Thursday, August 23, 2012

JB-san To the Rescue - Part 5 - A Hero Rises (Slowly)

I am too young - just barely - to have followed those Saturday morning serials like Flash Gordon, where at the end of each episode it seemed certain the hero was about to meet their doom, only to miraculously escape almost certain demise and come back to fight the following week.

Today, we like our heroes a bit darker, so we need them muddied up a bit before they reappear.  I am old enough to remember a time that when you wondered about the fate of a certain Batman, all you needed to do was bring your youthful certainly that good would always prevail to this same "Bat time" and same "Bat Channel." A "Ka-Boom!" and a "Pow" later, all was right with the world, before it went wrong again.

Each hero today must have his or her "forty days in the wilderness," must have not only their life but their very soul challenged by everything and everyone from the Devil to the Borg*.

A dark side of Snow White?  Really?

"The Temptation of JB-san" lasted something briefer than 40 glasses of Jack Daniels, but not by much.

I did not have to avoid the seduction of Satan (though if she were cute, I most assuredly would have succumbed), nor did I have to survive assimilation from which "resistance is futile" or climb up an incredibly high wall with my bare hands and then leap to my freedom.

I was more old-school, and when JB-san did rise, it was after about the fourth phone call and with an serious hangover.

The first call went to my voice mail.  It was from Mr. K's assistant, a nice young lady.

"Hello, JB-San.  Know last night was a bad night.  Get some rest.  Hope to see you soon!  Give us a call."

Yeah, right.  When I get up, I have to look up the word "Quit" in Korean.

The second call was from my Korean assistant translator.  She left a very sweet and very sad voice message saying that she was sorry I was gone and hoped I would reconsider.

Geez, she was so sweet, it made me feel bad.  But, really, I had made up my mind.  I would call and explain it to her later.

An appeal to my heart.

The phone rang again.  Better I explain it to her now.

It wasn't her.  It was Mr. K.  He was very understanding, and he said if I would change my mind, he would be the go-between dealing with the South Korean crew, and I would only have to deal with him. Oh, by the way, he understood with all the long hours, I would need to be compensated in my weekly envelope.

An appeal to my greed.

The money was good, but I didn't see how I could come back.  After all, I had my pride.  Oh, and could I just get some sleep.  You folks can stop calling me.

A little while later, and the phone again.  This time it was Peter.

"JB, I understand if you don't want to come back. Nobody could blame you. I just want to tell you I appreciate all that you taught me.  There's a lot here, and I don't know everything you know, but I'll do my best.  I just wanted you to know we'll all miss you."

Then, the worst.

"I really look up to you, JB."

The Hell with Kryptonite, you want to take a guy down, there is no more time-honored weapon than guilt.  Yeah, I had taught him a lot, like how to quit and walk out on his team when things got tough.

Regardless of position on a staff or crew on a film, there are times you hang in there simply for the people around you.  It's one thing if you are easily replaceable, and no one is irreplaceable - after all, they fire directors and lead actors in extreme circumstances.

This wasn't big picture, though, and Peter, and to a lesser extent, Hakim, were going to have to do a lot more work with a lot less back-up with me gone.

I gave Peter some instructions to get him going for the day, and I could hear the smile in his voice.

"I don't know how soon I'll be in, Peter, but...."

Peter jumped in. "Doesn't matter.  Whenever you can get here is great, just great!  See you later, JB!"

I think he wanted to get off the phone before I changed my mind.

Time for that cold shower.

I didn't ride in on a suped-up vehicle, but a yellow cab.  There was that walk back to my desk, and smiles and hand shakes exchanged, and, thankfully, not a lot of words. Its one of those times when most of what anyone says on either side is awkward.

Just move on.

Among our bigger challenges yet to come was a hotel lobby that we had to take over.  The SK crew had money, but not the type of money the hotels wanted for their lobby, and the old courthouse down by the Brooklyn Bridge, which I had used for an elaborate lobby or mansion because of its chandelier and marble staircase, didn't work for the director; not that the MOFTB was anxious to give it to us.

I had pulled out the big guns, and while we weren't in a position to hire him, I leaned on a location manager friend, Mitch, to help us with this and a few of the tougher locations.  It was purely a favor to me, though Peter would follow up with him.

One morning I noticed Peter a little shaken after getting off the phone with Mitch, who is Jewish.  It was a High Holy Day, and Peter should not have been calling him, which Mitch now had made clear to Peter.  Another mea culpa for me to offer.

A few days later, before I had a chance to call him, Peter tells me that Mitch is on the phone for me.  I am about to apologize when Mitch offers one of the funniest un-PC things I've ever heard.

"You know, you should be careful.  We killed your God once, we can do it again."

Mitch, who is also an accomplished harmonica player and guitarist, happens to be one of the funniest and sincerely nicest guys around.  He once stood on his head on my desk to get my attention when he needed to leave on a scout on another shoot and I was dealing with something else.  He always had the perfect way to make me laugh (he still does) and break the tension in an difficult situation.  This time, he outdid himself.

The shoot crawled to it's conclusion, and Peter and Hakim would work with me on other projects, including Paper Blood.

Oh, and the part about things that start silly end silly?  Big Mr. K was very interested in having a nice wrap party for the American crew.  I explained that the important things about crew wrap parties was free alcohol and the discretion to forget who went home with whom.  Big Mr. K thought that too simple, and had an elaborate sit-down dinner at a too-nice Korean restaurant.  The idea was very nice, but the crew sitting around in a fancy restaurant - eating Korean food, of all things -  wasn't their idea of a wrap party.  The crew thought it odd, and Big Mr. K silently resented the crew's lack of appreciation.

Much like the shoot, too much money spent and nobody happy.

Still, lost in translation.

Big Mr. K did take me to another dinner another day to talk about doing another project.

"This one will be different," he promised.  "We will get it right from the start."

Sorry, Big Mr. K, but there would be no sequel to this action adventure.  Sometimes, the hero needs to know when to ride off.

*Picard. Star Trek Enterprise. You want me to start explaining every cultural reference, these posts are going to get even longer - and brevity has never been one of my strong suits, as regular readers have figured out.

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