Setting Up with Shy and Company.
" 'Welcome! Dramatic pause. This is the exclusive behind the scenes look inside Eden's Paradise, the hotties' – I'm sorry, I can't say this." Judi looks up from the script she's holding, stops her spluttering and fixes her gaze on Jay, the featurette guy. She shakes her head to prove her point. "This is for this movie, you sure?"
"It says the name on the top of the pages, doesn't it?" Jay says sourly.
Judi blinks, her kohl lined eyes and Indian costume only accentuates the sharpness in her stare. She blinks again and then shoots Shy and I a look so harsh that Shy steps in front of me a little, for protection. Not that I need it, I am on Judi's side. (Plus my being pregnant sparks more sympathy and kindness then I really need.)
"To be honest, Jay, this isn't what this shoot is really about," Shy begins with his producer voice plus added actor charm for much needed damage control.
I am still hung up on the fact that features are part-scripted that my reaction times are a little slow. I really should have known that already but my aversion to them on previous shoots has led to my ignorance.
I try not to taunt myself with the ever repeated phrase; Ignorance isn't bliss, but I fail. As if I need any more guilt than the tonnes my mother already makes me feel!
I let out a sigh and look around the set to take my mind of everything. I feel positively out of London, what with the stage set up like the inside of a grand Indian home. Pretty lights wrapped around banisters, luxurious silks hung from the ceiling down to the floor in amazingly bright colours.
Oh, it is so easy to just walk away from Jay and Judy and the concept of the featurette.
Ignorance isn't bliss.
"While I appreciate our leads are two beautiful women, 'hotties' isn't the word that is most appropriate, particularly when considering the theme of the movie, don't you think, Jay?" Shy continues in his illustrious charisma.
I tune out again, happily convinced that Shy is doing a much better job than I ever could and start thinking about the set again. I spot three errors with it and make a mental note to fix them before I restart the cameras rolling. If there is one thing I'm determined to do, it is to prevent Eden's Paradise from being on a documentary about bloopers and continuity errors.
We've been shooting on set for almost two months already without interruption and it's put me into a false state of security. I am literally counting down the days until we travel for exterior shots, we are almost done. Everybody gets on so well, right from the start. I mean time flew without noticing, scenes were shot quickly and brilliantly. The crew is marvellously efficient and show no signs of boredom when shooting the same scenes over and over, in Arabic and in English. I have an excellent team working with me. Jason, my 1st AD, is an absolute angel. Even Yusuf and Francis hardly complain about anything, and for any director that is a jackpot.
Then along comes Jay...
"In France this would not be tolerated," Judi says to me in her native French, pursing her lips firmly. "I mean, really? He is trying to fit the role of 'artsy, young, budding director' so much that it's all image and no core. Pah! The world's gone to hell."
I would have pointed out that a badly scripted featurette and its 'director' isn't the greatest indications of a failing world but I keep my mouth shut. It's much more responsible to ease the situation.
"Don't worry, I've got an idea," I say to ease her but with no idea in mind.
Shy must have heard me because he looks at me like I'm holding a giant ray of hope. He holds up a hand and shuts Jay up as he tries to explain his 'vision'.
Crap. I didn't think this one through.
Jay pouts and looks at me like a 100 metre race with plans to kick every obstacle in his way and I am the biggest hurdle.
"So, I like your ideas, Jay, really and I think they'd work great. But this set is a little peculiar, and it's my fault," I say, making it all up as I go. I have a feeling this can end really badly but I have my small baby bump for back up. It is a pitiful 3 month one that hasn't expanded much but it is there nonetheless and I was not afraid to use it, should the worst happen. "I've not been a 'do this, do that' kind of director so much but more 'let's all partake but I get final say'. It's actually been really effective."
"Damn right it's been effective, it's been bloody brilliant until the wannabe, Frappuccino-sipping hippie from Hollywood came and pissed all over our lovely set," Judi mumbles, again in French.
Though I'm the only one present who understands her, the meaning does not escape Shy or Jay.
I clear my throat and smile, taking Judi's hand and giving it a calming but authoritative squeeze. If only she had done what Nawal did and leave to go to her dressing area. Even though my two leads play the same character, and brilliantly so, they show completely different personalities off camera. It is enlightening to say the least.
"I'm sure you understand, Jay, that with the shoot still going on, I need my leads to concentrate. I need to complete to schedule and I need my cast focussed. We have two scripts to work with already, a third is too much to ask from them."
Jay looks at me as if I've just pulled the carpet from under him, rolled him in it and dumped him into sewage.
I know that feeling well, it's when all your hopes and dreams are dashed and fear takes over and taunts you for failing before you've even begun. It is true that he's annoying, but I don't have the heart to take away his chance to do something big.
"I love the idea of a fly on the wall featurette, don't you?" I say, looking at Shy and asking for back up with a quick glance.
"Wouldn't it be great if you shot the things we were all too busy to notice at the time?" Shy says excitedly, jumping on my train of thought and pushing it to full speed.
"Then once we finish the shoot you can get your cast interviews, like you want," I assure him. "You really don't need a script either, our lot have a lot to say all by themselves."
