Monthly Archives: October 2011

MOVIE PITCH – Part III

Woman is sitting on terrace of sumptuous villa built into the rocks overlooking the Mediterranean.  She is having lunch with Russian friend, and Russian friend of friend.  Woman is part-Russian, so only half of her feels left out.  (The bottom half).  The women espy a lone man swimming in the choppy sea a little way out from the coastline.  The 100%  Russian women coo in admiration for his strong arms, his sense of purpose, his bravery. 50% Russian woman says that’s all very well, but if he’s from around here he’ll still only be 3’6″ when he gets out of the water.

Russian friend of friend asks woman why she left Nice.  Woman replies it was a mixture of reasons, but one of them was it was seemingly impossible to find a man. Russian friend says she’s going to see to it that the woman returns to Nice, grabs her phone and starts to make calls to potential suitors – most notably a well-known Nicoise journalist, and a Russian Jewish concert pianist. She leaves messages for them to come over to her place immediately, that she has a lovely half-Russian, 100% Jewish woman for them.  Lovely half-Russian, 100% Jewish woman begins to feel it’s time to leave…

…but friend of friend’s phone rings. Friend of friend answers and chats away in fluent Italian for ten minutes.  At the end of the call friend of friend turns to lovely half-Russian, 100% Jewish woman and says That was Christina Versace.  She’s standing outside my house in Italy wondering if she can take tea with me.

Lovely, half-Russian, 100% Jewish, freaked-out-by-the-surrealism-of-it-all woman gets up to go. She thanks friend for her very generous hospitality, bids farewell to friend of friend, mentally waves at Christina Versace, and walks up winding path to the bus stop.

[WOMAN DOES ALL HER OWN STUNTS AS LONG AS THERE’S NOTHING PHYSICAL INVOLVED, IN PARTICULAR RUNNING, JUMPING, SWIMMING, LARGE DOGS, BUDGERIGARS, SMALL DOGS, HELICOPTERS AND CROCODILES OF ANY SIZE (INCLUDING MEDIUM). WALKING UP WINDING PATHS TO BUS STOP ACCEPTABLE.  AS LONG AS YOU CAN GET THE INSURANCE.  NB. BUSES OK, WITH THE PROVISO THEY’RE NOT BEING DRIVEN BY KEANU REEVES.]

CUT TO

Woman walking along Nice street, running by chance into (now married to someone else, but still jealous) former-girlfriend of a man with whom woman once shared a very strong attraction and almost had a little something with.  Former-girlfriend looks shocked at woman’s presence, but pastes smile on face over gritted teeth, saying I thought you lived in London now.  Woman replies that she does, she’s over in Nice for a visit.  Former-girlfriend cheers up considerably. Ohhh (smile looking a little more genuine), when are you going home?

TWO WEEKS LATER

Woman back in London, on the phone, which she puts down at the end of the call in a distressed state.  Turns out London friends have arrived in Nice apartment, but the furniture the tenant was buying (having beaten woman down A LOT on price) and which he’d agreed to leave in the apartment until woman’s friends had vacated it, has been taken already.  Along with something the tenant had been told was not included in the package. Not to mention all the sheets and towels. She contacts tenant.  Tenant tells her he’s sorry, his (very good) English isn’t very good and that he hadn’t understood (although the point had been made in English and in French – and further, in emails).  (He had no problems negotiating the price down A LOT for the goods, however, did he?).

Woman starts banging head against brick wall.

FADES TO BLACK

RUN CREDITS

Well, what do you think?  Too far-fetched if we can’t get Angelina?

