This is fiction, written from the perspective of a set assistant.
I’d say the longest thing to happen to a day was yesterday. It was on set, like you’d want to imagine. Just like you see it. A porn set, yeah, with all those men with the budding guts and the shirts that don’t come far enough down over them, the hair just slightly off kilter, the running jokes that don’t take into account the fact that they’ve been running the same way for ten years. I’m just a PA, so I’ve only been here about that long. There was the rest of the crew, besides me. And they’ve been there forever. Probably started the jokes, and they’ll probably be there the day they end. The group has too many redheads if you ask me. There’s a weird return to youth when the gray comes through, and those bright eyes. Doesn’t look right in the daytime. All of their shoes lace up, and their pants usually have drawstrings, too.
We’ve been shooting further out. Some far-winged fanatical group with a government contract and some private contributions spent all its dollars collecting signatures to get up between our legs and roll a condom on. It wasn’t religious, mind you. Those fucks do their own damage. But these guys, they played it smart. They made it a health issue, convinced everyone we weren’t smart enough to control ourselves. AHF, they’re called. Aids Healthcare Foundation. Made us out to be the Typhoid Marys of the L.A. City and got some people spun up. Parents mostly. Then they went into those Wal-Mart-type places with the five-story parking garages and the palm trees in giant planters, took a bunch of signature collectors and dressed ‘em up all wholesome and worried looking, and they stood out front and asked all the customers coming and going—got real confrontational, made ‘em stand there and listen with their crying kids in their arms and the bag handles tearing and slipping under the weight—they asked them if they wanted to keep the city’s college kids from catching AIDS. Like, who the fuck were they kidding? Pretending to fight for the welfare of college kids. There aren’t any college kids here.
But fuck if they didn’t push it through. So some of the guys at Corporate unrolled this map of the city across the conference table, and they all leaned over it with their sweaty palms sticking to the paper and the flaps of their ties brushing across it and the coffee rings getting lighter each time they picked up these delicate little cups and set them back down. They were refilling the things every two slurps, all fidgety, their words trying to sound all calculated and stressed. They’re big guys. Make the cups look ridiculous. And the ties, too. Like this industry ever gave a shit about attire. That’s part of what I’m getting at about yesterday—that this girl showed up with a cropped button-down sweater, except she wore it unbuttoned. Every time she spun around, her tits flopped at us like a couple of fresh-caught fish. No one gives a lick about how you turn up. It’s about what you can put out. But God bless her. Anyways, these guys looked at the map and they took a highlighter and some ballpoint pens and started making notes around this pixilated-looking blob on where they could shoot outside of the city proper. They came up with the mountain range running up the back of Malibu and into Ventura. Got the lawyers to verify it.
It takes me an hour more now to get here now in the morning, but at least we can still shoot bareback. Not that I care if there’s a condom or not but we barely have jobs as it is in this market, and the ones still buying won’t buy anything with a rubber. I have to be there at eight with the equipment van so there’s something to do once the rest of the crew rolls in after. We all unload it, and then the girls start to roll in too. They’re funny little things. They always show up with big wide-legged pajama bottoms and a top two sizes too small that hugs their tits real tight and shows the color of their bra straps. They all have big sunglasses and Venti sugar-free lattes too. I should know. They send me out to get more when the shoots run late. Took me three trips before I felt right saying Venti like I knew how it was supposed to sound. Tall would be easier, but no one here ever wants anything less than the most they can get.
The girls start coming in right after I get there and keep coming all through the day. The producers stagger the girls’ call times for them so they’re in and out of the make-up chair every hour, hour and a half or so. And yeah—it’s fun to watch them get all turned around—that’s what they call it when they change the looks. Some of these chicks, they come in looking like they got beat with the ugly stick and then they come out of make-up with these ringlets in their hair and the eyelashes and their skin looks real smooth and the whole crew will kinda back up like God Damn. And then they’ll go through wardrobe and they’ll be trying on heels and these little bra and panty sets, and while we’re running the lights back and forth between the rooms we’ll get a peek and some of them will surprise you. Some of these girls, man. But then other times they show up looking real good in clothes and then they strip down and it’s all stretch marks and loose skin and we start betting on how many kids passed through. Don’t judge a book, ya know.
When they’re all dressed up they’ll come on set and start running their lines and the director gets real intent trying to make them to say it right and sometimes they get it but mostly they just roll their eyes or try so hard that it starts to hurt to watch and the director gets fed up and makes them to stop. The dialogue is always the hardest part. But then it gets to the fucking and most of the crew can nap. No one really needs to be there for that. It’s one camera on a stand with a button. Once it’s focused I think how hard could it really be? A monkey could do any of our jobs, mine included. Monkeys have, but not in the states. ‘Specially not in condom country. Then after the pop shot we tell em they’re wrapped and send em home and keep working on through the script. That’s the whole thing.
Yesterday started the same. We started at 8:00 am as always, and it was the last day of the movie so that meant we couldn’t go home until we got every shot. The other days can be easier. If it runs too late we just push the leftover scenes into the next day. It’s porn, so naturally we want the sex scenes hot, but this director really puts it hard to the dialogue. He says the viewers want to see a reason why these people are deciding to have sex. He says it gives them some Agency. Throws the term around a lot. I don’t think any of us really knows what it means, him either, but if I had to guess I’d guess he’s using it wrong. He says porn these days needs to connect to the woman because they’re helping make the purchasing decisions, blah blah blah. He says it like they’re some type of mysterious alien species with these alien things they say and do. Then he shakes his head at how ridiculous it is—the bad acting and the bad scripts and these women, the way we all get caught up in trying to make it right.