"Seated interviews?" Jay says, somewhat demandingly.
"I don't think standing is an option, do you, Shy?" I grin along with him but we're the only ones that find my joke amusing.
Judi squeezes my hand and attracts my attention.
I know she isn't ok with it but I spoil my cast too much. Interviews aren't a big deal to ask for. While I don't like forcing things out of any of them, the producers want extra features for the DVD and I have to give it to them. I give her a pleading look, putting a hand on my lower back when it starts to pain me from all the standing.
Honest to God it was an unintentional reaction but it causes both Judi and Jay to deflate their chest and lose the will to argue. Shy shoots me a marvelled look and grins at me cheekily. I know that look well. It's the 'I wish I was a woman' look that I've seen way too many times off him.
"I'm good at catching things on film," Jay says, holding up his camera as evidence.
"You can ask me questions during breaks in shooting," Judi concedes, frowning and holding up a forefinger before clarifying, "sometimes."
Isn't it the greatest feeling when everybody is so nice?
"Oh, and for your intro," I say to Jay, picking up the marker and small A4 sized whiteboard that Jason loves to use on shoots. I write on it in my neatest handwriting, hiding it from the others. "Get your camera ready, Jay."
He does so, red light on in an instant.
"He really is good at catching things on film," Shy mumbles, leaning over to read what I wrote.
I hold up the board, standing between Shy and Judi and grin.
"Welcome to...Eden's Paradise." Judi leans forward to read it, realises she just did a simpler version of what Jay originally asked of her and burst out laughing, quickly succeeded by Shy and I.
"Great, that's great," Jay says, after we sober up, pulling the camera down to his side again.
I get the greatest urge to hop around dancing with Shy and singing, 'this is how we do it'. Thankfully, good sense fizzles out that thought before it could become action and I end up just grinning like the Cheshire cat.
"Brilliant, so we'll leave you to it?" I say, seeing Helen the makeup artist hovering around us and call her forward with a head nod.
"Scene 38 next, Kali?" Helen checks her schedule and looks up at me. She gives Judi a double take and frowns at the lopsided bindi on the centre of her forehead before returning her attention to me.
"Just as soon as I get the cameras set up."
"As soon as Jason makes sure the cameras are set up," Shy clarifies, giving me a stern look.
My eyes rush to Jason standing at the monitors with his clipboard talking to the DoP and fight the urge to go to him. I was a bit of a control freak, not because I didn't trust him but because I didn't want to burden him with too much work.
"Let him do his job," Shy whispers seemingly able to read my thoughts.
I reluctantly followed his command, and only really do so when I notice that John, the second AD, has figured out the three set errors I had earlier and was working on fixing them. Turning to Judi I give her a big smile and squeeze her shoulder.
"I'll come speak to you before the shot, talk over it, ok?"
The noise in the stage seemed to escalate with a new bout of energy as soon as Judi went to her chair. It's like everybody knows we are about to start up again soon and work that bit faster. I watch as Judy holds up the Polaroid of her makeup patiently while Helen does her best to clean it up to the exact same standard as she had done earlier.
"I think Helen is excited," I whisper to Shy as he pulls me out of the way of the Gaffer setting up the lighting. "The past few months all she's had to do is the 'natural' look and now she finally gets to doll Judi and Nawal up."
"Isn't that why you left this scene for last? So everybody's on a high before we fly out?" Shy sits me down on my chair. He sort of forces it actually. It has been a long day shooting the India internals but it was almost over.
"Don't reveal my secrets!"
"So, you didn't finish your story from earlier," Shy says, chuckling and sitting down in front of me. He passes me the bottle of water suggestively, frowns at the uneaten lunch and then up at me. "Or your food for that matter."
I've completely forgotten about food. I take a sip of the water and pick up one half of the sandwich eagerly, hungry without realising and give the other half to Shy.
"I suppose I can't really blame Yusuf wanting to wrap me up in cotton wool, sit me on a chair and stop anything stressful from coming near me," I say, feeling guilty for not looking after myself more, if only for the sake of Foetus.
"And Francis," Shy reminds me, eyebrows raised sky high.
Yes, Francis, who is surprisingly scary and demanding now that I'm pregnant. I'm not allowed to drive to work and back any more. I have Clinton, the company driver, at my service. It doesn't sound terrible except that I miss my freedom. I actually like driving and don't let Shy, or Clinton for that matter, forget it.
I know they only do it because they cared, they didn't plan on this baby when they invested millions into my script so the least I can do is oblige to them. I'm just glad for Shy, who doesn't make being pregnant sound like an infectious disease and gives me room to release. He was the key to cheering me up during bad moods or from overzealous tear ducts. He even lets me screw up my face when Foetus provide inspiration to my upchuck reflex, afterwards we always pretend like nothing happened.
"Ok, so where did I leave it?" I ask Shy, my eyes scanning the set as the extras file in, all dressed in beautiful Asian clothing. The sparkles, the colours...mesmerising.
"In the waiting room, you were chatting with another woman and she got on Adam's nerves," Shy prompts me, watching my half eaten sandwich to make sure I don't leave it like I normally do.
