"No, this mess. Don't even get me started on old blue eyes over there!"
"What's the problem with him?"
"He's too good-looking and way too polite to be trusted-"
"Are somebody's insecurities acting up again?"
"Oh, excuse me, I guess I'm busy looking like shit!"
"Touchy, aren't we?"
"I didn't get too much sleep."
"Which is the only reason you look like crap this morning."
"Yes, really. Now stop fishing-"
She hasn't quite got you convinced, but it still makes you feel a little better about yourself. As you continue your little discussion, Adrian walks over with another sandwich. He offers it to you, but you are too nervous to eat. Before you can stop her, Pamela, opens her mouth.
"Do you think she is less attractive than Jason?"
"Thank you." you manage to grate your teeth at her, as she just smiles that disarming smile of hers and directs all her charm at Adrian. Adrian takes one look at Jason and then at you and replies that if he had to choose between Jason and you, he would probably choose you. He then takes a bite off his sandwich and goes to chat with D.P. and Surly.
"What was that all about?" you snap at Pamela. She doesn't even manage to look guilty.
"He's cute, too."
"What has that got to do with anything?"
"Well, I was sure you didn't want me to talk to Jason about your issues, so I figured the next cute guy would work just as well."
"He isn't really that cute."
"I would shag him."
Of course, she would.
Oh God, OF COURSE SHE WOULD!
(Red Alert! Red Alert! All hands to battle stations!)
"I would appreciate your postponing those plans until after we wrap; I still need the bloke to function."
Okay. If you had about 5% of her confidence when it came to your sex appeal, your life would be a lot less depressing. Not that you would know what to do with said sex appeal, but just as an actor it would be nice to be able to relax.
You take another glance at your reflection and then at Jason. He is almost too pretty. It is not even that you are attracted to him. You don't like pretty boys. But you would like to be as pretty as he is.
Pamela chuckles and starts chasing after Adrian. You sigh and go back to your unicorns, currently practising a minuet with Jarvis Cocker and David Bowie dressed as leprechauns ...
(Brace for Impact!)
Too late, pretty boy is laughing with the band and you just know you will feel like a big clumsy cow doing the next scene.
It is exactly now that you realise you are wearing the wrong costume and bolt back into the smoker's lounge. The band's guitarist is having breakfast whilst his mates are rehearsing with Jason. You are too panicky to notice him, so you get changed and only snap out of your near warp core breach, when said guitarist notes that you really have very pretty legs.
It is now up to you to turn beet red, then white and then, giving up, to simply mutter a modest "thanks".
You don't take compliments well.
But it does make you feel a little prettier, given that the guitarist is about ten years younger than you ...
Ah, balls! He's probably just being kind. You still look like shit!
(Shields down to 15%. Initiating evasive pattern delta one!)
God, woman! Get your act together and stop being so self-indulgent!
Besides, you DO have pretty legs. What a sweet boy to notice.
The rest of the morning goes almost too smoothly. You dare not relax too much, as you would in all probability fall asleep if you do. You tune into the happy mood on set and begin to think that the rough edges have now been ironed out. If you manage to get all of Jason's scenes in the can today, nothing's going to stop you.
And yes, today you may know that all the cameramen filmed the same thing from different angles (one of them w/ a closed shutter) and that most of the shots from that day are, really, useless. But back then you didn't.
INT. KIOTO MAIN AUDITORIUM - DAY
Your favourite scene about actors' auditions is fun to shoot, albeit quite different from what you originally wrote, but Surly assures you "it's better this way". You would see.
Yes, you would indeed see. But later. After the excrement hath hitteth the fanneth.
Not too surprisingly, Pamela has discovered fresh meat. The non-descript, yet understatedly talented young actor who is playing David Tennant lookalike Ron. He originally auditioned for the role of "Young Copper", but as that scene had been cut he is now reduced to snogging Pamela as badly as he can.
This does not stop her from enjoying it a bit too much. When you cast him he looked nothing like David Tennant, but you had decided that it would be just as funny. It was yesterday that he called you from his hairdresser's asking what haircut to get, so you had told him to google David Tennant and Doctor Who. This morning he had shown up, looking like David Tennant's identical twin (albeit about fifteen years younger).
This is why Pamela is enjoying the snogging so much. Well, she's not the one who has to watch this.
