Mobsters in the Ballroom

I always try to dress smartly when I arrive on set, even knowing that I’ll immediately end up in costume. It’s something I was taught on an early job by an actor I admired. His advice bore fruit today when the wardrobe guy hadn’t brought enough shirts for everyone in the scene so I gave someone my costume shirt and wore my own. If I hadn’t had a shirt we’d have all had to wait while some poor soul had to run to Primark with the company card.

I was an American mobster, at a table after a meal, telling a story. We’ve all seen the shot the director was referencing, because it’s been referenced so many times. It’s an easy film-shorthand courtesy of Coppola to make the viewer understand “These people are mafia.” We pan down the table, behind the heads on the other side, and see the mobsters talking. We end with Brando with those orange peel chunks in his mouth. We didn’t have Brando. Just some dude called Dan. He was likeable though.

The distributor had specifically requested no cigarettes in the scenes. That makes it less fun to light them as smoke makes things look better. But it’s less hectic for the continuity, and less hideous for the actors. In period drama you smoke without filter for authenticity. It’s either “Players” *hack hack hack*, or its Honeyrose. Even the most hardened smoker will go green after a day on set with a big party scene and a load of those filterless Players. I gave up smoking for good shortly after a day like that. Bring your own period appropriate cigarette holder with a built in water filter, and make a case for it, I say. Especially if the AD is saying “guys you need to inhale the smoke or it comes out too thick.” The other option, the non tobacco route, is honeyrose. It sticks together the inside of my mouth just thinking about that stuff. Apparently it’s marshmallow root and bits of rose. It tastes like burnt dog foot and horse shit. I smoked it in a pipe every day for a long summer, and by the end of the job I kind of liked it. Stockholm syndrome. Given the repetition, you can acclimatise to anything. But it’s foul. Surely nobody has ever smoked it for fun.

It’s nice to be back on set, on location. We were in the Rivoli Ballroom today, in Crofton Park out by Brockley.


45 minutes in the sunshine from home on Ahmetta. It’s beautiful there. Privately owned, virtually untouched since the 1960’s, it’s often a movie set in the daytime and in the evening it’s filled with events and dancing. So it’s still alive and making enough money to not have been sold to Wetherspoons yet. Another of the hidden gems that stud this ancient city. It’s funny how many of these places have been revealed to me over the years during the eccentric course of my work.

On which subject, now I’m off to Shoreditch to throw Banquo around in a beautiful old church with The Factory. Bring it.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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