Modern movies cost a great deal of money. If you’d like to see an invoice, look no farther than the big screen. Millions upon millions go into the sets, the on-location shoots, the costumes, the props, the explosions, and any number of bloated egos. There are also expenses you never hear about or see, like grips, makeup artists, animal handlers, lighting and sound technicians, tailors, caterers, and personal assistants. Of all of these, none are more invisible than the gofers.
The gofer system works like this: the bloated ego wants a coffee not offered on the catering cart, so he places an order with his or her personal assistant. The personal assistant to a major movie star probably has personal assistants of his or her own, who takes the order to the head gofer, who passes it on to a lackey. More likely than not, that lackey has neither the time nor the inclination to leave the set, so they turn the job over to another. Eventually the coffee arrives. It’s not the most efficient method, but if you want efficiency, the second-to-last place you want to go is behind the scenes of a blockbuster in the making–the first, of course, being Congress.
Marc Weisman was the kind of director who preferred to speak directly to the one who would fetch his drink. This wasn’t because he considered himself a regular guy; he just couldn’t trust the telephone game of the gofer system to get his order right. Sure he could just write down what he wanted, but he shouldn’t have to. He’s Marc motherfucking Weisman.
To the gofer standing at attention before him, he held up a finger, which was bloated-ego-ese for, “Wait right there for me to conclude this business that is far more important than any business you might have.” To his cell phone, he shrieked, “He wants to do what?”
Weisman paced back and forth along a three-by-eight-foot area of Manhattan asphalt and shrieked again. “The motherfucking film is entitled Intentions, and that’s final!”
He barely let a moment pass before continuing, “I’m not some motherfucking music-video shit-for-brains, Benny! I’m motherfucking Academy-Award-winning filmmaker, motherfucking Marc Weisman! He’s just some empty-headed fucking cattle who’s about two movies away from retiring to motherfucking family-friendly entertainment!” He didn’t allow the phone to say much before he continued, “I don’t care if he’s Jesus motherfucking Christ; I am not changing the name to The Darkside! Do you have any idea how many motherfucking movies are called The Darkside?”
After a beat, he told the phone, “I don’t either. Look it up.” Another beat passed. “You’re a big-shot motherfucking producer, you can afford to pay somebody to look it up!” The phone talked for a little bit. Finally, Weisman concluded, “Call me back when you find out, you motherfucking asshole! I’m motherfucking curious!”
He stabbed the end button on his cell and held out his free hand, into which was shoved a triple hazelnut mocha with two shots of regular and one shot of decaf espresso, topped by fat-free whipped cream, sprinkled with a dash of nutmeg and three dashes of cinnamon, and blended with exactly six ounces of piñon-flavored coffee found only in one place in all of New York–a bodega in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
If he cared that he hadn’t even placed his order yet, he didn’t show it. He didn’t shout, though, so that meant it had been properly prepared. He breathed deeply, stretched, took a long, hard look around the set, and produced a walkie-talkie from god only knows where. “I need to see the head of security,” he calmly said to it, “right motherfucking now.”
Instantly, a five-foot-six, butch woman in a tight ponytail and black T-shirt appeared at his side.
He spoke to her loudly and slowly, like she was a mentally handicapped child who didn’t speak English. “You’re head of security, am I correct?”
“What do I pay you for?” he asked the woman.
“Security?” she replied.
“That’s right,” he said. “And it’s your job to keep paparazzi off of the set, am I right?”
“Good. I want you to keep that in mind, if you have the mental capacity to do so. Understand?”
He frowned. “Where is your clipboard?”
“I don’t carry a clipboard.”
At this point, a vein in his head began to throb. “What do you carry?”
She held up a plastic tablet. “This here doohickey.”
His eyes widened. “Did you just say doohickey?”
“I did, sir.”
“Who the motherfucking fuck says doohicky?”
“Um,” she replied, “me?”
“That was a rhetorical question, you rock-stupid fuck,” he snarled. “Do you know what that word means?”
“It means you’re giving a speech?”
He moaned. “Forget it. Let’s look at your motherfucking doodad.”
She switched her doohickey on.
He explained, “My assistant is supposed to give you a list of the most troublesome journalists who like to sneak on set. Did he?”
She said, “I know he’s the mayor, but he’s not allowed to have a camera backstage.”
She indicated her earpiece and carried on her conversation with it. “He can talk to me about it.” With a sigh, she added. “Tell him I am having a conversation with Marc Weisman right now, and I’ll be over ASAP.” She turned back to the director. “Sorry about that, sir. Where were we?”
He pointed to the list of names in her hand. “See that one? The number-two most wanted? He’s especially tenacious. Do you know what tenacious means?”
“It means determined.”
“Very good. I owe you a motherfucking biscuit.”
The head of security was about twice the size of the director, and the look on her face indicated that she was weighing whether or not it would be worth losing her job for the satisfaction of breaking his jaw.
He continued, “I know for a fact that this motherfucking leech of a reporter has been champing at the bit for an onsite interview with our star, Jack Lagattuta. I also know for a fact that Jack Lagattuta has never given an onsite interview, nor will I let that happen on my watch. Get me so far?”
“It does say all that here on the doohickey,” she told him.
“Then I want you to look around this entire cordoned-off section of New York City and tell me if you spot Max Fuentes.”
“That’s bullshit!” I declared. “Are you telling me I’m only the number two most wanted?” I probably should have mentioned that I was the gofer who brought him the coffee, but I didn’t want to spoil the big reveal. After all, this was the movies.
The head of security scrutinized me, and then she scrutinized her doohickey.
“Um,” I said.
“What do you think you’re doing here, Mr….” She double-checked the doohickey. “… Fuentes?”
“I have a reasonable explanation for everything,” I replied.
“I can’t motherfucking wait to hear it,” Weisman said.
“It goes like this:” I began. It occurred to me at that moment that I actually didn’t have a reasonable explanation for everything, so I ran.
I admit it, that was kind of dumb of me. After all the time I spent getting here–from getting one of the key grips really drunk enough to reveal the caffeinated beverage Marc Weisman; to calling every bodega to find out who sold piñon coffee, to stealing the exact model of headset worn by this particular film crew–I had to go blow it on ego. I guess Hollywood was rubbing off on me.
As a runner, I don’t have a lot of endurance. This is probably due to the thousands of cigarettes and joints I’ve smoked since I was thirteen. Regardless, I needed to shake the growing swarm of black-clad thugs behind me. Having had the foresight to wear two T-shirts, I ducked around a corner and stripped off the top one. It wasn’t much of a disguise, but it might buy me enough of a head-start to flee the neighborhood and concoct another set of ruthless shenanigans to get me into Jack Lagattuta’s trailer.
The two-T-shirt trick wasn’t particularly useful, in that the top one got tangled in the headset and its battery. With a muttered “fuck,” I tossed the whole mess aside and proceeded straight to plan B: hunkering down in the dark, lonely, far-off tent that housed the writers and their interns. Nobody ever went there, so I just might be safe until could continue my escape.
However, just before I arrived, I slowed down to a cool strut, caught my breath, smoothed out my hair, smirked, and said to the really cute lighting technician, “Hi, I’m Max.”
And that’s when security tackled me.
Damn. Women wearing tool belts: my only weakness.