Wednesday 24 June 2009

Shop Girl: Take 1, Camera, Action!

“How much do you want this?” my brother had asked me, back in September.
“More than anything.”
And he’d rolled up his sleeves and launched into a speech on how to promote my blog.
I took his advice and one quiet day from behind the counter, I started leaving my link on internet sites, including SE1, a local forum.
Chloe Thomas, a TV director and producer, mailed me a few days later.
My blog had got her thinking.
She asked me if I fancied a cup of tea.
I did.
We had two beers and Chloe set out her vision and asked me to turn the blog into a screenplay.
And so began the Shop Girl Blog film project.
I’d never written a script before.
The date earned gold stars by giving me a master class. He gave me the screenplay of The Usual Suspects to follow as we watched it on the telly. He explained what should be included and what could be left out. He also gave me a script-writing template. If he hadn’t done that I’d still be back-spacing or trying to centre the dialogue for the first few lines.
Draft 1 followed.
Then 2, 3, 4, 5, 6....
7, 8, 9, 10
11, 12
And lucky 13.
Chloe roped in all her contacts and Cassandra King organised the casting.
I’d never been to a casting. It was a bit like being in the shop; lots of random people coming in and talking to you without buying anything.
But I was touched so many people turned up to the audition.
After the first day of casting I went to see the date feeling emotional.
It didn’t help that I hadn’t eaten lunch.
“Some of them came from such a long way,” I sobbed.
“That’s what actors do darr-ling."
“They ju-uh, ju-uh, ju-uh...”
“Are you okay?”
“They ju-uh came to read Shop Girl.”
“That’s a good thing darr-ling.”
On the second day of casting I made sure I’d eaten before.
This time I left the studio happy and excited. We’d found our cast.
Meetings followed; the shop was blitzed.
On Friday, we opened up at 6.30 am, which was quite something for our shop.
Four hours earlier Petra, who’d undertaken to be the entire Art Department, had been ironing costumes while Mum and I had cleared up.
And so it began.
The camera crew arrived with all their equipment.
The date arrived to do sound with the boom operator.
“Have you said hello to yourself yet?” he asked.
I looked over at Shop Girl and suddenly felt shy.
It wasn’t weird having someone play me as everyone thought it might be. It was only weird when I had to show her how to pin crystal.
“I could get into this,” she said, “come on Emily, I can help, give me stuff to do.”
Her pinning wasn’t bad but she wasn’t fussy about what she pinned to what. That said, a bit more training and I’d happily leave her in the shop while I go on holiday.
I never realised how intense filming is, how many takes are taken and angles covered. I sympathised with Natalie, in charge of continuity, since we were moving lights all the time to accommodate the camera and boom.
In spite of the notice that had been on the door for days, a few regulars did turn up. Veronica came in hoping to sell some more second hand jewellery.
“Sorry, we’re closed for filming,” I told her.
She looked irritated, “Well how long are you going to be? I’ve got this bracelet here...”
“Two days.”
Later she caught Mum and pushed a denim jacket into her hands.
“You can pay me next week if you like it,” she said.
Connie called in too.
“What are they filming for?”
“I’m not sure.”
“What do you mean you’re not sure?”
“Some advert, I think.”
It’d been ambitious to film the script in two days but the crew and cast managed to pull it off, stepping over the anticipated filming time by only 1 hour.
For those two intense days of filming it felt like my shop was its own universe and everything in it mattered.
It was an amazing feeling to be part of the crew and I can’t wait to share it with all you Shop Girl readers.
Thanks from the heart to all those who made it happen and for all those that are reading:

And now for the credits:

Executive Producers – Damon Beesley and Iain Morris
Head of Production and Catering – Leo Martin
Director / Producer – Chloe Thomas
Producer – John Kennedy
Writer – Emily Benet
Editor – Mick Johnson
Production Designer – Piera Lizzeri
1st Assistant Director – Christine Luby
2nd Assistant Director – Rhianna Andrews
Driver/ Runner – Colin Phillips
Director of Photography – Justin Evans
1st Camera Assistant – Dan West
2nd Camera Assistant – Tom Williams
Sound Recordist (day 1) – Juan Diego Sánchez
Boom Operator – Laura Fairbanks
Sound Recordist (day 2) – Richard Munns
Boom Operator – Raul Dias
Casting Director – Cassandra King
Script Supervisor – Natalie Scicluna
Costume Designer – Piera Lizzeri
Costume Assistant – Claire Wardoper
Make-up & Hair Designer - Emma Maris
Make-up & Hair Designer – Jennifer Nash

And thanks to all the actors –

Shop Girl – Katy Wix
Mum – Annette Badland
Ali – Davood Ghadami
Rose – Leila Hoffman
Mr Roberts – Rhod Culbertson
Danny – Blake Harrison
Guardian Seller - Kourush Mavaei
Belle – Lou Conran
Raf – Paul Sharma
Lucus – Jeff Leach
Postman - Dave Shelley

And a massive thanks to my wonderful family for all their love and support -

Mum – Jill Benet
Papa – Antonio Benet
My Brother – Oriol Benet
My Auntie – Keri Hacker

