Pre production…

Walking into the unit office at the moment is like walking into a workhouse that has been organised to confuse me by the Facebook algorithm. I stroll in, direct from the streets, with the energy of sunshine on my face, into this weird underground lair. There I will see a woman who has directed me in multiple short films where I’ve been a sociopath in a car crash and a whimsical commuter on a bridge. She’s being briefed by the producer of last year’s Vault Festival where I insanely served psychedelic tea and talked about cholera and cleansing ritual whilst people had their tarot read. Sitting beside her is a dear friend who has done countless corporate gigs at dinners and award ceremonies with me where I’ve been dressed as a ringmaster and we’ve provided potted Shakespearean entertainments. Next to her, someone I haven’t seen for years but who I’ve always felt affinity with. I read opposite her at her Guildhall audition. We found connection and truth. She saw me in Twelfth Night as Malvolio in a stately home in Kent by mistake shortly afterwards and came and said hello. She ended up at RADA with my wonderful friend Tim and many other reprobates. We are still in touch, and there she is, organising crafty.

Jobs for good hearts. Jobs for freelancers. Jobs for people who have flushed years of their life into dreaming the impossible dream. A bunch of positive fearless fools. Sure, there is still fear in them but mostly I see an overcoming. “Good grief I am driving a HUGE bloody car. Eeek! Too many smart knobs and whistles” says one of my friends who I know will just roll with it. These huge modern cars are so well kitted out with technology that they feel like it used to feel driving minis. You just have to remember to take wider corners. And, frankly, today I worked all day as a “driver”. I drove to the office and parked. In the evening I drove home. My executive had booked an earlier flight so I’d picked him up yesterday. So no Heathrow run. I was supposed to pick up some tripods but someone fucked up hugely with insurance. I ended up not needed as a driver at all.

I decided to help pick up the shortfall of capable humans in the office, rather than sit in the car, so I spent the day on the phone making sure I had made contact with every single performer involved and making sure they had a better idea of what was expected of them, and rough call times, and troubleshooting availability crises. I think… I hope … That it’s sorted.

This producing lark. It’s like I’ve accidentally bought a really shit Groupon. “BE A PRODUCER!” I’m having the “producer experience”. Without any of the risk because I’m just a driver. I’m not a producer. Although I’m beginning to think I’ve got the bones of one.

Today though I’m a helpful person picking up some of the slack. I’m not sure what has been dropped and what hasn’t. So I start by calling those actors, as I said. I suspect they’ll be worrying. I would be.

“What do you know?”

“Absolutely nothing mate. I’ve just been sent a load of forms to fill in. I’ve filled in some of them twice and I just got sent one a third time. I haven’t a clue what’s going on. Not a clue.”

“Fuck. Ok. Here’s what you’re actually doing, oh highly skilled individual who has agreed to spend a day focusing on this madness despite a fully functioning career…”

I mean, yeah. Loyalty goes a long way. Thank God for these performers who are so switched on and yet not bringing their ego to the table, who are doing this weird shit because they appreciate what it is, what it pays, why they’ve been called by Becky or I, and what they can bring to a job you’d never want to tell your auntie about at Christmas.

Many many phone calls later I have now spoken to every single one of them. It’s only 20. That I know of. One of them is a pensioner, an old friend of my parents, someone I haven’t seen for ages. “Am I too old?” she asked, and I immediately became her champion because of that question and what it must have come out of.

The rest are all performers. None of them had a clue what to expect. Most of them sounded relieved to get the call and some clarity from me. It’s shit not knowing. I understand that well.

I’m on a very different set tomorrow for a high profile telly job, and they’re doing a night shoot this evening. I hadn’t heard a call time for tomorrow by 7 this evening and I started fretting. By half seven I was emailing one of the other actors and my agent, worrying. He was worrying too thankfully. We both know now, of course. They were just shooting late and busy. The call isn’t five am. It’s 8.45, and then an hour in a comfy car before we are even on location. Lovely. But I’m very glad to be told. You need that, as a performer. Some idea of the structure in which you will be working. Without it you don’t know how to husband your energy, let alone organise childcare etc if that’s an issue. Hence my calls.

At some point today though I got so stressed out from converting energy in the office, where I sat for a while like a little stress dehumidifier, that I opened a fresh leaf of my notebook – (not the leaf photographed here in a calm moment) – and just wrote the word : “SHIT” in it. In capitals. I have no recollection of it and no idea why. I found it later and wondered. But yeah. That’s been my day.




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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