“It just looks so … sexual,” Allison said from behind the camera monitor. She looked to her director of photography, who nodded in agreement with one eye shut as he peered through the lens. “It’s supposed to be a horror flick, Brad,” she hollered to her actor in the bathroom. “So could you like … pretend to be scared?”
“Well for starters, don’t slowly run your hand down the shower curtain.”
”I’m standing naked in a shower, Alli. I don’t know how else to be.”
“You don’t know how not to be sexy in a shower? Am I hearing you right?”
“Uh…yeah, okay,” Brad replied.
They had only been working together for a week, and Allison was running out of time to complete her senior project for her film studies class. She could kick herself for casting her roommate’s boyfriend in the lead role, but he swore he had film experience. Now she wondered what kind of film experience. She shook her head, cursing herself for not recruiting from the drama program first.
“Keep it rolling this time,” she said to her DP. He nodded. Silent and efficient, he was her ideal crew member. “Whenever you’re ready, Brad.”
Brad began whistling from the shower. It sounded oddly like “Rubber Ducky” from Sesame Street.
“What are you doing?” she yelled, standing from her makeshift director’s chair, which was nothing more than a rickety wooden barstool with the word “Director” painted down one leg-- a present from her overly optimistic parents.
“Trying to be casual. Not sexy, remember?”
She pressed her fingertips into her eyes, trying not to take her anger out on him. It wasn’t Brad’s fault she’d waited until the last minute to start shooting.
“Hey, the library needs this equipment back by eight,” her assistant director whispered.
“I know,” Allison huffed. “Let’s just give this one more go.”
Brad’s voice sounded from the overly acoustic bathroom. “So uh, what’s my motivation in this scene exactly?”
“Oh my god,” she grumbled. “Scared. You’re scared. Just take it from the top, everyone.”
The crew reset and Brad’s silhouetted form looked deep in thought.
“Quiet on set.” A hush fell over the apartment. “And go.”
The camera panned in from the left and began the slow zoom in, focusing on Brad’s silhouette. In Allison’s mind, the eerie background score was reaching its climax, building to the pinnacle moment of her short film when--
Arf! Arf arf arf!
“Margie, cut it out,” Allison growled, trying to get her yapping terrier to pipe down. The cast and crew held their positions, hoping Margie’s interjection didn’t mean starting over. “Keep rolling. We’ll fix it in post.”
The dark, imaginary orchestra resumed its playing in Allison’s head. The view from the monitor looked great. Never had her pieces looked this high quality before, and the building crescendo in her head made her stomach clench with anticipation. She held her breath, waiting for Brad’s pivotal line in the scene.
His shadowy figure froze. “Shit, what’s the line again?”
A disfigured clown stepped around the corner behind the assistant director. “Come on, man, you’ve had the script for a month now. Get it together.”
“Thank you, Tom, but I can handle it,” Allison said, scrounging up the last of her patience. “Okay, let’s keep going, people. Take it from Brad’s line, ‘Who’s there?’ Do you have it?” She asked him.
“Yeah, I’m good.”
“Okay, whenever you’re ready.”
The figure repositioned, and Brad’s voice rang out like a bad Keanu Reeves impersonation.
“Who’s there?” His shadow shook its head. “Probably just my imagination.”
Even Allison jumped when the dark form of Tom passed in front of the camera. It was all coming together.
“Wait, what the hell is that?” the DP whispered.
He pointed to a black blob descending from the bathroom ceiling. She heaved a sigh, rolling her eyes. “Take it back to Tom’s entrance, everyone. We’ve got a boom in the shot.”
“No way,” the sound tech called from the bathroom. Allison had nearly forgotten Jerry was there. “I’ve had this thing at the same level the whole time,” he said, as the boom mic trembled with rage.
“Just keep it out of frame, okay?”
“I’m standing on the back of a freaking toilet. How much more out of frame can I be?”
“Dammit, Jerry. Make it work!”
She did feel a little sorry for the guy. Jerry was indeed standing on top of the water tank of a toilet in her tiny apartment bathroom holding a boom pole overhead. Maybe his arms weren’t shaking with frustration, but fatigue.
“Alright everyone, let’s take a breath and go back to the evil clown’s entrance.”
Whether or not it was what she envisioned, this was it. The crew was tired, people were starting to get sloppy, and the film would either be her best work, or it wouldn’t. There was nothing more she could do to stop the deadline’s determination to crush her.
“This is going to be the last run of the night,” she said, feeling somehow she was admitting defeat. The entire set sighed with relief as the cast and crew reset. “Whenever you’re ready, Brad.”
“Who’s there?” he said, the line sounding oddly better than before. “Probably just my imagination.”
The cloaked form of the evil clown darted in and out of frame. Everyone was on mark. Allison held her breath, the demonic orchestra rising in her head again.
Tom followed his mark perfectly and lunged in front of camera one, running down the visual corridor the DP had just created, straight for Brad. He wrapped both arms around the hero, pulling the opaque shower curtain down around him.
The camera zoomed, quick and precise as the DP stepped into the tiny bathroom. The two actors wrestled and writhed just as scripted, as Brad delivered his best blood-curdling screams. Allison watched the monitor with excitement and anticipation, waiting for something to go horribly wrong, but it didn’t. Brad’s screams died and the clown gave one last terrifying look to the camera above him, a maniacal laugh escaping his painted face. Even Allison shivered.
She had done it.
Written by: HG Reed
Photo by: Erin Notarthomas