By Mark Verve © 2010
Everyone on the set knows that she'll never rise above the status of fluffer. It's just a matter time until she figures it out. I've watched her for several weeks now as she earned two hundred dollars a day plying her trade on command. She does her work day after day with a surprising enthusiasm. It almost appears as if she enjoys it. She strikes me as a pleasant enough person in the few conversations we've had. Her stated goals revolve around the standard model/actress track she thinks she's on. The full lips are straight out of central casting.
At first the climax to the Fluffhead jam would come to my mind when she jumped into action. For me it was like her theme song. I'd hear Fluffheeeeaaaad........ Repetition killed that so now she just blends into the background amid the muffled sounds she creates. During down times she chains and intently surfs the gossip sites occasionally moving those lips during periods of higher concentration. She and most of the other girls look like they should be working retail at the mall. Soon she'll ask Clint for an on camera part for the umpteenth time and he'll turn her down again citing bad timing.
Unbeknownst to her she has her assigned role and reached the glass ceiling on her first day. That's the brutal reality of this business, the classic a place for everyone and everyone in their place. It's a straight up appearance based hierarchy. The men are judged on other criteria. Don't like it? See ya, there's plenty more where you came from. Disposable is not far from the truth. He probably already has her replacement selected. They're usually somewhat plain but clean up well enough to keep the actors interested. No previous technical proficiency is required as there is plenty of on set coaching available.
As a rule they differ from the on camera talent. That goal is a tall slender model type but reality settles for a cooperative eight that shows up more or less on time and semi-sober. He finds most of them in the higher end strip clubs and they usually have a monkey. He panders to the monkey with quality as he explores and expands their boundaries as needed. I'm sure they don't arrive naïve or inexperienced as this is the clinical version of what most do privately. I suspect many of them can't resist the supposed shot at stardom and may even take pay cuts to join in.
I entered this scene as the pseudo manager for two of my dancer friends. Actually I was just looking for a little adventure as they were by no means manageable. They are so desirable that my presence is tolerated. One has a monkey and the other is just a freak. They were into it before I met them and knew I'd be interested in the experience. I regularly sample the goods but much of their filmed performances are ground breaking to me. It seems I don't elicit the same enthusiasm or veracity but still appreciate the comps.
Clint made it clear to me that no management fees were forthcoming from him. That told me he bought the manager story. He and I settled into a detente as he thought the three of us would soon be spent and on our way. I found the whole experience compelling in a slovenly kind of way. There is an undeniable soul searing element to this enterprise. I won't say it starts the damage just that it furthers existing damage. No regular person would consider this path. I've always wondered where this stuff came from and who makes it.
Word is that Clint started in the business as a manager of a low level strip club in Vegas. One of those old school single story dumps in the industrial section west of the Strip. When he wasn't chasing company tail he had his finger to the wind. According to Clint one day a Money Guy from the Valley stopped by on a recruiting trip for an indie and juiced him for information. The MG scored three candidates on Clint's suggestions and ended up making his flick. That led to hosting more trips and it accelerated from there. Clint then moved into a city wide recruiting mode. He soon angled his way into the industry as a producer and started collecting for himself. That was just over a year ago.
Since then he has established himself as a solid industry low life. He's known for making videos with a semblance of a plot. He pays a few USC film students to write a series of ten minute vignettes that have some sort of a thread. He creatively labels them Valley Girls 1, 2, 3, etc. and has a serial going. His product is selling well for now in a competitive market place. In addition to the DVD sales he streams them on the net for subscribers. Rumor has it that he grosses a high five figures each month. I did the math and think it's possible.
He's married to an attractive older woman with big hair that probably brought the original bankroll. She sits quietly on the set in a high directors chair in her industry standard mini. Most of the time she pumps her crossed leg while reading magazines, chewing gum, and filing her nails. When she stands up it sometimes creates a Sharon Stone moment for the ever vigilant crew. I don't understand the appeal and think it's like bringing sand to the beach. I concluded that there's probably some type of a prop bet on each event. Perhaps it's related to timing, frequency, magnitude, or duration. I've asked but they won't let me in as I'm considered an outsider.
All of this is happening in an established upscale neighborhood in the West Hills area of the Valley. There's an underground world of real estate rentals that provide locations for the industry. It's run by an agent that used to be talent but moved on after her expiration date. As the economy tanked rental rates came down as more owners registered. This house has the requisite infinity pool and privacy from the neighbors. According to the crew it's the best location yet. The entire acre is shielded from view by tall trees and shrubs that also muffle the sounds. There's plenty of enclosed parking in the front behind a massive solid wooden gate for the dozen cars and equipment trucks.
One morning I drove the girls in and we had the top down enjoying the warm Southern California sunshine. Just as I finished punching the code into the gate, the neighbor and his wife emerged from their gate in a Mercedes. I glanced over at them and he waved. He put the car in park and they both emerged and started in our direction with smiles. I didn't really want to meet them but now had no choice. They looked middle aged and were wearing conservative business attire.
We are coached to keep a low profile in the neighborhood during shoots. It's common knowledge that the majority of industry films are made in the Valley. Don't need any complaints about filming without a permit and the resulting awkward questions. I gave them both my best good morning as did the girls. They seemed friendly enough and just wanted to know if we were the new owners and to introduce themselves. I told them the standard story that we were renting short term, led quiet lives, and were rarely home. They seemed satisfied and we continued to make small talk.
Just then and right on cue two car loads of talent drove up honking their horns. It was like some invisible director had just yelled Action! We watched along with the neighbors as the scene unfolded. The first car was blasting speed metal and the other carried the woo-who girls hanging out of the windows. The second driver proudly flashed us while giving the devil horns with an oddly contorted face. She had almost rear ended the first but managed to stomp the brakes just in time jerking all their heads forward in unison. I glanced at the neighbors who now stood statue still. I think that he was enjoying it but Miss Hathaway had an expression like she had just sucked on a lemon or gotten a facial.
It appeared that the party had gone all night and was now commuting to work. They were probably in no condition to understand my situation with the neighbors. I waved meekly as they passed by not wanting to appear too enthusiastic. The gate closed behind them providing us with an instant silence. It was like a scene from a party movie and was over in less than half a minute. In my mind there really wasn't much more to say and I definitely didn't want to answer any questions. I just smiled, shrugged and re-punched the code. When the gates opened I said goodbye and quickly pulled in leaving them alone with their thoughts.
Mark Verve lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and writes for relaxation. He trades the stock markets for a living and plays poker for aggravation.
February 01, 2011
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