|Landscape | The Biggies |
|by Carol Tredwell
It's 1991. E and M (she with a royal name and he with a biblical one) live in a one-room apt. on Melbourne off Vermont, in the Los Feliz district of Los Angeles. An upper apt. with a window facing into the afternoon sun. An older building ("with character"), with no air conditioning. It is very hot, they wake up sweaty, etc.|
The both work as PAs on a low-budget, instant-classic movie. They make $50 a week (yes, really) and eat only while on the set. (Except M, who must always eat. He is a bouncing stack of muscles, never tainted by any chemical, not even caffeine. Just a need for nourishment. "Excuse me," to waitresses, "can you tell me which dish is the most filling?")
|"Excuse me," to waitresses,
"can you tell me which dish
is the most filling?"
|E's sister C decides to come stay with them. Her boyfriend has just left for another country. She does not exactly ask, so nobody says yes or says no. But she says she can pay half the rent, which neither of the other two really can say. She hangs a few of her paintings around the room, including the cartoony one of the dark-blue flower, and they do in fact liven the place up.|
C gets a job handing out free cigarettes in 7-Elevens, bars and random liquor stores. For this she wears a red polo shirt (provided), khaki pants and "white canvas shoes". She is part of a marketing campaign for the new Wrap packaging on Winston cigarettes. This is a thin, foil-like wrapper in which the cigarettes are sealed until opened by the customer, "90 percent more effective than the traditional clear-plastic wrapper", etc.
|She is part of
a marketing campaign...
|So, though there is still no food in the apt., now there is an endless supply of Winston cigarettes. They move slowly, E & C, from heat or from hunger. They sometimes buy Smart-Food at the 7-Eleven up the street. E & C let the door fall closed and turn to the cabinet to grab packs of cigarettes. "Regular or light?" they ask excitedly each time, thinking how grand it is to live in a free country.|
E is very thin now, whereas she didn't used to be. She thinks often of her pointy hips and rounded breasts. She flashes her blue eyes and gentle freckles at mirrors and smiles, letting her red lips infuse her with a buoyant patriotism.
One night, C is also at the set. She's being an extra. They are filming all night at Johnie's on Fairfax & Wilshire. She doesn't know ahead of time about the constant air blowing in and out of generators. She has heard about the walkie-talkies.
M is in charge of the extras and winks at her apologetically whenever he's forced to force her to do something. She assures him she doesn't mind and keeps sitting in her folding chair.
|C knows he needs fat-free
dressing for his salads
and therefore isn't afraid
to tell him to fuck off.
C's big moments include drinking coffee next to a dumb one-who-will-soon-be-famous for three hours at the Johnie's counter while various actors and sorts walk by, and (shift camera) sit at booths saying lines. She wonders what "watch the eyelines" means and is later surprised and disgusted at the simplicity of the answer. And also when big-producer man says to her, "Yeah, your legs looked great on camera, but I bet you're cold now," C knows he needs fat-free dressing for his salads and therefore isn't afraid to tell him to fuck off.|
Another detail that must be considered relevant (however reluctantly): E & M have dated in the past, and cannot resist the free (as in, costs nothing) sex they implicitly offer each other by living in the same room. They are also each dating other people, all of whom can be found (check the call sheet) on the set. C usually closes her eyes when asked by either of them to give advice on any of this.
E's position on the film is somewhat doomed from the start. When asked to do things like buy Visine for an actor, or pick one up for work, or help the (foreign) cinematographer apt. hunt, she stops and stares. She grunts her disgust, says "I'll never do this shit work again." One day, while parking the fancy Econoline van, she runs it into a tree branch and busts out the whole front window. She smiles at this and doesn't dream of apologizing. She likes to turn down the volume on her walkie-talkie.
|E & M have dated in the past,
and cannot resist the free
(as in, costs nothing) sex...
In the apt. bathroom there is a window above the toilet which opens onto what appears to be an equivalent window in the apt. next door. The man in this apt. sits on the toilet in his undershirt reading the paper. Along the building runs a parking lot with 12-hour meters where car alarms ("Please step away from the vehicle") harmonize with each other all night.|
Long after the movie is finished, and M has returned to his hometown, the big-director man comes over in his new car and E & C pay him more mind than they mean to. C, remembering how generous he used to be with his pot, gives him the last of her mushrooms. The ones she's scared to take anyway because they might be too old.
|She likes to turn down the volume
on her walkie-talkie.
Another day, E takes slides of C sitting naked on the bed. They come out magically underexposed, matching her distressed-Barbie hair and suiting the cadaverously skinny group of angled lines she's been using as a body. They mail one to her boyfriend overseas.|
Their friends come down from Berkeley and claim to find them drinking Club cocktails at 11 a.m. The girls secretly want to tighten their shoelaces and get to work, but they've already forgotten how to grab the world and shake it (if they ever knew). Their complaints of it being "too slippery" fall only on each others' ears.