Willow was nervous. In fact, she was so nervous she had to fight to keep her body from shaking. This was her first film-production, which meant filming out of sequence. Before, she had only done work on the stage, which had a very distinct way of storytelling. Beginning - middle - end. But this... this was another beast entirely. This production was to be shot in chunks rather than as a chronological whole. And even though she had been given a locked script and had been given a booklet showing the entire storyboard, the prospect was still more than a little daunting.
Still, Miss Maclay had chosen her, her of all those actresses that had read for the part. And Willow had no intention to let her down.
But then again, there were a lot of people running around, which made Willow slightly nervous.
The little suburb was nice enough, but there were crew everywhere. She had never expected so many people to work on a movie production. Most activity was at the make-up trailers, where the other actors were already being treated and dressed. Techies were setting up equipment here and there, while the caterers were running back and forth bringing everyone the breakfasts that would otherwise be skipped.
Willow had had very little sleep last night, which was not a good thing because today would be a very long day. She had spend extra time going over the script again and again to get a good feel for her character. Rosemary was a young woman who was new to the neighborhood after having run away from an unhappy and abusive relationship. No problem relating to that, Willow thought to herself, before pushing those feelings away. In any case, Rosemary was still recovering from the abuse and trying to rebuild her life... and that was when she would run into two serial killers. The key to her character was that she was the only one who knew (or would come to realize) that both of them were in fact, serial killers, before either of them would know.
"Hey, you're Willow, right?" sounded behind her. She turned around to see a tall and haughty brunette staring at her.
"Uh, yeah. Hi?"
"Okay, we're behind schedule, so we have to get you dressed immediately," the woman said. "My name is Cordelia Chase, but you may refer to me as miss Chase. Now, let's get you into some clothes."
Before Willow could respond, Cordelia practically pulled her into the trailer and pushed her behind the dressing screen. "Now," she said, presenting Willow with her costume. "I went out to the local mall to get these. Your character is young and is trying to find herself, so I changed these clothes accordingly. I ripped some parts of these Levi's, but I ripped them in unfashionable places. You'll also be wearing this pink turtleneck, but I've embroidered some patterns in it and you'll see that the colors clash, so the viewers will know that something's off without it being obvious."
Willow didn't argue, but changed into her costume.
"Perfect," said Cordelia as she stepped out. Cordelia tugged on the sweater and tugged a little at the belt. "But then again, you're already fashion-challenged in real life, so you shouldn't have any problems. But you have lovely hair, honey, so don't worry about it."
Willow found herself pushed out of the trailer and guided towards the make-up trailer. "Off with you. Xander's turn to work his magic on you."
Gee, I hope he's nicer than you. Sheesh, Willow pouted. Fashion bitca...
And then Willow saw her. Tara. She came speeding down the road on a racing bicycle, her honeyblonde hair whipping in the wind.
It was early morning and Tara arrived on the set in style. Tara hated cars, so she travelled either by subway, bus or, preferably, a bike. Of course, Angelica insisted that Tara'd buy a sportscar, and, as usual, Tara had given in. One of the most satisfying things about her break-up with Angelica, aside from the return of her many horror-memorabilia, was that she had traded in her red porsche for a red racing bike.
She handed her bike to one of the gaffers and surveyed the set. Things were looking good and shooting could begin in mere minutes. Setdressers and techies had already been working yesterday to set up the camera tracks, the lighting and audio equipment and preparing the outside locations. Buffy's crew had been at work putting 'additions' to the houses they'd shoot, so their exterior would match the interior sets better.
"Sorry I'm a bit late," Tara said. "I had to check in on Buffy and the studio sets. How are things here?"
The heads of several departments started talking to her all at once. Tara interrupted them and told them to speak in turn. While she was listening to their reports, however, she noticed Willow standing in the back, apparently debating wether or not she should come over and talk to her.
Tara decided to make the decision for her. "Excuse me a moment," Tara told her assistants. "I think my leading lady needs to speak to me."
Willow hear Tara and blushed slightly.
"Hello, Willow, nice to see you again," Tara smiled at her, making Willow blush even more. "Are you okay? You look a bit flushed."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, I, just, uh," Willow stammered.
"Come," Tara smiled and led Willow to a more quiet spot near the make-up trailer, away from the main bustle.
"I, uh, I just wanted to, uhm... Wait, before I say anything, I'm not toadying or anything, but... I just wanted to thank you for giving me a chance. I always get so nervous at auditions... and when I get nervous, I turn into the biggest spaz on the planet. You saw me at the audition... I usually don't get much work outside of the stage, well, ever. So, I wanted to thank you for the opportunity. And, uhm, I just wanted to know I'm going to do my very, very best and I won't let you down."
"I know, Willow," Tara smiled. "Relax, you'll do fine. But you must go into the make-up trailer now, or we won't be able to shoot. Well, we will be able to shoot, but your face will look shiny on film," Tara joked.
"Oh, alright!" Willow gasped. "I'll, um, go to see Xander right now. Thanks again, miss Maclay."
"Oh, Willow!" Tara called after Willow. "Please just call me Tara. Everybody else does."
Willow nodded and smiled before walking off to the make-up trailer.
I swear, she gets cuter by the minute, Tara thought before a clipboard was pressed into her hands. It was a stack of invoices for her to sign. Though it wasn't really her job, Anya always made sure Tara'd get the invoices and bills shoved under her nose so she'd have an idea of budget and costs.
