A Neovision Film
Kosha Millano stared dismally into her fourth cup of coffee. Despite the fact that her young assistant, Taite, had assured her it was raspberry-flavour, the gold Usul failed to taste the difference between this cup and the last one, which had been Cocoanut Cream.
With a sigh, Kosha turned back to the stack of papers on her desk and peered at the one on top. The print was so fine the Usul had to dig around on the desk underneath countless pens, pencils, papers, sticky pads, and empty coffee cups for her glasses. She shoved them on her nose, glanced at the clock, which read two minutes past midnight, and then went back to her paper.
Dear Ms. Millano,
I am terribly sorry to disturb you, but I have just realized that at our meeting Saturday, I failed to tell you that I do have a shellfish allergy.
Hoping this doesn’t cause problems, and that you are well,
James A. Breckham
Oh, heavens. How do you make a sea film with a Kyrii who has a shellfish allergy? Kosha shoved the letter to one side and pinched the bridge of her nose. Why on Neopia had she ever decided to be a movie director? It didn’t matter that anyone in the Neovision business regarded the Usul as one of the most talented directors of the century, nor that producers were begging her to direct their films. No, none of this could ever make up for the fact that Kosha rarely got any sleep anymore, she had had to say goodbye to her dream of settling down on some remote island with a family, or that she could no longer even go shopping in peace.
Kosha gulped down the rest of her coffee as she called her assistant. In moments, the smart-looking pink Aisha was at the door, still looking pristine in her business suit although she should have been in bed hours ago.
“Yes Ms. Millano?”
“Oh, Taite, can’t you just call me Kosha?” Kosha sighed. “Or even Ko would be okay. I don’t care.” She waved an arm at the mess she often referred to as a desk. “Taite, I’m swamped. I don’t think I can do this.”
“But you just found the perfect actor for Jenny!” Taite cried, looking alarmed. “And the producer, Mr. Biswald, called this morning to say he would up the budget to fifteen million neopoints!”
“I didn’t mean it literally, Taite,” Kosha said wryly, turning back to her desk. She grabbed a fresh sheet of paper and a new pencil. She was way too far into this to back out now. They were due to start shooting next week.
Dear Mr. Breckham, she began, chewing her lip thoughtfully. Taite moved nervously in the doorway.
Of course it will be no problem,
She hunted for a moment until she unearthed a copy of the script. Some of the pages had coffee-stains on them, and quite a few were dog-eared. She flipped through them, stopping briefly at the cast list to gaze fondly at the characters she nearly knew by now:
Main Cast List:
Ivan (James A. Breckham): young red Kyrii seaman who lives by fishing. (main character).
Jennifer De Melu (Jennifer Larue): Maraquan princess who discovers the world of Above. (main character).
Hekava (George Litman): Evil sorcerer bent on kidnapping the beautiful Princess Jennifer. (villain).
Samuel (Balab Kingly): Friend of Ivan.
Tatela (Healy Makavak): A mysterious woman whom Ivan and Jenny meet.
Kosha tore herself away, mentally telling herself she really didn’t have time to read the whole thing, and continued page turning. Aha:
Ivan (as he pries open oyster): The sea life is a hard one, aye, but ye be getting’ some benefits, little Jenny.
Darn. Change that to ‘cuts open a fish?’ Too disgusting. Kosha tapped her pencil, thinking. She’d have to run that one by the writers, Jerry, Claudia, and Greg.
Hoping to see you again soon,
That should do. Kosha flicked her pencil away from her, folded the letter, and reached up to put it in the silver slot on the wall above her desk. As she did so, a framed picture on the shelf below it caught her eye. Kosha found herself staring wistfully at a photograph of her two yellow Usul daughters, twins called Annamarie and Neya, and their father, a blue Usul commonly known as Fred. All three were grinning at the camera, waving from the beach of Mystery Island. My last vacation, Kosha thought. A whirring noise startled her out of her thoughts. A light on the silver slot flashed red, and a dull metallic voice announced: “Neomail sent. One unread message.”
The light flashed again, green this time, and a folded note fell out onto Kosha’s desk. Taite cleared her throat.
“Um, Kosha? I’m going to go home now, if it’s okay with you...” the Aisha nervously twisted her purse.
“Oh, by all means, go home, Taite. I shouldn’t have kept you so long,” Kosha said quickly. She gingerly picked up the Neomail.
