This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.
I heard this story recently, which I think encapsulates the problem with saying something truthful to somebody in the entertainment business.
A studio chief was visiting a movie set. This happens quite often, actually, because for one thing, location sets are really fun - sort of like a cross between a high school field trip with just the cool kids, and one of those swank Abercrombie and Kent safari things you see pictures of in magazines: you know, tents and stylish chairs and elaborate picnic food. The other reason studio execs like to visit the set is because they want all of the actors see them and get to know them. See, they're terrified that the stars won't know who they are and how important they are and won't hug them effusively at the premiere party. In front of the guy from E or something.
So the studio exec choppers out to the set, which is somewhere in Valencia, but she's mis-timed her visit. She's come right after the big scene of the day, and all that's left is a few of what we call "pick-up" shots - transitions or inserts or things that you might need later, in post-production, but that don't have the majesty and the glamour and the artistic charge of, say, watching a stead cam guy chase the little boy through the funeral home shooting the psycho killer's POV.
But one of the stars is there, and they're shooting him looking up, startled, and then putting his coffee mug down in an alarmed fashion. Look up, put down. Shoot the master, shoot the close up, shoot a stylish overhead shot - which you'll probably lose in editing but the director thinks he'll need it - and shoot the under the table spooky angle, because the audience knows at this point that the coffee is laced with poison and when he puts it down, it's a big deal.
But it's not a big deal to film. It's sort of tedious, especially for the actor who doesn't really have much to do. And it's really tedious to watch, but the exec has come all this way and she's going to make the best of it. After a couple of hours, the director finally calls "cut" and "moving on", and the exec, not wanting to waste a moment, lopes up to the actor, grabs him by the shoulders, and gushes, "That was fantastic! That was fantastic! That was magic! Really," she says when the actor sort of shrugs, "Really! I'm not even lying to you!"
I'm not even lying to you, which is something we have to say in this business to acknowledge that although we often lie, even mostly lie, and that lying is not only expected but also appropriate for most situations we find ourselves in, in this instance we didn't feel it necessary to lie at all and we'd like the person we're not lying to, to know it.
And what did the actor say? He said, "Wow, thank you", and then he used the executive's first name which made the seventeen-thousand dollar trip to the set - helicopters, you know, don't fly themselves - totally, totally worth it. She was hugged and pleasantly groped at the premiere party, got her picture on E, made a lifelong friend in the director when she argued strenuously to keep the stylish overhead shot in the movie, and learned how to read a script breakdown so in the future she made sure that her set visits coincided with large group scenes with plenty of master shots.
It really happened that way. Really. I'm not even lying to you.
That's it for this week. Next week, we will ink something.
For KCRW, this is Rob Long with martini shot.