You beckon Surly to come over and talk to you. He stops the scene and asks you what's the matter. You ask him, if he thinks that it is disgusting enough and he says "not really". You suggest that the David Tennant contestant should kiss Pamela in a way that would really make her face wet from nose to chin. Pamela giggles and the poor sod who has to do the snogging turns slightly pale.
"You think you can do that?" Surly shouts across the room at the young man who confirms this with an uneasy chuckle.
"Turnover!" Surly shouts with a booming voice.
"Recording." the three camera people pipe back.
"Sound!" Surly now shouts.
"Recording." is the thick-accented answer.
Surly's voice is like a guiding beacon in the murky darkness of filmmaking chaos.
"Scene 8. Position 3. Take 8."
The auditorium is large enough to seat 250 people. You are at the far end of the auditorium, roughly 35 to 40 feet away from the stage. Nevertheless the sounds of Pamela's fresh meat eating away her face like that bloke's face being eaten in the first scenes of Alien are ... well, anything but pretty.
It isn't a pretty sight, either.
And Pamela does not look that happy anymore.
Your day is improving dramatically.
Note to self: You are not a very nice person.
Reply to self: You don't have to be nice when you have had little to no sleep and are surrounded by imbeciles and egomaniacs!
EXT. BACK YARD - DAY
Cables everywhere. Tripods. And people. So many people. Okay, good. The extras are there. The actors are there and most of the crew are there.
But where the fuck are the producer, his line-producer side-kick and the "casting director" in charge of the extras?
And are the extras actually asking you what they are supposed to do? WTF?!
?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?! (random emoji)
(Warning! Unidentified vessel approaching at high warp!)
You decide to check on the food upstairs and make sure the crew gets fed. For some reason about 15 extras think it is a good idea to tag along.
(Warning! Unidentified vessel is in pursuit! No response to hails!)
INT. FLAT - DAY
When you get upstairs you find all three people in charge, eating the chili you provided. You take one look at them, shake your head and go talk to your husband.
He is wearing headphones and trying to write code whilst his study / your lounge has been turned into a temporary shelter for pretty much anyone who wanted to take a break. He gives you a curt not that only shows a slight pleading undertone. You push away any sense of guilt you may feel and turn to leave.
As you turn on your heel you bump into Surly who does not look very happy. Luckily, you are the good guy in his book (at least at this point) and he does not let his frustration out on you.
Gerhard (said line-producer side kick) is not as lucky.
The subsequent shouting match is impressive enough to shake your husband out of his contemplation of a particularly nasty piece of code.
He sticks his head up and enquires as to what is the matter in the kitchen and you explain to him that someone is getting what he had coming.
You grab the schedule you had originally written as well as Gerhard's schedule and go back downstairs into the yard to try and make sense of it.
EXT. BACK YARD - DAY
The shouting is only faint down here and seems to be dissipating. You have managed to figure out that the next scene is actually a series of shots without any dialogue, so you tell the sound guy to get something to eat. D.P. and the camera crew are starting to set up the first shot and you watch Pamela trying to charm young David Tennant, who seems to be politely ignoring her advances.
Adrian is familiarising himself with the moped he is supposed to be fixing and things are almost back to what qualifies as normal in your life right now. Even Surly and D.P. are now happier and working with the crew. It would appear that Adrian had managed to pacify Surly with bits of chocolate.
As you sit down to relax for a moment the sound guy and his assistant return, informing you that there is no food.
"How can that be?" you ask, remembering the time you spent slaving away in the wee hours cooking chili for at least 25 people.
Janus, your sound engineer, explains that all the extras had somehow eaten all the food ... "And, oh, you might want to avoid your kitchen for a while. It doesn't look too pretty ..."
Janus' voice trails off as you resolutely march back up your driveway and up the stairs to your two bedroom flat.
(Intruder alert! Intruder alert! All hands to battle stations!)
INT. FLAT - DAY
You are extremely pissed. And that is putting it mildly!
Enraged. Livid. Fucking Mad as hell!
Still not close to a proper description of your state of mind as you storm um the stairs and enter the flat.
People seem to be sensing your mood and physically back away as you make your way across the hall towards the kitchen ...
... where producer and side-kick are having a chat with a bunch of extras over a bowl of chili and ...
Wait for it!
... a glass of chilled white wine.
