Feeling significantly more at ease my second week back to work, I wasn’t even remotely fazed by the massive script changes on our pre-camera blocking day.
So we had an entirely different storyline. (Big whoop.)
So we had new dialogue and blocking. (What’s new?)
So the “Cold Open” (first scene of the show) entailed thunder and lightening (rock on, Lighting Crew!) and rain pouring down outside the windows (have fun, Special FX peeps!)
But then I overheard the most ominous words from our Director:
“Let me try the roof collapsing and rain plummeting down on our Second Team a few times in rehearsal before we actually shoot this.”
Hey now, wait, WHAT???
Where the HELL is it written on my daily voucher that I’m allowed to be used like a guinea pig and be dumped on by massive gallons of water and possible roof fragments?!!! I don’t recall throwing my hat into THAT ring!!!
And whilst feeling no pain (and luckily, no Special FX rain!) that morning as I climbed through the ropes into the sit-com arena, by midday I was a-couple-of-rounds-with-Muhammad-Ali exhausted. Our scripts had gone from plain white, to white with yellow inserts, to white with yellow and pink inserts, to white with yellow, pink and green inserts, etc. etc. etc., ad nauseam until we had actually at one point hit triple yellows.
Down but not out for the count, I pulled myself up off the mat at the end of the day, (colored my roots that night for camera blocking!) and like a true fighter, entered the ring once again the next morning to take another beating from approximately 8AM ‘til 8PM.
Three scenes were being re-written (again), two of which we wouldn’t even receive until the day of the Audience show; and four pre-shoots loomed ominously over our heads as my AD continued to sucker-punch me with ongoing threats of sending my Gorgeous Actress to Hair/Make-Up at any given minute which would force me to take her place in absentia. “Stay nearby. Pay close attention.” he coached me in the corner as I hopped from foot to foot on adrenaline, studying my Leading Lady’s every move, grateful that I’d chosen sneakers as opposed to my motorcycle boots for the day (and secretly wishing that I had a satin robe with a bitchin’ fighter’s nickname embroidered on the back!)
“Put us on a bell” our AD announced as we began the pre-shoots, the buzzer ringing and red lights flashing as cameras rolled.
I was mere seconds away from slipping out the exit door for a much-needed bathroom break and half a ciggy after four hours of rehearsal, a bottle of water and three cups of orange juice, when…
“Can you see my pages if I leave them there?” our Gorgeous Actress inquired having placed the items on the floor near her feet for quick reference.
“PENNY!” my AD hollered as I immediately scampered obediently back onto the set. “Hold this and stay close” he informed me, thrusting my Leading Lady’s script into my hands.
Hey now, wait, WHAT???
Frankly, this was a dangerous precedent to be set.
Now please don’t get me wrong; I absolutely adore my Leading Lady, but for the AFTRA pittance I get paid on a daily basis as a stand-in, there was NO WAY that I was going to allow myself to get sucked into the duality of performing my actual work duties as well as being tossed into the arena to suddenly take on any of the responsibilities of her troop of assistants who generally hold her scripts, prepare and bring her food, wheel her dog around in its baby carriage and place tread-bearing socks on four furry paws! I’m on stage all the time, I anticipate my AD’s needs and I’ve been told that I do my job exceedingly well in regard to Lighting, Sound and Cameras.
So when one of her assistants approached me, I respectfully/gratefully handed off our Gorgeous Actress’ script, confident that some semblance of rational thought and reasonable structure had been restored in my world.
“You guys are gonna be here for awhile” our First AD frowned, who despite having an actual sense of humor seemed to have had his funny bones beaten out of his system in an un-aired, un-televised welterweight battle before dinner with his own worries.
Having received an extra scene that we’d rehearsed (and had been cut during the week) but had been brought back with different dialogue in case the episode happened to run short, we (the Second Team of Stand-Ins), blocked the pages with our Director and cameras.