Shooting would take 10 days, 8 of which in the studio, and two on location. Anya had weighed the budget and with rent and permits, had decreed that two days were enough to shoot the day and night exterior scenes. With any other crew, Tara would have thought that to be impossible, but she just knew hers would pull it off. Tara got ready for a long day of shooting, for they needed to do as many scenes and shots as possible at once. To that end, she'd made sure that all her actors had met the previous day, so they could get comfortable around each other.
But, no more time to waste. Tara headed out to her director's chair to film the first scene. Willow was already on her spot. The first scene was a simple introductory scene of the characters Rosemary and Bruce to start off easy.
"Alright," Tara called out. "Light ready? Camera ready? All mobile phones off, or I swear I'll throw then into the nearest pond! Let's go, people. Action!"
"Yeah, yeah," Rosemary looked away from Bruce. "I just moved in... couple of days ago."
Bruce, who had been jogging, took off his sweatband and took a few deep breaths. "Oh, the old Steadman house. I've heard there was a new tenant. So, where are you from, Rosemary?"
"Uh, well, I," Rosemary hesitated for a moment. "Reno. Reno, actually. Lived there for five years, till I figured it was time to move on."
"Reno?" Bruce chuckled. "I bet you're gonna have to get used to the quiet, then. Nothing much happens around here. Unless you count crazy miss Drimple's cat catching fire."
"Huh?" Rosemary gasped. "That's awful!"
"Nah," Bruce chuckled. "It's a pinyata. She's had her cat freeze-dried after it died and she leaves it out in the sun too long."
"Oh," Rosemary smiled. "Well... I can use a little peace and quiet, in any case."
"Need some help carrying these boxes inside?"
"Uh, no, no," Rosemary said quickly. "I'll, uh, I'll manage. Thank you."
"Suit yourself," Bruce put on his headband again and prepared to jog on. "See you around, neighbor."
"Thank you," Rosemary smiled. "Bye!"
"CUT!" Tara yelled. Immediately, all the people gathered around the two actors started moving and working all at once.
"Scene 5, take 3. Finished," shouted Tara's assistant.
"Okay," Tara added. "I want one more take of this scene after our break. Take five, everyone."
Willow smiled at Jimmy when he passed her. She, again, felt a bit intimidated by the huge number of people surround her. She'd already seen a huge crew this morning, but it only seemed to grow larger during shooting. On the stage, there'd be a technical crew of three, audio crew of two and a lighting crew of two. For this relatively simple scene of two people talking, there were more than sixty people buzzing around. People with microphones, people operating the cameras, people adjusting lights, people running back and forth from one department to another, a loud-mouth producer shouting into her cell-phone, make-up crew, costume crew... It was more than a little overwhelming. And it make Willow feel somewhat insecure.
Willow saw Tara walk towards a series of monitors set up near the make-up trailer for viewing of the shot materials.
"Faith?" Willow asked as she came across Faith and one of her crew pulling the camera back across the dolly track to reset the camera for the scene. "Can I ask you something?"
Faith adjusted her trademark cap. "Sure. As long as it doesn't involve the words 'money' and 'borrow' in the same sentence, we're five-by-five."
"I was just thinking about the scene we just did," Willow said. "Why did we have to do three takes? I mean, I'm just I must have gotten it right? Do you think I did something wrong?"
"Nah, don't worry about it," Faith smiled. "Tara's like that. Whenever there's a key scene, Tara likes shooting some extra takes, all of them slightly different. It helps her puts things together during editing. I wouldn't think to much about it."
Willow's relief was so obvious it made Faith smirk. "Don't worry, Willow. You're doing fine, and you're not letting Tara down. Hell, I bet she's very happy to have you around, beautiful."
"T-thanks," Willow blushed, but all the while wondering what Faith meant exactly.
"What do you think of Tara?" Faith cocked her head at Willow. "Do you like her?"
"I, uh, I'm very grateful for the opportunity she has given me, and I'm going to do my very best for her..."
"That's not what I asked, now did I?" Faith winked. "Do you like Tara?"
Willow frowned. "I, uh, I'm not sure what you mean, I..."
"ALRIGHT, PLACES EVERYONE!" shouted Tara's assistant. Willow apologized to Faith and rushed back to her place on the spot while Tara took her seat and the crew stepped out of frame.
"Okay," Tara said gently. "Willow, could you try to add a little more pathos in your act? You're in a new place, away from the only home you've ever known and this whole situation of moving into a new home is very surreal for you. Jimmy, you're trying to make her feel comfortable and are trying to win her trust. Feel free to lay it on a little thicker than the last time. Maybe even make it a little more flirty. Okay, let's roll."
"Scene 5, take 4! Action!"
"Yeah," Rosemary looked away from Bruce and remained quiet for a moment. "I, uh, just moved in couple of days ago."
Bruce, who had been jogging, took off his sweatband. "Oh, the Steadman house. I've heard there was a new tenant. I'm sure you'll love it there. Where are you from, Rosemary, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Uh, well, I," Rosemary hesitated for a moment. "Reno. Reno, actually. Lived there for five years... Five years, until I... had to move on."
"Reno?" Bruce chuckled. "I bet you're gonna have to get used to the quiet, then. Nothing much happens around here. Unless you count crazy miss Drimple's cat catching fire."
"What?" Rosemary gasped. "That's awful!"
"Nah," Bruce said quickly. "You misunderstand. It's a pinyata. She's had her cat freeze-dried when it died and she leaves it out in the sun too long."
"Oh," Rosemary smiled. "I can use a little peace and quiet, right now."
"Need some help carrying these boxes inside? It's no problem."