(Warning: Warp core breach imminent! All hands abandon ship!)
What a pair of useless CEE YOU EN TEEs!
What a couple of fuckwads!
I mean ... REALLY?!
You pretty much lose it at this point. There really is no other way to describe it. Yep, you are definitely losing it.
You shout at everyone who is not called Gerhard or Peter to get the fuck out and have the director tell them what to do ... and the bloody casting director, well, you don't even want to get started on her.
There is a brief pause, like the moment you are weightless before gravity kicks in again, and then everybody bolts.
"Not you two!" you shout at Gerhard and Peter.
They stop dead in their tracks and you take their wine glasses from them. Their almost indifferent expressions turn to horror as you not only pour the content of their glasses down the drain, but also the content of the remaining bottles of white.
"Have I made myself clear?"
The men don't reply, just mutter amongst themselves and then leave.
EXT. BACK YARD - DAY
Things have been going downhill at phenomenal speed. After the extras had eaten all your food and most of the crew (including yourself) had gone without lunch, you had given Peter 100 Euros and sent him off to buy pizzas.
The good news is: The volcano has actually shut down the airport and you can work with more or less descent sound.
The bad news is: The lack of leadership from the producer and his side-kick as well as the food crisis have cost you a couple of hours and you are now running out of daylight.
You are in the middle of take 12 of a very lengthy and complicated shot when someone's mobile starts ringing.
Your blood pressure immediately goes up.
"If I hear one more bloody mobile ringing, I'm going to stomp on it!"
Not your finest moment, but people got the point.
As a matter of fact most of the extras are quite scared of you by now and you are quite relieved to see them leave after you wrap this scene.
Everyone is more or less avoiding you at this point, except Adrian who smiles at you encouragingly.
"What?" you ask tartly.
He pats you on the shoulder and hands you a bottle of Coke Zero. You choke up again and he lifts is hands defensively.
"No more crying or I'll take it away."
You laugh ... and he adds "It isn't cold anyway." And after a beat: "What's next?"
"Shut up!" you reply as dignified as you can and then you punch him in the side.
Pamela has been watching you and comes over. She touches Adrian's arm and starts complimenting him on his scene.
You shrug, drink your Coke and decide to become an office clerk after this film wraps.
EXT. BACK YARD - NIGHT
You have calmed down. Darkness has fallen like a soothing blanket over the anxieties of the day and you could do nothing but to give in to the storm and let it blow over and past you.
It is quiet now. Almost too quiet. Ah yes, the volcano eruptions. The all too familiar sounds from the airport and the growling of the creaky old 737s or the rusty hum of a landing A300 are not filling the air around you and leave you with what can almost be described as a sense of loss. No matter how much they often seemed to interrupt your everyday life. They had so much become part of your daily routine that their absence now seems almost like a bad omen. You push these thoughts away and continue to play dead on the floor. It would seem with everyone assuming you had fallen asleep from exhaustion, people are actually relying on themselves to get things done.
And Pamela isn't there anymore, either. That is, somehow, a relief, too.
Why is she bugging you so much?
She's your friend. You like her.
Do you actually like her?
Well, most of the time anyway.
Or do you?
Sometimes ... anyway.
Aw, stop being a bitch! You are just jealous!
Jealous of what? Her effect on people?
She really only has that effect on middle-aged men. And you already have a husband.
So does she.
And a boy-friend.
And the odd lover.
Yes, true. But you don't want these things.
You don't need people to constantly make you feel wanted.
You really just want to feel okay about yourself.
Aye, there's the rub! No matter what you do and how hard you work, you feel inadequate.
And SHE is the one who makes you feel extremely inadequate in so many ways ... just a little remark here and there. Only to later turn around and tell you that it is all in your head and that you just "need a shag".
So while you are lying here on the concrete floor of your garage you might as well be honest to yourself: You wish nothing more than to have Pamela not be part of your life anymore and it bugs you she did show up after the last stunt she pulled with the requested rewrites.
And the fact that she is all charming and sweet now (and even punctual) does not erase the fact that we are talking about the woman who did now show up to opening night for the one show that was really important to you because she had her period.
We are talking about the woman who spread rumours behind your back to get the gigs that would normally have been yours.
If you are really and truly honest to yourself you know that you are only keeping her on board because you are afraid of the power she has over you.