“No problem, no problem at all,” Taite said, then hastily exited. It made Kosha feel decidedly lonely as she heard the Aisha’s heels clicking on the stairs. A light went out in the hall. Kosha opened the Neomail. This is the last thing, she told herself grimly. After this, I’m going home. Annamarie and Neya have school tomorrow.
Ms. Kosha Millano,
We of the Maraqua Catering Service would be happy to cater at your event. Dates confirmed: 13 day of Hiding, Year Twelve, to 19 day of Sleeping, Year Twelve.
Head manager of Maraqua Catering Service
Well, that was one plus. Feeling slightly more happy, Kosha grabbed her thin canvas tote bag she preferred over a purse, flicked off the lights, locked her office, and left the building, headed for home and bed.
“All set?” the blue Eyrie safety technician passed Kosha the thin necklace that would allow her to breathe underwater during the filming as the Usul zipped up her diving suit.
I hate underwater movies, Kosha thought as the Eyrie moved on to the camerapets, whistling. Only a week into production and already she missed home terribly. Things had not gone well from the start, either. To begin with, their editing writer, Claudia, had been seasick. The red Lutari had spent most of the journey gulping down different healing potions and looking distinctly green instead of editing out any shellfish scenes. Greg had had to do that instead, which had made the green Shoyru, whose job was normally to write large action pieces, rather grumpy. Upon docking, they found that the shores of Maraqua were pretty much uninhabited, the people liking to live under the water. Not a good start.
“Hey, Kosha, I’ve a question about this scene.” Phillipa J. Selmons, twelve-year-old actress extraordinaire, and portrayer of Jenny, the heroine, hurried toward her. Kosha forced a smile on her face as she turned to meet the fully-make-upped Maraquan Ixi. Phillipa made a face when she saw her looking.
“I hate being Maraquan; red suits me so much better,” she sighed. Kosha gave her a smile.
“It’s only for filming. And that paint brush was quite expensive, you know.”
“Oh, I know,” Phillipa said quickly, and then realized the director was teasing her. “Yeah.” She blushed slightly.
“Anyway, what scene?” Kosha asked, stretching slightly. The water suit moved with her. She looked down at it with new respect. Perhaps some of the Space Station technology could be useful. Like that new Virtu-imaging. It sure was handy for when things (i.e. ships) got difficult to position just right. You didn’t need to film them at all; you could just add them in as a drawing later.
“The one where I pick up the scepter. Y’know how you’re going to do that light thing where it goes all glowy? I wanted to know, should I just be looking at the scepter, or should I look where the light goes, too?” Phillipa looked eagerly to the Usul. Kosha thought about that one for a moment.
“Look at the cave wall to the right,” she said at last. “All the lights’ll be done with the Virtu-Imaging. You know, the stuff Dr. Sloth thought up. It was originally supposed to help with his plan for taking over Neopia, because he could just draw in all the troops in their battle lines and they moved, but when he gave up and became a Health-Food Chef it got brought down here. It works really well for neovision films.”
Phillipa nodded, looking much happier. “Thanks,” she said. Kosha nodded.
“No problem. C’mon, let’s get on the boat.”
Director and actor headed for the inflatable raft that was moored a short distance away. Camerapets were already loading their equipment onto another, and safety technicians were milling about, checking various bits and pieces. Kosha tried not to gasp when the raft was untied and it slowly floated out. James, an impossibly cheerful red Kyrii who would be playing the main character of Ivan, a young man who made his living by fishing, grinned at her. Kosha grinned back weakly, clutching at the side. She pulled her bandana further down and her sunglasses further up so that no one would see her terror at floating free on the ocean. She managed to control herself enough to spot the diving site they had marked out two days ago.
“Goin’ in,” she said, her voice cheerful so as not to upset Phillipa, who did look rather frightened. Kosha took a deep breath, and dove over the side. For a brief second, she felt panic, then realized she could breathe comfortably under the water. She relaxed as Phillipa and James joined her. Around them, crew were already descending into the crystal clear waters, mooring equipment on the rocky ground and tying down foldable chairs. Kosha swam down to where the Neovision monitors were belted to an outcropping of coral, and crouched behind them, watching two fiercely arguing brown Krawks plug in cables and shout at each other over where things went.