"Uh, no, no," Rosemary said quickly. "I'll manage. Thank you."
"Suit yourself," Bruce put on his headband again and prepared to jog on. "See you around, gorgeous."
"Thank you," Rosemary smiled. "Bye," she said softly.
"CUT!" Tara smiled. "Well done, people. That's a wrap!"
After having several scenes under her belt, Willow once again found herself sitting in Xander's make-up chair. She liked Xander, she really did. He was funny and open, and always did his best to make her feel at ease. And Willow was grateful that Xander allowed her to relax a little. He had wonderful anecdotes about all kinds of backstage problems, including one about a light blowing out, which caused Cordelia's hair to catch fire.
"Did you hear about the one about the Gorilla that walked into the bar?" Xander asked Willow, while he was working on her.
"No," Willow giggled.
"Me neither!" Xander replied. "When you hear it, could you tell me too? I'm pretty curious about it."
Xander's make-up trailer was a big kid's playground. Willow was staring in a large mirror, flanked by shelves filled with monster-heads and all kinds of make-up colors, false hair and wigs. This trailer was a master's workshop, and special effects make-up was Xander's art.
Halfway through the story, Bruce would slice a deep gash across Rosemary's cheek with a combat knife, and since the episode was shot out of sequence, the make-up for this effect had to be applied on the very first day of filming. When Xander had started to work with smearing a mount of putting on her cheek, she wondered if it would ever work. But after Xander had applied the basic shape of the wound and played with different colors to create a sense of depth, and after he had applied the fake blood, Willow was staring her own sliced cheek in the mirror, and was pretty sure that if she'd stepped into any ER, she'd be rushed for emergency treatment.
"Et voila," Xander smiled. "One mutilated face pour madame."
"Thank you, kind sir," Willow joked. "For carving me up most horribly."
"It was my pleasure to mar your beauty," Xander said. "Would you like some fries with that?"
"No, thanks," Willow giggled. "I'll just eat it right here."
"Oh, before you go..."
"One for the album?"
Xander picked up a digital camera and took a few pictures of Willow. "Just a few reference shots, Willow," Xander said. "I'm going to have to reapply that fake wound a couple of times, and with a Hi-def reference picture, I know exactly where it starts and ends. Continuity is pretty important here, because this is gonna be on a DVD. And DVD-players have freeze frames. Crazed movie nerds all over the internet will be looking for continuity errors. Well, they won't catch me with my trousers."
"Thanks, Xander," Willow smiled. "I look great. Mutilated great."
"I can tell by the smile that you're having fun," Xander grinned. "Don't you just love horror? Just wait till you see what I have in store for the victims, Willow."
"There's some time left," Willow said. "Xander, can I ask you about Tara? How well do you know her?"
"Oh, have you got a couple of weeks?" Xander chuckled. "Me, Tara and Faith practically grew up together. Why do you ask?"
Willow shifted uncomfortably in the make-up chair. "A few hours ago, Faith asked if I 'liked' Tara."
"Well, there's a lot of Tara to like," Xander said. "She's creative, she's funny, she's devoted, she can quote all of Pinhead's lines by heart. What more could you want in a woman?"
"Someone nice," Willow looked thoughtfully. "Someone who respects you."
Xander nodded. "Tara's all that."
Willow was about to say more, but the call for the actors to appear on the set came from Tara's assistant. Xander wished Willow good luck, and when she left the trailer, Xander took out his cell phone to send Faith a text-message.
It wasn't even fully light yet, and Tara already had to put out the first brushfire.
Tara could hear Faith and Anya shouting at each other from the other side of the set. They were at the 'namecalling'-stage already. Faith was accusing Anya of copulating with dollar bills, while Anya let her know in no uncertain terms in which bodily orifice Faith should shove the business-end of her camera.
"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" Tara broke in. "I won't have friends fighting here! Let's be professionals here, girls. Now, what's the problem?"
Immediately, Faith and Anya bombarded Tara with heated words and arguments.
"ALRIGHT!" Tara raised her voice. "Faith, you first."
"Tara, babe," Faith smiled sweetly. "I got this great idea for the introductory scene. We do a flyby sequence! We rent a helicopter and have it to fly low over the suburb. We'll swoop in from the forest and fly towards Rosemary's house along the road, until we settle on Rosemary looking out from the window of her house. How's that for a slice of fried gold, Tara? All we need is a chopper, an able pilot and, uh, well, a long-distance professional steady-cam with a wide-angle lens."
"What Faith-erico Fellini doesn't want to see," Anya broke in. "Is that the cost involved far exceeds the gains."
"How can you put a price on ART, you one-track-minded AMT-machine sodomiser?!"
"Rent of the chopper, rent of the pilot... and I don't even want to think about the permits involved. And what Faith didn't tell you is that we don't actually have a long-distance professional steady-cam with a wide-angle lens. We'll have to rent one, and the rent for one day is about as much as the chopper, the pilot and the permits combined! And all this for 7,5 seconds of film! I just can't clear this, Tara. It's not cost effective."
"Tara, say something! Kick her ass!"
"Tara, do the sensible thing here."
Tara thought for a moment. "Well, Faith, we're trying to sell this as an LA suburb. And this is obviously a Canadian forest. I'm afraid that if we show too much of the surroundings and the suburb itself, the viewers will know we're not in the US."
Anya smiled smugly while Faith pouted slightly.
"I do love the idea, though," Tara rubbed her chin. "Faith, could we do this as a drive-by? We could mount the camera on one of the vans and film at half speed. We'll play with projection speeds a little so we can actually accentuate the sleepy suburb atmos."
