Archive | December, 2011

Chapter 4 – Sophie & The TV Chef

14 Dec

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Two weeks earlier Sophie had done the one thing she swore she would never do again…. for the third time. She had shagged the talent.

It was the filming of British Kitchen and the presenter Christian, a swaggering cock, was having his make up done by a plump but gorgeous young thing who fell into fits of giggles every time he spoke. The show was due to record very soon and both were oblivious to the bustle on the studio floor. Sophie kissed her friend Jeff (Camera One) on the cheek as she passed.

‘Hey you.’

‘Hey Sophie! Long time no see. Any news on Hip Replacement?’

‘Shit name!’ shouted Tony the grip, grinning.

‘Thank you Tony,’ she smiled, ‘Friday we hope – fancy a break from this?’ she waved across at Christian who was doing some bizarre impression of a boxer to the delight of his audience. Jeff smiled and rolled his eyes.

‘I hope you’ve organised a VIP area for him. He only speaks to make up and you.’

‘I’m afraid we’re in the grips of a double dip recession, everyone has to give something up’ She joked. ‘The coke, the VIP area, the free sports car. Why the fuck are they called sports cars? Anyway, super super super glad you’re coming, babes.’

‘Of course, 100 shows baby!’ Jeff cheered.

‘FIFTEEN MINUTES EVERYONE!’ shouted the fat, grumpy, bald first assistant director who’s shouty-ness made him sound the most efficient on set and yet he was glued to his twitter and facebook feeds the entire time.

Sophie made her way towards Christian who was now explaining the differences between Thai and Balinese massage through a series of semi-erotic strokes across her bare shoulders.

‘Hi Christian,’ Sophie smiled and turned to his prey ‘Hello, I’m Sophie Sturgess.’

‘Hi, I was just finishing’ she blushed.

‘Thank you.’ Sophie waited while she packed her brushes into her case and disappeared beyond the studio floor into the darkness. ‘Is your mic off?’

‘Yep’ He kissed her cheek managing to brush his greasy made up face against hers. ‘How’s tricks lady S?’

‘Fine. I hope you’re coming tonight?’

‘Of course. Though I can’t stay long, I have a dinner at the new Ramsey. Fucking prick that he is. So fucking arrogant – have you ever met him? He ate in Number Eight when I first opened it. You went there, right? He sent his steak back.’ He kept going. Christian didn’t require answers to his questions, for him question asking was about how clever/thoughtful/interested he sounded, it was not about the actual receipt of an answer. But he was handsome, so it was never a drag to sit and watch him talk. Although this close up and with so much make-up and a bib tucked into his collar was wholly unsexy and Sophie was in a hurry.

‘Listen, I need you to come and see me after we wrap. Ian is coming down and wants to speak to you before the party’

‘Not fired I hope?’ he lamely joked.

‘No nothing like that. Good luck, and congrats on number 100. How you do it I’ll never understand.’

‘FIVE MINUTES PEOPLE… FIVE MINUTES PLEEEEASE!’ Shouted the first assistant director guy. He was either about to explode or punch someone.

Sophie headed back across the floor and up towards the gallery, nodding and smiling at the crew she had worked with for so long now. She picked up her pace and took her seat at the back of the gallery to watch the show record when Tom approached.

‘Sophie can we talk?’

‘Not now, sorry, final record.’ She forced a smile.

‘Okay, but maybe after?’ Tom sounded slightly desperate, but Sophie was glued to the monitor as filming began.

‘Sure.’ She smiled without looking up.

British Kitchen was her first solo commission. She had worked so hard on it and poured her heart and soul into it. The format was simple, cooking lessons with pre-recorded inserts from garden markets around the countryside showcasing local, organic, seasonal food. Today was wild mushrooms, Jersey Royals and rhubarb. And although the show was conceived before she met Christian, he had become the heartbeat of the series and the poster boy for British farming. Of course with that came the book deals, the pap snaps of him looking fat or thin or drunk or buying milk and the obligatory celebrity girlfriend who now did her own spin-off line in British cooking for your baby. The cover featured a blonde haired 6 month old in a British Lion t-shirt and at first glance looked a little like a child rearing manifesto for the fascist EDL.

