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You Can’t Beat Stupid

Some days, I’ll read a script that’s inspiringly good. “This is how I want to write,” I think to myself. “This well-crafted story, these original characters, these hilarious jokes.”

Other days, the writers will turn in a real stinker, and it’ll inspire me in another way: “Shit, I can write better than this.”

And then there are days when the director does something so mind bogglingly stupid, I’ll think, “I will never be creative enough to come up with something like that. Never in a million years would I be able to think that stupid.”

I’m going to tell you about one of the third kind.

I should say first that the camera person who told me this story did not grow up speaking English. It’s not even her second language; it’s her third. Now, I don’t mean to criticize, since I can barely speak one language, but there is sometimes a bit of a translation issue when speaking to a trilingual person. Add in the fact that she’s a camera girl, and expects precise, technical language, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster when dealing with a director who started out as a child actor.

So, when I first heard this story, I wasn’t one hundred percent convinced she hadn’t been confused about what the prepping director asked for. But later, the conversation was confirmed by a third party, and I’m quite (sadly) convinced  this actually happened.

It was the last day of prep, and the director went down to the camera truck to ask for another monitor. My camera friend assured him that they had a monitor for each camera.

“Oh, I know,” he said. “I want one for the actors.”

“The monitors are really big,” she said. “Everyone behind you will be able to see clearly.”

“No, no, I mean the actors on set.”

“You… want them to see themselves? While they’re performing?” Seriously, can you imagine how distracting this would be? I mean, sure, I make fun of actors for being sensitive cry babies every time a grip walks through their eyeline with a C-stand, but staring at themselves while they’re trying to spit out a dramatic monologue? It would take superhuman concentration to be able to ignore that.

Sure enough, as a former actor, the director was well aware of this. “Oh, actually, I should have been more clear. I need another camera and monitor. I want the camera at video village, and the monitor by the camera, so the actors can see me.”

. . .

What? Wow. What? You see what I mean? If I was writing a behind-the-scenes comedy like 30 Rock, and I wanted to come up with something that the director character could ask for that even the layest of laymen would recognize as ridiculous, I would never in a million years come up with “a monitor on set so the actors can see the director.” That’s just… wow.

At this point, the camera girl started speaking Korean and acting confused, because she was as convinced as I was that there is no way he could really be asking for what she thought he was asking for.1

She told the 1st AC what the director said. The 1st laughed his ass off, then said, “Wait, are you serious?”

The AC stopped by the office to have me call our camera and find out if they had a cheap, consumer HD camera we could rent for the episode. “But don’t order it. I’m going to talk with [1st AD] first.”

He never told me to order the camera.

Footnotes    (↩ returns to text)

  1. Also, once she starts speaking Korean really fast, everyone who doesn’t know her backs away slowly until she stops.
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4 Responses

  1. I’m guessing that director was Fred Savage. He did an episode of a show I worked on a few years back, and was a real piece of work. A legend in his own mind…

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