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

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MOVIE PITCH – Part II

Woman seen entering through managing agents doorway, setting down her suitcases in the delicate manner as befits the circumstances. She trips to the back of the shop, where the managing agent and his middle-aged female sidekick are watching her approach, colour draining from their faces.  Woman and managing agent engage for half an hour in intellectual discussion about how crap managing agent is (some degree of disagreement here).  Managing agent tells woman the tenant was about to move out at the end of his contract two weeks ago, but at the last minute the place he was moving into suffered a fire, so he simply failed to leave, what could anyone do? You can’t get the lawyers in just like that, you know. How about make a phonecall or send an email to the apartment’s owners, the woman retorts. Middle-aged female sidekick sighs, smiles, and says charmingly Ah well, but the past is the past. You can’t turn back the clock. Woman stares at her baring her teeth, which – somehow – conveys her unhappiness with that statement. Middle-aged female sidekick gestures as if to say oo, look over there, reaches for her bag and scarpers through the front door.

Woman demands managing agent provide her (and her soon-to-arrive friend from America – not to mention her friends from London, who are taking the apartment for a week near the end of the month) with somewhere to stay. Managing agent vacillates (which is very clever of him, since he’s French).  Another half hour passes, during which time woman gets nowhere. And has nowhere to go. So she sits at one of the computers looking for a short-term holiday let apartment that she insists the managing agent will pay for.

Managing agent kind of agrees (although he is highly disagreeable), but whenever the topic of money comes up, suddenly his exemplary facility with the English language desserts him. Quoi? he says, raising his eyebrows and his shoulders (but not necessarily in that order). My Eengleesh is not very good, Madame, he says, forgetting briefly that the rest of the time he can play with colloquialisms more skillfully than Noel Coward.

After two hours of searching and making calls – on what is now Friday night – woman has found nowhere to rent.  So on enjoying a final intellectual discussion with managing agent about his miserable failings as a human being, she leaves with her cases to become acquainted with a friend’s floor for the night.

The next day, a Saturday – meaning the managing agents are not managing anything, even badly (this is France, duh) – the woman sends an email to the tenant, telling him he is occupying her property illegally, which has made her, her soon-to-arrive friend from America and her friends from London, homeless, which is costing them all a lot of money.  The tenant replies, inviting woman to tea in her own apartment (where she should actually be having breakfast followed by a refreshing shower).

Woman is next seen taking tea in (her own) apartment with the tenant.  The tenant explains he is not there illegally at all – two weeks before the end of his contract he called the managing agents to ask them for an extension for a month.  Renovations to the apartment he is about to move into are nearly finished – the building had a fire four months ago, he says. Don’t you mean last week, asks the woman? Tenant looks puzzled.  No, it was definitely four months ago. Look out of the window, Madame, it’s the next building along, the one with the scaffolding  that’s been up for ages.  He says the middle-aged female sidekick had said of course you can stay in the apartment, Monsieur!  Nobody has bought it yet!  (For the woman and her future ex-husband have also engaged the managing agents not to sell the place for them).  And a few days later she sends him an invoice for the extra month’s rent – dated a couple of days before the tenant’s original contract was due to expire.

Woman takes this incriminating invoice and bids farewell to the tenant, who has asked to buy some of the furniture – the dishwasher, the TV, a sofa – to which the woman agrees, saying she’ll come up with a price at a later date.

MANAGING AGENTS.  INT.  DAY.

Woman, steam, gesticulation, stamping, the odd bit of strangulation.  Middle-aged female sidekick grabs bag and makes a run for it. Managing agent reaches for his wallet and his keys, says he’s off. Fine, says the woman, settling down into a chair, I’m staying here. Managing agent sees woman is serious.  Sets down his wallet and keys. Waits patiently for the intellectual discussion he knows is coming.

Monsieur, you lied to me! the woman puts to him intellectually.

Madame, he discusses, I do not lie!  

That’s another lie! the woman intellectually explains.

MANAGING AGENTS.  EXT.  DAY.

CAMERA DRAWS BACK AND UP UNTIL MANAGING AGENTS IS A PINPRICK IN AERIAL SHOT OF NICE. ALBEIT WITH WHAT LOOKS LIKE SMOKE RISING OUT OF THE ROOF.