As these things go, the show became bigger than Sophie and less her own, so when the competing broadcaster won the bid for the next season, it felt the right time to say goodbye and pass it on. Of course the fact it went to Channel 6 meant that the budget would be halved and the reach greatly reduced, and Christian’s ego needed to be well managed so he didn’t try to use the opportunity to renegotiate his already eye-wateringly large salary and bonus package.

Christian was holding up a bunch of bright pink rhubarb and going over the various unexplored uses – cleaning pots and pans, hair colour and insecticide to name a few. The rhythm of filming exhausted her and with one loud, ‘That’s a wrap ladies and gentleman’ from fat, bald first assistant director guy, it was over.

She took a quiet moment while everyone high-fived each other. Christian and her smiled across the room – a genuine moment of success for both of them. She had earned this drink. She popped the cork on a bottle of Moet and walked towards the studio floor.

A few hours later she was cross legged on the floor, surrounded by champagne glasses of varying fullness teetering perilously on the edge of utterly, irreversibly hammered.

There was some truly awful club anthem blaring out of the stereo and younger crew members were dancing, the make-up girl was ‘booty-slapping’ in the direction of Jeff. She wondered why she had never asked him out. Jeff couldn’t believe his luck and was trying to pull her in for a kiss every chorus. Was that a chorus? It was hard for Sophie to tell. She hated dance music. Her favourite album was Pet Sounds.

The Gallery director, sound engineer and gaffer were all chain smoking by the fire exit. Someone had put a fag out in the huge Union Jack celebration cake. She sat on the studio floor a drink in hand and tried to steady herself.

‘You’re not that drunk’ She tried to tell herself.

‘It is the 100th show, you’re celebrating, it’s normal’ She reasoned with herself.

She hiccuped and tried to stand.

‘Have some water’ She pleaded with herself, gulping back another mouthful of champagne.

‘Come on you piss head’ bellowed Christian from nowhere as he tried to pull her up. She collapsed into his arms and gave him a sloppy hug.

‘I’m so sorry about all the changes. Hey, didn’t you have a dinner on?’

‘Oh. Yes, I always say that in case the party is shit.’

She stabbed him in the chest with his finger ‘Well, well, well. What a good trick you have there. I’m not going to try to remember all the times you’ve had ‘a dinner on’ over the last few years – but I know it is quite a lot’

She threw her head back and laughed, almost projecting herself across the floor in the process. Christian slipped his arm under her to pull her back.

‘Come on you.’ He took her drink away, ‘You need something a bit more substantial in you.’

She looked up at him and tried a sexy smile, which he seemed vagually grossed-out by. Or was that enchanted. Yes definitely enchanted. She smiled again.

‘Food, I mean.’

‘Oh,’ she giggled, ‘and I thought we were going to have one for the road.’

‘You need another drink?’ He grinned as he led her toward the door. ‘I don’t think so.’

‘When did Ian leave?’ She couldn’t remember if he had left or not.

‘He’s still here’ Christian pointed to Ian and her assistant producer Tom chatting on the darkened set around the kitchen counter.

‘Oh I need to say good-bye.’

‘No you don’t. Trust me.’

She looked back over her shoulder as Christian picked up her jacked and bag. Tom and Ian were very close it seemed, and they shouldn’t be because in theory he should be only reporting in to her. She was confused. She wondered if Tom was complaining about her. It wouldn’t surprise her, she was constantly mean to him. Not that she meant to be. She saw them both look her way and the pang of paranoia intensified.

She turned to Christian.

‘Take me home.’ She purred as best she could. And then hiccuped.

An hour later she was half naked, vomiting in her bath with a married man asleep in her bed. This was her life. Successful by day, drunk by night.

Chapter 3 – Victoria & Her James

13 Dec

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Victoria had been seeing him for just over 4 months. James Warner-Hughes, 23 from Surrey. Father a surgeon, mother a physiotherapist. 2 brothers (older) living quietly in Kensington, and of course, the family holiday home in Tuscany.

He was stunningly handsome and had an awesome job as blog editor at a small indie record label in Camden. Achingly – painfully – hip, his tiny frame accentuated by the smallest, tightest pair of red jeans Victoria had ever seen. He was never without his bowler hat, fags or slightly awkward swagger. He drank whiskey, discussed politics and played in an experimental band consisting of a light show, turn-tables and a violin player called ‘Tryst’. Sometimes he wore glitter on his face.

