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Studio Tour (2006)

A response to Webster’s ‘The White Devil’, in which themes of infidelity, plotting and revenge are transposed to a present day context.

THE THEATRE SET IS BUILT TO RESEMBLE A FILM SET. A FILM CREW COMPRISING DIRECTOR, DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY, FIRST ASSISTANT, SECOND ASSISTANT, SOUND RECORDIST, CLAPPER AND MAKEUP ARE PRESENT ON SET AT ALL TIMES.
THE AUDIENCE, ON A TOUR OF THE STUDIOS, IS LED INTO THE SOUND STAGE BY AN USHER. THEY ARE PLACED IN A STANDING GROUP TO ONE SIDE OF THE SPACE.
THE FILM SET IS A GARAGE CONTAINING A CAR. MOUNTED ABOVE THE SET IS A LARGE PROJECTION SCREEN ON WHICH SCENES, IN BLACK AND WHITE, ARE SHOWN AS THEY ARE BEING SHOT.
AS THE AUDIENCE ENTERS A SHOT IS BEING SET UP: THE DIRECTOR IS TALKING TO THE DP (DIRECTOR OF PHOTOGRAPHY) NEAR THE CAMERA.
THE CAMERA IS SIGHTED ON THE THREE CHARACTERS IN THE REMAKE OF ‘DOUBLE INDEMNITY’ (BILLY WILDER, 1944).

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THE CHARACTERS ARE:
WALTER NEFF (ORIGINALLY PLAYED BY FRED MACMURRAY) PLAYED BY CHRIS NEWLAND
PHYLLIS DIETRICHSON (ORIGINALLY PLAYED BY BARBARA STANWYCK) PLAYED BY LYDIA AYERS
MR DIETRICHSON (ORIGINALLY PLAYED BY TOM POWERS) PLAYED BY GARETH BRIERLEY

THE SHOT IS TAKEN FROM THE SCENE IN WHICH THE INSURANCE AGENT NEFF GETS THE UNPLEASANT MR DIETRICHSON TO SIGN A CAR INSURANCE RENEWAL. IF DIETRICHSON IS KILLED IN EXCEPTIONALLY UNUSUAL CIRCUMSTANCES, HIS WIFE WILL COLLECT TWICE THE USUAL AMOUNT FROM THE INSURANCE COMPANY: THE DOUBLE INDEMNITY. UNKNOWN TO DIETRICHSON HIS WIFE, PHYLLIS, IS PLOTTING WITH NEFF TO MURDER HER HUSBAND. THE CIRCUMSTANCES OF HIS DEATH WILL BE UNUSUAL.

THE SCENE FEATURES THE FOLLOWING DIALOGUE TAKEN FROM THE MOVIE:

NEFF Now if you’ll just sign these, Mr Dietrichson.
DIETRICHSON Sign what?
NEFF The applications for the auto renewal, so you’ll be covered until the new policies are issued.

NEFF HANDS DIETRICHSON SOME PAPERS AND A PEN.

DIETRICHSON When will that be?
NEFF About a week.
DIETRICHSON Just so I’m covered when I drive up north.
NEFF San Francisco?
DIETRICHSON Palo Alto.
PHYLLIS He was a Stanford man, Mr Neff. And he goes to his class reunion every year.
DIETRICHSON What’s wrong with that? Can’t I have a little fun even once a year?

IN THE REALITY OF THE FILM SHOOT, GARETH AND LYDIA ARE PARTNERS. LYDIA, HOWEVER, HAS MET CHRIS ON THE SHOOT AND IS HAVING AN AFFAIR WITH HIM. THEY HAVE BEEN PLOTTING TO GET GARETH SACKED FROM THE MOVIE. AS THEY SHOOT AND RESHOOT THE SCENE, LYDIA AND CHRIS CONSPIRE TO MAKE GARETH SEEM INCOMPETENT, THEREBY DRAWING DOWN THE ANGER OF THE LEGENDARILY TURBULENT DIRECTOR, DAVID (PLAYED BY DAVID GALE).
THE CONSPIRATORS WILL SUCCEED IN THEIR PLAN. DAVID WILL FIRE GARETH.

DIRECTOR Okay, run sound.
RECORDIST Sound running.
DIRECTOR Mark it.
CLAPPER Double Indemnity, Scene 27, Take 2. (CLAP!)
DIRECTOR Action!

THE DIALOGUE IS RUN RIGHT THROUGH, IN AMERICAN ACCENTS. THE SCENE IS SEEN LIVE ON THE PROJECTION SCREEN. IT IS A STATIC THREE-SHOT.
WHEN THE ACTORS ARE NOT SHOOTING THEY SPEAK WITH BRITISH ACCENTS.
AT THE END OF EVERY TAKE, THE MAKEUP ARTIST WILL ADJUST THE ACTORS’ HAIR AND POWDER THEIR FACES.

