(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 7 by Damian K. Lahey
Curley Blonde’s tech scout had finally arrived. Biff wanted me there early that morning. When I arrived, he calmly explained that the crew respected him more than me and to simply accept it. This was because they knew full well what the name ‘Biff Frank’ meant in Wilmington. Then he told me that since I “didn’t have shit” and he “did have shit”, that he would be drawing a larger weekly salary from the production since he had a house and a Land Rover. He told me I still needed to pay my dues. I thought that was a pretty crappy way to start the day. But then Balthazar Spankentstein showed up. He had his notebook with him and was dressed impeccably. He was there to impress. Spanky was afraid of Biff, who didn’t bother saying hello, but instead thrust a budget in his face and told him we needed more money. He was right. We did need more money. I could tell that conversation was going to get ugly, but then a panicky Curley Blonde came in for some last minute copy machine use and we were saved.
The rest of the crew arrived shortly thereafter. Everyone except for 1st A.D. hopeful John Gavin, who was day playing on a BMW commercial as their ‘shammy boy’. He was making quite the career leap working on The Last Blunder. Sergio and Tonino Savanti (sound), Karen Hall (art director), Morrison (D.P.) and Terry Heart (gaffer), all made it. Along for the ride were Shifto Jeans, Studs Diamonds, and Billy Bold. I knew Blonde had asked them to come for morale support. Their presence infuriated Biff to no end. But what could he do? They were paying his self-inflated salary. When Curley Blonde was about to give his tech scout introduction, Biff cut him off and apologized to everyone for not being at the first production meeting, that it shouldn’t have been done without him, and that he’d never let that happen again. I figured someone must have made a complaint. I was wrong. Biff just wanted to assert himself as the ultimate producer of the project. That was fine with me. He could take all the credit he wanted. I knew what we were making.
The emphasis of this tech scout was to find a location, or locations, that would serve as the house of the main character of the film, Henry. We were supposed to visit four of these houses. We got through two…
The first possible location was a large three story house in a nice, quiet neighborhood about twenty miles away from downtown Wilmington. We were greeted at the door by an old, fat, bearded hippie wearing a silk bathrobe and sandals. He had a snifter of cognac in his hand. His name was Hugh. The place had wooden floors and was spacious. There were the various Woodstock posters and the like all about, but they were nicely framed. All the furniture was high end. I assumed he’d picked up some sort of inheritance along the way. The place smelled like weed. Hugh was intimidated by how many of us were there, and asked if there would be that many of us around if we shot there. The man was clueless. Biff laughed in Blonde’s face and reamed him out for not properly disclosing production logistics and stomped outside. I didn’t think that was appropriate, and tried to delicately explain to Hugh exactly what having a film crew at his house would entail. He said he would have to speak to his wife about it some more. He had no idea what was going on. I told Studs and Billy to wait outside as to not agitate the gentleman any further. I was going to tell Shifto to do the same, but he was too busy pacing around the house inspecting this and that, all the while chatting away on his cell phone like Mr. big Hollywood agent. Unfortunately, with his frumpy trench coat and fedora he looked more like a poor man’s Colombo or McGruff the Crime Dog than he did a fast talking Hollywood player.
After some inspection, Spankenstein came down the stairs and asked Blonde if he’d read the script, because if he had, he would have realized that the main character’s parents weren’t a bunch of stoner hippies. This offended Hugh, who jerked angrily, spilling some cognac on his silk bathrobe. As he fumbled around on a large oak desk for a napkin, Karen blurted out that her job was to make the place whatever Spanky desired and she had no problem with taking down paintings and moving things around. Hugh turned green. I was starting to feel sorry for Curley. Morrison came down and said extensive work was going to have to be done if they were going to shoot certain scenes. He then began describing in obnoxious detail what he was going to have to do to make things work when Hugh told us to stop. He shook his head and waved his hands in front of his face and told us it wasn’t going to work, we’d have to find someplace else. When the Savantis came down to give their own report on the location, he hurried us out of the house before they even had a chance to speak.
The next place we looked at was owned by a Mr. and Mrs. Hawthorne. They were a lovely couple with a lovely home and a lovely daughter. A lovely daughter that wanted to act in the film, too. I thought why not. Curley had already told the Hawthornes he couldn’t promise anything, but was sure the kid could at least get an audition. This was further evidence to Biff that we were all unprofessional incompetents. He stormed outside and spent the remainder of the time laughing and calling people to let them know what amateurs we were. Part of me couldn’t blame him. But part of me felt his behavior wasn’t helping matters either. The house was nice, though. There was plenty of room for Morrison and Karen to play. I also thought the kid should’ve read for the part of Henry’s sister. Shifto was against this, as he was already in discussions with some girl in Montana for the part. Spankenstein felt the house was wonderful and agreed that we should at least read the girl to humor the family. I could tell Blonde was getting excited. He thought he’d found a keeper. Despite everything, I was happy for him. He’d done a lot of work and deserved some reward. He also wanted to get one up on Biff, and so did I. Then Spankenstein decided to do something truly remarkable. We were standing in the Hawthorne’s older son’s bedroom, discussing how great it would work as Henry’s bedroom when Spanky, lost in a moment of bliss, jumped up onto the bed and began rolling around, a look of pure nostalgia on his face. “Oh, my god,” he moaned. “This is just like Henry’s bed!” And then he continued to wiggle and writhe on the bed, while the Hawthornes looked on, absolutely horrified. After what seemed like an eternity, Spanky rolled off the bed, panting and giggling and declared “We’ve got it! We’ve got Henry’s house”. I thought Mr. Hawthorne was going to throw down with Spanky right then and there, but his wife held him back.
I walked outside to smoke a cigarette and let Curley Blonde deal with the sticky situation. Outside, Biff, Studs and Billy were milling around in the driveway. Biff looked miserable. I could understand. Billy, 42 ounces of vodka and cranberry into the day, was regaling them with one of his ribald tales of frat house glory. Studs clapped his hands when he saw me. He knew his boy had found us a winner with this one. Then the troops slowly marched out of the house, Mrs. Hawthorne following behind them. She apologized, but said that she was frankly embarrassed by what had transpired in the bedroom. Spanky stood still, staring at the ground. The rest of the crew looked deeply humiliated. Karen glowered at Spanky. I apologized. Mrs. Hawthorne asked that we not contact her again. Spanky said that if it was any consolation, he would still consider her daughter for the part. Mrs. Hawthorne shook her head in disgust and walked inside.
We stood outside in shame. Finally, Blonde cleared his throat and said his maps to the next location were in the car. Biff said we weren’t going anywhere till somebody told him what happened in the house. I decided to call off the rest of the scout. We’d reschedule for another day. Everybody walked to their cars and drove off. I told Biff we’d talk about it when we got back to the office.
(I want to thank everybody for reading and hope you continue to read as the misadventures of The Last Blunder continue next week...)