LIGHTS GO UP.  ICE CREAM VENDORS APPEAR.  TEN MINUTES BEFORE PART III, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN. OH, A VANILLA TUB PLEASE.  THANKS.

MOVIE PITCH – Part I

What do you think of this for a storyline?

Film opens with woman in London putting finishing touches to her packing and closing her suitcase.  The phone goes.  It’s her future ex-husband.  ‘Just had an email from the managing agents’, he says.  ‘You can’t stay in our apartment in Nice, the tenant didn’t move out at the end of his contract two weeks ago’.

Woman immediately calls managing agents.  Owner of the agency tells her the tenant overstayed his contract, it’s too early to call in the lawyers.  Woman demands to know why she hasn’t been told this before.  Agent tells her she should have emailed him before this morning that she was coming over.  Woman points out loudly, but in a caring way [PARENTAL GUIDANCE] that she emailed managing agent as a courtesy, she doesn’t have to ask managing agent permission to stay in her own property.  Woman also informs managing agent that she has a friend arriving from America in a couple of days to stay with her in her (own) apartment. Managing agent, without bothering to muffle his phone, talks to colleague in his office, saying in French (which woman understands very well and which managing agent should know she understands very well since she has often conversed with him in the language) ‘She’s got a friend coming over from America in a couple of days.  What am I to tell her?’

The doorbell rings. It’s the cab – five minutes early – to take the woman to the airport. Woman tells driver she’ll be off the phone in an instant, but cab driver tells her he’ll wait in the car park.

Woman hangs up from the managing agent (who has anyhow fallen silent), somehow manoeuvres heavy cases out into the hallway and locks the door. Struggles with heavy cases to the car park, where the cab driver is feigning sleep and only notices the woman and her (heavy) suitcases once she is 4 millimetres from his window. Cab driver laconically gets out of cab and reluctantly puts (heavy) suitcases into the back.  They set off for the airport.

Cab driver attempts to break speed of light speed. Woman finds G-Force a teensy bit unsettling so early in the morning.  Mostly monosyllabic, the driver does let on, however, that he regularly takes people to Gatwick Airport.  It’s at this point on the busy motorway that he hurtles at 183 mph ever so slightly past the very well-signposted slip road for Gatwick Airport and – ye gods – reverses back to it.  [SUITABLE FOR OVER 18s]

Woman, in Minnie Mouse voice, whilst crossing herself (hoping the Good Lord won’t remember she’s actually Jewish), endeavours to confirm that the driver takes her credit card.  The driver says ‘I’m a cab driver, I don’t take credit cards’.  Woman points out to driver she has paid by credit card many times before in taxis, and that the website she booked him through states very clearly OUR DRIVERS ACCEPT ALL MAJOR CREDIT CARDS.  Well, says the cabbie, you should have told them you were going to pay by credit card when you booked.

Woman starts to lose the will to live.

After stopping at petrol station with a cash machine, taxi drives to drop off point outside terminal.  Driver (very) laconically moves to back of car, but has problems opening the boot, because one of the cases has somehow become enmeshed with the boot locking mechanism. Looks at woman as if to say ‘you sure you want to take these cases with you?’ but something in the woman’s demeanour [CONTAINS STRONG LANGUAGE AND THOUGHTS OF EXPLICIT VIOLENCE] persuades him she does indeed want to take these cases with her, and he persists, eventually freeing them.  He places them on the ground in a miserable fashion. Woman holds out bank notes for the fare, and hands him a couple of coins (fewer than she would normally give) as a tip.  Driver stares at coins in derisory fashion. Woman says ‘Thanks. That was completely terrifying’ and walks away.

Woman checks in, then mysteriously bleeps several times going through the security bleepy thing.  Has already taken off watch, belt, jewellery, normally pleasant disposition.  Has to stand with arms outstretched and feet apart to be wanded and patted down.  (Day starts to get better).  Five minutes later is still bleeping, but they let her through anyway. (Comforting).

