PART I: BEFORE // Chapter Two: How He Got Started: 6

The next morning at precisely 7:30, Gil’s door buzzer buzzed. Determined to make a more professional appearance than he had the previous morning, Gil purposely waited a minute or two by looking around to make sure he had everything. Then he calmly left his room, locking the door behind him, and proceeded up the few steps to the front entrance where he found Harry waiting for him.

“Good morning, Mr. Hall,” Harry said briskly and impersonally, giving no hint that the previous afternoon’s conversation had ever taken place.

Gil, somewhat relieved, replied in the same fashion, and on the way to Lincoln Park nothing was discussed other than some mumbled pleasantries about the weather.

The day’s shooting proceeded much as it had the day before, the only exception being that Gil was now more sure of himself.

And so it went for the next four days, the only variance in the routine being the areas in which Dave placed the marking tape for Gil’s interviews. Dave had explained to Gil that he wanted to use different camera angles to vary the look of the film, and Gil agreed that it was a good idea to do so. Things went well the rest of the week, the weather doing its part by staying dry and relatively warm. By the end of Friday’s shooting, Gil thought he had at least ten hours of good footage already in the can. He hoped that this would make a good impression on DeVille when Gil went to see him the next afternoon.

Mid afternoon Saturday found Gil on the Sunset bus, heading toward DeVille’s office on Highland. He was understandably nervous, but strangely ambivalent at the same time. He felt that he was a completely different person than he had been when he had first visited DeVille’s office less than two weeks ago. Yet at the same time he knew that this strange new feeling of confidence and maturity could vanish within seconds if DeVille didn’t like the footage they had shot.

Upon descending from the bus at Highland Gil checked his watch. It was only a quarter to four he noted with satisfaction. Good. At least no matter what else happened he wouldn’t be late. Walking briskly up Highland he entered the building that housed Stupendous Productions, and within a few minutes was striding into its reception area much more confidently than he had done on his previous visit. The room once again was vacant except for a smiling Miss Schoonover, who sat behind her desk, this time sorting through some documents.

As soon as he entered she greeted him warmly by name and without being asked told him to go right on in to DeVille’s office.

Gil returned her friendly greeting and briskly strode into DeVille’s lair without knocking. He found DeVille sitting behind his desk as usual, but this time he had his feet up on it and was reading a copy of Golf Digest. Gil noted with barely concealed amusement that the man was now dressed in what he supposed was a suburban tourist outfit—collared white Banlon shirt open at the neck, pale blue polyester trousers and tasseled tan leather loafers with no socks.

Immediately upon noticing Gil he took his feet off the desk, put down the Golf Digest and said in a gruff but friendly voice, “Hiya, kid. Glad you’re on time. Gotta meeting later at Nicholson’s place. Got the film all processed and ready to screen. Hope I’m not disappointed. I’m expecting good things from you, kid.”

Somewhat taken aback by the man’s abruptness, gill mumbled, “I think I’ve got some pretty good footage, Mr. DeVille.”

DeVille grinned. “We’ll see about that,” he said. “Wanna drink before we go down?”

Gil was about to refuse, but then his new mature and confident personality thought better of it. “Sure, Mr. DeVille,” he said. “A light scotch and soda on the rocks would be just fine.”

“Now you’re talkin’, kid!” DeVille nodded approvingly while reaching for a bottle of Dewar’s and the necessary implements. When he had built Gil’s drink he replenished the glass on his desk and they raised their glasses together in a toast. “To the project, kid,” said DeVille taking a healthy gulp.

Gil gingerly took a sip and tried to keep from gagging. The man obviously had no idea what a light drink was, he thought to himself.

Beckoning him to follow DeVille walked out of his office into the reception area. Glancing at Miss Schoonover he said, “We’ll be in the screening room. Don’t call me there unless it’s important.”

Miss Schoonover nodded but made no reply as the two of them walked out of the office and down the hall. The second door on the other side of the hall was marked simply  “Screening Room” and DeVille opened it with a key he took from his pocket. They entered and he locked the door behind them.

It was a small room with an even smaller projection booth at the rear, only some twenty feet or so from a white screen that covered the entire opposite wall. In between were a dozen plushly upholstered reclining chairs set in three rows of four each. In the projection booth was another man obviously waiting for a signal from DeVille.

DeVille led Gil down to the front row and they both took seats. Turning his head back towards the booth he called out, “Roll ’em when ready!”

There was a muffled response in the affirmative. Within a very few minutes the lights in the room dimmed and the screen came to life.

Upon seeing and hearing himself on the screen larger than life, Gil’s newfound self-confidence completely disappeared. He began to shrink down into his seat, cringing with embarrassment as he thought to himself, My God, I look and sound like a twelve-year old. DeVille is gonna kill me.

Sneaking a peek at DeVille through his fingers with which he had covered his eyes in shame, he noticed that far from showing any negative emotions DeVille was actually grinning and nodding his head. Gil, now daring to hope for the best, uncovered his face as DeVille slapped him on the shoulder saying, “Great stuff, kid! This is gonna knock ’em dead!” Then he said more seriously, “Is the rest of it pretty much like this?”