“All set, Kosh.” It was Armand, the Starry Shoyru props master, giving her a thumbs-up. Kosha returned the gesture as the two Krawks went silent. She gave a little kick and a flip and wormed her way over to where Jenny and James were getting situated in the small cave off to the right. Two Maraquan Aisha actors and a young Maraquan Lupe actress had joined them.
“Okay, positions, everyone!” Kosha yelled through the megaphone specially designed to work underwater. To her surprise, the noise was not muffled in the least by the ocean water.
Everyone immediately went into position. Kosha returned to the monitors and crouched down behind them. Both of the Krawks were silent now, doing their job.
“Three, two, one, action!” Kosha yelled. Phillipa, looking awed and scared, whispered:
“Ivan, it’s the lost treasure of the deep!”
“Jenny, you shouldn’t touch that,” James said uneasily, glancing around nervously. Kosha quickly checked that the Aishas and Lupe were in their spot behind the long stalactite. Perfect.
Phillip reached forward slowly, hand outstretched. Her paw closed on the scepter just as James screamed:
Phillipa held up the scepter, staring at it awe, her gaze moved to the right wall of the cave, then she hastily threw up a paw to shield her eyes from imaginary light. With a hiss, both Aishas slid out.
“Cut!” Kosha yelled. Everyone at once returned to their positions. “Pippa, I need you to shield your eyes, and then look at the wall. Good, excellent, just like that. James, a little more frantic and uneasy. You’re frightened for your lives right now.”
James went through the gestures.
“Good. Ready to try again? Yes? Okay, three, two, one, action!”
And the scene was repeated, this time to Kosha’s satisfaction.
“Okay, cut, everyone!” she yelled as soon as the Aishas slid out. “Excellent, really excellent.” A girlish grin split her face in half. There was nothing like a truly believable scene after only two takes to bring a smile to the Usul director’s face. This, Kosha thought as preparations for the next scene began, is why I decided to become a director.
The next few weeks were half-good and half-bad for Kosha, making the Usul’s head spin. The heat made everyone lethargic and slow, even when they filmed underwater, and the strain and slipperiness of having to walk always on sand was beginning to get to the cast.
“Oh, my make-up’s melting,” George, the heavily muscled Shadow Ogrin who played the evil villain who wanted to destroy Maraqua, moaned. “I look more like a giant iced cake than a villain.”
Kosha stifled a giggle as she passed the make-up tent and heard this lament. She ducked inside.
“Oh, George, remember to be extra villainy, then,” she told him. The Ogrin rolled his eyes, and the make-up artist, Cassie, laughed.
“No wig-falling off again, you hear?” the Disco Gelert teased.
“Cassie, it’s this blasted water, and you know it,” George said, taking a swipe at her. Kosha hastily exited the tent, only to bump into James, in full costume and make-up, carrying a large palm frond and a water bottle.
“Ah, Kosh, I need advice,” the Kyrii said quickly, stopping in front of her. Kosha, who had been on her way to lunch, steeled herself mentally. “This scene, can I wave the palm frond while I’m talking, like this?”
He demonstrated. In spite of herself, it made Kosha grin again.
“You’re so original, James,” she said with a sigh. “It’ll work perfectly. Nothing like a little humour to show Ivan isn’t totally stuck-up.”
“He’s not stuck-up,” James said eagerly, leaning forward slightly, his eyes bright. “He’s a little nervous around Jenny, because he’s been secluded for so long, and he really doesn’t know how to react to company all of a sudden, and he’s worried because he never knew about any magic before ‘cept for superstition.”
“I guess you really know him, don’t you?” Kosha said, her mouth twitching. “He’s definitely yours, Jamie.”
“Thanks, Kosha; you’re the best director I’ve ever worked with.”
“You’re one of the best actors,” Kosha replied. She hurried toward the meal tent as James went on his way, whistling. The tent was nearly empty, filming due to start in ten minutes, so Kosha just grabbed the first thing she saw: a muffin and a small carton of Juppie Juice. Then she hurried back outside and to the filming site, which was thankfully only about a two minute walk.
