(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 6 by Damian K. Lahey
My strategy for the first production meeting was simple - get in and get out. I wanted everyone to get their folders, their contracts and their schedules. I didn’t want to answer a lot of questions. I wanted to keep things as broad as possible. The meeting was to be at six o’ clock. Phil Lately, always looking for a free production meal, was trying to get me to purchase some catered chicken wings and cheese platters to schmooze the crew. I had to admit it wasn’t a bad idea, but our budget being what it was – it just wasn’t feasible. This didn’t stop him from spending a good part of the day getting quotes from different caterers and grocery stores in town.
I had called Curley Blonde the night before to let him know he wouldn’t be needed at the office. I’d let everyone at the meeting know about his tech scout, but he could take the day off. I could tell I hurt his feelings, but I didn’t care. I was the boss. And I wasn’t going to spend the day of our first production meeting trying to pry him off the copy machine.
I got a lot of calls from Biff Frank, who was trying to micromanage things from afar. He told me I had to get Balthazar Spankenstein to make an appearance. I called Spanky and Midriff answered. I tried to disguise my voice, but she knew it was me. I could tell from the tone of her voice that she was still bent out of shape about being fired. I dropped the niceties and told her to put Spanky on the phone. She told me he was busy. I could only imagine. I told her to get Spanky to call me when he was freed up. I had a feeling the only thing that was keeping him busy all day was banging Suzy, but I hoped he was pursuing some investment leads. That was probably wishful thinking. Biff called every five minutes to see if I’d heard from Spanky. Eventually, I turned all his calls over to Phil. I was contacting everybody to confirm they were going to be there. I was glad everyone was going to be able to attend. There were no cancellations.
The only person I wished would cancel was Shifto Jeans. He showed up and wanted to speak to me in private. I told him there was no need. Phil Lately didn’t care what was being said either way. Shifto told me he wanted to speak to the crew after I was done with my business at the meeting. I asked why he wanted to involve the crew with his casting stuff. Shifto told me that he would represent the investors of the film and give an impassioned speech, letting everyone know how much they appreciated their underpaid hard work. I told him that was a bad idea and also something I felt was highly inappropriate. Shifto didn’t take that well. He told me he was hurt by my comments and though he normally wouldn’t do it, he was going to go over my head and call Biff Frank directly about the matter. I told him to go ahead. Shifto grabbed one of the production phones and made the call. As I sorted through some paperwork, I could hear Biff ripping him a new one. Shifto politely got off the phone and excused himself. I asked if I needed to allocate some meeting time to his investor speech. Shifto shook his head and left the office. I was glad to be rid of him so I could get back to work.
The meeting was nice and brief. Essentially, all the Keys were there. Morrison, our cinematographer; Terence Heart, our gaffer; Patricia Salami, our wardrobe person; Karen Hall, our art director; John Gavin, our tentative 1st A.D.; Toby Horace, tentative second A.D.; and Sergio and Tonino Savanti, our twin Italian sound guys. There were positions to be filled, of course, but this was a solid foundation to build on. These crew members of The Last Blunder will be discussed in more detail in upcoming chapters.
I passed out the paper work, said my bit, and let everyone know about Blonde’s tech scout. Everyone seemed impressed with the folders I’d put together for them, and to my relief, Shifto didn’t show up. I stood up to close the meeting and thank everyone when the door opened and Balthazar Spankenstein came stumbling in, stoned and drunk. Everyone turned. Spanky plopped down in the chair next to Patricia Salami. He stared up at the ceiling with a dazed smile on his face. Not knowing what else to do, I introduced Balthazar Spankenstein to our crew. He either ignored or didn’t comprehend the introduction. He continued to stare off into his own personal independent film land of Oz. Everyone began to shift uncomfortably in their seats. I told Spanky we were wrapping up and asked if there was anything he wanted to add. He opened his mouth as if to say something and then began laughing like a moron. Any faith the crew may have had in our little-engine-that-could production was being sucked dry by the stoned black hole that was Balthazar Spankenstein.
I thanked everyone for coming and told them I’d be in touch. Suddenly, Spanky let out the battle cry “let’s make a movie!!!” and then let his head fall back and laughed hysterically. After this embarrassing display came to a close, I thanked Spanky for his inspiring words and closed the meeting. When everybody left, Spanky remained at the table, looking like he was about to pass out. I sat down and went through some paper work. I had nothing to say to him. Every couple minutes or so, out of the corner of my eye, I would notice him chuckle to himself while staring off into that endless void. Biff Frank called and asked how the meeting went. I filled him in and then told him Spanky arrived and wanted to talk to him. I handed the phone to Spanky, who proceeded to slobber, blather, and giggle his way through what I gathered was a terse conversation with Biff. After a couple minutes, Spanky hung up the phone, looking a little more sober and somber. He slowly stood up from the table and staggered out into the night. I was about to head on out when Biff called me back. He said he’d definitely be there for the tech scout on Friday and if Spanky hadn’t shaped up by then, he was gonna walk.
(I want to thank everybody for reading and hope you continue to read as the misadventures of The Last Blunder continue next week…)