Saturday, May 31, 2008

Spitfire 2 – “They say it looks fantastic on film.”

We’ve been shooting this pilot for two whole weeks now, and the director says we’ve got about three or four more days to go. Pretty standard from what I’ve heard.

I like it; I think its going to be good. Never really read the comic books but I know about the character, of course -- still, that hasn’t stood in my way while we’ve filmed. I don’t really care about why he fights crime or runs around in a costume or this and that – I just want to work. I’m funny that way.

Freddy got me the job fairly easily, or so he says. Don’t take that as I’m a big star or anything – I mean, before I got this pilot, right before getting this pilot, I had only done three commercials, a bit as an extra on “Madiana’s Man” (fourth eunuch from the left), and three months reading novels for the blind. Then, Freddy calls me up, tells me to get down to the studio, and to be quiet until he tells me not to be quiet. Producer looks my headshot over, asks how physical I am, has me take my shirt off (I’m getting pretty weirded out by that time), and we’re off to a screen test. I half expected him to ask me to bend over and cough.

They were looking for an “unknown” – and that’s what they got. Me. Captain Unknown.

The script was good, very good, and a helluva lot of fun. I had hoped for something fun and this thing damn near dropped into my lap. I have to wear tights, and the gloves are pretty stupid, but I’m working and if it’s picked up we go straight into shooting the episodes. That could keep me busy for several months.

This afternoon had to have been one of the hardest days since we started. Bunch of the crew are sick, really sick, from what the script girl told me. Probably that damn lunch wagon that comes around every day at 11:30. So that in itself slowed things down but the director insisted on “trudging forward” and here we are, only a half-page in the can since 6:00am.

I got fed up and walked outside to grab a smoke. There’s a little overhang right over the side door on Stage 4 and semi-secluded is what I’d call it. I go there every now and then – quite a lot lately, actually. Standing there today I watched the hustle and bustle of the studio, sort of clearing my mind. I ran a few bass lines in the air, eager to have my baby in my hands again, musing over the album, musing over asking Chet and Tony about somehow fitting the band in the show – God, that’d be great. Hot damn, that’d be great. Can you imagine?

That gate girl was on duty and I watched her a while, the smoke of my cig floating around her form. She’s cute. Not a knock-out but pretty – she gives me one of those smiles when I drive in and she’s working and those smiles play around in your head for a few minutes after you drive through. Doesn’t seem to wear makeup, doesn’t seem to need to. Told me two days ago she was trying to make perfume from tomatoes and that she would give me some when she perfected it. Takes all kinds – but she’s cute.

Then I started…drifting? I do this a lot, kind of free myself up from the ground. I’m not on drugs, nope, but it’s a kind of…meditation. Involuntary meditation. My mom used to point it out every time I did and I didn’t realize it. I used to be a pretty nervous kid, always something to scare me. That one shrink I had about two years ago said I was “strangely attracted” to things that I can’t understand…and those things terrified me.

Then, well, I dunno. I shouldn’t bother with it, I guess, but --

There was something coming towards me. I swear. A form. A…a…form. Only way I could describe it. Not real, but heavy, still. I couldn’t blink. My cig fell out of my mouth. The air was moving. The form shaped the air in front of me, like it was a curtain of water I was looking right at and it filled in the air around the form…

I couldn’t breathe. My collarbone started hurting. My eardrums popped with pressure. Dammit, dammit!

Then it was raining and I was standing half under the overhang and half…not under it. One arm and one leg were drenched and I watched everyone scurry from the fire and –

The prop guy pulled me back in and asked me what the hell I was doing. He meant my costume and the crap that hangs on the belt. Little pieces of wood painted to look like different things. They say it looks fantastic on film. This idiot’s one of those lifers, you know what I mean; been with the studio forever, practically lives at the studio, would die for the studio, union man, etc., etc. About a week ago we were filming and he was crouched below me, handing me up props that I was supposedly pulling from my belt and I ended a line with a clever, hip ad-lib. It was funny, I swear. Everything stopped dead. Everybody just stared at me. Tough room. Then this idiot says to the director, “Ain’t that wrong?” So, he’s an idiot.

