“Okay everyone, let’s run through the character list one more time, I want to make sure we have them right before we start thinking about who we want to get to play them,” Scott picked up his script and drained the last of his coffee. “Where do these writers come up with this stuff?” he thought to himself as he reviewed the white board with each character name scrawled haphazardly across it. He had been in movie production for sixteen years and even now it baffled him how off-the-wall some of the characters were that came down the pipe. The table of department heads flanking Scott all waited for him to begin.
“Ok, let’s take a look, who do we got first?” Scott barked at his assistant Cindy who was waiting by the white board, marker at the ready.
“Crystal Rivers, four-year-old daughter of Dorothy Rivers,” Cindy recited from her notes.
“Right, ok Crystal is the daughter of our leading lady and they want her to be doll-like, petite, blonde hair, pale skin, the works. But this kid has to have a very deep, throaty voice, something that would make strangers do a double-take or mistake her for a boy over the phone. Now, I don’t want something over the top or campy, just oddly deep. Maybe she just has a low voice, maybe we even write it in that she can’t scream because she can’t get up to that octave. Ooo, yeah, I like that… Cindy make a note: Crystal Rivers finds herself in a situation where she needs to scream for help but can’t, all that comes out is like a throaty groan like, uuuuuhh, uuuuhhh, you know? Yeah, that’s good. Ok, let’s move on. Next?” Scott said without looking up from the notes he was frantically making.
“Next is Misty Rivers, ten-year-old daughter of Dorothy Rivers and older sister to Crystal,” came the automatic reply from his assistant.
“Ok, Misty is a spitfire. I’m seeing red hair, I’m seeing a sass in her step, a troublemaker but one who can get away with it. She’s devil-may-care but endearingly so. She’s fascinated with nature and the medical field, always conducting experiments and questions everything. Apparently, they want us to figure out a way to have her with a trained lizard perched on her shoulder like a brooch. Not sure how we are going to do that, but that’s not my problem. Let’s just make sure we get someone who’s not going to freak out over a lizard. Next!” Scott was already seeing this part being hard to fill, but it was integral to the film and whoever they chose, the little girl would be under a lot of pressure.
“Allen Dugan, eight-year-old neighbor to the Rivers,” Cindy responded.
“Alright, this Allen kid. He idolizes Misty and works to gain her approval at any cost. Thinks he’s in love with her. The only feature I’m really going to be a stickler on for this part is the kid we find has to have a decent-sized nose. I’m not talking Pinocchio or anything, but a nose that can hold its own, you know? This kid chases snakes as a hobby to impress Misty and there is a scene where he catches a decent sized Garter snake by the tail and it whips back and bites him on the nose. The thing clamps on for dear life and has to be pried off by Mrs. Rivers so we need a boy that’s into snakes or who can at least tolerate being around them, clear?” Scott looked around the room to make sure everyone was on the same page and satisfied looked back to Cindy, “OK, next up”.
“Dorothy Rivers, mother to Misty and Crystal, wife of Jim Rivers. She’s 32, a seamstress,” Cindy retorted.
“OK, we have a lot of wiggle room with Dorothy, so I say we go after some big marquee names here and see what we get. Dorothy is important people, so let’s get this one right. After spending time mending and sewing for her family, she is picked up by a big wig at Disney to design the costumes for the mascot of their soon-to-open theme park Disneyland. I’d like it if we could get whoever we find a few sewing lessons, just to get them familiar with the techniques, terms and tools since she will be spending a lot of time around a sewing machine. Her idea for the mascots stem from homemade Halloween costumes she made for her girls, mice, dressed in leotards with paper Mache heads and tails made out of hose. We’ll talk more about Dorothy when we have an idea of who we might get for the part, next,” Scott was ready for his third coffee but decided to suffer through one more character before taking a break.
“Jim Rivers, father to Misty and Crystal, husband of Dorothy Rivers. He’s 35 and a machinist,” Cindy sounded like she could use a dose of caffeine as well.
“Alright, Jim is a character we want our audience to immediately identify with and sympathize with. He’s a positive person, looks at the bright side of everything and enjoys life, even when he’s down on his luck. He needs to have an open face, I want someone who looks “accessible”, ok, an ‘open book’. Jim is a machinist, is around metal all day and the kicker is, he’s allergic to almost all types of metal. So no metal watch, no change in his pockets, nothing metal. We’ll see in one scene Jim break into hives after carrying a metal ladder for his neighbor so I need someone who has light skin, I want the hives to be really apparent. Ok, well I think we all could use a refresher. Let’s take a fifteen minute break and all regroup to finish up the list, sound good?” Scott looked around the room as everyone replied with heartfelt agreement.
Looking at the remaining list of characters, Scott shook his head, “And they say real like is stranger than fiction… yeah right!”.
The Not So Fantastic Reality:
The above story was inspired by the following tidbits I encountered today:
ONE: I have to say that one of my favorite things about holiday gatherings is learning something new about my family members. This Thanksgiving was especially educational as I learned a fun fact about each person gathered around the turkey today (and some who weren’t able to join us):
My Mom (Crystal Rivers): Apparently, my mom had a surprisingly low voice growing up. As a little girl on the smallish side, when she opened her mouth strangers were startled by the throaty voice she possessed. And because of this low, guttural voice, by all accounts (including her own) she is unable to scream… her voice just can’t go up that high, you see.
My Aunt Pepper (Misty Rivers): My aunt sounds like a chick I would have definitely wanted to hang with when I was growing up… she was kind of a badass by the sound of it. Out of many of the hilarious stories I heard today, the one that struck me was how she, and some of the other neighborhood girls, would somehow train lizards to sit on their shoulders and act as accessories to their outfits that day; “brooches” as my aunt referred to them. Awesome.
My Andy, aka le boyfriend (Allen Dugan): So I guess Andy really liked to chase snakes as a wee lad and bring them in to his mother (I’m sure she was thrilled). One day, as an eight-year-old he caught one by the tail, and then it caught him by the nose- and didn’t let go. Poor little guy went to school the next day with a bite mark on his nose in the shape of a snake’s head.
My Mamaw (Dorothy Rivers): My Mamaw is a pretty awesome person (I’m sure that’s where I get it, haha). Anyway, one story she told us was one of her slaving away for five months in order to fashion a Mickey and Minnie costume for each of her girls for Halloween. It sounded like quite the undertaking, paper Mache heads, tails, the whole shebang. The story was enough to make me want to break out my sewing machine (which is hers by the by) and give this whole “sewing” thing a whirl.
My Uncle Danny (Jim Rivers): Danny is one of those cool cats I think just about everyone would prefer to be around. He’s so positive (but not in an annoying way… believe me there’s a difference) and I’ve really liked getting to know more and more about him over the years. One thing I learned today, was his allergy to metal. I had never encountered someone with this malady and admittedly, I was curious. Danny is so sensitive to the stuff that even carrying change in his jeans pockets is enough to cause his skin to break out in hives. Oh, and did I mention he works as a machinist?
Hope you enjoyed learning a little more about my family, I know I sure did. Guess I know where all my strangeness (loveable quirkiness, anyone?) comes from. And I am thankful for each and every one of them.
Love & Squirrels.