By Jack Galmitz
The three directors had set up an interview for extras who would be in the sub-plot of their first film. They had an office on Henry Street and advertised the auditions or interviews – actually they were both – through local means: signs posted on streetlamps, flyers put up in store windows, smaller postings on bulletin boards in the local college. Since they wanted as great a scope of performers to see, they also advertised in the Village Voice and DNA info.NY. The line of would-be performers stretched three times around the square block and it was only 9 A.M.
The number of people attending was not daunting to the directors. In fact, they were positively ecstatic. They had not yet made up their minds if they were going to settle on a narrative film or not, so the introduction of a subplot to a plotless film was all the more important – it would act as a grid for the unwoven threads of filmed locations and interactions they were sketching in their minds. They expected the auditioners to provide a subplot that would be so compelling that it would either become the plot or at least be interesting enough to hold an audience’s attention.
They considered multiple sub-plots, so the more people interviewed the better.Outside it was raining. No one on line spoke to anyone else. Their lips were sealed; they would not expose their stories, less someone with a lesser story steal it. People trying to exit their building to go to work were beginning to argue with those on line blocking their way, and soon a number of fist fights had broken out. The police were not called, although some of the extras were police who had called in sick that morning. The directors, working on a shoestring budget, had no secretary. They ushered in the actors one at a time and they were speaking with the very first man in line. He had emigrated from Iraq just after 2003. He was one of those who had shown their new prosthetic hands on national television to convince the population that the leader of Iraq deserved whatever he got and look how munificent the USA was to the hapless and harmed. The man had a heavy Arab accent and this posed something of a problem to the director interviewing him.
“Do you think you can speak clearly enough so that when there is a microphone above you you will be understood by an audience?”
“Yes, sir. I can do that. Yes, sir.”
Flash fiction by Jack Gilmitz
The director was thinking perhaps he would have this man writing the film within the film with a prosthetic arm that he barely could maneuver. This would lend credence to the film and also a center that came from outside the center of the culture. A good perspective, he thought. He also thought, if we don’t go that way, we can use him anyway. He’s already been in front of a camera and knew when to smile and show dogged appreciation for his liberators.
They had many people to see, so they took down the man’s name and information and told him they would get back to him.
As the man left, in walked a squat Mexican woman with her long black hair in a braid down her back. She had a child in a make-shift cloth pouch strapped around her neck with the child hanging at her stomach. She introduced herself as Juanita and told the directors that she was an illegal. She lived with her boyfriend in Corona, N.Y. and she sold charcol cooked corn and prepared tortillas from a supermarket wagon on the streets.
“My story could be used by you,” she said, “but you couldn’t use my real name.”
The directors discussed the possibilities. They could use her in her neighborhood, going to the local bodega regularly, with coke addicts going there regularly, too, buying cocaine bags hidden in chewing gum packets. The owner knew who was who by those who knew to give him five dollars when they asked for gum. He pointed out the right package. The directors thought the constant reshooting at the bodega would be a perfect repetition to a random film- in the randomness of the city, there were the rituals and compulsions people devised to create a sense of order for themselves, whatever form it took. They took her name and cell phone number as a strong candidate.
By lunchtime, the three directors had seen hundreds of people and taken down the names and information from a few more of them. They had liked two auditioners who had moderate to severe alzheimer’s disease, since their short term memory might serve as a perfect vehicle by which to show a narrativeless film. Also, should these potential actors get lost, this would lead the camera wherever they went and interacted with. They were beginning to believe in their venture.
While they conducted interviews, television teams had arrived as spurts of violence had broken out near the end of the line. Fearing they would not be seen, these people had started chanting anti-capitalist slogans and even setting a few cars on fire. The police were present, as was the fire department and the reporter was just then discussing the situation, which was getting out of hand, with a police lieutenant.
By 2:00 P.M., the directors were feeling beat. They had taken down the information pertaining to two blind
auditioners, one who managed with a cane alone, the other with a cane and a seeing-eye dog. They thought it would be an intriguing insight into humanity to have the film seen by watching the comings and goings of one or both of these blind men, neither who had met the other before.
There were many veterans of recent deployments interviewed and the directors took some of their names and numbers, thinking readjustment to civilian life after lengthy periods spent in combat zones might prove an interesting way to tell a non-story. Besides, being directors did not make them automatically unpatriotic. They felt for the difficulties soldiers were having finding work and otherwise reacclimating themselves to their former lives.
By 3:00 P.M., the directors had seen nearly a thousand people and discussed the intimacies of their lives. It was becoming tedious and overwhelming. They were going to have to end the auditions, no matter what happened outside. The line was still three times around the block and was swelling to considerably greater numbers. They decided to go down the back staircase and exit in the alley. No one knew what they looked like, so they would be safe from attacks from would-be actors.
They had not made up their minds yet, but they were leaning towards having the Iraqi immigrant be filmed writing the movie with his prosthetic arm; they would bring in the Mexican woman and her neighborhood, certainly include at least one of the alzheimer’s patients, one of the blind men, if not both, and some of the ex-soldiers could at least be extras, if they couldn’t think of a more prominent role for them.
No one knew it, but they had no budget to work with yet, although one of their parents’ were wealthy, so they could expect an initial investment for film and a camera and lighting equipment.
Anyway, the impression they received from most of the people they spoke with was that they wanted to be heard or seen or acknowledged more than anything else. Outside, there were millions of strangers, each with their own story which they were the star in.