After putting back on watch, belt, jewellery (but stuffing normally pleasant disposition into her handbag), woman visits stationers, where she picks up a bottle of water, two political magazines and a newspaper.  She stands in line to pay for them, but the line doesn’t move for ten minutes.  This, she sees, is because the stationers has installed new self-service checkouts for greater speed and efficiency. Which nobody can work out how to use.  Woman glances at watch and deposits bottle of water, two political magazines and newspaper onto a shelf displaying Do It Yourself magazines. [Woman extremely likeable character – obviously breathtakingly beautiful – with an ever-present charmingly-ironic wit].

Woman enters departure lounge and approaches drink dispenser machine.  Sees from stickers under the bottles that water costs £1.20, puts £1.20 into slot. Nothing happens. Woman presses button to refund money, tries again.  And again and again.  Man wanting to use the machine looks at woman and sighs.  Woman then notices from a sticker elsewhere on the machine that water is apparently priced at £1.60.  Woman looks at man wanting to use the machine and sighs.  Woman puts in £1.60, tiny bottle of water is dispensed.

By this time, virtually everyone else has boarded the plane.  Woman finds boarding pass and shows it to the cabin crew, is directed to seat between morose drinks machine guy and very fat woman, who is sitting in the ailse seat.  Woman stares at seat between morose drinks machine guy and very fat woman sitting in the ailse seat, the latter eventually cottoning on to the fact that the woman is staring at the empty seat next to her for a reason. Very fat woman chirps ‘OK, if you want to sit there’.  Woman [petite, hourglass figure, exceedingly gorgeous in the strange airplane light filtering through the steam emanating from her ears] thinks no, I don’t WANT to sit there, but smiles and stands back so very fat woman can climb out of her seat and let her pass.

Morose drinks machine guy falls asleep.  Plane takes off.  After two minutes very fat woman unclicks her seatbelt and makes for the toilet. Stewardess tells very fat woman the captain has not switched off the seatbelt signs. ‘I want to go to the toilet’ very fat woman insists. But stewardess is trained in professional insistingnessnosity stuff.  Ha ha ha.

Time passes.  Just as they are about to land in Nice, very fat woman – who has studiously ignored woman for an hour and a half – suddenly turns to her and says ‘It’s incredible the difference between the weather in London and the weather in Nice, isn’t it?’  Woman says ‘Haven’t you been to Nice before?’ to which very fat woman replies ‘Oh, loads of times.  My grandson lives here’.  Pauses.  Waits for woman to speak.  Nothing is forthcoming.  Very fat woman says ‘I just use a lot of face cream’.  Woman [Taurean,Virgo Rising, Moon in Taurus, stereotypically stubborn] won’t be drawn.  Very fat woman got moment covered – says ‘Are YOU a grandmother?’

Plane lands in Nice.  Very fat woman almost recovered.  Woman exits airport and makes way by No.98 bus to managing agents…

BE AFRAID.  BE VERY AFRAID.  BE VERY VERY EXTRA SPECIALLY VERY AFRAID…

SAY CHEESE

Thursday has always been one of my favourite days of the week (the others being Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  In no particular order).  For one thing, I was born on a Thursday (Thursday’s child has far to go.  Well, yes, I have gone far. Trouble is, I keep coming back).  For another, its significance in my life can be attributed to the periodicals that are published on that day.

Decades ago (if I told you how many, I’d have to shoot you) the excitement of Jackie magazine dropping down onto the mat through the letterbox was palpable. (It closed in 1993, so I could still be in my thirties, alright?) For those of you not acquainted with the British paper, it was devoted to all matters relevant to teenage girls: in every issue there was beauty and fashion advice, a problem page written by Cathy and Claire (still awaiting a reply, if you’re looking in girls), a large pull-out poster of a hunky heartthrob and, best of all, a love story told through a succession of posed photographs.

