Writing last month (read all it here) about an unexpected round-the-world job made me go all misty. An RTW! Yeeooww baby! Those were the days!
SAVILLE ROW LONDON 1986 I am in a boardroom with Mr. Big. He wants a shoot in Europe, the States, Australia, Malaysia and India. A mega round-the-world. It will be my first RTW.
Mr. Big: “Give me a price.”
Me: “I’ll need a few days – I have to work out the airfares, hotels, car rentals.”
Mr. Big: “You want the job? Give me a quote now.”
He’s a multi-millionaire. We’re playing a game. Quick, think of a number.
Me: “£110,00” (about $220,000 in ‘86 – $400,000 today).
Mr. Big: “Why the £10,000?”
Me: “For negotiation”
Mr. Big: “OK. £100,000.
Me: “Let’s split the difference.”
Mr. Big: “£105,000 and we have a deal. You start tomorrow.”
I hire a crew to do the local and European shoots. An editor and assistant to log and cut rushes each day. Book the RTW flight – first stop JFK. It doesn’t get better than this.
Here’s the plan: we arrive, rent a SUV and drive to the motel nearest to the location. Next morning at 8:00, we are collected and taken to the office. We shoot – leave by 3:00. Catch a 5:00 plane – arrive, rent a SUV, drive to the motel. All depends on packing up by 3:00; which usually means no lunch.
PARSIPPANY, NJ It’s a long flight from London. Avis has screwed up the car. No SUV. Ray, my cameraman, insisted my renting two 2K lights in shiny aluminum cases with stands (none it ever used). Eventually they find us a VW van. We’re off: JFK – Manhattan – Parsippany.
The drinks waitress at the hotel really likes Ray. Why I don’t know. We’re all spaced out from the flight and the long drive. For us, it must be 3:00 or 4:00 in the morning. She has a room across the road. Here’s her room number…
“Ray, you’re crazy. It’s a big day tomorrow. We need you.” I can’t stop him.
Next day, he’s all smiles. Lucky bastard.
I decide to remember every name. The guy who collects us – Joe, #1. The manager’s PA -Sue, #2. The manager – Kevin, #4. The security chief – Brian #5. The guys we film – #6, 7 & 8. Hey, I did it. Eight names!
3:00 Goodbye time. “Thanks Brian. Will you tell Kevin it went well? No need for Joe to take us to the airport. Say goodbye to Jerry, Bill and Max from me. Oh, I forgot, say ‘bye to Sue in the office.”
BOSTON, MA Siobhan, our fiery PA arrives – two days late.
Today, we’re in a university science lab. A young Hispanic is cleaning the lab and mopping the floor. There’s nothing exciting happening. After a while I realize he can’t understand me. I’ll try French. “Avez-vous envie un bon temps avec le mop?” Nope. I’ll have to show him un bon temps myself.
I take the mop and give it all I’ve got. “Now you try!” He’s better but not good enough. I do it again with real passion. “Roll camera”. He’s got it! “Cut. You were terrific!”
A man comes over. “Hello. I’m the professor here. I just want to congratulate you on your direction. It was amazing how you got that performance. Well done.”
“I used to make feature films. My last was a flop. I’ve been demoted to making mop films. One day, I’ll get back.”
“Don’t worry son. You’ve got talent. You’ll be back on features soon.”
“Oh, I hope so. Thank you. Thank you. You are so kind. ”
Siobhan and Ray try not to laugh, then crack up once we’re outside. She really likes Ray. What has this guy got? We save on motel rooms.
RTW FATIGUE Four continents – a different city each day – it all takes its toll.
I get a call. “Hi Stefan, it’s Kevin.”
“Kevin from Parsippany.”
“Parsippany? I was in Parsippany?”
HOME Mr. Big is happy. Ray is in love. And me? Please God, more mop films of the RTW kind (just don’t tell the kind professor).