The director was going on about that shit when the Sweater Girl showed up. She just came skipping in, middle of the day with the sweater open and these flat home-dyed little Ked shoes and the shortest shorts you’d ever seen. Pigtails and glasses and lipgloss. Couldn’t have been a day over nineteen and she looked like she just broke out of class but like I said, we don’t have any college kids here. There have been a couple of high-schoolers in their last year that we wouldn’t have booked if we’d known. There’s enough bad press without our pushing it. So anyways, we’re trying to roll dialogue with some of the boys and one of our regular chicks right before a sex scene, and the director was giving his speech and the Sweater Girl just came bouncing around the corner and we all kinda just got quiet for a moment because, yeah, we see tits out every day, but they usually show up clothed.
Then the director picked his jaw up and told her how cute she was, that she looked real fresh like that, with just the lipgloss and the pigtails. He told wardrobe to put her in overalls, but he kept her out of the chair. He said he didn’t need make-up on her. She was only there for a blowjob scene anyway, and we had some other scenes pushed from the other days to catch up on and we all have families at home. People never believe it but even I have a wife and kids and I like to see them before they’re put to sleep on the weekends. I’m getting even less of that now with these drives out of condom country.
So the Sweater Girl goes and gets her little overalls on and some frilly socks, and wardrobe keeps the Keds on her too, and the sweater. It was cute. She looked like the girl next door. By then the other chick’s sex scene was about to roll, and Sweater Girl comes out and sits down by the crew and starts making eye contact with us and it was the same shit. We just wanted to go home so we smiled back but pretty much ignored it and then the scene starts and the sweater girl leans back and spreads her legs and starts playing with herself. And remember this is where we like to catch up on our sleep, during the sex scenes. These days are sixteen hours sometimes or more, and we’re driving an extra hour each way just to get around smacking a rubber on a dick and when I tells guys from back home about it they can’t believe that I’d be over it but enough years in and out of it and a tit’s just a tit. But now we’re stuck, see. Because a chick like that you can’t just walk away from while she’s shoving her fingers in her cunt and smiling up at you with her sparkly lips and her pigtails. A chick like that you gotta placate. You gotta pretend like she’s doing something really special and show some attention because otherwise things could fall apart fast and when it comes to her scene it could be all kinds of drama and tears and slow things up and we just want to get her wrapped and get her home so we can get our own selves home too. So we all stood around and kinda smiled at her and waited for her to finish and she just kept going and going and smiling back and you wouldn’t believe it but the bitch went on like that the whole damn scene.
That gets the director worried, so when the scene wraps he grabs his phone and hurries outside to the bottom of the driveway trying to get cell service because the first thing you do when a girl acts crazy is call the agent. Sometimes they’ll tell you what kind of crazy you’ve got to deal with. The good ones will. And we’re inside and now this chick’s excited because the audio is off so she can talk and she’s offering to suck our dicks and we’re all telling her we’d really love to but we can’t with some jackoff excuse like we’d lose our jobs and we try to make small talk instead and so we ask her where she’s from and she tells some state that we don’t pay attention to and we ask her when she got started and what we mean is porn because girls like this are usually new but what she hears is something else and she tells us real fast like this whole time all she’s been waiting for is us to ask. She kinda pops up taller and says some dark shit about her childhood and the things she’d done in trade when she was nine.
And she’s smiling! This Sweater Bitch is smiling, and all I can think is how my little girl is five. Some of the rest of us have girls almost seven. Grade-schoolers. So we have to force ourselves to kinda smile too and we don’t know what to do with her and we’re all a little sick and I think we were all trying to remember her name—I still don’t—and she just kept going and the director came in and made this cutthroat motion and we knew he either didn’t get service or didn’t get a good answer so we hurried into her scene and she was happy to go along and the more attention she got with us fussing over her the more she smiled.
So we get the lights all set up. We have this guy sitting here and he’s playing poker or some shit and she’s supposed to blow him under the table like he’s a big-time boss. While we’re testing the exposure and adjusting the settings and everything, the Sweater Girl climbs under there and sits down on her knees and I keep noticing those frilly socks. I’m thinking, My daughter’s got those socks. And then Sweater Girl sets her hands in the guy’s lap and talks to him and he keeps looking down to answer and then back up at us like hurry the fuck up. If you’ve ever seen a crew move too fast it’s a bunch of wires tripping us up and cross commands that get lost between the people we’re talking with. But we got it. Then everyone who could up and scrambled the fuck out of there.
There’s not much I can tell you about her scene. I heard he couldn’t get his dick hard and she didn’t wipe that smile off her face and then, when he finally could, she sucked. Not like I’m punning it, saying she sucked. Like she sucked-sucked. Just a bad performance. But they told her she did great and that made her smile too, and they put her in a car home so fast she was probably still wiping her mouth off. I wasn’t sure what was so hard to hear about that until later. It was almost midnight and there was an accident that shut down four lanes on the 405 and we all had the same call time in the morning for a different movie in the same place. So I’m sitting there, tapping my fingers on the wheel. I’m thinking about agendas, you know. About how I was sitting there because we’re all just putting ourselves on the world, all these people in these lanes needing to be in the same place to reach their own ends, each making a little indent by being there. I’m thinking about the Sweater Girl going on how she is, focused on her single task of hanging on, just trying to get a foot in on the world. And then the bigger things. The condom guys and our superiors duking it out, all of the fallouts broadening and trickling down. We’re like those animals you see spinning around on the grass, flattening it all down to make a better place to lay down. The kids were in bed. I leaned on the horn. We all need to meddle to make more room for ourselves in the world.