Tuesday 16 June 2009

Grumpy Shop Girl

Some customers bring out the best in me and some bring out my dark side.
I’m not like the sales assistants I saw in Canada. They were so unfaltering in their happiness I wondered if they were on prozac.
My customers wouldn’t take me seriously if I told them to ‘have a nice day’ all the time.
“How much?” Mr Francis says, pointing at a state of the art lamp.
Mr Francis, the haggler, is one of those who stir my inner monster.
“195,” I say.
“What about my discount?”
“Look, I could’ve said 250, then you’d have said 200, then I’d have said 240 and so on, for half an hour, but I didn’t, I’m too busy.”
He looks at me and smiles.
“No,” I say and I turn back to pinning crystal at the counter.
Mr Francis as ever, promises to return next week with money to pay off for the last bargain I shouldn’t have given him.
Another man comes in and points up at a sparkling chandelier near the door. It’s an ornate fitting, loaded with dazzling crystal balls.
“This says 1000 pounds reduced to 700 pounds,” he says.
“I bought the same one for 700 dollars.”
“It probably isn’t the same.”
“It is.”
“Crystal and plating often vary in quality,” I start to explain.
“It’s the same. And I got it for 700 dollars.”
What does he want me to say?
“Lucky you.”
He looks at me and frowns.
“Excuse me?”
“You got a good price,” I say, “so you’re lucky.”
He leaves after that, with no intention of coming back.
The thing is, on the sixth day of being in the shop, a part of you fades.
A part of you loses all interest.
A woman comes in and pouts at me.
“Why are you closing?”
“We don’t want to sell to the public,” I say.
“Oh,” she says, taken aback. “That’s not very nice.”
“I didn’t mean it like that...”
She waits for me to tell her how much fun the public really are.
“We’ll still be doing wholesale,” I say.
“Oh,” she brightens. “So you’ll be on the internet?”
She frowns.
“Well, yes, we will be on the internet...”
“But not to you.”
The local salsa addict comes to see me near closing time.
He’d predicted I’d be ‘bored and lonely’ by this point. He brings music and jaffa cakes and I start to cheer up.
I take my flip flops off and dance barefoot.
“Aren’t you worried about bits of glass on the floor?” he asks.
Mr Salsa attends 8 dance classes a week so I’m not worried about him treading on my toes either.
“This is just what I needed,” I say, as I click into a cha cha.
Afterwards I clean the soles of my feet with window cleaner and we have a home-made piña colada with coconut juice from the newsagent.
I suppose I’d started taking it all a bit too seriously. But it's
nothing music and dancing can’t cure.
Perhaps this is what the shop girls do in Canada.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Shop Girl Dum Di Dum

Without realising it, I missed the 80’s.
In fact, I also missed the 90’s.
Sitting in the park, Rosie and my date tried to include me in a film quiz.
They hummed theme tunes, quoted legendary lines.
“Come on, it’s a classic!” my date cried in disbelief, every time I shrugged.
I picked at the grass; nothing remotely near the tip of my tongue.
“Okay, easy one,” the date said, and breathed into his hand, “Luke, I am your father.”“Star wars?” I said.
They clapped and I felt relieved.
It’s not just films; it’s music too.
Two decades of culture lost to me.
I used to listen to the radio in the shop but stopped when I grew tired of the same old five songs.
Problem is we don’t have many CDs in the shop either.
It’s lucky we don’t mind repetition; it goes well with the crystal pinning.
Last year we played the sound track of the Motor Cycle Diaries over and over, until one morning I found a customer had posted three CD’s through our letter box.
“Thought you needed a change,” he said, when I saw him.
Mum’s didgeridoo music wasn’t much of a hit either .
“What the hell is this?” a customer complained. “It’s like having your head drilled out.”
My taste in music is equally suspect.
I love cheesy Latin stuff; the kind of music where the main singer is always dying of love but always lives to write the next song.
When customers come in, I often lower the volume, embarrassed by the lyrics even though they probably wouldn’t be able to understand them.
Recently, my date introduced me to spotify.
It’s a program that lets you find any music you like at a click of the mouse. No downloading, no complications.
The only downside is a few advert breaks.
Usually it’s just a certain ‘Jonathan’ saying, ‘Hi from spotify’, but sometimes it’s a bit more.
A fellow twenty-something came into my shop last week and as usual, I discreetly turned the music down.
But then it was really quiet.
Too quiet.
So I thought, sod it, better cheesy music than this awkward silence.
I turned the volume back up just as a spotify advert came on.
‘We all love music, especially in the bedroom...’
I panicked, not sure what was coming next, and went to switch it off but instead switched it on full blast.
‘Say YES to SAFE SEX!’Great message but not the one I’d planned to give to this young man who was already looking a little nervous.
The silence that followed was even more uncomfortable.
“Oh spotify,” my friend Velvet, said casually, “I’ve known about it for ages.”
Typical, another thing I’d missed.
But it was new to Rosie.
“Are you ready?” I said, when I rang her. “I’m going to give you a gift.”
Now she says it’s changed her life.
We’re forever texting names of songs back and forward.
Perhaps this is how I’m finally going get some music education.
And perhaps not.
I wonder why I care so much anyway.
Only yesterday a customer came in who I hadn’t seen in a long time.
“You closing?” he said.
“Oh that’s a shame. I enjoy the music in here.”
I grinned and not so discreetly, turned the volume up.