(The Last Blunder is a humorous weekly serial detailing the making of a true independent filmmaking catastrophe. I hope all of you who read along find it entertaining and can relate to it to some degree. The names of the participants have been changed. Any comments, suggestions, compliments, or criticisms can be sent to damianATkaverasfilmDOTcom. Enjoy!)
The Last Blunder: Chapter 15 by Damian K. Lahey
The morning after Randall’s party, Biff and I had a somber meeting at the office. I’d been kept in the dark about the investors, but since I was doing the accounting, I knew no money had come in. Accounting for independent films is rather easy since all you’re doing is keeping track of money going out. And trust me, it had been going out. We’d gone over budget, but since we’d started shooting 15,000 light, it was hard to worry about a couple hundred dollars here and there. Biff told me the following week would be our last. But it was to be a secret. We weren’t going to tell anyone till the weekend to avoid any fall out. I believed that was wrong and that the crew should know. Biff told me that was bullshit. He stood up like the beleaguered war general he thought he was and told me I was too nice. This wasn’t a business for softies like me. There were casualties in any war and it had to be accepted. Collateral damage. This was how it had to be. No one was to know. I asked about Studs and Shifto, but Biff told me to keep them out of the loop as well. As much as I didn’t like them, they had invested money in the project and had a right to know. Biff disagreed. Spank wasn’t to know either, but that really didn’t matter.
Spanky’s mind had sailed to the island of denial. He had no idea what was going on - on or off set. He sat in his director’s chair, staring at the monitor, while everyone else worked around him. Spanky’s only creative urge was in composing shots that centered on the tight asses of the 12-year-old actresses. After mucho complaining from Karen and Salami and concerned parents, Spanky was told he needed to stop it. Spanky didn’t mind that shots necessary to the narrative were being trimmed, but he’d be damned if those ass shots were omitted. Spanky stomped and sulked for a day – bitching and complaining about his creative authority being stripped from him. Morrison and the first AD had already taken over most of his responsibilities anyway. Spanky took to smoking weed and wandering around set in a daze. It was sad.
To make things worse, word had hit the street. You couldn’t go anywhere without some crew member from ‘The Big Show’ in town mentioning what an irresponsible pile of shit The Last Blunder was. Of course, anything that doesn’t pay at least five hundred dollars a day for a locations PA is an ‘irresponsible piece of shit’ to the crew base of Wilmington, NC. Karen’s non-stop bitching to her husband didn’t help either. He told anyone that would listen that The Last Blunder was breaking his wife emotionally and physically, that Spanky was a flat out pedophile and Biff and I refused to stop his perverted ways. And we’d also committed the cardinal sin of independent filmmaking – we were feeding our crew dog shit.
Before I left the office, I’d already made up my mind to let the crew know individually that this would be our last week and to plan accordingly. I would also let them know not to worry – they’d still be getting paid. Emotionally exhausted, I went to Pizza Palace for a slice and a shot of bourbon. The place wasn’t packed. Sitting at one of the bar stools was Shifto Jeans. Of course. I thought about turning back, but it was too late. I’d already said hello to the waitress. I ordered a drink and sat down. Shifto ambled over. He appeared distraught. A look Shifto did not carry well. His hair was usually perfect, like a Ken Doll’s, and his face always clean shaven. This was a stressed Shifto. I could imagine. Since returning from Sweden, Shifto had only paid back half of the 5000 dollars he’d ran off with. It was rumored his coffee shop was falling apart at the seams. His candy store wasn’t doing so hot either, though I have to give him credit. It was a real top notch place. They had everything. But nobody was buying. My thinking was that he shouldn’t have opened the place in the summer. People don’t usually have chocolate on the brain when it’s 95 degrees outside. What made the candy store look bad, though, was Shifto’s empty, unfinished ‘news stand’ next door. The store front contained one magazine shelf, holding a wrinkled copy of playboy, one Esquire and one Wall St. Journal. It looked like shit and had become a running joke in town. Now, the coffee shop had a crappy location and had come on the scene when there were already a couple local hot spots people frequented. I understood why that was going down the tubes. The candy store on the other hand did have an excellent location and was a real class act. I figured Shifto was cursed.
Shifto didn’t offer to buy me a drink, but sat down, looking despondent. He got right down to business. He said that he would have the other 2500 by the end of the week (this would go towards the debt we owed the vendors). He tossed out some ideas for the wrap party. Something cheap, but dignified. When we got the rest of this investor money, he told me, I should make sure to allocate funds for that. He asked me if I knew of any bands that would want to play at the party. I didn’t believe what I was hearing, but listened patiently. Shifto leaned back, a sad smile on his face. He told me he hoped there weren’t any hard feelings. Filmmaking was crazy, he continued, and sometimes tempers flared. He admitted to being on financial hard times. I told him I’d heard. He looked like he was going to respond, but instead went to the bar and got himself a gin and tonic. While he was at the bar, I made up my mind to leave town immediately after the final day of shooting. The fallout from the damaged egos alone would be a waking nightmare. This poor bastard had really romanticized the entire experience in his mind. Shifto asked me when we were going to be showing dallies. I told him we didn’t have the money to process the film yet. He looked momentarily saddened, but then his face lit up. He couldn’t wait to see the footage. He knew we had something great on our hands. Just you wait. In a year’s time we’d all be at Sundance, having champagne toasts, entertaining offers from Miramax and the like. He’d be able to do all sorts of good shit with the bags of cash he’d be getting. He told me not to worry, though. He wouldn’t forget about me. As a producer, he’d see that I got a couple points for my hard work. Maybe some Springsteen tickets, he added, making a reference to our disagreement in the past. I thought I was going to puke all over the table.
(I want to thank everybody for reading and hope you continue to read as the misadventures of The Last Blunder continue next week...)