Mr. Scotty Gee asked me to tell a story about working in the film industry. I have plenty of stories to tell and have already told the tale of working for the biggest witch in the natural and supernatural world. You can read about it here and here. One is a long post so get a cup of tea or something.
My recent work in film as been as a special effects costumer. I made a lot of the hats and accessories in a little film called Connie And Carla. They do a South Pacific musical number to “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Out Of My Hair” and I made their sudsy hats. If you saw the recent stinker, The Chronicles of Riddick, you saw my handy work there too. The bad guy, Lord Marshal, wears a weird metal skullcap. I assembled several of these things. I did not make the individual pieces and I did not design the cap but I was the one who had to glue, wire and rivet it all together. There were about 16 caps in all ranging from a couple metal ones to several plastic and rubber ones for the stunt guys. That was a good gig.
Before I did special effects costuming I was what was called a Costume Set Supervisor. That means I was the one on set with the actors making sure they were wearing the right outfits in the right way. My job was to create and maintain a Continuity Bible. Most movies are filmed out of sequence so you have to keep detailed notes and photos of exactly how the costumes were worn from scene to scene. You sometimes notice it when a character walks into a room and they are wearing a jacket zipped up half way and a purse over their left shoulder. Then they walk into a different room and the jacket is unzipped and the purse is on the right shoulder or missing altogether. Yes, that would be bad continuity. Those two rooms were probably not even located in the same building and the two scenes were shot weeks apart. And yes, there is actually a job to keep track of those things and yes I got paid good money for doing that. Only in the movie business.
This job can be very difficult for several reasons. First of all the hours are horrendous as you are there on set the whole time film is being shot. You have to work all-nighters and in bizarre locations. My first job I was on a mountainside for an 18-hour all-nighter in minus 18-degree weather. That is about –1 for you Fahrenheit folks. I have stood in rain for hours in the middle of winter. I’ve worked in blazing hot sun too with no shade in sight. Another reason the job sucks is that you find yourself doing things no reasonable adult should. Like standing there holding an umbrella over a actor who is perfectly capable of holding their own damned stuff. Or de-linting a hot young actor’s ass. OK that part is not bad. Yet another thing is that you have to baby-sit full grown actors who will do things like lose their costume purses or sit on wet grass in their white wardrobe pants or spill coffee on their one of a kind costume or throw hissy fits about how hot/cold/itchy/uncomfortable/bored/tired/thirsty/hung-over they are. I will say that most of the actors I worked with were really sweet and cool people. But the very odd few who were a handful really stick out in my mind.
One such actress I had to deal with was a real doozie. She wasn’t famous but had had a very pivotal bit part on a very popular sitcom. As a result she thought the sun shone out of her ass. Being her on-set costumer I can assure you it totally didn’t. She showed up for her first day of work hung over and not knowing her lines. This is a MAJOR faux pas. Huge. And she was playing a bimbo so her lines were not Shakespeare, if you know what I mean. The second thing she did which did not endear her to anybody on set was that she was extremely rude and condescending to her fellow actor. This guy played her husband and she just didn’t think he was ‘hott’ enough for her liking. Yes, this guy is not Jude Law but is a very good character actor. I have worked with him on a few projects and he is the sweetest and funniest guy you will ever meet. A real gem. She treated him like shit. Another thing she did was act like a total prima donna on set complaining one day to the director that the background extras where looking at her and would he please make them stop. JeSUS! Not too many actors can get away with that kind of crap and certainly she absolutely couldn’t. The director skilfully and tactfully blew her off. I was there for it and laughed out loud. Those times when a freak gets put in his or her place are too few not to chuckle.
Anyway, this bitch…I mean actress, arrived on set one day and I surreptitiously scanned her costume (wouldn’t want to OFFEND her with direct eye contact) to make sure she was wearing everything as she should be. I noticed she wasn’t wearing her charm bracelet. I got on my radio and talked to the truck costumer to see if she had forgotten to give it to the actress. The truck costumer is the one who works on the wardrobe truck and her job is to put the costumes in the actors’ rooms and maintain the costumes with breakdown (making things fake dirty and worn) and do laundry and sewing/alterations. She checked and said that she had put it in the actress’s room and that it had been left there. The piece of jewellery was run to the set and I approached the actress to give it to her.
Me-Hi! You forgot your charm bracelet so here it is. It goes on your left wrist.
Her-Yeah, I know. I don’t want to wear it. I don’t like it.
Me-You know what? (said in my best talking down to a pre-schooler voice) You wore it in the scenes prior and after the one we are shooting right now. It has been established on film.
Her-But I don’t wanna wear it. I just don’t.
Me –I am sorry but you have to wear it.
Her-I do not. I am not going to wear it.
Me-Why not? Does it hurt or pinch? I can fix it if it does.
Her-No, it is not that.
Me-Well, then what is up?
Her-I am just not feeling very braceletty today.
Well, what do you say to that? I eventually had to get an assistant director to back me up and she did end up wearing it but acted like it burned her flesh the whole day.
Now whenever I don’t feel like doing something I always say, in a petulant tone, that I am not feeling very braceletty today.