"Yes," Faith said. "We can use our main camera for that. I'd only need to rent a better wide-angle lens."
"If that's our only cost," Anya said... reluctantly. "I could live with that."
"There," Tara smiled. "Solved!"
"Look, uh," Faith turned to Anya. "I sorry about that thing I said about you and a wad of 100 dollar bills."
"Yeah, I," Anya admitted. "I'm sorry too. I'm sure your bowels are very photogenic."
Tara smiled. One problem solved, at least a 100 more to go today. A director's life was never an easy one. If her career ever went south, she could always find work as either a mediator or a psychologist.
"Hi!" Willow was greeted by a hyperkinetic brunette with a permanent smile. Of course, at the moment, she was wearing the same costume as Willow and was being fitted with a long red wig. "I'm Dawn Summers. Call me Dawnie. I'll be your stunt-double today... and any other day."
Willow shook hands with Dawn and chatted a little with her. The day had passed quickly and they were already preparing for the final shot today, which was also the final exterior shot. It was also the most complicated one. In the story, Rosemary had escaped from her captor and had managed to escape to the roof of his house. To get away, she would have to make a daring jump to the lawn below.
The camera's were set up. One was raised on a platform next to the roof for the close-up shots and another was pointed to the front of the house, from a certain distance.
The first thing Willow noticed is that Dawn was an absolute safety-freak. She'd expected a certain recklessness from a stuntwoman, but Dawn was nothing of the sort. She double, triple and quarter-checked the safety harness, tested the airmat two times and discussed the stunt with Tara for what seemed like an hour.
When cast and crew were ready to shoot, Willow was standing on the roof of the house. Of course, she was strapped into a safety harness and a lifeline, both tucked away underneath her sweater.
"Action!" said Tara.
In blind panic, Rosemary ran to the edge of the roof. She took in a sharp breath when she heard Andy ramming his hand through the attic window. Suppressing the urge to scream, Rosemary frantically searched for a way out, but found no easy way down.
Bruce started to crawl out onto the roof, and Rosemary knew she had to make a decision now. She stared down at the lawn below, and knew what she had to do. She closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths...
Willow was released from the safety harness and was helped down to the ground. Dawn was brought up to the roof and stood at the same position Willow had been standing earlier. The moment Tara called 'Action', Dawn jumped down... rather clumsily. But looks were deceiving. At the very last moment, Dawn twisted her body in the air for an easy and safe fall on the blue mat on the lawn.
The crew applauded and set up for the next stunt. In this stunt, Dawn would jump from a low platform and simulate the landing on the lawn. Though it would look as if Dawn would have made a landing after a two-story fall, in reality she would have only have fallen for about three feet in extreme close-up.
And thus it went. Dawn ended up sprawled on the lawn. After Tara yelled 'Cut', Willow was lain on the lawn in exactly the same position as Dawn had been a few moments ago.
Rosemary groaned as her body protested from the pain. It was a rough landing, but she would have to keep moving. She had to get away. Rosemary hissed in pain as she got to her feet and limped away from the house, slowly at first, but faster as soon as she could.
She had to get away. Her life depended on it.
Andy! His lights were on! He would help her. He HAD to help her. In sheer desperation, Rosemary limped to his house, never looking back.
"CUT!" Tara called. "Thanks everybody! That's a wrap. We're done for today."
The crew applauded, both for Willow and for Dawn. Willow was confident that Hollywood magic would make these entire scene look very cool.
Today had been a very long first day. Filming had started early and lasted through a good part night. But this was the last day they'd do exterior shots, so the cast was allowed to sleep late... or at least a little later... Still, Willow had some questions about the scripts and as she looked out of the window of her trailer, she noticed the light was still on in Tara's trailer.
After gathering up her courage, Willow left her trailer to go to Tara.
"Oh," Willow pouted when she arrived at Tara's trailer and found that a sign which said 'Do not disturb' hung from the doorhandle.
"Hey," she heard the voice of Faith behind her. After turning around, she found Faith sitting on a bench a few feet away, calmly drawing on a cigarette. "She's probably just watching the dailies. It's okay for you to go in, though," Faith winked at her. "Don't worry. Tara needs very little sleep on shooting days."
"Uh, thanks," Willow replied, briefly wondering what Faith meant to say, and knocked on the door. "Uh, Tara? It's Willow. Can I come in, please?"
"Enter!" Tara called.
Willow did so, and found herself in a miniature studio. Aside from a lazy couch and a bed, the rest of the trailer was filled with a large monitor and professional looking viewing tools. Tara was sitting behind the monitor, watching the takes of today. A laptop had a prominent place on a desk next to the monitor. Aside from that, there was a stack of DVD's lying next to a TV-DVD combo.
"Hi, Tara," Willow said. "I'm not disturbing anything, am I?"
"Never," Tara said. "I'm almost finished cataloguing the dailies. I was planning to e-mail my dad and go to bed."
"If I'm a bother, I could just go an ask you tomorrow..."
"Nah, don't worry," Tara smiled. "Dad can wait. He knows I'm shooting right now. I'll e-mail him tomorrow. He doesn't have a cell-phone, you see? He thinks the government uses cell-phones in their mind-control experiments or something. But, your question?"
"It's, uhm, about the script. I have some questions about some scenes that's on the list today," Willow started. "It's this unchronological order in shooting. It's so different than I'm used to, but I've studied the script through and through before we started shooting and I think I figured out what made this character tick. I'm just scared I get confused and mess up continuity. So I took the script and wrote down notes of when in the script Rosemary learns of certain elements of the plot so I can keep track of how I need to act and respond to what's going on during the scene."