"Oh, yeah! So, she looked really nervous," I begin, frowning at the memory from yesterday's hospital visit. "She was about 16 or something, and she'd just had her ultrasound and was waiting for a porter to take her back to her room. Anyway, I felt a little bad for her because she really didn't know that much about what was happening to her."
"Surprising, I thought Sex Ed was the norm these days," Shy mumbles, in much the same way Adam had done. He disappears into private thought but it is easily put aside and he returns to me with a nod.
"She wasn't pregnant," I explain, watching as his face distorts in confusion. "She looked like she was pregnant but actually the doctors had found it was an enlarged spleen caused by abnormal bone marrow or something. It's not curable either, at least, not for definite."
"Why was Adam annoyed with her then?"
"Because, she'd told her parents she was pregnant to get back at them for not letting her do something," I explain, shaking my head sadly, "They weren't talking and knew nothing about her illness and she had no one to help her."
"So why doesn't she just tell them the truth."
I shrug. That's why Adam got so frustrated with her.
"He got so worked up about it, hoping our daughter never thinks she can't be honest with us, no matter what." I pause to blink. I always thought Adam would be the really strict kind of Dad but he proved otherwise yesterday. "He really took the girl's situation to heart, more so than me, and tried to talk her into calling her parents. He was really convincing too but she was just stubborn. I told him that she probably heard everything he said and would do it after she's had time to absorb it. She's still a teenager, you know? They automatically freeze up when it comes to parents."
I wonder if she managed to overcome that misplaced pride and called them.
"Wait a sec, Foetus is a girl?" Shy says softly, eyes rounder and child-like.
I grin and nod, meeting Shy's palm for a high-five. "That's what the scan showed."
"It's official," Shy sighs, resting back in his chair in contentment, looking at me sideways and smirking. "Foetus, or Baby as she will then be called, will be my date for any public engagement I have in the future."
"Will she now?" I chuckle happily, shaking my head. "I don't think Adam will be that lenient to let his daughter cavort with Hollywood heartthrobs."
"Ah, that was years ago! I'm old news on the social circuit," Shy says, waving his hand dismissively.
"Probably why you have to resort to Baby accompaniment?"
"Resort? No, Kali, I'll be honoured!" Shy says charmingly and so convincingly I almost want Foetus to be born right there and then so I can hand her over. But that would be disgusting.
"I'm sure Adam will go nuts when she grows up infatuated with you," I chortle darkly. "He's convinced that Nancy is reluctant to get married because of her old crush on you damaging her subconscious."
Shy grins but says nothing.
It's like he knows something Adam and I don't. In fact, I know he knows something we don't.
"So, I guess Benedicto is thrown out of the possible names pile," he says chirpily, moving on.
Oh, he so knows something about Nancy. But that's what I love about him, he honours secrets and a whole bunch of other principled things that people rarely do in this day and age, and particularly the people around us.
"It was never in the list," I say, lifting an eyebrow at Jason when he waves us over, giving him a nod as I got up. "I think we're going to give our parents naming rights. First grandchild and all, it's only fair."
"Kali, you haven't finished your half," Shy says authoritatively holding up five fingers to Jason and making him wait while I finished my food. He lowers his eyebrows a fraction and shows me he means business.
I grumble a little, taking the sandwich into my mouth and biting. I actually feel like eating something sour...
"Why does Adam call you Um Benedicto, then?" Shy says, back to normal and back to the conversation.
"He always calls me that because we never wanted to put too much stock into it, it was like a joke. But one that we needed to hold on to, you know?" I shrug, taking the last bite of the sandwich, waving my jazz hands in the air to show Shy.
He smirks and nods proudly.
"That Bolivian woman was right about everything else except the sex of the kid," Shy points out, getting up with me and walking over to Jason. "You weren't so good in Spanish then, are you sure you didn't misunderstand? Maybe she just used the masculine terminology because it's easier, like you do for the Arabic Eden script, right?"
I stop, realising he is right. I always took what the Bolivian market woman said literally - A boy called Benedicto. Adam said it meant blessing. Since the start of this pregnancy, realising it or not, this baby has brought its blessings with it. Fortune, love and stability even when it looked like life should be anything but.
"So, you think she meant a child named something meaning blessing?"
"Well, I think she'd get teased at school if she was call Something Meaning Blessing, don't you?" Shy throws me a look as if to say 'humour me' and I do, adding an eye roll anyway. "What's the Arabic word for blessing?"
"For a girl name," I frown, thinking about it, shaking my head. "There're loads actually."
"Well, pick the nicest one out of them!" Shy squints and holds up a finger, tilting his head to one side. "You might want to suggest it to the parent with the most persuasion and let them believe that they picked it though, that way you please everybody."
"Oh, Shy, you're a devil!" I chuckle, grinning in much the same way Shy was.
A little girl named blessing. How utterly perfect!
Alhamdullilah. Thanks God.
A/N- Hello all! It sure has been a while, no?
Thanks to Mia for kicking me into gear. Its not the best but I hope it does something to you.
How is everybody? Drop a review, let me know what you think.