The last time she saw him, they met in London Fields, he was already a little bit drunk, but she had her big news to share and planned to play catch up ASAP. And there he was, speaking with his university friend Tom. Hands flying about, gesticulating in that Cambridge educated way he did – all liberal (but inadvertently Tory) opinions and sexy arrogance.

‘Darling.’ He kissed her forehead as she arrived outside the Cat and Mutton. ‘How is my darling?’

All around were swarms of fashionable young twenty-somethings, pints in hand, reveling in the very slightly-warmer-than-fucking-freezing spring evening. The girls were intimidatingly beautiful, all vintage fashion with huge fake furs, thick fringes and red lipstick. Victoria couldn’t keep up with fashion that didn’t talk to her with specifics – precise direction – from the pages of a glossy weekly. She relied heavily on the whats hot/what’s not section of Grazia rather than the pages of French Vogue. And she hated the smell of vintage clothing, and the girls who wore it – they just looked so …. dirty.

She beamed at James, her heart and head swimming with warm, pure joy and love. And filthy horn, of course.

‘I got the job!’. She was so happy, she might burst.

‘Awesome darling. Just awesome. We MUST celebrate!’ ‘You know Tom, right, but have you met James? He works at Vice.’

‘You’re both called James?’ Victoria laughed, noting they both sported the same pencil moustache.

‘Yes,’ her James replied and without a hint of jest, ‘luckily the similarity ends there.’ He reached for his wallet.

‘Oh, I’ll get it. I feel like bubbly anyway. Can I get you a drink?’

‘A pint would be great, thank you.’ the other James smiled warmly, then sucked back on his rolly cigarette.

‘Thanks babes, you’re the best.’ Her James kissed her again. ‘Peroni please.’

Victoria didn’t feel comfortable letting him spend money on her. Despite his families incredible wealth, he was earning so very little at the magazine, and he was always to grateful to her for helping out where she could.

Back outside, she could feel the chill seeping into her bones.

Her James had a small group around him now, she stood quietly and insecure, as they discussed a band she’d never heard of, all the while her James’ arm firmly fixed around her waist.

‘So, what do you do?’ She asked Helen, the only other girl in the circle. Helen had a big mane of blonde hair, and the sharpest fringe she ever saw. Her make up was as bold and blunt as her personality. She terrified Victoria with all her edges. Her edgy edginess.

‘I have a cupcakes and handmade underwear stall on the market here. I’m setting up a small business. It’s called ‘C-Cups and Cakes’.’ Helen smiled. ‘And you?’

‘I work in television,’ Victoria replied joyously. Helen looked slightly bemused.

‘Oh nice.’ Before quickly adding, ‘I don’t really watch television. We have one in our flat – but it’s only really for watching films.’

‘Oh good’. Victoria giggled. ‘You won’t miss Twilight 3.’

Helen raised the corners of her mouth ever so slightly. Victoria had met girls like her before – and they were not the kind, homely types you’d expect from someone with a fondness of peach frosting. They were the new generation of entrepreneurs. She had a personal brand. A collection of vintage jewelry. She dated 30 year olds. She smelled like mothballs. She looked down on girls like Victoria. Her James quickly chimed in from nowhere –

‘Victoria wants to make documentaries, she just got her first step in that direction’

‘Oh,’ Helen looked very interested, ‘really, where are you working then?’

‘Bear Productions’ Victoria said meekly.

‘I’ve never heard of it – what have they made?’

‘Um.. Pirate Island.’ Victoria blushed, ‘I mean, they do kinda shit tele really, but it’s just a start- you know?’

‘I can imagine.’ She exhaled smoke just slightly shy of Victoria’s face, ‘I mean, I can’t really imagine working for someone else….’

‘Just a stepping stone, eh Vic?’ James was looking slightly protective.

‘Well, yes – but still, it’s a good place to start.’ She turned back to Helen ‘I would love to run a sweet little stall in the east end, though. Must be such a fun thing to do.’

‘Well, yes.’ Said Helen. Anger.

‘And.. ‘ continue Victoria, ‘you know, good luck with that.’

