Where Do Movies Come From?


~ J.D.Coburn

* * * * *

“Did you know me and Alan Ladd was exactly da same height?” He said with flat

It was golden hour, which, in the movie business, lasts only about 13 minutes. It was nearly time for her close-up.

Silhouetted by the gold and red light of the L.A. sunset, her face was radiant and he thought she looked beautiful.

She smiled a secret smile and without taking her gaze from the horizon, replied, “Well Billie can do it three times in the morning and you can’t even do it at all!”

Turning, sh looked straight into his eyes, grabbed him below the belt line, did something very friendly, and asked “Or can you?” Biting her lower lip, she released her hold with the hesitance of unfinished business.

He watched her walk into the sunset for her close-up and thought, “She’s a lot friendlier than I thought she’d be.”

“He’s a lot shorter than I thought he’d be,” she mused as she toyed with the decision to look back, or not.

If she looked back and he wasn’t still looking at her then she just did something possibly stupid to her career. If he was looking then this was kismet. The way they exchanged esoteric dialog from an obscure Robert Blake movie was a rare and special moment.

She turned and looked.

He was looking.

They both smiled real smiles and went back to work.

Soon the sun was gone and with it the free light needed to make a movie.

“We shouldn’t have shot the orgy in the middle of the day, that’s all. We wasted a ton of sunlight doing interior shots,” whined the Director to his assistant, “I fought the producer claw and feather but he said the Production Designer had some idea, and Oh Gawd, here he comes … don’t say anything.” and he stretched his arm straight out to tap his cigarette. His assistant retreated to the trailer.

The Production Designer walked toward the Director with a quick step that suggested urgency. Stopping and speaking abruptly, he cautioned, ”I know what you’re going to say, that we wasted daylight shooting the orgy in the middle of the day. But by not keeping the extras around all day we wrapped them early and sent them all home.”

Frustrated, waiting for some response, the Production Designer delivered his closing argument, “We had to shoot then, we had the extras! You can’t have an orgy without extras.”

That seemed to make sense to the Director or maybe it was the Production Designer’s cologne or the way that one eye only closed half-way when he blinked but the Director was genuinely quieted.

“Unless you’re an orgy of one.” the Production Director probed, “You’re not an orgy of one, are you, Mr. Director?” A come hither look, a seductive smile, and the Director dropped his guard.

Completely on the defensive, and blushing all the while, the Director timidly suggested a repast that night after he wrapped the set. The Production Designer then turned. But he turned in such a way as to bump into the shoulder of the Director, at which time he pinched the first two fingers of the Directors hand with the first two fingers and thumb of his own and a primordial urge made both men’s nervous systems light up.

“That’s it!” the Director shouted authoritatively.

When the director says, “that’s it,” it means to put away the toys and go home until tomorrow when you have to get up at 4:00 AM, to meet the limo at 5:00 AM, to be on set by 6:00 AM. Sex had to be squeezed in, so to speak, between being at work for 16 hours, being awake for 20, and needing to settle down and sleep for at least one hour out of the remaining 4.

An early break means an early dinner, the first in weeks. The crew was already talking about going out. Well, some of the crew were talking. The key grip on the shoot was doing her best, “this is me NOT looking” look, all around the location. Her eyes penetrating each area, going from craft services over to make up, then to the costumes truck, trying to find the light green top she’d seen earlier in the day, the one the script girl was wearing.

Meanwhile, the script girl easily faked a trip and was able to stumble directly into the key grip taking her completely by surprise and making her at once alarmed and disarmed.

In the brief melee’ the script girl managed a touch. A touch that was more of a fragrance than a touch. Only two people in the world would have known of it, so discrete was her touch. And the touch was perfect, just the right spot, just the right treasure of intensity to conquer a working woman in 1/40th of a second.

Without her ‘cool’ to protect her, the key grip reached up to the back of her head and pulled her cap off in a forward motion, then held the cap with both hands while mostly staring at the ground where she honest-to-god kicked at invisible dirt clods with the toe of her work boots.

“I have to do continuity, so I’m at the production board for about an hour, by which time,” said the script girl, “I’m going to want to eat you!” The key grip grinned at the faux pas and a shocked script girl stumbled, “I mean I’ll be so hungry I could eat you,” Terrified, she tried to recover, “I mean, I’ll be hungry … to eat … with you.” She paused, looking for any sign of approval, then queried impishly, ”I’m buying?”

A laugh. The kind of laugh that’s both a kiss and a ‘yes’ seemed to satisfy the script girl who began walking backward toward the production board saying, “I’ll look for you in an hour!”

Watching this delightful pixie dance backward into the dusky shadows, the key grip kind of knew that she’d be easy to find in an hour.

And that, boys and girls, is where movies come from.

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How we talk about acting ...

Born in a trunk on West 76th in 1952, I grew up on stage. My gods were Paul Osborne, Herb Gardner, John Steinbeck, and Tennessee Williams. They created me. My parents were teachers, directors, and actors.

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