DIRECTOR Cut! (HE WALKS INTO THE SHOT) Okay, Gareth, we can afford to see more edge there. This is not a nice man.
GARETH But he doesn’t suspect anything yet.
DIRECTOR No – not a thing. He’s still an irritable bastard though.
CHRIS He’s not nice to anybody.
GARETH Is he a drinker, do you think?
DIRECTOR Not necessarily.
LYDIA I think he just has one when he gets home.
DIRECTOR Yeah. Maybe. Okay?
GARETH Sure.
DIRECTOR Lydia – no need to lean in, we can see you.
CHRIS And no waving at the camera. It’s amateurish.
LYDIA Tee hee.
DIRECTOR (TO FIRST ASSISTANT) Becky, please.
FIRST Quiet please! Going for another one! Run sound.
RECORDIST Sound running.
FIRST Mark it.
CLAPPER Double Indemnity, Scene 27, Take 3. (CLAP!)
DIRECTOR Action!

THE DIALOGUE, TRANSCRIBED FROM THE ORIGINAL MOVIE, IS RUN UP TO AND INCLUDING THE FOLLOWING POINT:
DIETRICHSON Just so I’m covered when I drive up north.
RECORDIST Cut!
FIRST Okay, cut it!
DIRECTOR What’s the problem?
RECORDIST I’ve got a generator or something.
FIRST (TO SECOND ASSISTANT) Ayako! Check that out please!

THE SECOND ASSISTANT LEAVES THE SOUND STAGE.
THE ACTORS CHAT AMONG THEMSELVES:
LYDIA (TO GARETH) Sweety.
GARETH What?
LYDIA Did you ask Maria to go to Waitrose?
GARETH Was I suppposed to?
LYDIA You didn’t ask her?
GARETH I thought you were going to.
LYDIA Jesus! I told you last night. What are we going to eat?
GARETH We can go out.
LYDIA We’re not going to be back till eleven.
CHRIS Baked beans. They can be very satisfying.
LYDIA Fuck off.
CHRIS I’m serious.
LYDIA There are no baked beans in my house. I won’t have them.
CHRIS Come round mine. I’ll make something.
GARETH No, we couldn’t.
LYDIA Don’t say that – we’re going to starve.
GARETH It’s not fair on Chris.
LYDIA I’ll go on my own. You can eat biscuits.

THE SECOND ASSISTANT RETURNS AND CONFERS BRIEFLY WITH THE FIRST.

FIRST Okay, everybody, going again. Stand by! Run sound!
RECORDIST Sound running.
FIRST Mark it.
CLAPPER Double Indemnity, Scene 27, Take 4. (CLAP!)
DIRECTOR Action!

THE DIALOGUE IS RUN RIGHT THROUGH.

DIRECTOR And cut! (HE WALKS INTO THE SHOT) Gareth, we’re still not seeing that this guy is completely unlikeable. It’s not just that he’s irritated with Neff, he’s always irritated. He’s sour.
CHRIS Which is why she wants to off him.
GARETH Yeah, I know, I realise that.
DIRECTOR So, when he says ‘When will that be?’, for example, he’s being rude. He doesn’t have any manners. And we need that so that we don’t relax too much and think he’s easy game and they’ll get away with it.
GARETH Yeah. Right.
DIRECTOR Okay. Chris, that’s fine. We’ll go again. Becky!
FIRST One minute, David.
DIRECTOR Soon as you can.
HE WALKS BACK TO A POSITION BEHIND THE CAM.
CHRIS (TO GARETH) You know what I reckon, he’s suspicious of Neff.
GARETH He’s got no reason to be, though.
CHRIS Yeah, but he’s suspicious of everybody.
GARETH Which I think I’m doing.
CHRIS You are. But what if he teases Neff: the older man teasing the young upstart. But sort of good-humouredly.
GARETH Like he can afford to be good humoured because he’s powerful.
LYDIA But it’s not really good humoured, because if you cross him he’s vile.
CHRIS If you play the good humour, over the sour thing, that could be really menacing.
LYDIA I reckon.
GARETH That’s good.
FIRST Okay everybody, cracking on! Stand by please! And run sound.
RECORDIST Sound running.
FIRST Mark it.
CLAPPER Double Indemnity, Scene 27, Take 5. (CLAP!)
DIRECTOR Action!

THE DIALOGUE IS RUN RIGHT THROUGH.

DIRECTOR Cut! (HE WALKS INTO THE SHOT) Gareth, what’s happening? What are you doing? He’s not Father Christmas!
GARETH I sort of saw him as being good-humoured, having this good-humoured thing, over the sour aspect.
DIRECTOR Why?
GARETH Because he can afford to. His power and everything.
DIRECTOR Gareth, Dietrichson is on screen for a total of two minutes. He comes in, he’s an arsehole, he gets killed. Then the movie starts. We can’t make him subtle. We have to read him straight away. He’s an arsehole. We’ll go again. Keep it simple.