"Let me put that fear to rest right now," Tara smiled, inviting Willow to sit down on the couch. "I've just been watching the dailies and I have to say that you've nailed Rosemary completely. Seriously, Willow, you're a much better actress than you give yourself credit for."
Willow's only reply was a deep blush.
"I meant it, Willow," Tara said. "Continuity is so very important here, because the feeling we want to achieve is one of slow dawning horror. The viewer will know what's going on from the first couple of minutes, but Rosemary will only slowly start piecing things together. That's the fiction between viewer and character that creates the tension, and that's why need continuity between scenes."
"That's what's so hard," Willow said. "I mean, we might be shooting a scene in which Rosemary knows everything that's going on around her, and five minutes later, we could shoot a scene in which she's completely clueless. It's confusing."
"Willow, you're doing fine," Tara said. "More than fine. Just keep the script in mind when you do the scene, like you're already doing. Willow, take it from a director: you have real talent. But if you like, I'll free up some time early tomorrow morning to go over some of the script with you."
Willow looked away and blushed.
Tara smiled and sat down next to Willow.
"Hey," she whispered softly. "And stop blushing. It'll shine right through your make-up," she said, offering a half-smile which seemed to comfort Willow.
"Thanks," Willow replied. "It's just nice to hear that someone appreciates my acting for a change."
Tara frowned. "Why do you say that?"
"My parents," Willow sighed. "I was always an honor student. Everything for the grade. I had no life outside of school, not even one friend. Mom and dad were always pressuring me to get better grades, join more clubs to put on my resume... and when I finished high-school, they wanted me to apply for law-school. And I did, but I hated every moment of it. I sorta go into acting by accident, when I picked drama as a minor. I loved it from day one. And by the end of the first year, I spent more time doing drama than anything else. It was something I really wanted to do, Tara. You see, when I'm there, on the stage... I can become someone else. I can be the queen of the elves one day, a snooty debutante the other day. Maybe a super hero, or a cop. Or a villainous vampire. Anything's possible."
"And Willow," Tara asked gently. "Don't you want to be Willow?"
Willow looked away and thought for a moment.
"Most of the time," Willow sighed heavily. "I would rather just leave Willow behind and never go back to being her."
"Hey," Tara smiled and gently put her hand on Willow's shoulder.
"It's okay," Willow sniffed. "I think that hardest thing I've ever did was to tell my parents that I was dropping out of lawschool to become an actress. Of course, they were 'very disappointed' and practically disowned me. They were sure that cutting me off from their money would make me bend to their will... they were wrong. I got by. I got enough steady work in the theatre to pay the rent and live... not comfortably, but live. But, enough about Willow the Depressing One. I came here with a question about the script and here I done go and talk your ears off."
Willow rose from the couch. "I'm sorry, I..." Willow stammered and looked away. "I don't know why I'm telling you this. I never told anybody about this. I..."
"Hey," smiled Tara as she stood up and gently pushed her back to the couch again. "It's okay, Willow. I won't judge you."
"What about your parents, Tara? Do they approve of your career?" Willow asked.
Tara leaned back. "I think dad had a very good idea where I was headed. I was always making movies," Tara frowned. "I went to highschool with Faith and Xander, and we had this horror-movie club all set up. We had access to school video equipment and we made a couple of atrociously bad horror movies, and I'm talking bad with a capital B," Tara chuckled. "But we had so much fun making them. We cast friends and family as monsters or victims or heroes. I remember my brother once played a swampmonster. He was wearing this green wetsuit and this rubber halloween fish-mask."
"That must have been a sight," Willow giggled.
"Oh, yeah," Tara laughed. "Faith'd lay on the beach in a bikini and Donny'd step up all covered in sea-weed and do this 'Grrr, argh'-thingy while Faith'd play the scream queen. It was hilarious."
"Do you still have them?"
"I wouldn't throw away a piece of my cinematic history," Tara smirked. "But I sure as hell will make certain that nobody will ever see them... ever. But, we had some great times at our high-school horror club. Until some overly concerned parents got wind of it and had the schoolboard ban our club. Some religious cook or whatnot, said we were promoting devil worship in the school."
"Oh, no," Willow said. "What happened next?"
"As it turned out it was the best thing that ever happened to us," Tara smiled. "Of course, we kept making movies. My dad owns a pawnshop and he let us use some of the cameras he had in his store. The whole thing forced us to become a lot more professional. Our movies got longer and longer and our technique got better and better. Eventually, we got noticed by a local movie-buff festival and the rest is history. Me, Faith and Xander have been working together ever since."
"Are your parents proud of what you are doing?"
Tara thought for a moment. "I never knew my mom. She died when I was very young. But my dad is fine with it, as long as I make an honest living. And my brother is always lobbying to put in more blood and gore, so I guess he approves too. See," Tara said, putting her hand on Willow's shoulder, making the girl shudder slightly. "Now I know something of you, and you know something of me."
"Thanks, Tara," Willow smiled. "I feel better. I really do."
"I'm glad. Now, I think we both need to get some sleep. Busy day tomorrow."
"Sure," Willow replied as she stood up. "Goodnight, Tara."
Today would be the first day of shooting at the studio. And things couldn't be more different. Instead of outside, they'd be shooting in a huge studio hall which was right next to the trailer-village which had been set up for the cast and crew. The schedule was also a lot less hectic than it had been the past few days, so that Willow could withdraw to her trailer to rest or study the script and practise her lines when she wasn't needed on set.