Filming for the day wasn’t a total disaster, but Kosha was glad to be back in her mobileneohome, sitting on the sofa with a bottle of freezing cold water to try and combat the day’s humidity. Time to check the neomail, she thought, feeling marginally more cheerful. She could almost always count on something from either the twins or Fred. Sure enough, there was a letter from Neya. She opened it and read:
Everyone’s doing good over here (but missing you!) we hope the filming’s coming really well, and are the actors good this time? I liked the story this time; I can’t wait to see the whole thing.
I won an essay contest in school today, and I’m teaching that little brown Lenny next door, Brandon, to ride a bicycle.
All for now,
Smiling, Kosha set the letter down and headed for the bedroom. She could hear Taite snoring next door. She could never have thanked the young Aisha enough; she seemed to be Kosha’s lifeline more and more often.
Kosha slowly put on her nightgown and folded her clothes away in the minuscule dresser. Travel style, the Usul thought wryly. Then Kosha climbed into bed and turned out the light. The last thing she heard as she drifted off to sleep was the chirping of the crickets.
The next morning was chaos from the start. After breakfast, they were supposed to film the very last scene, the part where Jenny returned home, taking Ivan with her. Unfortunately, the place they’d chosen to film the leaving (a small island several miles off the coast of Maraqua) was covered in a sort of very fine sand that you sank into up to your ankles. It made everything extremely difficult and tedious.
“Come home with me,” Phillipa said pleadingly, staring at James. James looked away for a moment. Kosha shifted in her chair and shoved her sunglasses further up on her nose, watching both actors closely.
When James turned back, he was grinning. A grin spread across Phillips’s face as well, and the two turned and ran toward the edge of the water. Unfortunately, James never made it. He went sliding about halfway, and ended up at the edge of the water, laughing uncontrollably. This of course set Phillipa off into a fit of giggles.
“Cut,” Kosha sighed. A smile twitched at the corners of her mouth despite herself. “Let’s try that again, only this time, walk please, James.”
Grinning, Ixi and Kyrii returned to their places.
“Three, two, one, action!”
“Come to home with me,” Phillipa said. She immediately covered her face. “Sorry, I’m sorry, James.”
“Again,” Kosha instructed.
“Come with me...”
“Comed, er... blah, blah, can I start over?”
It took five more tries to get it right, by which time Kosha’s nose was sun burnt and her hair, wild in the salty air, was coming loose from its ponytail.
“Okay, good, good,” the Usul sighed, getting up stiffly and setting down her megaphone. “Now, can you guys just jump into the water and have over with it?”
“Absolutely,” Phillipa said promptly. James grinned. Kosha rolled her eyes.
“The camerapets want this to be over as much as I do, right?” She looked around at the brown Krawks in their usual position, and the mobile cameraman, Jill the blue Lupe. They all nodded.
“So, positions, everyone.” Kosha crouched down next to the boat crew, who were watching with interest. “Three, two, one, action!”
Hand in hand, James and Phillipa went running into the water, and then disappeared beneath the surface. On impulse, Kosha leaned forward and snapped a picture with the neocamera that hung around her neck.
The pets came up a moment later, sputtering and laughing. Divers went racing to help them back onto shore, and Kosha stood up and stretched, finally pleased. Mr. Biswald came out from behind his umbrella and cheered.
“Good work, everyone,” Kosha said, taking a deep breath. “That’s going to be our last scene. Let’s hope the audience like it.”
There were some cheers and whistles, and then everyone began loading the boats.
“Nice here, wasn’t it?” Greg said wistfully, looking back at the beach of Maraqua as they boarded the White Weewoo. Kosha laughed.
“Three months and you’re not tired of it yet, Greg?”
“I liked being away from civilization,” Greg said defensively. The Blue Eyrie leaned on the rail and the last few passengers climbed on board. Jerry and Mr. Biswald, the producer, joined them at the rail.
“Well,” Kosha said with a sigh, “I’m just going to be glad to get home again.”
“I thought you liked filming,” Mr. Biswald said, looking puzzled. Kosha shrugged.
“It was always my dream to be a director. Y’know, I never thought I’d get to do it. Neovision was really new when I was little, and being a director was practically unheard of. And I came from a really poor family.”
“Guess you followed your dream, then,” Claudia teased, coming up behind them. Kosha smiled.
“Yeah, I guess I did. I guess if you try hard enough, you can make all your dreams come true,” she said thoughtfully. “But one thing is certain, I’m going to be glad to go home.” Until the next time, she added mentally.