Contemporary Fiction


I stared down at the script in front of me. Another episode finished. 

The actor and actress, each dressed in flesh colored bodysuits, got out of the bed where they were pretending to have sex. stagehands with towels rushed forward to relieve them. 

Another episode done in the style of the HBO prestige drama. The likable antihero who is too virile for his own good. Big-budget spectacle, with violence turned up to the max. And, of course, the multilayered plot which served to justify the vice. 

“Hey, Don, you wanna take another look at the shot before we wrap up the scene?” 

It was my assistant, Vanessa. Bright eyes, short dark hair, always with a pair of headphones pushed haphazardly over her head. She was a little overeager, almost obsequious, but I didn’t mind. That’s how they all are when they start out. Like rats at the beginning of a maze. 

I followed her to one of the monitors displaying a rough cut of the scene. I knew what the audience wanted. Full frontal nudity, with just enough emotional drive and subtext to convince them that they were watching something more sophisticated than porn. Which was hilarious, considering what I had just filmed would probably-–definitely–-end up as a screen capture on some adult website. Not that anyone ever said as much. 

“Thanks, V. I’ll take a look.”

An auteur--that’s what they called me. Idiots. I just know what fuels the human psyche. Most people watching have very little moral compass, and anyone who thinks they do is only deluding themselves. One sex scene every three episodes. It didn’t have to be a major plot point, and most times it was totally superfluous–-a variable you plugged into the equation to get what you wanted. The analysts had done the research. One scene every three episodes was the magic ratio. Too many scenes and the audience would finally realize that their intelligence was being insulted and disregard the show as a smutty cashgrab. Too few and… well, they’d change the channel for a different reason. Back in film school they had made us study Sesame Street. The reason why the show was so popular, they said, was because a group of child psychologists did the research and figured out what would make it resonate with kids. One week their ratings would be down. So they would analyze, make a tweak to the next episode. Add a little Big Bird here, subtract an adult innuendo there, speed up the cuts--and voila! Their ratings would soar. Entertaining adults wasn’t much different. 

After Vanessa left, I couldn’t help but linger over the scene. The girl we had chosen for the role was not there by accident. Even fully clothed she was amazing to look at--coy smile and doe eyes in a heart-shaped face framed by locks of rich blonde hair. But that’s not what the audience would be looking for. The scene began with her standing in the doorway without a stitch of clothing… then sauntering over to the bed as the camera drank in her naked form. There were ways to conceal, I knew. To shoot the same scene in an artful, instead of a sensual, way. But that defeated the whole purpose; no one wants porn shot by a nun. For those six seconds of screen time, every part of her was bared to the world. Pure, unadulterated beauty thrown into the colosseum, there to be devoured as a public spectacle. Even with the set empty of everyone except the most essential workers, the tension was palpable. The girl, Emilia--Millie--had thrown up right before shooting the scene. 

I almost felt bad for making her do the scene. She was a sweet girl, and very shy in person. At twenty years old, she had left her home in rural Indiana to act in my film after starring in a couple of indie films as a teenager. She was adapting to LA life, but her chaste upbringing clung to her like dried manure on a tractor tire. She had come into my office the day before, face flushed and eyes shining with anger, waving her contract around. She started sobbing right then and there. But it was her first real gig. She knew it, I knew it. Saying no to my request would’ve been career suicide. 

Something wasn’t right about the scene. Something about the movement. The audience wouldn’t buy it. 

I pulled Vanessa over. “Yea, we’re gonna have to reshoot this. It looks robotic.” 

Something broke through the facade. Worry.

“You don’t think we should give her a break? It took us hours to get her to do this.” 

“If we hesitate now she’ll never agree to reshoot. And don’t even get me started on continuity. You know how long it took to get the lighting right?”

“Ok. I’ll get her.”

She emerged, dressed in a baggy white hoodie and sweatpants, sipping on an iced coffee and wandering the room with those big, blue, innocent-looking eyes. I stifled a sigh. 

“Honey, we’re gonna have to do the scene again.” 