As a matter of fact (this is true) I once had a very handsome boyfriend who was a regular model for these photo strip stories. (The relationship was sadly doomed, however, as the excitement of standing very still under a lamppost looking sultry for three hours on a Saturday night wears off after the first couple of years, take it from me).

In more recent times, the Thursday publication that has assumed an importance in my life is The Stage; the professional paper for the luvvie world.

Well, to be honest, I’ve only ever been interested in the classified section.  I glance at it each week to see if there are any jobs going (which usually there aren’t, unless you’re a teccie), but the chief source of amusement has been when I’ve placed an ad in it myself to find ‘talent’.

Good word, is it not? ‘Talent’.

Ahem.

When I started out as a director working for a satirical show on the fringe, actors who were ‘all-rounders’ – people who could erm, act, who possessed a wide range of accents and could dance, sing in 4-part harmony, perform 20-odd sketches and 6 songs in a high-energy hour-long show, and who could learn a completely new running order in 3 days – were pretty hard to come by.  We needed a large company because invariably there would be a couple of people who, in mid-run, were cast in a commercial (there really wasn’t much competition between the measly profit-share we were offering against the riches – and royalties! Yay! – of a TV ad, meaning suddenly half the cast had disappeared).  And so, one time in a weak moment, I put an ad in The Stage.

The postman didn’t talk to me for three months.  Sackfuls and sackfuls of mail arrived day after day, containing CVs, credit lists and photos.

Ah, you’re thinking, good old NotNiceEtoile, what a clever little director she is!  (If you’re not thinking this, why not???  What have you got against me???  Is it because I is menopausal???)

Well, I’ll tell you why not.  (The education continues…)

Because, my dear readers, out of the 2,000 replies we had, around ninety per cent of them were from amateur wannabees.

I auditioned 50 people in the end.  Three days of hell.

One actor climbed onto the stage and launched into the first of his pieces, before going to pieces himself.  That’s OK, I reassured him with a smile, it’s fine. Start again. He started again and froze. I murmured some more encouraging sounds and he tried a few more times. To no avail. And so he turned to me and proclaimed angrily and dramatically – and frankly, very plausibly – It’s shit. I’m shit. I shouldn’t be up here. I’m wasting your time. You deserve better than this! (It was a performance so convincing, we almost applauded).  And with that he leapt off the stage and ran out of the theatre.

And he was one of the better ones.

How I failed to call to audition the guy from Stockport who sent me a photo portraying him sitting on an overstuffed leather Chesterfield, naked from the waist up (I’m assuming it was only from the waist up), wearing a black leather dog collar with silver studs, next to his pitbull, who was wearing (yes, you’ve guessed it) a black leather dog collar with silver studs, both of them staring meaningfully at the camera (not entirely sure what the meaning was, and perhaps that’s a blessing), I’ll never know.

And they were two of the better ones.

Of course, it’s not that easy working with actors once you’ve cast them.  One particular woman – not a well-known name herself, but someone who’d played a very famous part in a very famous play in the West End (curiously, at the very same theatre which failed to give me more than 2 hours notice that I’d been called for an interview the other month…see previous post) – was something of a nightmare. She hated not being the centre of attention (an actor?! Surely not!) and so, when the rehearsal called for the spotlight to be on another member of the cast, she would take off her top to reveal her breasts, on one of which she had painted the face of a mouse, her nipple for its nose. She would then engage in a (lame) double act with this mouse, to the consternation of everyone else on stage.

And so I would have to remonstrate strongly with her.  One time she got a bit shirty with me (at least that was one definition of ‘shirt’ she could grasp). I don’t know who you think you are, NotNiceEtoile! she cried, as she flounced off stage. That’s easy, Mandy, I retorted, I think I’m the director. (And do you know, I think I was right).

It was probably a Thursday.  Although after that engagement, Mandy the Mouse Woman had as far to go as the Job Centre.

Crackers, anyone?

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