Friday, 2 May 2008

Drivers

A unit driver's life is not unlike that of an actor. It involves frantic periods of activity at the beginning of the day, followed by much waiting around, during which time you must be ready to work at a moment's notice, and you can't leave the location. The hours of limbo are spent reading, chatting with colleagues and watching boxed sets of DVDs. The hours of activity are spent entertaining people. Unlike actors, however, drivers are often privy to inside information, officially gleaned from assistant directors and unofficially supplemented by hours of listening to producers in the back seat shouting into mobile phones and at each other.
The relationship between the driver and his passenger (I have never met a female unit driver though I am sure there must be some out there) is intimate. With all the pressure that accumulates on a film set, the director, producers and actors are frequently agitated when collected and deposited at their destination and may need careful handling. It is a question of chemistry and it cannot be manufactured. A famously outspoken driver was told to pick up a Hollywood director from Glasgow airport but on no account to speak him during the journey. After an hour of silence, they arrived at the hotel and the driver opened the door. 'You must be some special cunt.' The driver observed 'That we can't talk to you.' The director hired him for the rest of the shoot.

At 5 o'clock in the morning when the actor has overslept, it will be the driver who gains access to their bedroom and gets them up. At 10 o'clock at night when the actor is sobbing because they've spent the whole day in a tunnel full of rats and they've missed their daughter's birthday, the driver must get them back to their room and not to 'The fucking airport'. The driver is not employed by the actor or director but by the production. They have the passenger's trust but it is the accountants they answer to. If an actor wants you to box with him in his lunch break, you better not break their nose. If a director is spending his nights pursuing his leading lady, you have to deliver his broken heart to the set. Drivers know what music, what paper, what drink to get. And they know where the skeletons are hidden.

One happy summer shoot, I was out late with the actors and crew, enjoying the delights of our local Butlins. Arriving back at the small hotel we were staying in, the Other Actress and I found we were locked out. My room looked over the lane in front of the hotel and the window was open. Perfect. The room was on the second floor but there was a pitched slate roof ideally placed below it and the OA and I lost no time in shinning up it and diving through the window. My door being locked from the outside, we were effectively trapped, but we were tired and the next day seemed another country. We soon fell asleep.
About 3 hours later, my alarm sounded. I showered and dressed and, remembering the door was locked, climbed out the window ready to shimmy back. Even in the pre-dawn light, I could see that it was quite a long way down. The OA had the day off, everyone in the hotel was asleep. I sat on the window ledge and waited.
My driver was prompt. He pulled up to the hotel some metres away and turned off his engine so as not to disturb the residents. 'Frank.' I whispered, for it was he. 'Frank! I'm over here'. Confused, he got out of the car and looked around. 'Frank. I'm on the roof.' Seeing me perched above him, Frank took a moment to assess the situation. With a quick 'Hang on’, he reversed his car under my window, and opened the sunroof. I slid in.
I got to work on time with only minor grazes easily covered by petticoats and stockings. I'm not sure what the hotel manager thought when she released the OA from my room, but from then on I was careful to bring my front door key with me every time I left the building. And Frank? Well, a disheveled damsel I may have been, but from that morning on, Frank was definitely my knight in shining Mercedes armour.

8 comments:

  1. 'At 5 o'clock in the morning when the actor has overslept, it will be the driver who gains access to their bedroom and gets them up. At 10 o'clock at night when the actor is sobbing because they've spent the whole day in a tunnel full of rats and they've missed their daughter's birthday, the driver must get them back to their room and not to 'The fucking airport'.'


    *snicker*

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  2. Beautiful photographs, Lovehound.

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  3. Dear Sophie--

    You have a very nice blog here. I've been reading for over a year, and I hope you don't mind this too much, but I have to say that the shocking pink text on black background, while it looks pretty, is a bit hard on the eyes. Even more so as your wonderful posts/storytelling grows more elaborate.
    Just a thought...

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  4. Hi Jan,
    Thank you for your comments. I am slightly addicted to the pink on black combination at the moment. I will change the font size for the next post. Will you let me know if that helps?

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  5. That was a very funny anecdote!! lol. I would have never imagined you climbing out of a hotel window like that!! you are full of surprises, huh?! ;-)

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  6. About readability: Above all, I am very grateful for the fact that you have chosen to share these stories and that a friend pointed me in this direction so I found your blog. It’s true what Jan August wrote that from a user-friendly point of view pink on black (or any light color on a dark background) can be a little hard on the eyes. You mentioned the possibility of writing with a larger font next time, but I just wanted to pass on the tip that the reader can use the “ctrl” and “+” keys to temporarily enlarge the visible text size on screen. It depends on the way the blog is coded as well as the reader’s browser if this will work, though. And you use “ctrl” and “–“ to go down in size again, of course. Hope this will be of some help.

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  7. Thanks for that, Paul. I'm looking into legibility. And I'm really glad you're enjoying the stories.

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  8. I have no problems reading your posts, myself. And I like pink! ;o) Just offered a simple tip that surprisingly many web users do not seem to know.

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