My Unscripted Life(4)

By: Lauren Morrill


“I didn’t even know this was back here,” Dad says as he turns the car into the parking lot. I don’t say anything, because all my thoughts—this looks like the scene of a murder, this looks like where you stash a body, this looks like where you walk into a warehouse and get sucked into a third dimension—would not instill confidence. And I want him to actually leave me here, preferably without coming in first. I know next to nothing about moviemaking, but I’m pretty sure arriving on set with your dad as a chaperone is not done.

We pull up to a temporary guardhouse at the entrance, clearly new as part of the production, and stop. A short, squat woman steps out, her hair in braids beneath a black ball cap. “Can I help you?”

My dad leans across my lap to duck through the passenger window, leaving me flattened against the back of the seat. “Yeah, hi, we’re here for the movie?” I roll my eyes, but my cheeks burn. Already we sound like celebrity-stalking fans, so I’m not surprised when she narrows her eyes and reaches for a clipboard.

“Name?”

I give Dad a firm but gentle shove and then take my place in the window. “Dee Wilkie,” I say.

Her finger scans over the list, pausing to tap on a name. She grabs a neon-green piece of paper off a stack and hands it to me. “Put this in your windshield and park where the yellow sign says CREW.” She points down the way toward a sea of cars.

I start to hand the paper back to her. “Oh, he’s not—” I say, but Dad plucks the parking pass out of my hand.

“Thank you!” he calls through the open window. He quickly finds an empty space, a cherry-red Mini Cooper on one side and a rusted-out Toyota sedan on the other.

“Dad, you promised,” I say as I watch him unbuckle his seat belt. I swallow the whine that wants to creep into my voice. The only way to win this battle is to give the impression that I’m a mature young woman headed to her first day at work, as if I took the filing job at the college that he offered. And maybe if I can conjure up that tone of voice, I’ll actually feel like that’s what I’m doing. But I’m seriously faking it, because right now I’m so overcome with butterflies and lightning bolts and basically a whole summer-evening storm inside me that I can barely sit still. I settle for giving him a pleading look.

He sighs. I can tell he desperately wants to come in and look around, though not for the benefit of my safety.

“Please, Dad?”

He sighs again. “Don’t tell your mother,” he says. “And call me if anything gets…weird.”

“Ew, Dad.” I climb out of the car, then duck back down into the open window. “And thanks.”

The building in front of me, a one-story brown stucco structure with a concrete warehouse rising up behind it, looks about as far from Hollywood as I can imagine. There’s no signage indicating that anything exciting is happening inside other than these bright yellow plastic things about the size of a piece of printer paper. They were scattered along the road starting about a half mile back, with black arrows on them directing people to various parking lots and the front door of the building. They each bear one word, all caps, in black, blocky letters: COLOR. I have no idea what it means.

All of a sudden my stomach feels like it’s been pumped full of helium and is floating up into my throat. My hands shake a little as I lock my bike to a signpost, then hoist my bag farther up on my shoulder and go to drop my sunglasses inside, but I miss and they go clattering down onto the pavement.

“Chill out, Dee,” I whisper to myself as I retrieve my sunglasses. “You’re supposed to be here.”

At least, I hope I am. There’s only one door into the building, a plate-glass number with no signs. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was hoping for some kind of note saying, YOU! YES, YOU! THIS WAY TO CELEBRITY TIME! Or at least something marked RIALTO PRODUCTIONS.

I loop my bag over my shoulder and head for the door. As soon as I open it I’m met with a blast of arctic air-conditioning, a sure sign that whoever is here is not used to a south Georgia summer. There’s a receptionist’s desk just inside the small vestibule, but it’s empty. There’s only a hand-drawn paper sign with a shaky arrow on it pointing me through another door and down a hall. I check my phone. I’ve only got a few minutes before my call time, which, according to my Internet research, means the time I’m supposed to report to work, so I have no choice but to follow the mysterious signs.

Two steps down the hallway, I know I’ve arrived somewhere. I’m still not sure if it’s the right somewhere, but it’s definitely somewhere. No longer am I in a post-apocalyptic, deserted office building. The hall opens up into a spacious room full of desks and computers. All around me are people barking into cell phones or listening in on headsets, adjusting walkie-talkies clipped to their belts. A stocky blond girl in jeans and a T-shirt runs past me with a stack of papers in her hand, and I have to take a small step to the left to avoid becoming beige-carpet roadkill.