Teaser 052: Welcome to Show Biz
When I arrived at John's office a few minutes before nine he was waiting and he was excited. Carey Lunquist had signed on as director and was to meet with us for lunch, Serena, John and me. “He said he absolutely had to meet you because he won't accept someone can write a screenplay like yours and not get noticed for almost sixty years. He said he can't believe someone could keep a huge talent like yours hidden so no one recognizes it.”
“I see you're in a jolly mood today, John.”
“Aren't you excited? We've got a first-class director who thinks you're a first-class screenwriter!”
“Don't let me burst your bubble, John, but this is all new to me, every bit of it, so excuse me when I try to keep an even keel, not too high or low.”
“You spoil everything by being too philosophical, you know that, Gregory?” He broke out his big smile, reached behind my neck and rubbed it enthusiastically.
“I am looking forward to lunch, though.” I smiled wickedly.
“Yeah, I know you are and I know why.”
“Listen, I haven't seen her smile in almost a week. I'm having more severe withdrawal from not seeing her smile than from not smoking cigarettes!”
“I don't know what it is with you two. I think sometimes you act like teenage lovebirds.” John's smile was warm.
“Yeah, but she's a married teenage lovebird.” I wanted to dismiss this quickly and pulled out a thumb drive. “Let's get the rewrites printed.”
What a staff John had collected...I met all the producers from the Saturday meeting. Gloria was quite the looker, a pint-size flavor of a woman with the features to match in perfect proportion, well-toned on any bit of it visible, a commanding presence despite her petite appearance, smart, charming, witty, with verbal and reasoning skills which could crush me, and once she got a look at me, I knew she was far from impressed. Still, she gave me considerable praise for my screenplay and I remained humble and subdued. I figured if I got on her bad side I was in for a battle I would probably lose.
Gary was last and as John and I walked into his office, which he would share with me temporarily, John made a comment about my beard missing. “Why did you shave it off?”
“Serena wanted to see my face. I wanted to see her face, without all the make-up. We made a deal, so she did hers and I've done this.”
“I thought Serena had something to do with it.”
“Cumon, John. I can grow it back. It'll only take two or three months.”
“No, I like it. You look five years younger and you already looked young for your age.”
Gary thought out loud. “There's something to consider, John. If we go with Gregory in the Gustavo role, the scenes he would be playing before Octavio is killed, he could do them without the beard. He would look younger.”
“Good idea, Gary. We'll discuss it at the next meeting, after the screen test.”
“Before you get too excited, John, you better have me start growing the beard and consider changes for shooting, because if you want to wait for me to grow it during the shoot, you're gonna be waiting a long while.”
“How long was it before you shaved it off?”
“Three months!?” John asked, incredulous, his eyebrows lifted to the ceiling. “It took three months to grow?”
“Told ya,” I shrugged and moved to the other computer set up in the room. “This mine?” I asked Gary.
It was an Apple, a desktop version of the Mac. I turned it on while both told me what they expected me to use it for, mostly for email and internet. The word processor I would never use and told them so, same with the music. I wasn't an iTunes fan. John said they had a large library of music on the server. I reminded John playing music wasn't exactly working. The best application, though, was for the dailies. Those could be loaded onto the server, actually multiple servers, and those with authorization could watch the dailies from each day's shooting. I thought it was cool.
John looked at me slyly. “That's how we'll judge your screen test. It'll be loaded on the server and we'll know if you cut the mustard before the day is over Thursday.”
“Nuthin' like pressure. Do you have a group email list for me, John? I'd like to create a new email account just for this project.”
“Sure. Why don't I send out an email to everyone including you and advise them you are creating a new email account to use for this project and once you reply to everyone with your new email address they should use the new one from now on so make a note of it.”
“Sounds great.” I liked John a lot. He could think on his feet and get things done quickly.
“Switching gears, Gregory, Gary has a copy of the budget finances, so we can get started on it.” John moved to close the door.
“Sure.” I sat looking at the screen. Instead of taking the finance copies, I turned to John. “What about I.T.? Who takes care of the computers, network, security, the like?”