Now whilst I appreciate the “attempt” at efficiency to nail down one brand new piece of the sit-com puzzle, I clamped my mouth shut at the utter stupidity of presuming to pre-arrange the movements and actions of my Gorgeous Actress.
There was no way in the world that our Leading Lady would NOT ignore the first line of dialogue from her Dad; her response and reaction would differ from what was written, and whilst the rest of the two pages might stay the same, there was absolutely no point in me giving any notes to her, when she, sporting the Title Belt of Executive Producer, had the power to re-write, re-organize and renegotiate the way that she wanted the scene to play.
“She’s gonna do what she wants to do” I shared with one of my ADs, who couldn’t have agreed with me more.
And having been told by my First AD that we would be wrapped after my fellow Second Teamers gave notes to our visiting octogenarian-esque Guest Stars, I waited around politely until they completed their tasks, filled in my voucher with an out time of 6:15pm, left it on my Second AD’s desk for him to sign at a later date as I’d done the night before, and headed happily home to begin to enjoy my weekend of freedom.
Per my extensive training in the Hollywood boxing ring, I learned years ago that once I hit the parking structure on a studio lot and find a spot, there are three imperative notations on my checklist:
#1: Remember on what level you’re leaving your vehicle. (There’s nothing quite like the humiliation of wandering about up and down ramps in search of your 1997 Toyota Tercel CE that doesn’t ‘chirp’ when you want to find her.)
#2: Check your face in the rear view mirror before leaving said vehicle. (You’d be surprised at how driving through Los Angeles with your window down can attract unattractive particles of unknown origin in your nostril hairs!)
#3: Pull out your cell phone, and TURN THE RINGER OFF. (Trust me; nothing irritates a cast and crew more than having a “take” disrupted by some tool who just got a call.)
And wheeling leisurely home at the end of the work day, I placed my car in “park”, ambled through the security gate, shuffled through my mail and strolled peacefully into my sanctuary as my four-legged feline sidekick greeted me warmly.
*BLINK BLINK BLINK*
“Who called us?” I rhetorically asked my kitty as I glanced at the landline. “Did we have a telemarketer attempt to sell us something?” I smirked, hitting the message button, prepared to rebuff and scoff at whatever inane pitch might await us.
“We weren’t released!” my co-worker informed me in a panic. “The ADs are REALLY MAD that you left!” she fore-warned me.
Turning my cell phone ringer back on, I was disturbed to see three missed voice mails, and one SERIOUSLY pissed off text from my Second AD admonishing me to NOT leave the studio lot.
I’ll say it again with all due necessary appropriate apologies… Crap!
Calling my Second AD, I repented left, right, up and down for whatever miscommunication had occurred; promised that such a situation would never, ever again happen, and proceeded to beat myself up ala nine rounds with Mike Tyson. My ear had already been chewed off on the phone, and hanging up, I splayed on the bed; metaphorically beaten, bloody and bruised.
But then the REAL fighter in me emerged!
For a total of over two decades, I’ve been at everyone’s beck and call in Hollywood as the go-to gal. I’ve never been more than a shout away when needed; I’ve always been early for every department that might require me, and hand to my heart, I’ve never let an AD down when they needed me.
And frankly, after wiping away a few tears, I was a little bit pissed off at being berated like a toddler who accidentally spilled a glass of milk on the floor. As it turns out, my co-workers were released at 6:30 (OMG! A whole FIFTEEN minutes LATER! How DARE I not linger to give a USELESS note to my lovely Leading Lady!).
Nevertheless, I’m going to have to make things right.
Armed with two gift bags full of airplane-sized bottles of Ketel One Vodka, Johnnie Walker Whiskey, Tanqueray Gin, Bacardi Rum, Dewar’s Scotch and Patron Tequila, I’ll be stepping into the arena once again tomorrow morning, hoping to avoid a smack-down.
Wish me luck in the ring!
~Prize Fighter P