HE WALKS BACK TO A POSITION BEHIND THE CAM AND TALKS WITH THE DP.

CHRIS I liked what you did.
GARETH Pity you’re not directing.
LYDIA Gareth, David’s known for this.
GARETH What?
LYDIA He’s not really into acting. He comes from commercials. Basically you try things out and he tells you whether he likes it. He doesn’t know how to get what he wants.
GARETH So who does?
LYDIA You work it out between yourselves. We’ve been doing that for weeks, haven’t we, Chrissie?
GARETH You’re used to him. This is my first day.
CHRIS I’ve got a great idea. Deadpan. Cold but simmering.
GARETH Cold but simmering?
CHRIS He’s completely full of contempt. So much so that he won’t even waste energy on people. They’re not worth it.
GARETH Everyone is scum.
LYDIA Absolutely. Phyllis, everyone.
DIRECTOR Thank you, Becky!
FIRST Going again, people. Stand by! Run sound.
RECORDIST Sound running.
FIRST Mark it.
CLAPPER Double Indemnity, Scene 27, Take 6. (CLAP!)
DIRECTOR Action!

THE DIALOGUE IS RUN RIGHT THROUGH.

DIRECTOR Cut! (HE WALKS INTO THE SHOT) Gareth, would you mind having a little word?
HE WALKS OFF SET WITH GARETH TO A QUIET CORNER.
MEANWHILE, CHRIS AND LYDIA ARE LEFT ON SET, WITH THE CAM STILL ON. THEIR IMAGE IS THEREFORE PROJECTED ONTO THE SCREEN.
THEY TALK IN LOW VOICES BUT WE CAN HEAR THEM OVER THE SOUND SYSTEM
THEY RAISE THEIR EYEBROWS AS GARETH LEAVES.
LYDIA What do you think?
CHRIS Little bit deadpan, possibly.
LYDIA (GIGGLING) You’re horrible!
CHRIS (LEANING FORWARD TO KISS HER) No. I was full of helpful suggestions.
LYDIA Unstoppable.
CHRIS In so many ways.
LYDIA JABS HIM IN PLAYFUL REPROACH.
ACROSS THE STUDIO, THE DIRECTOR WALKS AWAY FROM GARETH.
LYDIA Looks like an early bath, then.
CHRIS Great! I’ve been feeling a bit dirty.
LYDIA Not you!
THEY CANOODLE AS FOCUS SWITCHES TO THE DIRECTOR.
HE WALKS TO THE DP AND CONFERS BRIEFLY. SHE STARTS TO SET UP ANOTHER SHOT (MID-SHOT 2 SHOT) OF CHRIS AND LYDIA.
THE DIRECTOR’S NEXT LINES ARE NOT AMPLIFIED AND WILL THEREFORE TAKE PLACE NEAR THE AUDIENCE.
HE PRODUCES A MOBILE PHONE AND MAKES A CALL.
DIRECTOR Can I have Carole Ambrose, please. Hi Carole – David. I’m fine. You? Excellent. Oh, quite well, I guess. Yes – that’s what I’d like to talk about. It’s not as smooth as I’d like, I’m afraid. I’m afraid he’s not quite right. Yes, I’m afraid so. Lovely man and everything but I don’t seem to be getting through. So I’m letting him go and I’d be grateful if you could let him know. I’m sure you’ve got his mobile. No – it’s a shame. Julian okay? Great. Got to go. Ciao, Carole.
(HE LOOKS AROUND FOR THE FIRST)
Becky?
FIRST Got it!
THE DIRECTOR WALKS ONTO THE SET.
DIRECTOR Okay. Guys – this is the reaction. He’s signed the document and you can’t resist glancing at each other. Secretive but smug, yeah?
LYDIA Great.
DIRECTOR Becky.
FIRST Stand by, please. Quiet on the set! Run sound.
RECORDIST Sound running.
FIRST Mark it.
CLAPPER Double Indemnity, Scene 28, Take 1. (CLAP!)
DIRECTOR Action!
(CHRIS AND LYDIA DO THE REACTION SHOT)
And cut!
Very nice. Well done. We’ll go with that.
BECKY Take a break, guys.
(CHRIS AND LYDIA CONTINUE TO LOOK AT EACH OTHER, SECRETIVELY AND SMUGLY.)
Guys!
THEY SNAP OUT OF THE LOOK, GIGGLE AND STROLL OFF, WHISPERING TO EACH OTHER.

THE USHER TELLS THE AUDIENCE A BREAK IS COMING UP AND MOVES THEM OUT OF THE SOUND STAGE.

END

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