John advised they used an outside contractor. They didn't have the desire to do it in-house. Except for a current production in progress, the office was usually bare bones, staff and everything. I told him he and I were going to have a discussion about security but I would prefer to have it at a more leisurely time. It's nothing pressing I tried to assure him. I could tell by the expressions on both faces they had concerns about my bringing it up. “I've worked off and on, mostly on, in the computer biz for almost forty years, gentlemen. I know the strengths and weaknesses of almost any computer, network and the security which goes with it. If I may ask, what is your single biggest outside problem in the entertainment business?”
John thought a moment. “Piracy.”
“I have some theories about it and we'll talk later.”
The three of us spent an hour going over the budget and its breakdown. The first thing I realized about my position as finance producer was I would know what everyone connected to this movie would earn, every dime of it. Cool. Gary started to show me the accounting software they used, especially how to produce various reports, with screen previews, the like. It would be a learning process but I knew I would master it soon enough. While he was showing me variations for a report with budget breakdowns based on categories, John stepped back in the office. “Somebody's here to see you, Gregory,” John said with a teasing smile. He stepped back and Serena marched in, full of her usual self-assurance, the look on her face which announced, “Darling, step aside, please. You're in my way.” The dress she wore was high class, alluring, cut down the neck with breasts pushed high like an offering, dropping to mid-thigh and her legs fell out of it bare and sexy. The heels she wore, two inches at least, gave her legs such tone it made me wonder how those would feel wrapped around my hips squeezing hard. I didn't know this answer yet.
She played it to the hilt, greeting Gary nonchalantly, took one look at me as I sat calmly in my chair, smiling at her, and she screamed, “Oh my God! There's your face! I can see your face!” Her face went from shock to surprise to sexy pleasure in two seconds.
“I told you I would shave it off.” No big deal.
She walked to my chair, rested her left hand on the arm, and leaned forward. “I want to feel your face.” She lifted her right hand and gently rubbed over my left cheek. I looked in her eyes while she watched her hand slide. When our eyes met she smiled big and full. “How do you keep it so smooth?”
“Oh, this?” I rubbed my other cheek. “My beard grows like they work in Europe, except more so. It takes frequent siestas.” They all laughed.
Serena leaned back, lifted her hand from the chair and took a step back while John came around her side. “By the way, these are for you.” He handed me a bunch of phone memos. I noticed immediately they were all from media.
I looked up at John. “These people all want to talk to me?” I watched him nod. “Fuck, it's starting already? They already know about me?”
“It's what marketing's for. They get the word out.”
“Geez, John, I didn't think it would start this soon.”
Gary said, “Welcome to show biz.”
“What do I have to talk about? I don't want to talk about anything personal, my history, only the project, the movie, so what do I have to talk about and what can I avoid? I'm not looking forward to this, if you missed it.”
“Comes with the territory, Gregory. Like Gary said, 'Welcome to show biz.'” I glanced to Gary and he raised his eyebrows high. “We'll go over it this afternoon and the list and I'll give you some pointers about what to say, what to avoid, and clue you in on most of these people.”
“You have to play with them a little, Gregory,” Serena said. “Give a little and they give you a little. Play nice with them, they play nice with you.”
“All right.” I set the stack on the side of the desk and turned to Serena. “You look great, as usual, but your face is in hiding.”
“I have to look my best today. We'll be out in the public and there will be media people all over.”
John interrupted. “You may have to meet some while we're having lunch, Gregory. Be polite and don't answer questions. Refer them to my office where you can contact them later. Talking with media is part of the business, and as you like to say, business is business, so keep it business-like.” John glanced at his watch. It was eleven. He turned to Serena. “We should be leaving soon. Carey will meet us there.” He turned to me. “Are you ready?”
“Ready.” I stood up and looked to Gary. “Get up. I haven't hugged you yet.” Gary stood and I gave him a nice, big hug.
“Yeah, you give a good hug, Gregory. You're getting a reputation.”
“The people hugger, not a tree hugger, though I like trees and forest. Much better than clear-cut.”
- Just Desserts, Segment Six “Let’s Get This Party Started” by Gregory R. Schussele, © 2021
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