But Willow couldn't resist sneaking a peek at the sets before shooting. She was amazed by the work Buffy and her crew had created. They had created a re-dressable set which looked so much like real interiors. It was almost surreal to step back and see that the walls were actually made from all-purpose plywood. Equally impressive was the garden-set. In one scene, Rosemary would be chased through a series of seven gardens... and there they stood, complete with real foliage, hedges, lawns, fences, sheds, ponds and even the odd doghouse. Of course, she wouldn't work on that set all that much, since Dawn would be doing much of those scenes.
She struck up a conversation with Buffy as she was adding the final details to the living room set. Willow found Buffy to be a nice and open woman, who was only too eager to talk about her trade.
"We made our best to furnish the sets with the characters in mind," Buffy said while she was debated with herself where to put a stylish ottoman. "You see, Andy's M.O. is strangling people with a piano-wire. He's a failed musician, but he still loves his craft, so we put in some small pictures of Handel, Mozart and some other classical composers. Everything's very neat and proper in his house. There's no stuff lying about, and the piano is the centerpiece of the room, the first thing you see when you step inside."
"It looks amazing," Willow let her eyes roam over the set. "You say you can redress these sets?"
"Oh, yeah," Buffy said. "It takes a while, though. So we'll be shooting out of sequence again. The scenes in Andy's house first, then Bruce's house, and then yours."
"What do the other sets look like when they're redressed?" Willow asked. She frowned for a moment and opened a small music box that stood on a table next to the black piano. It played a 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik'.
"Well, Bruce is more a young bachelor type. Lotsa stuff lying about, and I filled it up with some old furniture from a second-hand store. He's a slob too. Now, your house, that's a little different. Most of your stuff is, well, boxed. It sorta fits with your character's state at the moment. Rosemary is searching for herself and doesn't really feel at home yet. Most of her stuff is still in boxes and there's no indication she's in any hurry to unpack them."
"Yeah," Willow said. "That really fits Rosemary's character. She's feeling displaced and insecure. It makes sense she doesn't unpack anything but the most basic of necessities."
"The devil's in the details," Buffy said. "We want the interior to represent the character, and all our decisions are Tara-approved. She knows some viewers will be looking for these kinds of details... but mostly set-dressing is appealing to the subconscious. Some viewers will know something is off if we don't get the details right.
"This is all so amazing, and a little overwhelming," Willow said. "I've auditioned for so many TV and film productions, but I never dreamed I'd actually be part of one."
"Don't worry, you're doing great," Buffy said. "Tara thinks very highly of you."
Willow blushed slightly. "S-she does?"
"You sound surprised," Buffy replied. "Yeah, she talks about you all the time."
"I'm not really used to people thinking highly of me," Willow looked away. "I mean, my theatre friends are always nice, but..." Willow looked away. She didn't want to continue. "I'm sorry, I... I think I need to go back to my trailer to, uh, study the script a little."
"Okay, Willow," Buffy said, wondering if she might have said something wrong.
Tara sat in her chair after inspecting the sets and intent on studying a couple of department reports tied to a clipboard. Suddenly, her light was blocked. She looked up and saw Xander and Faith standing in front of her, looking rather smug.
"Settle a bet?" Faith grinned knowingly.
"Alright," smiled Tara. She could never deny her friends their joke. "I'll bite. What's the bet?"
"Willow's panties," Faith chuckled. "I'm betting she's a black lace kinda gal. Xander here thinks she's more of a classic white gal."
"What?!" Tara exclaimed.
"FAITH!" Xander snorted. "That's not what I said! And that's not what the bet is, Faith! We were talking about the color of her..."
"My bet is better," Faith interrupted Xander. "We're pretty sure you can find out for us. There's fifty bucks involved."
"Five bucks, Faith."
"That's right. Five-hundred bucks!"
Tara shook her head. "You're both insane."
"Come on, admit it!" Faith grinned. "You're attracted to her!"
"I am not!" Tara crossed her arms.
"We can tell," Xander nodded. "You've been driving her very hard. I mean, twelve takes for a simple dialogue scene? That's over the top, even for you."
"Hey, I just got out of a relationship and I'm not interested in another one," Tara sighed. "Enjoying my freedom here, guys. I don't want another Angelica in my life. Now if you're excuse me, I've got severed heads to inspect..."
"No, no, no, not so fast!" Xander said. "It's worth at least thinking about it, Tare. I mean, she's pretty cute."
"And she's nothing like Angelica," Faith said. "For one, she's actually got a soul."
"Well, if you like her so much Faith, why don't you chat her up?" Tara said. "Yes, I like Willow. She's a nice girl. And she's a superb actress. Even if I was interested in her, trying to seduce the leading lady of my film wouldn't be very professional on my part, now would it?"
"Cough...PaulVerhoevenAndSharonStone...Cough," Xander sputtered.
"What's gotten into you two," Tara sighed. "I'm busy, okay? We'll talk over lunch later."
As Faith and Xander left Tara to her work, they nodded to each other. "Me thinks she doth protest too much," Faith said.
"You've got the subtlety of a police battering ram to the head, Faith," Xander rolled his eyes.
And again, Anya and Tara had a massive fight. So much that it attracted the attention of the crew, who constantly looked in their direction while trying to seem busy.
"It's insane!" Anya shouted. "We don't need to fly in Veruca right now!"
"Yes, we do!" Tara shouted back. "Veruca's our composer! Do I need to remind you how important sound is to a horror film? Veruca needs to get a feel for the story and the environment!"
