Friday, January 28, 2011

A Tale Of A Highly Mythical, Fictitious, Hypothetical and Imaginary Nature.

Once upon a time...

No wait...let's start that again.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

Nope...that's not right either.
The following events never happened.  If they had happened, they certainly couldn't have happened in NYC.  But they never happened at all.  Anywhere.  And certainly not to me.  Or anyone I know.  Or anyone I've ever heard of.  Or anyone who's ever heard of anyone.

This. Didn't. Happen.  Are we straight on that?

But I'm gonna tell it as if I was involved.  And hadn't just heard about it made it all up from my fecund imagination.  It'll be easier that way.

So anyway, a bunch of years ago I was working on a movie shooting in a large metropolitan area.  It wasn't a very good movie, but it was kinda fun to work on and we had a surprisingly good cast including appearances by a few music acts ranging from new/hot to legendary with worldwide followings.  It was kinda cool.

For one scene, our protagonists were supposed to sneak into a high-end nightclub and, through a case of mistaken identity, they get seated at a reserved table immediately in front of the stage.  The location for this scene was one of the places we selected really early in the scouting process.  It was a terrific venue; a really impressive looking place that was perfect for the scene.

When we scouted the place, I had been dealing with the manager of the club, but she had spoken to the owner and this was definitely a place we could make a deal to use.  Once we chose the place, I spoke with the owner's Executive Assistant.  She informed me that he was out of town, but he was completely on board and she'd contact me when he got back in a week or so.  No problem...we were still six weeks or so out from our scheduled shooting date. 

At the end of a week, I contacted the Executive Assistant again to make arrangements for us to Tech Scout the place with the crew. She informed me that the owner had extended his trip, but A.) he was aware we had chosen the place and was still completely on-board, and B.) she'd let the club manager know she needed to set up the Tech Scout with me.  (Note: By this point, I had already negotiated a fee with the club manager, so all I needed the owner for was to get a Location Agreement signed.)

The Tech Scout went fine. It was going to be a fairly major prep consisting of 2 days of set dressing and pre-lighting, but that probably would have been the case with any other nightclub we might have chosen, so nobody was losing any sleep over it.

So, we finish our Tech Scouts, and we started shooting the movie the following week.    I remember that I was calling the Executive Assistant once or twice a week by this point.  The owner was never available for one reason or another. The Executive Assistant assured me I had nothing to worry about; the guy was just really, really busy, but he was actually quite gung-ho about us shooting there and he'd meet with me in plenty of time for us to get an agreement signed.  (It may sound quaint, but this story takes place -- er, doesn't take place-- in an age when actually sitting down with someone to trade signatures on an agreement was considered the proper thing to do.)

Time passes.

The day before the Prep Crew are scheduled to begin prepping the site, the Executive Assistant calls me (in response to many panicked calls from me), and informs me that the owner has changed his mind and doesn't want us filming in his place.  I try everything I can think of to turn the situation around.  Remember that scene from A Few Good Men...the one where Demi Moore strenuously objects?  Yeah.  My pleading was precisely that effective.

I rushed to set and dragged the Producer away from watching them shoot a fairly fun scene to watch and inform him that we've lost our location for two days hence. He asked me why I had felt the need to drag him off set to tell him about it and I responded that I preferred to be fired outside the view of the rest of the crew.  When he asked me why I thought he'd fire me over it, I answered that I'd fire me over a fuckup like this.  It's not just the fact that we had nowhere to shoot a scene in two days' time; there was additional crew on the clock to prep the place-- with nowhere to go work.  There were a couple of trucks loaded with additional gear and set dressing sitting around -- with nowhere to work.  The performer who would be appearing in the scene was on a plane, jetting his way to New York from Europe -- with nowhere to appear.  It was a fuckup of monumental proportions.

In short, we showed the director photos of other options.  During lunch, we went and looked at one that he thought he liked.  When he saw it in person, he declared that he liked it better than the original choice.  Everyone lived happily ever after!

But that's not the point of the story, which, I'll remind you, DID NOT EVER ACTUALLY HAPPEN ANYWHERE AT ANY TIME I'M AWARE OF.  This is COMPLETELY a work of fiction.

When we returned from our lunchtime scout of the replacement location, a certain person who heads up a certain department--let's call him Morty-- came up to me to commiserate, and, referring to our flip-flopping owner, said, "Do you want me to do something about this guy?" Now, since the department Morty headed was the one that is associated with wheels and motors and big burly guys... and those big burly guys have a totally unearned reputation for hanging out with people with names like "Tommy Carwash", "Jimmy No-Nose", and "Mikey In The Kitchen", I said, "Thanks, but I'm OK."

I thought that was the end of things, but the morning we were actually filming the scene, Morty came up to me and said, "We took care of things.  Don't worry...this one's on us.  You don't owe anyone anything."

On the one hand, I was relieved to know that I didn't have some sort of obligation hanging over my head.  On the other hand, I was understandably freaked out by the possible scenarios that streamed through my brain.  Hey, I'd seen movies.  I knew how those people took care of things.

As it turns out, taking care of things, occurred as follows:  There was a guy who worked for Morty who had absolutely zero visible reason for being on the payroll. At Morty's request, he had taken a ride out to a certain neighborhood -- if this story had actually taken place, it would have been somewhere in deepest, darkest Brooklyn or maybe Staten Island.  Arriving in this neighborhood, he sat down and had cappuccinos with a certain someone.  This certain someone made a phone call.

Remember when I mentioned that this completely fictional and made up Owner also owned a number of other hotshit restaurants and stuff?  Well, that phone call mobilized a small army of Fire Safety Inspectors.  The Fire Safety Inspectors descended, in a completely coordinated fashion on each and every property operated by the aforementioned owner -- roughly ten minutes into the daily lunch rush.  And while well-heeled diners tried to enjoy their expensive lunches, the army of Fire Safety Inspectors carried out the most thorough Fire Safety Inspection in the history of Fire Safety Inspections.  If there was a nick on the insulation of an extension cord, it was noted.  A loose screw on the bracket holding up a fire extinguisher was noted.  Exit signs that weren't perfectly pristine were logged as "obscured".

Every one of this man's establishments was deemed to be not in compliance and, in addition to anything the owner had to spend to bring his properties back into compliance, I seem to recall the phrase "Eighty Thousand Dollars in fines" being mentioned.

But, of course, nothing like that could have ever happened in real life.  I just have a really fertile imagination.


Steve Buchheit said...

Beware the power, Dude. It can be both intoxicating and expensive in the long run. So it's a good thing it never happened.

mattw said...

Too bad that never actually happened to you, cause that's a pretty cool story.