“Hello, you must have just checked in?” came a quiet Liverpudlian-sounding voice from behind Finley. A plump, young woman with twig-colored hair and an open countenance, wearing an odd lavender sack dress, faced Finley as she turned around.
“I always surprise people with my forwardness, but if you sit and wait for people to introduce themselves, you might miss an opportunity. I’m Stacey Rimmer. I’m with that crew over there.” She pointed to a group of about six or seven people sitting around a couple of the tables that had been pushed together. It was clear that they all knew each other. “Please join us. We’re a friendly bunch.”
Stacey scurried over to the table, standing aside to introduce Finley as if she were the Queen of Sheba. “This is… I don’t even know your name. In any event, she just registered today.”
Stacey paused, with a look of uncertainty, trying to get some indication from the group that Finley was welcomed. Conversation had quieted as the people at the table collectively turned to look at Finley.
A darkly handsome middle-aged man broke the tension. “Welcome to our motley crew!” He stood to pull out the only remaining chair for Finley. “Just arrived? Where are you coming from?”
Finley surveyed the group briefly, nodded, and introduced herself. “Yes, I got in this afternoon from New York,” she said, taking her seat. She realized that she had made the Manhattanite mistake of assuming that when you said New York, you meant Manhattan. If not, you would give the name of the town, like Brooklyn or Tarrytown or Albany.
She decided to shift the conversation to them. “Are all of you involved in the movie all the staff was talking about?” She leaned in a bit to engage those at the far end of the table. “Oh, I’m Finley, by the way.”
The man with gray at the temples, who had held out her chair, introduced himself as Peter, in an accent that suggested that he might be upper-crust British, and then proceeded to make introductions around the table. The striking woman with bluntly cut, almost-black hair and watery blue eyes to his left was Anna Broadbent, a set designer who mentioned that she had worked in both New York and Los Angeles. She aptly understood where “New York” was.
Beside her sat a rather nondescript man dressed in a nondescript button-down shirt and rumpled khakis, who did sound for movies. The angle at which Finley was sitting made it hard for her to hear his name, and she decided not to ask him to repeat it.
Stacey had brought a chair over from one of the other tables and positioned herself at the far end of the table. She excitedly pointed to the woman next to her. “Taryn, she does amazing makeup effects,” she said, elongating the word “amazing” to emphasize the point.
Peter proceeded with his introductions, adding that they were indeed the production crew for the new movie being shot in Tangier and the Sahara. He took time to give each person’s job title, as if Finley had any idea what the positions meant or what each of them did.
Finley simply smiled knowingly and let him drone on while she took in each person’s expression and apparent state of mind. At some point, conversation had started up again and the participants stopped only to nod when their introduction was made.
Anna broke in, interrupting Peter mid-sentence. He scowled but let her continue. She wore a smirk that revealed much about her estimation of the man across from her. “This is Allan Berger. He’s supposed to be at the Villa de France with the top dogs but deigns to associate with the hoi-poloi here.”
The object of her scorn was an Indiana Jones lookalike with longish salt-and-pepper hair and an ageless, craggy face that might have been handsome if he had a more welcoming disposition. Allan grunted a greeting and took a swig of his beer, eyes downcast and his head slumped almost to his chest. Finley imagined him having long existential conversations with his therapist or bartender.
“I’m Ross.” The man sitting next to Finley gave her a warm, boy-next-door grin.” Don’t mind them. Anna likes to get under his skin. Since Peter is including our CV in his intro, I am tech supervisor. Do some work on effects as well.” Before he could finish, Peter interjected, “Somewhat nerdy, but harmless.”
He smiled like he knew a secret, but Finley only cared about getting a drink. She summoned the waiter and indicated to the group that the next round was on her, as she remembered was British custom, before placing her order and sending him off to get the rest of the orders. Most seemed to be well in to their second or third drink.
Ross and Peter explained that most of the crew was from the UK. The French contingent, Julien and Thomas, were out doing preproduction scouting and may join later. They chatted on excitedly about a big-name producer and director, Etienne something or other, working on the movie that Finley didn’t recognize. The film, as the porter had stated, was an action film with a lot of fast races and crashes. It was not a genre she liked. It was apparently based on a local rally race that was held every year out in the middle of the Sahara.
“Have you worked on many other pictures?” Finley asked, curious about the vagabond life that crews like this lived. Maybe that was the angle for the article. She was still tossing around options in her mind. List-worthy, she would say.
Ross volunteered first. “I’ve been doing this almost ten years. Started doing special effects when I was in college. Dropped out and kept on doing it in Hollywood and about. Tech is the future,” he said with almost childlike enthusiasm.
“I’ve been in the industry for over thirty years. A few years acting. Wanted to be the next De Niro. When that didn’t pan out, I started in production. Discovered I was rather good with the lights, so there I stayed,” Peter shared.
“So, what do you do? God, this sounds like a stale London drinks party.” He sighed.
“I’m a travel writer. Nothing as exciting as producing movies.” Finley tried to steer the conversation back to the movie so she could see if there was enough for an article.
She angled to keep Peter talking about the movie, but he much preferred to talk about himself and the leading ladies he had met—Susan Sarandon, Julia Roberts, Demi Moore. He may have been behind the scenes in these stories, but he prowled like a real Casanova… At least, that’s what he wanted Finley to think.
Around her, she caught snatches of other conversations. Anna was talking about some place to get trendy fabrics cheap with Taryn, her pink highlights dancing in the slight breeze. Ross had pulled Allan out of his funk and the two were debating something geopolitical. Nondescript man had nodded off, and Stacey sat darting her eyes from one conversation to the next, never quite daring to jump in. Nothing more to learn here.
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