"We're only doing interior shots now," Anya retorted. "She can get a taste of the environment when we're in the editing phase, Tara."
"She can go to the suburb when we're filming!" Tara protested.
"Hey, she should have been here from the start," Anya said. "It's her own fault for not being here now."
"She got mauled by a rabid dog! What was she supposed to do?" Tara said. "Dammit, she's one of us, Anya! And since she'll be here for editing anyway, why not fly her in here now?"
"Let me explain this to you one more time," Anya said. "We've got a budget for pre-production, shooting and post-production. There's no more stretch in the shooting-budget, we're very tight. If Veruca comes, we need to pay her a high salary every day, hire her a trailer, feed and clothe her, rent extra audio equipment, etcetera, etcetera. It's just not cost effective. Now, we've got plenty of stretch in the post-production budget and we won't need to rent the audio equipment because it's already been taken care off in that budget. So if..."
Tara's mind started to melt when Anya rambled on about financial statements, ledgers, sub-budgets, rent-vouchers, plane-tickets and various ways of making all these tax-deductible. Finding no counter argument, Tara had no choice but to concede.
"Alright," Tara sighed. "You win. I'll call Veruca and tell her to stay put for another couple of days. She's got the script and the storyboard. I'll have one of my assistants e-mail a couple of reference shots of the locations and the actors to her house. Maybe that'll help."
"I'm glad you see it my way, for a change," Anya smiled. "I sometimes have good ideas, you know?"
"You do realize I want to beat you over the head with that clipboard, right?"
"Yep," Anya grinned. "God, I love my job!"
Elanee was barely sixteen years old and an aspiring actress. Her first role for her resume was one of a nameless teenager being horribly murdered in a Tara Maclay picture. Oddly enough, that was not a bad career-move for her.
Shooting was over for this day and Xander was slowly removing Elanee's make-up. Willow, whom had had little to do in the scenes shot this evening, had been hanging out with Xander in the make-up trailer to watch him work his magic.
Elanee was a nice and chatty young girl, which was so surreal to Willow. Here Elanee was giggling and smiling and generally acting like a happy teenager... while the back of her skull had been slashed off with a garden-hoe. Her brain had been exposed, and was slowly pulsating along her heartbeat.
The entire construction had been created by Xander's magic. Xander had placed a custom made rubber mat all over her own hair and had covered it with a large wig. Xander had removed a bit of the mat and had placed a rubber bladder fitting with a tiny battery powered pump. That bladder had been covered with a thin rubber mold shaped like a brain, which had been painted to look realistic and then covered with special varnish and house-hold KY jelly to give it that authentic slimy look.
It was almost a shame to remove it, but Willow guessed Elanee wouldn't want to wear this prosthetic for the rest of the week. Xander was carefully removing the rubber and avoided accidentally hurting Elanee's skin. It took two hours to apply and would take one hour to remove.
Tara stepped into the make-up trailer. "Hey, Xander," she greeted. "Oh, hi, Willow," Tara smiled gently. "Have you been enjoying yourself here?"
Willow colored slightly. "Uh, hi, Tara. It's so much fun here in the make-up trailer. Xander was just telling me about the time he almost accidentally blew up..."
"Uh, protect the innocent," Xander said.
"Xander," Tara started. "We're having a change of schedule tomorrow. Anya and I've decided that we'll be shooting Scene 42 tomorrow morning. Do we have enough blood ready?"
"Yep," Xander pointed to an industrial mixer stirring a large plastic bowl. "It's been stirring for an hour or so, and it's ready to be chilled. We've got more than enough. Two gallons worth. It's my special recipe too."
"Special recipe?" Willow asked. "Dare I ask?"
"Hey, it's 100% edible blood. Would you like a taste?"
"Uh, no," Willow blanched.
"Yep," Xander said. "Eggs, shells and all. Strawberry yogurt, cottage cheese, preferably with pineapples, corn syrup and maple syrup and a lot of squirts of red food coloring. Cooked just long enough to give it that ichor-ish look to it."
"It looks so dark red," Willow asked as she peeked into the bowl. "Is it supposed to be like that?"
Tara nodded. "Yes. Just ask Faith. If the color isn't red enough, it'll show up orange on film. So we have to make it extra red. Remember Dawn of the Dead?
"Lotsa orange blood in there," Xander said. "Great movie, shame about the blood."
"Is there orange blood in Dawn of the Dead?" Willow asked.
"I'm talking about the classic 1978 version, not the much lesser 2004 version, mind you," Tara said.
"I wouldn't know," Willow said. "I haven't seen either film."
"Uh-oh," Xander whispered.
Tara looked as if she was shell-shocked. Her mouth hung open in amazement, and she blinked... once... twice...
"Okay!" Tara finally said and hooked an arm around Willow. "Come on, Willow. To my trailer! I have to show you my favorite movie!"
"Uh, wait, what?" Willow stammered while the director dragged her out of the make-up trailer.
While Willow sat on the couch in Tara's trailer, Tara was fixing drinks and popcorn. The TV/DVD combo was ready for action, and the Dawn of the Dead DVD was ready to start spinning with one press of a button.
"Get ready," Tara said as she handed Willow a bucket of popcorn and a can of soda, "for one of the greatest cinematic achievements in the history of film-making."
139 minutes later, Tara started awake to the Goblin endtheme music. She groaned and rubbed her eyes. Apparently, 139 minutes of film after a long day shooting wasn't such a hot idea. Then, Tara realized she smelled something nice. Something very nice. In fact, she was feeling rather nice too. And when she opened her eyes, Tara found out why.
