“Lunch” has so many meanings in our business.
“Let’s have lunch,” sometimes means an invitation, sometimes a brush-off.
“Let’s do lunch,” often means the speaker is a complete putz.
“See ya at lunch,” usually means there’s a meeting.
“That’ll be lunch,” means crew break.
“What’s for lunch,” is always first on everyone’s mind.
“Who do I eat lunch with?” is always second.
Lunch is an interesting ritual on a film set. Sometimes the stars will retreat to their trailers where a production assistant brings them lunch; sometimes key department heads will retreat to a room to eat box lunches while watching dailies; sometimes dieting crew members will skip lunch for walks or exercise.
But for most of us, lunch is a chance to sit down – after six hours of standing - for a social breaking of bread. Usually very good bread. And often valuable conversation.
Lunch is where most of us learn what movies are crewing up, why it took so long to shoot the last scene and who’s been seen doing what with who.
Most film crew lunch lines are democratic: he or she who gets there first eats first – and the half-hour or 45 minute break allotted begins with the last man or woman served. Races to lunch are not uncommon. You usually try to sit with your department or someone you know.
But like in high school, it’s hard to save seats. And if you arrive too soon before or too much after your mates…
You wind up sitting with zombies.
OK, I broke for lunch a little early. I was hungry, I couldn’t bear another pass by craft services and I wasn’t needed on set. I couldn’t find the rest of my department – i.e., the stills photographer – to ask if he wanted to break with me, so I headed to the lunch tent alone. Alone.
The drivers were almost finished eating; they arrive earlier in the morning and break earlier for lunch. Very few crew were released for lunch yet and I was as content to sit with my Kindle as with anyone present. I’d only just opened Kindle to the last page read when break was officially called and hordes of crew poured into the lunch tent.
As tables filled up, mine remained blissfully un-invaded (film crews tend to keep a respectful distance from lunch-time readers thinking it must be part of the person’s job; otherwise who has time for reading?).
“Excuse me, you saving these?”
The questioner was a man in his mid-thirties, a torn flannel shirt and a hole in his neck, which was clotted in black to match his prominent veins and an inch-thick streak of dried blood that ran from his hairline to the middle of his forehead. I estimated stage 2 decay. He was accompanied by a lovely hospital worker of some sort, missing a piece of her upper right shoulder, uniform splattered in a brownish-red, only recently re-animated judging by her state of decomposition.
I pause here to explain this was not my first mutant barbeque. I’ve dined with Ebola victims, an ample number of amputees with bloody stumps, beating victims and worse and a regular diet of aliens and creatures.
But these two were really unappetizing.
“Help yourself,” I stammered, gesturing at the empty seats around me.
No sooner did they sit than two other zombies came to join them. Then a fifth. I was surrounded by very nice people, talented people – these actors were also dancers and acrobats – who just happened to look disgusting.
Somehow, returning to my book and trying to ignore them seemed, well… a little rude. It wasn’t like they chose to look this way – though, come to think of it, they probably had to audition. But well… maybe they deserved a little respect after going through four hours of hair, makeup and wardrobe to get a few seconds running past camera. Mostly I think, I just didn’t want them to smell fear and loathing coming from a seasoned professional like myself.
So I started talking to one. Her name was Jane. She wasn’t too badly decayed. I tried not to stare at her black lips and discolored teeth between which there appeared to be remnants of… Don’t look there. She was a vegetarian, she laughed. I admitted my relief. She laughed again. She was a dancer from London and had a fourteen-year-old daughter who was a budding hell-raiser. I dropped in my standard pop-psyche line about the child of fourteen-year-old being a four year-old with more power.
“God no!” wailed a zombie with purple eye-shadow, a cracked cheek and a bullet hole in his chest seated next to her. “My four-year-old already thinks she’s fourteen!” Laughter all around.
Four out of the five of them had kids and as the oldest parent present, I was the go-to guy for advice. Just with boys; no expertise in girls. Of any age.
It was a lively conversation.
Before we knew it, a p.a. shouted, “we’re back in” and my lunch-mates had to return to being terrifying flesh-eating ghouls.
I went to grab a salad for dessert.
It was kind of spooky eating alone.
Anything and Everything that has Nothing to Do with the Movies
Sometimes, we go to a movie to get away from the world and sometimes we go to see what’s going on in the world. This blog will offer comments on the world, the movies and their occasional overlap.