Musings and Writing of GG Alexander

Savage Writing: What She’s Best At

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Halloween task was “Love Hurts.” Accidentally brought the unedited version to the meet, which really annoyed me.


They say that what you are best at doing is whatever you do regularly. In that case, Shana was best at painting other people’s faces, breathing softly, and playing spider solitaire on her phone during filming. And early mornings. Most film sets required 4am starts, and she was very good at being the first to the trailer, requisite cup of coffee half-finished by the time the actors trailed in. She liked that moment when, half-asleep, she would look over her spread palette of tones, and her cleanly washed brushes standing in order of thickness, everything neat and orderly before the chaos began. She couldn’t say she liked the early mornings, but she loved that moment before the start.

There were no early mornings for this shoot. It was a vampire film, so most of the filming was inside, or at night. ‘We’re returning to the original notion of vampires,’ director Katherine had said to a press officer one day, within Shana’s earshot. ‘Deadly sunlight and stakes through the heart. No wussy sun-loving vampires, no sexy teens – though, of course, it will be sexy. Vampires are always sexy in some way, aren’t they?’

Of course it would be sexy, with Him in the title role. The villain vampire was played by an actor that Shana had never worked on before. She had seen him in an American TV series, and had assumed he was American too, but on his first day he stepped into the trailer and opened his mouth and a Southern Irish accent came out instead. Her heart melted instantly. Not that he sounded that way once he left her trailer: for this role, he put on an English accent, of course – who ever heard of an Irish vampire?

The first day he sat down in her chair, she couldn’t stop looking at him – and not because she was checking whether she had spread the colour evenly. He had short, messy black hair, laughter lines, and his good looks were modest by film standards. She had been up in the faces of far handsomer men; she’d rubbed foundation over the mugs of heart throbs and teen idols and aging legends. What was it about this one, then – this man who played villains and schemers, who was lovingly hated by the public – that so fascinated her?

They were on location in a half-ruined stately home in Sussex. Location filming first, while the weather was still good enough, and then set filming over winter, post-production spring and summer, ready for Halloween next year. She would have done two other films by then. Usually she avoided seeing her work in the cinema – the magic didn’t work as well, since she’d been behind scenes – but she decided immediately that nothing would stop her from seeing this one.

‘White again?’ he laughed on the second day of filming. ‘I imagine you’ll get sick of making me look like a ghost by the end of the week.’

She smiled as best she could but it felt embarrassingly strained. She was good at painting other people’s faces – shading in their contours, erasing the bags under the eyes and emerging spots and visible veins – but with him she had to struggle to keep her hand steady. She was good at breathing softly on them, imagining that she was a gentle breeze, a barely corporeal form, but with him she found herself quietly gasping for air as her oxygen intake couldn’t keep pace with her pounding heart. She was good at sitting quietly outside the trailer, pretending to play on her phone, when really she was straining her eyes past the rigs and cameras and assistants to his form (lit upon the stairs of the home, brooding at the window, hiding behind crumbling pillars). She resented having to go back inside and work on an extra, or the lead actress, or anyone else involved. He was the talent, the lead, the star – who else mattered?

‘More blue,’ director Katherine said on the third day. Shana was tired – she had been up until midnight for the last of the filming the night before, and had not been able to sleep afterwards for strange thoughts. ‘Blue around the forehead, like veins. And more red around the lips, like a hint of blood. I want him to look like porcelain for today’s close-ups.’

‘You want me to look like a china doll?’ he quipped, and director said yes and left them. He smiled at Shana and her legs felt funny.

‘You heard her,’ he said. ‘Like a porcelain dolly!’

It took more makeup on a person’s face to make them look pale, and washed-up, and veiny-skinned than it did to make them look natural. More time hovering around his features, her body close to his, still trying not to breathe on him. He could probably see down her top if he cared to look. She wouldn’t mind. She wouldn’t mind that at all.

Fourth day’s filming he had a thrilling rendezvous with the lead actress, and director Katherine called her out. ‘Breathe more,’ she said. ‘I want some heaving bosoms! You’ve just had a terrifying encounter!’

Shana could have done it better; she knew exactly what was needed. But she could never be an actress. It wasn’t her lack of beauty so much as her lack of personality. She stayed in the background, blending into the walls as if she was barely there. It surprised her, when she first started working in film, how easily she could disappear even as she rubbed at a person’s face; they rarely tried to talk to her, instead talking to whichever co-star or crew was nearby. She liked that, she liked to vanish, but when she worked on him, her body was always heavy, and trembling, and she was all too present and human.

Final day. More red on the lips, and an artful drip of fake blood from the corner of his mouth. Tonight, he would leave, and she would be gone too, on to her next piece of work until the set filming in two week’s time. She cleared her throat and – for the first time – initiated conversation.

‘Where are you going until set filming starts?’ she asked.

‘Back home,’ he said. ‘I can’t wait. It’s been months since I’ve seen all my family.’

‘That must be nice,’ she said, voice failing her and disappearing into a whisper. A surge of jealousy ran through her, as she thought of his wife and daughters – she’d learnt about them online – running up to him, calling his name, and of him smiling and laying kisses on their cheeks.

‘Well,’ he said as he went off to film. ‘I’ll be off after this, so see you in two weeks!’

She sat outside the trailer and didn’t even pretend to play spider solitaire. She cursed every camera and person in between her eyes and him. A climactic scene: laughing madly, the vampire caught the young woman and she – helpless under his charm – could not resist as he sank his teeth into her bare neck. Shana squeezed her knees together. Vampires are always sexy, aren’t they?

Filming was done. Director Katherine said they could get off early, and everyone was happy. Shana rushed inside. She snapped shut her palette, and swept the dirty brushes into their case, though she knew that they would clog and be ruined. She grabbed everything she had, anything she cared about, and – with her materials clattering in her duffel bag – ran to the car park. She slunk into the front seat of her car, keeping her head low, and she waited.

The actor came out ten minutes later, talking to the actress. They said goodbye with a friendly peck on the cheek – she hated her, she hated that woman so much – and he finally went to his car. Shana knew she could manage it, whatever she was planning; she was the best at being unnoticed. Turning the key and grabbing the wheel, she watched as he drove out of his space and turned to exit the car park, and she – breathing deeply for the first time in days – slowly pulled out, and followed.


The others wanted to hear what happens next, which is a good sign. I’ll leave it to your imagination!

So we can agree that this guy is hot, yeah? 😛


Written by G.J.

01/11/2012 at 12:37 pm

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