On The Set

December 17, 1997


I met some people for the first time last week, folks who were at one time near and dear to me: Sarah and Jeff Mathis, Detectives Givens and Mulwray. We spent an intense few months together a few years ago, but then I moved on and pretty much put them out of my mind -- which is where they were in the first place. Now they're real…sort of.

No, I'm not insane. I'm talking about characters from my screenplay Sexual Healing, which I sold recently and is now in production. I was visiting the set and I got to meet the actors playing the characters I created. I've always imagined that seeing my work in action would be an emotional high point, but due to the low-budget nature of this production I found my enthusiasm couldn't clear the bar. Sure, it was gratifying, but I think I'll feel a lot more excited when I see one of my scripts being filmed with…well, film, for example.

All cynicism aside, it was pretty cool to meet my characters in person. Mulwray was pretty close to how I'd pictured him, Jeff and Givens were too young. I didn't get to meet the villain, Blake, because they weren't shooting any of his scenes that day. But I met Sarah. Oh boy, did I ever. Pardon me for sounding like a pig here, but: I've worked on dozens of sets with dozens of naked women and I've honestly gotten to the point where I don't care to see any more…but after meeting the actress playing Sarah I wished I'd been there for her nude scenes. She was gorgeous. She seemed like a really nice person too, but since I'm in pig mode right now I'm concentrating on the physical. Yow!

After I recovered from meeting Sarah, I had an amusing moment with the actor playing Mulwray. Obviously new to the acting game and not understanding that the writer is supposed to get less respect than the craft services girl, he very apologetically asked if he could make a suggestion about a line. Having absolutely no say-so about anything in the script now that it was in the director's hands and had been rewritten I don't know how much, I graciously agreed to hear him out.

The line in question takes place when he tries to give Sarah his business card and asks her to call him if she remembers any new information. As written, he asks her to call him, she says she won't remember anything, he says call him anyway and offers the card, she takes it. It's not Shakespeare. The actor's suggestion was that he give her the card the first time he asks her to call, rather than the second. I gave it a good, long, hard millisecond of thought and agreed that his version was better. He seemed relieved that I hadn't torn his head off and really happy that he finally had a handle on the scene. Hey, I was glad to help. Now if he'd asked me about a scene that mattered...

After helping Mulwray with his business card dilemma, I spent a long time talking with one of the producers. They're still trying to convince me to write a script "like Body Heat" with the promise that if I do they'll let me direct it. I'd do it except for a few problems I have with the idea: 1) I think Body Heat is a classic and there's no way I could measure up to that, 2) I don't want to direct, and 3) there's no way they'd pay me what I'd want. I can also tack a 4) onto that: I spent so much time talking with the producer that I didn't get to see them shoot anything, which is why I was there in the first place. Just as I was excusing myself to go in and watch, they broke for lunch. I had to leave after that, so I still haven't seen actors speaking my lines.

I guess I'll have to wait for the movie like everyone else. I tell ya, the writer never gets any respect...





Copyright © 1997
Chuck Atkins