Mar 24, 2008

Mr. Evil

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.


Emon said...

Great story! Looks like, though, this guy has zero tolerance for BS and below par performance. Do you think his work is good, despite all the evilness?

Scripty said...

Nice to hear from you Emon! Good question. His track record according to IMDB has him listed as nominated for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Commercials three times. So, someone must believe his work is good.

Michael Taylor said...

Scripty --

Terrific post! As one who has worked with some major-league assholes over the years, you had me sweating by the third paragraph.

I'm pretty sure who your Demon Director was, but won't put his name in this public setting -- don't want to leave any breadcrumbs that might lead that Beast back to you. Suffice it to say that he is simply the Biggest Asshole in the entire universe of film production. Even worse than Cameron. When his time comes, he'll be spending eternity in the 9th circle of Hell -- and deservedly so.

Great post - and one hell of a performance on your part. You should be proud of yourself.

laurence said...

Hi, scripty, happy to read about you.. I had lost the adress for several monthes... And was happy to see that asshole and demon are the same on each side of the ocean... We have quite the same in France, talented also, that chooses always the nicest, softest, kindest script supervisor, so that he can torture her for several weeks of shooting... In France, no scriptsupervisor on comercial, so everything really last... The last one is part of our association, and we all gave her courage, and advices when she left for Africa with him... And she survived.... Thanks to her softness, and the crew...
It is often strange to see how some really nice guys, that you know even as friends in real life, turn to be devils and lunatics when they're near a camera... Must have something to be with childhood...
Talk to you soon

Scripty said...

Michael Taylor: The ninth circle of hell!! A perfect place for Mr. Evil.

Nice to hear from you Laurence! I'm glad your sweet script supervisor survived her tour of duty with the evil director! I agree, childhood may have something to do with the way the evil ones act on set.

devonellington said...

I HATE those directors. I was on a series a couple of years back, and the director-du-week watched the scene, then ripped off his headphones and smashed them on the monitor before stalking off. The line producer turned to us and said very calmly, "Don't worry. He'll never be back here."

And he wasn't, after that week.

Gotta love it when the producer's looking after us all.

I've been on too many sets where the Vile are enabled.

Scripty said...

devonellington: Cheers to that producer! Nice to hear about someone who sticks up for the crew!

Thanks for stopping by!

ravingdave said...

I've been an assistant cameraman in Hollywood for thirty years and while I have a pretty good idea of your particular megalomaniac's identity, it saddens me that I can't say with 100% certainty. I have worked with him many times, but like the Native-American shape-shifter demon, he had different names and different faces. Moreover, because of film-schools, there are now so many virulent, mutated variants of the "Assholus Amongus" strain of director-virus loosed upon an unsuspecting world that it's too late to stamp them all out. They're even seeing signs of the dreaded Pytka-Bay Syndrome in school-children.

Scripty said...

Thanks for stopping by Ravingdave! And for the laugh! LOL, ROFL, and all those other text the kids use these days! Great comment!!

Pytka-Bay syndrome, God I hope not!

Michael Barnitt said...

Mr. Evil must be about six foot seven, long hair and hail from Pennsylvania but live in Venice now. If I show up on a job and find him directing I will pack up my gear and leave.

Scripty said...

Michael: I will keep secret Mr. Evil's identity...but...I will say this, your plan of packing up and leaving is a good one. Thanks for the comment!

Katie said...

I too have a very good idea who you have written about. He's notorious. I'm a scripty also and on my commercial (probably 10 years ago) was told by the AD (Mr.Evil's regular) that under no circumstance was I to have eye contact with the man or speak to him. If I had a question or comment I was to relay it to the AD who would handle it. It was a soft drink spot with a high profile NBA player. At one point Mr.Evil yelled out, "What hand is the bottle in?" I yelled back with the correct answer and that was the extent of my contact with the man. I took notes and kept my head down for two days. On the first day a writer for a national magazine was on set and Mr. Evil was on pretty good behavior. The 2nd day, without the reporter, not so much. Mr. Evil had a few Keys who made the trip with him and as I remember he was pretty hard on his regular dolly grip. Early in the 2nd day Mr. Evil was getting worked up for a tantrum and yelled out, "is the reporter still here?" Same dolly grip yelled back, "I think so, sir!", which got a big laugh from everyone, including Mr. Evil.

After wrap on the second day I sat down at a courtside table to do my wrap. From the corner of my eye I saw Mr. Evil walking straight toward me. I was trapped. I braced myself for the worst. He stopped opposite me, stuck out his hand and said, "Thank you very very much!" I shook his hand, thanked him and almost had a stroke as he walked away.

Scripty said...

Thanks for the great story Katie! You have seen the devil too! You should be proud of your work, for him to come and shake your hand you obviously did a great job!

boskolives said...

Before I locked into working only as a sound mixer, in an earlier incarnation as a still photographer I worked with, oh, let's just call him J.P.
I did maybe 10 major big time commercials with him before I got tired of getting straight armed, and having books and other stuff thrown (remarkable accurate arm on the guy) at me, so I turned down calls from his office.
He was certainly a sub human, but a brilliant one and I learned so many tricks in lighting and camera work that it was almost worth it. Almost.
The scars have faded, but the memories linger.
Jerry w.

Scripty said...

Nice to hear from another survivor..thanks Jerry!

Robin said...

Before I started reading your post, I had a hunch I knew who you were talking about. I was right. I had the good fortune not to get on the JP job, but my girlfriend did. It was a one day shoot and she kept me up in bed that night going on and on about what an ass he was. I was initially disappointed that I didn't get a call for his job, but was feeling smug when I got a better job at the same time, with some really cool guys from Washington Square Films.

Scripty said...

Hi Robin! Yes, you were very lucky to be with really cool guys from Washington Square Films instead! Thanks for the comment!

D said...

I know who that is! Hahaha!