She turned to the duet of James’ – ‘Drink, chaps?’

Chapter 2 – Sophie And the Hangover Horrors

12 Dec

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Sophie sat at her desk, tired and hungover after yet another evening on the devil’s juice. That’s what they all called it, and for good reason. It was like an IV shot of impending doom. Glasses and glasses of cold, dry white wine and several dozen fags outside the Clachan pub huddled round an outdoor heat lamp bitching about their bosses, their friends and their single status before stumbling home onto the towards their various unsatisfactory living quarters.

But Sophie had had a good run recently. She had bought a 2 bedroom house with a little garden in Hackney’s more gentrified area, so things were not all bad. She certainly had ticked house off the marriage, house, kids list which was a start.

The marriage part was certainly in question since she struggled to get to the prerequisite of having a man, and her messy break up with Chris had put all things romantic on the back burner for the meantime.

But today was a huge day as they were officially moving into production the scripted reality show ‘Hip Replacement’ – a quirky peek into the lives of 6 Shoreditch trendies.

‘Day One: Let the madness begin. #icantbelieveitshappening #tvrules’ she tweeted to her 479 followers.

There was so much to do. She had to find a casting director first thing this morning. And an actual director. And a very very good Production Manager since her budget was ‘tight as a nun’s fanny’ (as Ian Langley would say) and she didn’t have the luxury of time since Channel 6 wanted the launch to happen mid November. She needed to write briefs for these roles and advertise. She needed to speak to the lawyers about the structure of ‘scripted reality’ contracts. She must do that first, actually. She needed to clear all the crap cluttering her office from the ‘Pirate Island’ shoot which had finally been cancelled after several exhausting seasons. And there was the ongoing management of British Kitchen, Spun Out and Clink. and Speaking of which, she needed a production schedule ASAP so she knew when all those tasks were to be completed by. The task list felt insurmountable. She logged into Facebook.

A gentle knock at her door and fucking Penny ducked her head around the corner.

‘The new girl, Victoria is here. Shall I send her in?’

‘Sorry?’

Fucking Penny sighed, ‘Victoria Williams is here for the trial of junior production assistant ’

Sophie quickly closed Facebook trying to ignore what she thought she had just read.

‘Yeah, um, sure’ Sophie took a breath. ‘Of course, send her in’.

Victoria appeared at the door almost immediately with a nervous smile. She had a huge over-sized Chloe bag on her arm, looked impeccably (if ridiculously) turned out, and was clutching a large Costa Coffee with a trail of what looked like egg yolk down her trench.

‘Hi Victoria, please take a seat.’ She said, immediately noticing a pile of fake peg-legs and pirate swords in the way. ‘Just shove that shit over there’.

A full minute of comedy followed with Victoria awkwardly juggling coffee and a collapsed pile of pirate props which she then managed to trip on and just catch the cup before it spilled down her front and all over Sophie’s desk.

‘Sorry sorry, oh god’ Victoria’s cheeks were red as a spanked bum.

‘It’s fine, just don’t break anything,’ warned Sophie. Then remembering her first job would be to clear all this stuff up and dump it in the skip, she quickly joked ‘it’s worth a small fortune.’

Victoria smiled nervously again. She was beginning to irritate Sophie, but then all the young ones did.

‘Did you get in okay this morning’

‘Yes, fine thank you’ she said ‘I really like the tube. It’s so easy and efficient.’

Sophie tried not to smirk. ‘Well, that won’t last.’

‘I guess you’re right’ Victoria’s phone was vibrating. Sophie took a little pleasure in watching her panic as she tried to find it and switch it off.

‘Well look, welcome aboard. There is lots to do. We’ve just had Hip Replacement commissioned, here is the overview, read it. We are going to move into production right away. That means there is a mountain to climb so I need you to help me get all this stuff from Pirate’s cleared away – Penny will tell you where – then when you’re done you can join me in the meeting room – the one on the right by the main door – for the production kick off. Your desk is just out there beside Tom’s. That’s Tom out there with the dark hair and glasses. Penny will set you up on your email. Oh and a coffee. Would you mind getting me one, and a bacon roll from next door? I’ve got a wretched hangover. Penny can show you how to expense it.’ She stopped. ‘Sorry, it’s just really crazy right now.’