139 minutes had been too much for Willow as well, for the red-head girl was now fast asleep and snuggled against Tara. Her head lay high on Tara's chest while she had an arm wrapped around Tara's waist. That nice smell came from Willow's hair.
Oh, god, this is so nice. This feels so wonderful... Tara smiled warmly, but realizing just what was going on here. No, Tara, no, don't even think about it. You're just on the rebound, girl! Oh, god, this feels nice, though.
Again, Tara shook her head. Face it, Tara. Love isn't for you. All the nice girls you fall for always turn out to be straight, and all the lesbian girls you fall for turn out to be rabid bitches. Come, on Willow's probably straight as a ruler. Don't do this to yourself, Tara.
It was then that Willow stretched, causing her to shift even closer to her. Tara felt Willow's flesh pressing against hers. She had skin so soft it could make velvet seem like sand-paper by comparison. Oh, god, this is so, so wonderful.
Willow mumbled in her sleep and started rubbing Tara's tummy ever so softly.
On her right shoulder, a miniature Tara wearing a skin-tight red devil-suit appeared, while on the other shoulder, a miniature Tara wearing a white robe and matching halo appeared.
"Come on, Tara," said angel-Tara. "Look at her. Isn't she sweet? Wouldn't you want to take her in your arms and snuggle her until there's no tomorrow? Wouldn't you want to make her yours forever?"
"Don't listen to her, Tara!" devil-Tara spat. "She said the same about Angelica!"
"Okay," angel-Tara sighed. "I was wrong that time. But I'm not this time, I swear to you. This'll be true love, girlfriend!"
"Hey, Tara, babe. Honey. Sweetheart," devil-Tara puffed on her cigar and blew a load of smoke in angel-Tara's direction. "Have I ever done you a wrong turn before? Tara, I'm just looking out for you, my precious. Do you really want to go back to the days of Angelica-horror? Do you want to be a forced vegetarian again? Do you want to see the art you make being trod upon again? Do you want to be humiliated by your own lover again and again and again? Do you want to live under Willow's thumb like you did under Angelica's? You'll really be a damn fool if you do."
"Trust you to stand in the way of true love," angel-Tara shouted. "Tara, what if this is your only chance to find true love and happiness and you let her slip through your fingers?"
"Oh, bite me, that's just the Rebound talking," devil-Tara flipped off angel-Tara. "At least I'm practical. I'm just looking out for my main woman here. Don't fall for that love crap again."
Oh, great, Tara blinked twice and the two unwelcome visitors were gone. You're talking to yourself now, Tara. Just lovely.
At that moment, Willow shifted again and mumbled in her sleep. Willow... she was so warm and soft and beautiful and kind and talented and...
ACK! No, Tara, no! Happy bachelorette! Happy bachelorette!
Tara knew she had to do something before her head would explore. Reluctantly, she disentangled herself from Willow, but simply didn't have the heart to wake her up. Besides, she wasn't sure if she could: Willow looked to be able to sleep through a hurricane at the moment.
She gently picked up Willow under the shoulders and dragged her to the bed. She propped her up and, after removing her shoes, laid the duvet over the sleeping Willow. Tara picked a pillow and a spare duvet from the closet, and prepared for a long night on the couch.
Suppressing yet another yawn, Tara ordered her third coffee from the machine. She had had a terrible night on the couch. It was lumpy, it was hard and she was just a bit too tall to fit between the armrests. Willow was still sleeping when she had left her, because it was still early. Many of the crew were still asleep as well.
She strolled to the director's chair, almost tripping over a power line as she stumbled. She downed her coffee and plopped down... just in time to see Xander and Faith nudging each other and skipping towards her.
"Morning, guys," Tara yawned. "Sorry. Didn't get much sleep tonight."
"Yeah," Faith winked. "We kinda figured that."
"Oh?" Tara asked. "You tell by the bags under my eyes and the smell of stale coffee on my breath?"
"Don't toy with us," Faith grinned. "Come on, settle our bet!"
"Huh?" Tara frowned. "What's going on here, guys?"
"Tara, you dog!" Xander slapped her shoulder. "You totally slept with Willow!"
"WHAT?!" Tara gasped. "That's not true!"
Faith crossed her arms. "Pull the other one, T. You went into your trailer with her and there's a rumor going around that she didn't come out last night."
"Yeah," Xander chuckled. "There's nothing as romantic as a violently bloody zombie-film! Seriously, we're happy for you, Tara."
Tara rose from her seat angrily. "Guys, you know me better than this! I am not the kind of person that plays with a girl's heart because she's on the rebound! I did not sleep with Willow last night, okay? She slept in my bed, I slept on the couch. That's why my neck's bent at a weird angle this morning."
"But..." Faith started to say.
"No buts!" Tara shout. "I don't know where this rumor came from, but I want it to stop before Willow gets wind of it. I will not have her confronted with this wicked lie! Allow me to spread another rumor, then: if I find out that anyone, and I do mean anyone, is spreading the rumor that I've slept with Willow, I will have that person fired on the spot and have security drag them from the set. And that includes the both of you as well!"
"You're not serious," Xander tried.
"You wanna find out just how serious I am?" Tara said while she rubbed her forehead and let her hands slide through her honeyblonde hair. "God, poor Willow."
Her closest friends watched her as she stormed back to the coffee machine.
"Oh, yeah," Xander smiled to Faith. "Our Tara's in love, alright."
"I just hope Tara finds out before shooting is over."