“But I just got changed!” 

“Well, get unchanged.” I turned to my crew. “Go again! From the top!”

Slowly, painstakingly, I proceeded to explain the scene to her once again. What she was to do with her hands, her legs, what direction her body should be facing. The beats of the scene. Walk slowly to center stage, toward the protagonist. Climb onto the bed. Kiss here. Moan here. “The camera isn’t there. It’s just James, okay?” 

She was still gaping at me when Vanessa, wearing a look of harried empathy, pried the coffee from her hands and led her to the bathroom.

“And no bodysuits this time,” I called out after them. “We're doing it in one take, no breaks.” 

She would get over it. They all did. In the interviews, she would call it female empowerment, norm-breaking--whatever. Different names for the same stupid coping mechanism. 

The three cameramen returned to their stations as I called for quiet on set. 

The protagonist, dressed in a white button-down and black slacks, threw his loafers on the floor and sat back down on the bed. Back with his mistress after a long day at the detective’s office. 

Vanessa gave me a thumbs up. She was ready. 

“Cameras rolling?” 

The cameramen each gave a thumbs up.

The protagonist undid the first three buttons of his shirt. The sweat had barely dried on his forehead. Now that I thought of it, filming was like setting a trap. If the cage was the camera, the animal was the shot. And no shot would be escaping this cage. 

“Ok, episode five, scene twelve. Filming in three… two… one… ACTION!”

The door of the set opened a crack, then a foot, then swung wide on silent hinges.

July 20, 2023 20:53

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Mister X
13:11 Jul 24, 2023

One of my favorite things about Reedsy is seeing new writers write. This was a really nice first effort. I can tell you have the making of a good writer if you keep at it. This story was a little choppy and at times seemed to lose direction but there was enough good in there to work with. If you stick with it my guess is the next story will be better and the one after that even better still. You might even find your way back to this one sometime in the future to clean it up and maybe even resubmit the improved version. Keep writing, it's...


Ben LeBlanc
13:38 Jul 24, 2023

Wow, thanks for the encouragement. I am definitely excited to keep writing on this site. I would be interested in what specifically you thought needed improvement, I would gladly reanalyze.


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Steffen Lettau
02:05 Jul 30, 2023

A wholesome story, even with the aforementioned nudity. It reads like something happening in real life; a job that needs to be done, a simple walk-through, and even a peak inside the mindset of the main character and his reasons for how he does things. No over-the-top drama, nothing left out or too much added in; just a simple work day. I hope that there might be more stories, even more to this story, but I leave that up to you.


Ben LeBlanc
19:01 Jul 30, 2023

There will definitely be more to come; working on one right now :). If anything this story is the opposite of wholesome, or at least that was my intent. Interesting take.


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18:20 Jul 28, 2023

Hi Ben! I enjoyed this. You nailed what I imagine to be the reality behind these scenes. Obviously I went thinking GOT. The exploitation is real Poor Emilia Solid entry!


Ben LeBlanc
18:27 Jul 28, 2023

Thanks for the read, Derrick! Yea a lot of this is based on stuff I have read about what goes on during filming for things like GOT. Pretty icky.


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Kevin Logue
19:03 Jul 23, 2023

Firstly, welcome to Reedsy Ben! Nice story, well written. Really delves into what has become boiler plate for the big budget dramas from the likes of HBO, and the hard talking uppity director is quite creepy. Enjoyed how you book ended the cut with the action. This line really made me smile ; no one wants porn shot by a nun. Never have truer words been spoken ha. Good work, I look forward to seeing more of your work.


Ben LeBlanc
21:24 Jul 23, 2023

Wow, thanks for the comment, Kevin! Appreciate the feedback.


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3i Writer
23:44 Jul 22, 2023

I pretty curious about the body suits thing. Why did the director want to use body suits on 1st take and then going nude on the second?


Ben LeBlanc
23:46 Jul 22, 2023

He wanted it to look more "natural." But it also could be read as an illogical decision, going on a whim, as directors often do.


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