In BURNT on December 22, 2010 at 4:31 pm


It’s day 43 on the set of “The Builders” and Richard Lawrence is no longer just the producer.  He’s doing everybody’s job.  He designed the night club and now he’s rehearsing the dancers.  The director whines, “The last time I saw the Apache dance was in a Clara Bow film.”

The bar has been built to Richard’s specifications and, at his insistence, stocked with real liquor.  The grip department is drinking very good scotch from their coffee cups.  Carter takes a long pull and glares at this manic intrusion on his world.  “The Builders” is his 110th film.  He’s been on a film set for most of his waking hours over the last 17 years.   He started out running reels across the lot.  Now he’s Johnson’s top man.  On the next picture, he’ll be key grip.

The actors are gathered in the center of the sound-stage, leads and bit-characters both, in costume and full make-up.  Richard paces before them.  “You actors, listen to me.  Each line you deliver, each gesture, each exhalation must come from your core.  It must come directly from that space inside you that determines who you are, and how you relate to the world. ”  Richard chain smokes.  He chews on a pencil between puffs.  “And always remember the following.  Remember as you deliver these lines of mine, remember that they are mine!  I am paying for this entire film.  The studios will line up to distribute it when I finish.  But until then, it belongs to me.”  He spots an errant cable and coils it around and around in his hands.  “Each of you is a tool which I use to tell my story.  It is your nature to be a tool as it is my nature to use you.  And because you are a tool, each line, each gesture, each breath you take is in service of this story I am telling.  Imagine a pyramid like the pharaohs built.  The shape is the story.  The pinnacle is the idea.  You are the stones.”

Carter believes in the film-making process. He believes in the hierarchy of the set.  He believes in the division of labor.  He’s heard enough.  He balls his fists and stamps towards this asshole.

Richard pitches into the air.  He lands on his back and shakes, convulsing.

Carter stops dead.  He’s still 10 feet away.

He stares at his hands.

The Story So Far


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