Mark, a representative from Paramount, and my lawyer all met at the nearest bank to close the deal. Like clockwork, Variety, TMZ, and ComingSoon.net had the story posted on their sites:
"Michael Kent Whittaker to play General Robert E. Lee in Travis Winston's Game-Changer film for Wanda/Paramount";
"Michael 'Screaming Geezer' Whittaker to play old Civil War General in Travis Winston's Groundbreaking New Film";
"Travis Winston has his Man in Michael Whittaker".
"It's absolutely amazing," I reflected in the car on the way to Paramount Studios, "The same story could be reported in so many different ways."
"Boggles my mind too," Judd agreed, "I just hope TMZ finally gets rid of the nicknames. They just annoy the crap out of me."
We pulled up to the rose-bedecked entrance of Wanda, with less fanfare than last time.
My loafers slap the ground as my shoulders straighten in my stride. The secretaries direct me to the secret studio lot I had looked into a week ago. Of course, I didn't tell them that, but yet I barely need directions to get there.
The golf carts barely take away the sweltering heat of the morning, despite having no windshield and the most natural air-conditioning I could get at the moment. Still, it was nice to be welcomed into the Studio with blasts of cold air and the sterile smell of new central air conditioning.
The noise from the fans is immediately drowned out by a speaker system.
"Ladies, Gentlemen, and Transitioning, I'd like to introduce our General, Michael Whittaker! Let's hear it for him!"
The applause from the wide table echoed throughout the studio, bouncing off of the wood of sets being built.
The long oval table stood towards the left side, occupied by dozens of actors and pages upon pages of script. My seat waited next to Travis, surrounded by wide eyes and fidgeting writers.
After the hoopla died down, and everyone leaned back in their rolling chairs, Travis turned on the mics and began to speak.
"I think everyone is here, so let's begin. My name is Travis Winston, and I'm the director of 'Lee's Fight'."
Some joker in the cast chimed up with a drawn out, AA reference: "Hello, Travis".
Some chuckles were had, but I rolled my eyes during a chuckle.
"Anyways, I'd like to get this started, so we'll credit the producers, actors, and writers closer to the end. I'll speak all of the non-speaking lines and production notes. Let's begin.
My script lay in front of me, with my name scribbled on and covered with yellow highlighter. All of my lines were highlighted already, so I didn't need to even read far ahead.
The script reading took so long that they broke for lunch three hours later.
The crew left to go straight to the buffet table, but I've learned that the best food was in the heating trays, waiting for the first trays to finish. As Travis resumed technical jargon with another couple of producers, I wandered around the new shooting room. It took up the most of the building, with bright green paint covering the walls. In the middle of the whole set lay a bright green track for the massive pillar camera to move around the facility. Set pieces were barely there, while the rooms were barely constructed, identified solely by the sticky notes on the walls and graffitied words on the flimsy doors.
"Looks strange doesn't it?"
I turned around to see a new face. Her bright eyes glowed as bright as the red in her cheeks. She wore jeans and a Casablanca t-shirt, dark red glasses and converse sneakers.
"Yeah. You're Wilhemina, the nurse, right?"
She shrugged with a snicker.
"Yes, but thank goodness that's only my name in the movie."
I chuckle at her little joke. She grins happily.
"I just wanted to say," she said, "I loved your work, even aside from James Dean."
I faced her, my hands resting in my pockets.
"Why, thank you, Miss."
She looked to the ground as if her mouth spoke too much.
"Excuse, me," I began, but before I could ask her anything, she disappeared. I took the apparition as a cue that I was starving, so I followed the delicious smells into the dining room.
It was mostly a tent, with portable ventilators for air and sunlight filtered through translucent plastic. The tables were all filled with new faces across all parts of the production. I even had a twinge of apprehension, like a child going to summer camp for the first time.
As I sat down with my selection from the buffet, I felt like I was being watched. As I sat at a packed table, all eyes turned to me.
One of the people sitting there, the bravest of the young people, asked for my attention.
"Yes, Private?" I responded, remembering that he was a Confederate soldier in the movie.
"Sir, I just wanted to thank you for joining the project. We have no idea what we're doing compared to you."
"Well," I let my guard down a little, to let the others in, "I had no idea what I was doing at your time either. Hell, even after meeting with Steven Spielberg I still had no idea."
"Sir," he interjected, "You MET STEVEN SPIELBERG?!"
"Sure," I answer matter-of-factly, "right after an agent found my reel and short film. Funny story about how I met Steven actually..."
I never had so many bright eyes looking to me as I finished one of my favorite stories to tell. They laughed along with me, their eyes opened wider when I told them who else I met with that day. Then Travis called us back in to resume the reading.
As we all walked back into the room, I noticed the nurse actress hovering around the door.
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