‘I understand’ Victoria stood, ‘How do you take your coffee?’

‘Intravenously’ Sophie laughed, ‘White, skinny milk, no sugar. Thank you so much.’

Sophie sat for a moment with her fingers on the keyboard. She reopened Facebook. She skimmed down the news feed again and there it was, clear as day.

Christopher Whitcombe is now in a relationship.

Chapter 1 – Victoria & The First Day

10 Dec

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It was her first day. She had preened, plucked, smoothed, curled then smoothed again. Her bedroom floor (her aunt’s lounge) was like a top shop change room at rush hour, despite the fact she had carefully laid out her outfit from the night before. The outfit she had spent her most of her last two hundred quid on, and the last two hours perfecting with accessories galore (the only thing that separates man from the beasts, her friend Charlie used to say). She tiptoed over the mess and scribbled hastily on a post it note ‘Sorry about the mess, love V.’

She pulled her beige rip-off Burberry trench on and stopped one last time to look into the mirror. Perfect. She looked a just perfect mix of creative and professional. Fashionable but practical. She was trendy and put together, but had that wonderful air of effortlessness she thought as she added a forth bracelet.

Out she skipped into the wonderful spring morning, the world at her feet, 24 pounds in her wallet, fresh pink lipstick, her ipod set to full volume and headed out to catch the train into London, and eventually, she dreamed, her new, amazing, incredible, worthy role as junior production assistant at Bear Productions Ltd, subsidiary of Stargaze Productions part of some parent company from Spain who made feminine hygiene products. The glamour was overwhelming.

She filed in through the turnstiles, elbow to elbow with other professionals. Middle aged men with suits reading the metro or the Daily Mail. Girls with big blond manes, tight suits and heels wearing too much make up texting on Blackberrys. Creative plus forties blokes with greying hair, dark leather shoes, jeans and hip jackets reading The Guardian on their ipads (some in a flat cap hiding the balding they were not quite ready to accept). Return-to-work mothers, practical but uncool, in sneakers, stockings and dark pencil skirts looking endlessly stressed as they recounted the exit procedure at home to recall if the iron was off.

Leaning casually against the doors, listening to music and dreaming of the life that lay ahead, Victoria pictured her day. Beaming producers welcoming her into the team as jealous interns asked her if she would like a cup of tea. She smiled.

Last year when she had graduated she sent an email in large red font to the Managing Director, Ian Langley of Bear. It read simply ‘I’m a great idea that isn’t working’ and had a link to her Linkedin page, complete with a photo of her from a hen night in Brighton last summer.

At around 9pm that evening she had gotten an email back which read ‘Cll my assistant Penny to set up a quick call and we can tlk.’

She thought he sounded wonderfully busy with the all that bad grammer and initiated the contact with Penny right away. Everything after that happened so quickly. After a five minute call she was handed to someone called Sophia, the senior producer, who asked for her CV and what her ‘career plans’ were. Victoria knew the answer to that immediately.

‘One day, I want to make factual documentaries’’ she declared.

‘Not fictional ones, then?’

‘No, definitely factual.’ Victoria missed the joke.

Okay, we need someone to coordinate the post on scripted reality show’ Sophie said with the matter of fact air of someone who had been doing it for years. Victoria noted the disinterest in her voice and became instantly envious that she was not that experienced, tired, old and bored.

‘l’m happy to do anything’ declared Victoria once again.

‘Okay, well come her Monday at 10:00am, ask for me at reception. Its the big grey building with a massive Pirate statue in the window. Try not to be late as we are crazy busy. We’ll do a 1 month trial, with no promises. Got that?’

‘Thank you so much,’ She gushed, ‘really, I’m so grateful. See you on Monday.’

‘Okay, take care Vanessa – oh I’m so sorry, Victoria.’ Sophie stammered slightly, ‘Sorry, I have a cousin… ‘

Victoria felt the train slow as it pulled into Waterloo and her excitement was uncontainable. First, she would order a Latte from Costa coffee, and perhaps a croissant. She wondered what would look the most professional. A fruit cup? What she wanted was a bacon sandwich and was delighted to discover it was London’s breakfast of choice ‘on-the-run’. Ooooh, with a runny egg. Life was grand.