“Alright, quiet on the set.”
The cast and crew stand motionless, except for the director, who is pantomiming direction to the background actors, despite the fact that they are incapable of movement.
“Reset. Still rolling. Action.”
The scene is being filmed on location at an amusement park, which is where most of the film will conveniently take place. The ones who were outside when the Pause occurred have remained uncorrupt. Alive but inanimate, without bodily function or the need for nourishment. Everyone who had been in the park when it happened are still here, and so he has casted them all into his film.
“Cut! Damnit, Mark, I need more energy. Your character just found out his wife was having relations with a balloonist behind the funnel cake stand. Emote, for fucks sake.”
It is common practice to berate the talent a bit, in order to intensify their emotions. Browbeaten actors just look better on camera. He is not going to let the cast’s inability to react to his admonishments compromise his process. The world may have functionally ended, but that is no reason to stop doing what has always worked.
“Lulu, I need you bring it down a bit. You were just caught, you shouldn’t look so confident.”
He walks over and adjusts the two actor’s body positions, posing them for maximum effect. Since they cannot move on camera, they have to be gestured to encapsulate the feeling of the shot. Their body’s must do the speaking while remaining perfectly still.
This shot feels better than the last fourteen, and when he checks the footage his intuition is confirmed.
“That’s a wrap on the scene. Everyone go back to their trailer or holding while we set up for the next one.”
Nobody moves. He walks over to the young woman who he decided to make a production assistant when he first scouted this location.
“Go get me a vanilla macchiato, this time with real milk from a fucking cow, and not that almond shit. If you screw it up again I will make sure you spend the rest of the production in background holding, babysitting those talentless ingrates. Now move.”
Again, this is not just pointless cruelty on his part, but tradition. Abusing the crew with a ferocity relative to their position on the call sheet goes part and parcel with his position as director. Though he is no longer forced to take heat from producers, he is still able to dole it out to his underlings, from mild passive aggressiveness for assistant directors to full on insults and threats for entry level crew like production assistants.
The director steps into his double-wide to take a break, and escape the creepy inanimate cast and crew outside. Those who had been inside when the Pause happened had died. For some reason the sunlight preserved those outdoors, and since the sun always shined from the same spot in the sky, they remained virtually imperishable. However the constant daylight has had a more deleterious effect on the director. It is a psychological imposition of great magnitude, which is why he escapes to the relative darkness of his home-on-the-set as often as possible. He doesn’t want to lose his mind, at least not until he finishes his masterpiece.
After recuperating the remnants of his sanity, the director returns to set and begins arranging the next scene. In this one the balloonist reveals that he is actually a vampire who feeds on menstrual blood using an appendage resembling a penis. He uses glamours to entrance his prey, leaving them to believe they are having consensual sexual relations, while he feeds from their vaginas. It will be tricky to shoot, since he must act as the body double, given the talent’s inability to consent to nude scenes. He may be using the Paused as actors without their permission, but forced nudity is where he draws the line. Integrity matters, which is what he told everyone during his introductory speech on the first day of production.
“Okay, before we shoot, let’s go over a few things. There are to be no snide comments. If I hear any jokes about the size of my fang, I will recast the whole picture with those hooligans over at the water park. Do I make myself clear?”
There are several shots and each of them requires him to reset the camera and program the automated cranes. There is one bonus of the sun always remaining in the same place in the sky, which is that it makes it easy to plan angles and take advantage of the light. In between setups and filming he takes time to keep the talent on edge with tactical verbal strikes.
“Vanessa, what did I just tell you? Why are you still not getting it? How am I not making myself clear? Because I feel one hundred percent crystal-fucking-clear, Vanessa. This is not a sex scene. We are not trying to arouse the viewer. Stop being so cartoonishly salacious and get your goddamned head in the scene. This is supposed to be horrifying. He is draining your uterus of its life force to feed his immortal thirst, for fucks sake. Can you give me just a hint of the horror that implies in the next take, or do I have to have your stand-in come show you how it's done?”
Even though his abuse of the cast is merely ritualistic, it keeps him in the right frame of mind. However the fact that there are no wills competing with his own vision promises this film will be the sort of grande finale that all directors hope to go out on. No shot will be compromised by fickle producers, incompetent crew members, or actors who think they know better. That he will be the only one to watch the finished film is a bittersweet irony that he refuses to let diminish his determination.
“Okay, let’s go again. This time with more revulsion and less seduction. Let’s see if we can wrap this thing before the alien space bats realize they left the proverbial oven on. Aannnd…rolling.”
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I was laughing the entire time! As I was reading I kept getting the image of one of those directors with the grey striped scarf and sunglasses, trying to position a bunch of statues in a garden in order to evoke some sort of spiritual awakening in his audience. Loved it
Thanks for sharing those images! I have been on enough sets that my image is a little too realistic, so I appreciate looking at it through fresh eyes. :)
I love how the director stole the show from the concept! The style reminds me of Chuck Palahniuk, one of my faves. Well done, you made me laugh!
Thank you! I am trying to carve out a place between Chuck Palahniuk and Chuck Klosterman.
The Pause concept is brilliant! Love the satire of this!
Thank you. I really miss being on set. This was just kinda an awkward love letter to that experience.
I would have never come up with this idea for a post-apocalyptic story, and I think that's part of the reason why I loved it so much. I loved the concept of the "Pause," and the creepy amusement park scene became really visible in my mind as the story was over. You did an awesome job with the imagery and with the characters -- the director was a real weirdo, but a hilarious one too! Looking forward to reading more of your work!
Thank you. I make it a point to be defiant of expectations and common approaches. :) I worked as a background actor before the world crawled inside its shell, and spent time on two different amusement park sets, so re-envisioning those expwriences with some absurdism was lots of fun.