I didn’t even answer him when he asked me what the hell I was doing. I turned on my heel and stepped back inside, my cape flapping into his face. He sped up and passed me, muttering, and I turned and looked back through the door. That wonderful storm air, that great rain smell, assaulted me. The wind was cool. I charged up off the negative ions and went back to the set.

If I had kept looking, it would have scared the crap out of me.

To be continued – on or about June 7th

© 2008 by Jim Beard

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Spitfire 1 - "...might just finish this thing..."

The little village, surrounded by the sea, burned to the ground within fifteen minutes. That included the villagers.

Afterwards, information was maddeningly corrupt but rescue workers – no, disaster witnesses – told of piles of slag, indistinct mounds of what they could only guess were houses and vehicles and crops and…and people.

Sea water had already made a mess of the bigger mess by the time that anyone from the outside realized that something had happened to the village and gotten out there. It was pretty remote. Scraps of this and that floated out to greet the first wave of workers and they hadn’t even come within a mile of the shore before they knew that the little collection of lives was gone. Poof.

The fire, or fires, must have been intense. Details were shoddy, but supposedly at first, experts couldn’t trace the source of the blaze’s beginnings; whether or not that was true the fact remained that initial explanations didn’t fit the puzzle.

Thousands of people, millions even, across the planet, once they heard the news imagined what it would have been like that night. Were most of them sleeping? Did the animals react first? Did anybody try to get away? The screams, the flickering tongues, the screams, the smell – oh God, the smell.


His fist whfft'd past me and I felt the air move in front of my face. Missed me by a mile, of course, but I acted like he’d connected and jerked my head back, grimacing. I even staggered backwards a step or two, just to make it look convincing. A lot depended on this.

Another guy ran up behind me and taking advantage of my mock-disorientation got me in a headlock. He was applying a bit too much pressure for my tastes and I struggled against the hold. The one in front of me threw another punch and it too sailed across my bow, inches from my jaw, making a kind of whistling sound to my ears. I jerked my head back again, this time giving a little vocal to it. Inside I smiled.

Then someone hit me. Really hit me.

Everything stopped dead. They all realized something happened that wasn’t supposed to happen. Everyone froze, wide-eyed, looking around at each other like kids caught doing something naughty.

“Dammit, let me go!” I yelled, struggling against the headlock the dummy behind me insisted on maintaining. “Jock – what the hell?!?”

The director gave a feeble “Cut!” and Dummy let me go. My collarbone smarting from where I was hit I turned to the goon on my left, a guy I hadn’t even seen join the fight, and was about ready to pounce on him. My agent stopped me.

“Why don’t…we all…break for…lunch?” Freddy talked like that. I don’t know why. He wasn’t sick that I could tell of, and he wasn’t fat, and he wasn’t an overly dramatic person; he just talked in pauses. Whatever the case, he defused me and Jock looked away sheepishly and turned to go. I pushed past Freddy and grabbed Jock’s arm and punched him as hard as I could in the delt. I was rewarded with a grunt.

“That’s for bad aim,” I told him, then gave him the twirling-finger motion to turn around. I gave his other delt another solid pop. “And that’s for hitting the star.”

Jock grinned and alternately rubbing each arm he shuffled off the set, looking idiotic in his schoolboy costume. I turned back to Freddy, massaging my clavicle.

“If these guys can avoid actually laying any more on me for another week and a half, we might just finish this thing without me ending up in the hospital.”

“Dee,” said Freddy. “I…think this is going to…work. You want some lunch?”

Knowing full well that in about three hours I’d be in a booth at Unkle’s and ordering anything I damn well pleased, I shook my head in the negative.

“Nope. I want to be hungry later. And I’ve got that recording session in…” I checked the clock on the wall, a prop that really worked and kept good time. “Cripes, one hour!”

I pulled off my gloves, unhooked my cape, and doffed my mask, plopping it all into Freddy’s outstretched hands and made a hasty retreat to my so-called dressing room.

To Be Continued (on or around May 31st)

© 2008 by Jim Beard