Given the Clap
One of my workmates is a budding movie director in addition to her 'day job' as a well-known researcher and a "good old stick", to borrow a phrase from my long-gone Grandma.
She is currently working with a group of energetic film-makers - mostly 'subsidised' through jobs at video rental stores, office work and uni - to put in an entry to Jon Polson's (the guy who snogged Russell Crowe in 'the Sum of Us') baby, TropFest, the short film competition held in Sydney in January each year.
The unforeseen hitch for Helen was not in finding established actors who were able to remove their heads from their arses, nor in crew being willing to toil for a cup of tea and a Tim Tam. Instead it was finding a seven year old boy and a five year old girl to play the children of said non-arse-inward-actor duo. Local casting agencies tended to produce kids that were too Peter Allen/Jon Benet Ramsay in their flashiness, or were unwilling to remove themselves from the back of their mothers' skirts.
Another workmate, Pip, had a son who was eight. Surely he could pass for seven? Yes, but he made it clear that he'd rather suck a bowlful of bird turds than stand in front of a camera trying to act. Five year old girls - playing the sister - were rarer than chicken lips. "Hey, why don't I bring Sapphire in after work to meet you," I suggested, overhearing Helen's laments to Sigrid, budding virtuoso guitarist and current PhD student. "Sure she's the tallest in her class of seven year olds, but hey, couldn't she be from a family of basketballers or squat behind the kitchen bench?"
Luckily for Sapphire, Helen agreed. The script was hastily amended to incorporate a nine year old boy (found via the son of a now-retired child actress) and our blue eyed bombshell. The following evening we all met at Helen's place so that Sapphire and Callan could check out their celluloid parents, a rather becoming blonde couple, Nick and Naomi. A few scenes were walked through and the faint whisper of 'Local film debutante offered highest Hollywood contract in history' was forming dangerously in my mind. I wasn't going to be a Terry Shields, Ms Culkin or Cokehead Lohan, but would be prepared to negotiate a contract for less than 20M if the film was going to be of artistic value or gross more than $150 mill.....
Two weeks later, and it was all systems go. It was no longer just Helen, Ben with the video camera and the four actors: Sigrid was catering (hey, even music directors have to eat); Ben was assistant director (or AD, as film lingo goes); Adam Carter the producer (not of the boy band, this Adam was much darker, hairier and, it must be said, gayer); Gigi the costumer and continuity expert; Tom the strong-armed boom operator, a shy guy on lighting and Zane the cameraman.
My heart - and swirling stomach - went out to Sapphire, sitting nervously in the make-up chair, pretending to be cool in front of her comprade Callan. Would she listen to Helen and do what she was told? Would she be overtaken by An Attack Of The Shys? Would she be able to go an entire day without loudly farting and giggling with pride?
Alas, my opportunities for anxiety and anticipation were cut short. The movie needed a clapper loader. Me, the Slapper With the Clapper, or "Give MillyMoo the Clap", as Love Chunks chortled to everyone. I even had to rehearse announcing the scene, shot and take and boy was I nervous about it - sometimes it took several seconds until my hands stopped shaking and Zane could actually see the clapperboard on his viewfinder.
In hindsight, Helen was a very smart - and sneaky - old stick. The best job to give someone prone to chattering, goofing off and distracting everyone else was to ensure that they had to be present for every single damn shot setting, scene and take. The actors could swan off whenever they weren't needed, but I had to stay there, spitting on my finger and smearing off 'take one' in order to laboriously write 'take two' dark enough in white chalk.
By lunchtime, my body was exhausted from the requirement for constant vigilance and seriousness (especially on the weekend) and I fully intended on giving The Clap to my beloved. Unfortunately, the producer had to leave after lunch, so LC was asked to be the Logger. This was even more nitpicky than the clapper. He had to hold a clipboard and write down the time in minutes and seconds for each scene both in film and for the sound recordist. Our Sapphire spent most of the day outside playing tamagotchis and chasey with Callan whilst we were inside feeling just as frustrated with the fading light outside and the difficulty in hiding the sound recordist successfully behind the sofa.
Any fears we had that Sapphire's head would swell up to Alec Baldwin-sized, undeserved proportions were needless. In her eyes, the 'stars' of the show were the cameraman and the light guy. Each 20 second scene took twenty minutes for them to set up to their satisfaction before any measly actor was needed. Sapph delivered her line and was out the door and into the biscuits before the Slapper or the Logger had written their first words down.
Filming wrapped up at dinner time. We quickly said our farewells, noticing that our wee one was starting to run out of petrol and would either start crying or fighting. An hour or so later she sat in the bath, crying her eyes out. I rushed in, "What's the matter love, are you OK?"
"Yes Mum," she sobbed. "I'm just so sad because I didn't want the movie to end. I still to see everyone again."
Awww. If it scores an entry to TropFest, try and keep us three away. If not, we'll have a copy of the DVD and the spare clapper to play with at home.