God, you hate that bitch!
(Phasers locked on target.)
"Dee, time to get up." It's Adrian's voice.
(Stand down all weapons.)
"Hunh?" you mumble sleepily.
"They're ready for scene 13."
"Ah, okay. The montage."
"Yeah, the montage."
Adrian helps you up. You go over to the supplies box and search for the cherry juice.
"Say, Adrian," you shout over your shoulder.
He looks up from where he is setting the table: "Yeah?"
"Where's the juice Jason and I bought earlier?"
"I dunno. But we decided to just use the real McCoy anyway."
You are about to explain to him why this is a rubbish idea when a very knackered-looking Surly shouts for everyone to take their positions.
You really, really want him to listen, but he tells you, quite firmly, that whatever it is can wait until after you wrap, as there are four more scenes to be shot and Jason will have to be at the airport in exactly six hours.
So you meekly give up and hope to only sip the wine to avoid any major disaster.
JUMP CUT TO:
EXT. BACK YARD - NIGHT
It is roughly 45 minutes later and you are completely plastered. It really only took a few sips of wine to get you drunk enough to forget about your slight problem.
You can't hold your liquor.
You get drunk from smelling vodka, let alone drinking two glasses of red wine on an empty stomach (except for that handful of M&Ms you managed to find in between scenes).
Ironically, Surly keeps telling you to stop "acting", that you are "way over the top" and that nobody behaves like that when drunk.
It is at this point that both Adrian and Jason manage to look a little guilty. You take a deep breath, get your act together and go for one more take.
It is a perfect take. You are in da zone. It is as smooth as Jason's cheek...
(How does he manage to not even have a five o'clock shade by now? Rat bastard!)
Sod that! You're pretty, too.
Pretty drunk, anyway.
You are just about to wrap the scene ...
One more line to go, a quick stumble across the gravel and then ...
Eddie van Halen's guitar breaks the otherwise perfect silence.
"Cut!" Surly yells and you remember that you had threatened to stomp on the next mobile that was going to ring.
Sure right! As if you are in any condition to stomp on anything right now. And apart from your aim being somewhat off you are feeling pleasantly mellow. If it wasn't so hard to focus on the job, having a drink every now and then might actually be good for your temper.
"Sorry-" Nick, AKA Camera 3, interrupts your line of thought, "that was my wife, wondering if I am planning to ever return home."
"What time is it?" Jason asks him.
Surly is all business again: "All right people, one more take. Let's try and get it right this time. The sun's already coming up."
Out of the corner of your eyes you notice that the producer and line-producer seem to have found some wine again, but as your new-found love for your fellow human beings continues to mellow your mood, Jarvis, Christopher and Ziggy Stardust bring on their chorus of unicorns again and you blissfully drift off into oblivion.
INT. LOUNGE - DAWN
"How much did you give her to drink?"
That's George's (your husband's) voice, above you. You have somehow found your way onto your settee, still fully dressed. Adrian and George are hovering above you with a slightly concerned Jason in the background and a room that won't stop spinning.
"How did I get up here?"
your voice sounds weird. Ugh!
"Well, Jason and I had to carry you."
"No, we're sorry-"
"Again: How much did she have to drink?" Ah, George again.
He's worried. How sweet. See, you are pretty!
Adrian explains to him how you only had two glasses of wine and George retorts that it takes half a glass of red wine to get you drunk and that you haven't been this hammered since 2007.
Oh yes, that was a bad night, too.
And yet another story.
"Uhm, can I do anything for you." Jason is obviously uncomfortable with the situation.
"Well, I think I'd like a cup of tea."
Jason almost bolts into the kitchen. Adrian excuses himself. He needs to go and catch his lift to his accommodation. George pats him on the back and wishes him a good night. You somehow can't stop grinning.
Oh, you're so going to regret this tomorrow.
Well, in two hours.
Well, in one hour.
Ah, what the hell! YOLO!
Jason comes back in with a steaming mug of Earl Grey and puts it down beside you, as you are already happily snoring on the settee.
... to be continued
Soooo, erm, yes ... it is a work in progress. Being a side-project to kill time, really, I only get to work on it when I am bored. And at the moment I seldomly have time to get bored. I have, however, grown quite attached to the story, so I am very eager to finish it this year. We'll see.