I received an invite for a screening of a movie I worked on 2 years ago. I am curious about this movie, how it came out? why it was delayed, but… what the hell, I want to see how things cut together, and if you can really light a scene with 2 candles…
Yet I’m sitting here, on the day of the screening, debating if I even want to go.
This production was one of the worst in my professional career. Everything was wrong – from the way I was hired – 3 days before the start of principal photography when they suddenly realized the script supervisor they’ve hired has never worked on a feature or television, only commercials. How is it possible? You prepare a movie for months. No one bothered to ask her until 3 days before you start shooting what has she done before?
To the shoot itself – full of contention, people being fired or quitting, replacing themselves. In 18 days we had three or four sound crews, makeup people, wardrobe…
And that was a production on which I did something I’ve never done before. I cried in public.
For all the years I worked in the movies, for all the positions I occupied, I have never cried in public. I hardly cried at all. There were insults, and false accusations and I always dealt with them head on. Even when a writer/star of a show I was directing got under my skin, I confronted him, talked to him and told him to lay off. He agreed. The 1st AD came to me later and said I have the biggest balls in the business, and here I was reduced to crying.
I was reduced all right. The director said time and time again that “continuity is for sissies”. When I corrected an actor’s line he said it’s not important. When I didn’t correct he yelled that the dialogue is the most important thing. When I did off-screen lines – at the other end of a phone conversation for example – the actress was cutting me off instead of leaving room for the editor to cut my voice out and the real actress voice in. She did it time and again until I heard his voice, yelling “Don’t step on the actress lines!” It was obvious to all around she was stepping on mine. We looked at each other, not understanding what brought that about.
At the end of the day, the director came by to tell me he wasn’t mad at me. He was trying to tell the actress to wait. “You understand how it is…” he said.
No, I didn’t. Yelling at me instead of asking the actress to wait is a devious way to do things. It’s not going to be fun.
And it wasn’t. At some point we had an altercation in front of the whole cast and crew. He belittled me, belittled my work, even hit me on the knees, jokingly, with a rolled up script because I dared to say a prop should be here in evidence because it plays in the next scene. All that just a day after we were talking how easy it is to lose the respect of the crew. It’s enough that one person belittles him/her, the whole crew will pick up on that and there’s no turning back.
And now he is doing it to me.
I was mad at myself, and that brought me to tears. A few years ago I would turn around and walk off the set, saying to the producer “find yourself another one to abuse. I’m done.” Instead, the older me started calculating how much money I won’t make if I walk away, and will I be able to make ends meet. That felt like a punch in the gut. My low self-esteem of the past few years has gotten the best of me.
It broke the momentum.
I turned and walked away, crying to myself. Made long circles around the crew to avoid their gaze and didn’t stand next to the director to watch the shot. At some point he saddled up to me, watching the shot from the Playback cart. “What’s going on?” He asked.
“You hurt me.” I said.
“I was only joking! You know that.”
“Maybe I do or maybe I don’t, but all those people around us don’t know for sure. You crossed the line this time. And this just a day after talking about losing respect.”
He turned a little paler in the light of the monitor at the IT guy’s cart. “I’m sorry. I didn’t think. I apologize. I’ll never do it again.” He said.
“Yeah, that does the trick, doesn’t it?… You abuse in public and apologize in private. Bet you feel good about yourself later.” And I walked away, crying.
I really had made my mind about quitting. Sitting down to finish my reports that night I was vowed by the UPM and by the Producer. “Please don’t leave, please. You should have seen what he’s done to me…”
I stayed to make the extra bucks. But my love for this project or the people who run it was lost forever.
Five days before the end of the shoot, the 2nd AD walked off the set when the director positioned himself 3 inches from her nose and yelled at her, laced with profanities, for long minutes for doing something that was logical and best for the overall production. She just looked at him until he turned away to go to the set, then whipped out her walkie-talkie, said goodbye to everyone and left.
So, should I go to the cast and crew screening or say fuck it?
p.s. I said what I said and did not go to the screening. You and I will probably never see this movie because, despite having a distribution deal with Universal, the movie will come out on VOD only. According to crew members who went to the screening, we won’t miss much.
So much heart-ache over something that will rarely be seen.
As the joke goes: “What, leave show business?”