F minus 12

The irrelevance of answering machines

Keep phoning the actor playing the Police Sergeant–a character with fifty percent of the dialogue–to check he is coming to rehearsal at 2.30pm on Sunday–a time he has requested to fit in with another production he’s appearing in. Make calls on Saturday evening, Sunday morning and Sunday afternoon. Keep getting answering machine. No messages returned. Drink low-stress peppermint tea, eat half packet of chocolate biscuits, go to rehearsal anyway and keep fingers crossed.

Do this after returning the sixth and seventh messages from guilt-tripping producer wannabe. Returned calls reveal that this person does not accept calls where the caller’s number is withheld–which eliminates calling from BBC and incidentally explains why she hasn’t worked for nearly a year. Eventually leave (relieved) message on her answer machine.

Method meets madness

Despite previous indications to the contrary, all four actors *do* turn up for the rehearsal. And on time too. However, the school caretaker where we’re rehearsing doesn’t and I have to go to his house where I catch him.

“Oh, you’re not in The Book,” he says, referring to some quasi-mystical tome which absolves him of guilt. Okay, he means the bookings diary but I’m making a drama remember. “I was here the other week. I spoke to you,” I say. “We arranged the use of a classroom. You showed me where to go.” “Yes,” he says, “Yes, I remember but if it’s not in The Book, I don’t think of it.” Sigh. For some caretaking is clearly a religion. He comes and unlocks the door anyway.

Okay, so we’re in. We move undersized school furniture out of the way and sit in a circle on small chairs to read through the script. Then we discuss the characters and how they develop, or not as the case may be, before I start blocking out the action. This turns into a slow process as people without lines are wont to improvise and I have to keep going through correcting them. Also, they don’t know the script by heart so everyone is carrying these sheets of paper around with them.

Nevertheless, after about two hours, we’ve developed the police sargeant as a jolly pervert called Arthur Cobbett and the lost woman as Emma, a confused marketing executive with a heaving cleavage which Arthur can’t take his eyes off. Charlie is still Charlie but an old granny winds up stealing his car and flipping him the bird. Ace. I’ve got something I can work with and after another hour, we’re done.

“Can you come back again during the week to do it without the script?” I ask. “Oh, we’re fine.” “We don’t need to do it until the day,” say the actors confidently. Then we find none of them can do the same day next week for another rehearsal anyway so I shrug and we head for home. In all, it’s been an extremely useful afternoon as I now have a feel for the flow of the main two scenes and we’ve saved hours of timewasting on location.

Madness meets method

Back home, the main thing on my mind is the lack of a clapper loader for the shoot. Joyce, my assistant director, was telling me the other day she’d love to learn to be a clapper loader. “I’m going to do some work experience with Panavision soon,” she happened to mention in passing. For re-al! Yes, it looks like the problem is solving itself, doesn’t it, dear reader?

Sandhya (my original clapper person) calls me and tells me she can only help out on Friday. “I’ll have to leave by three,” she says. I am unperturbed as my mood is upbeat and positive thanks to today’s rehearsal. “Could you teach Joyce to load the camera?” I ask. “Yes, I should think so,” she says. Haha! Bingo. Problem solved.

Now I’m down one assistant director. I call Craig who helped as 2nd AD on Last Train. “Good to hear from you,” he says. “Thanks for thinking of me,” he says. “Shouldn’t be a problem,” he says. “I’ll confirm tomorrow.” Maybe *this* is the week to buy a lottery ticket?

Finally, The Car needs a car. The Westfield has been promised but I’m nervous that the owner might suddenly change his mind. I call him to arrange stills next Sunday because Charlie needs to pull out a wallet full of these for the police station scene. Nope, he can’t do next Sunday although the filming dates are no problemo–even when I mention a 7am start. During the week should be fine for stills, though, he says, and I pass his number on to Pete, the photographer.

Phew. Game over, man. Game freaking over. Not quite. Tomorrow: call Herts Film Link–the wannabe location service for this fair county–and get *them* to solve the problem of finding a police station.

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