It was a good thing the production I worked on last week had breakfast burritos; otherwise I would have been a crabby Scripty. The director was a screamer. Yelled at everyone, for everything. In my experience, I’ve worked with three types of screaming directors:
• Type 1: Scream to scare crew, and have a tendency toward violent behavior. They throw cameras, break monitors, fire people left and right, and are generally evil vile people.
• Type 2: Scream to ridicule crew. Once you’ve identified a director as a Type 2 they’re actually quite funny mainly because they have deep-seated insecurities and mocking others makes them feel better. They’re mostly all about harmless yelling, bordering on comical. They can usually be handled with some basic maternal skills.
• Type 3: Scream because they think it’s a requirement of the job and are generally crazy.
This particular director was a Type 1: Evil and vile.
The morning began with a shuttle ride into the area where we would be filming. During the shuttle over, the key grip tapped me on the shoulder, “Have you worked with Mr. Beelzebub before?” I innocently reply “No, why?” This causes a gasp from the rest of the crew as if I had just said I had stewed puppies for breakfast. “Well, he’s quite the legendary screamer, (he attempts to ease my worry)..but I think you can handle him.”
I arrive on set and there is an eerie Nightmare-on-Elm-Street tension. The day is not looking good. On my way to get a second breakfast burrito (I would clearly need the additional burrito karma) I met with the camera guys and they told me to steer clear of the director. There would be no slates, just stay out of the way, and the evil one will be free-rolling all day (the director will start filming at random). I stood in the wings as Freddie started to free-roll on the actors, ready to record the carnage.
I watched in horror as he savagely claimed his first victim. A poor production assistant was berated in front of the crew and clients. Personal remarks as to how fat this kid was went on and on to the point where I could tell the kid was about to cry. All because the production assistant/victim had brought an actor over to the client instead of to Mr. Evil.
Now there was blood in the water, he was going to go into a frenzy at any moment. Then he turned around and his yellow eyes fell on me. “Why are you over there!” He yelled. Then chuckled to his camera guys, “It’s like she’s scared or something! Get over here!”
I obey and ran over to him.
“Have you timed the copy?” He demanded.
I called upon the power of the burrito. “Yes.” I replied.
“Well?” He demanded.
I responded as the sulfur fumes burned my eyes. “For each 30 second spot there is only a short amount of dialogue,” I tell him. “You have lots of air, the dialogue only lasts 7 seconds.”
A pause, “You are correct.”
I survived the first test. I continued to stand in the wings but Mr. Evil and the camera guys backed up to the point where I was close enough for him to notice me again.
Mr. Vile looked at me and screamed, “How tall are you?”
I reply “5’2”
He turned to his assistant and said, “Measure her!”
The camera assistant dutifully measures me to be 5’4”. Seeing an opening he goes in for his second kill, “You don’t even know how tall you are!”
I parry with “I’m wearing shoes,” and I pointed to my new red sneakers.
He laughed, “You’re wearing fu**king new shoes, I bet you just bought them!”
“Yes, I bought them on the way here this morning just for you” I smart back, (the burrito karma apparently interfered with my ability to filter.)
He laughed and turned to the A.D. “Keep her by me all day!” This caused the camera assistant’s head to snap back to me in shock. “Wow, he never wants script supervisors around. He usually tells them to F off and don’t hang around.” I start to envy those script supervisors.
So, the A.D. did as told, and kept me near as Mr. Vile began to feed on the actors. “Don’t do that, that’s stupid. Don’t act; you don’t know how to do it. Why did you do that? You’re a retard. If you can’t handle your props go home! Oh, the humanity.
As we did our turnaround he screamed, “Eyeline?” I know he’s just testing me. I reply “Camera right.” And since that was the correct answer I was able to live for another take.
As we continued through the day, Director Vile yelled at crew, harassed the clients, and preyed on young P.A.'s. It was exhausting, I could see the worry on everyone's face, would they be next. At one point a woman from the agency walked up to me with deep concern "Is he being nice to you?" I smiled and said "Yes." It's true, I had not suffered as much as others.
During the last scene I made a bet in my mind if he would make the actress cry before the end of the day. She looked as though she might cry at any second so the odds on crying were even money..but then there was a microscopic chance she would be above him and not show her fear. She looked as if at one point she might succumb but she dug deep, kept it together, did as he asked and never cried. I was very proud of her!
At wrap after Mr. Evil had left the building it was as if the crew had all experienced a trauma. We all had to recount our experiences, lucky that we had survived.
I learned a few things that day, being a smart ass can pay off, always trust the power of a good breakfast burrito , and I’m 5’4” in my sneakers.