Gil looked up at the screen upon which a woman who he remembered was a teenaged mother of four was pouring her heart out to a clearly enraptured Gil. “Yes, it’s all pretty much the same kind of stuff, Mr. DeVille.”

DeVille pounded him on the back enthusiastically. “Then I think we’ve pretty much seen enough. Great work, kid. Didn’t I tell you you could do it?” He turned his head back towards the projection booth again saying, “Okay Arnold, that’ll do.”

Within a few seconds the house lights came up and the screen went blank.

Gil looked at DeVille and said hesitantly, “So is that pretty much what you want, Mr. DeVille?”

“Damn right, kid.” DeVille put his arm around Gil’s shoulders and they both started up the short aisle towards the door. “Let’s go back to the office. I’ve got a few things I want to discuss with you. No, you don’t have to worry. This is good stuff.” As they reached the projection booth DeVille called out, “Arnold! Lock up here when you’re through, willya? And take those film cans to the office and give them to my secretary.”

A muffled voice replied, “Right, Mr. DeVille.”

Entering the office again DeVille strode straight to his private office, Gil following. When they had entered and settled themselves DeVille remarked, “I can’t believe it, kid! But it looks to me like you guys are ahead of schedule.” He jerked a thumb in the general direction of the outer office. “How much good footage you figure you’ve got so far? Eight hours?”

“Probably more like ten,” Gil replied modestly.

“Great. Okay, here’s what’s gonna happen. Take your crew and go back out on Monday. Next Thursday’s Thanksgiving. If you think you’re doing well enough, just work the three days and take the long weekend off.”

“One thing bothers me, Mr. DeVille.”

“Yeah? What’s that, kid?”

“Well, practically all of the interviews that I’ve done have been in Spanish. How are the people who come to see the film going to be able to understand it?”

DeVille snorted. “Ever hear of subtitles, kid? We love subtitles in prestige films. The kind of middle-class liberal moviegoer that’s gonna like this film is the same kind that positively eats up those European arty films—you know, the ones with subtitles?”

Much relieved, Gil replied, “That’s right. I never thought of that.”

“That’s okay,” he said. “You’re new at this and we’ve got to make allowances. I’ve got this guy,” he continued, “a real good editor. Name’s Herrera or something like that. Schoonover’s got his card in the Rolodex. He speaks good Spanish and can edit it together all right. Mike will help with the wording of the subtitles. That okay with you?”

“Yes, that sounds great, Mr. DeVille.”

“Oh yeah. One more thing. I think I told you we were gonna do some voiceover narration? Well, guess who I got.”

“No idea, Mr. DeVille.”

“Only Garson Wilsey, that’s all.”

“Wow,” said Gil now visibly impressed. “You mean Garson Wilsey, the great leading man and brilliant auteur of the fifties and sixties? How in the world did you manage to get him?”

“Well,” said DeVille, shaking his head, “it’s a sad story really. The man couldn’t seem to keep himself from drowning in his own excesses. He now weighs close to three hundred pounds, would you believe it?”

“No!” gasped Gil a little breathlessly.

“Yeah,” continued DeVille. “For the last few years he’s done only voice work. He’s been too embarrassed to go in front of the camera. But that voice is still like money in the bank. He’ll give our film that high-toned seriousness a doc like this needs.” DeVille stood up and extended his hand to Gil. “Looks like we can wrap this thing up at least a week or two ahead of schedule. I’m seriously considering giving everybody a bonus.”

“That would be great,” replied Gil, shaking DeVille’s hand with something approaching self-confidence.

“Oh by the way,” said DeVille as he led Gil towards the office door. “What are you doing over the weekend?”

“Well,” said Gil, “it’s like you asked me when we first met. I’ve really got nothing to do. Don’t know anybody, no obligations.”

“Good, good,” said DeVille, taking a cigar from a box on a table near the door and lighting it. “I myself got obligations on Thanksgiving. You know, family stuff. But Friday I’m having a big party for everyone. You’re invited along with your crew. I’d better warn you, don’t eat anything before you come to the party. There’s gonna be turkeys and hams and all kinds of stuff. How’s that sound?”

“I’d love to come, Mr. DeVille,” Gil said courteously.

“Great,” said DeVille, opening the office door for Gil. “Harry will give you the details and pick you up around one or two o’clock Friday afternoon. Okay with you?”

“Sure, sounds fine.”

“Okay then,” he called to Gil, who was already leaving the office.  “Keep up the good work.”

“I will.”

And with that DeVille closed his office door, leaving Gil alone with the ever-present Miss Schoonover.

Gil was feeling so happy and confident that as he passed Miss Schoonover’s desk he heard himself saying, “Going to Mr. DeVille’s party, Miss Schoonover?”

Miss Schoonover gave him a radiant smile and said, “Why yes. I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“Great,” said Gil. “Maybe I’ll see you there.”

“Maybe you will,” she said a bit teasingly.

Gil left the office, then the building, whistling a happy tune all the way to the bus stop.

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