After Carlos the Continuity Expert Quit the Movie and Headed to Costa Rica
He said it had to do with birds. They had names, beautiful names, and he'd call them out like he was reciting prayer: scarlet-thighed dacnis, chestnut-headed oropendola. The women on the set found it erotic, the way he said these names, but one day he was saying thrush-like schiffornis and then he was gone. He left a message on the director's answering machine. She showed up for the filming of the diner scene for Emilio's Girls and scowled a lot and drank enough coffee that her hands shook. Someone gave her a muscle relaxer, which helped.
Scenes were shot. Again. Again. Days of shooting. Not great shots. The actors said it was the moon, the stars, the time of year, the ghosts from Scooby-Doo.
Without Carlos things happened.
Ivey, who played the diner owner, wore a pale pink lipstick, and then it was a darker mauve. One day she had a long red welt running up her arm. She would say, when asked, that it was a cat. Ivey would not say that it was her husband, come to visit during the filming, and she wouldn't say that it was a fight and that she had scratched herself along a wall after he pushed her. She was in love and that wouldn't do at all.
In earlier shots, Vera, the waitress, had a pencil in hand and one tucked behind her ear. Later, the pencil behind the ear was missing; it had fallen somewhere, along with crumbs from a blueberry muffin she ate during a break even though she was on a low carb diet.
When Vera asked, "What can I get you?" Emilio sipped from his water glass. In some shots, he was empty-handed when he said the line, "But there is only you" to Yvette, the woman sitting across from him. In some shots the water glass was full. In some it was half empty. Emilio complained that he thought the water tasted metallic, that someone was trying to poison him, though the food service folks said the water was bottled.
Julia, the director, who also wrote and starred in the film, looked on the verge of weeping. She did not have a huge budget. She had vision and drive but not enough backing, she said to the hair stylist.
Billy, the hair stylist, was young and handsome and in love with Emilio. He wanted to do a good job, but he disliked Yvette, who was playing the new girlfriend. People assumed that off the set, Yvette was having an affair with Emilio—the way she fawned, the way she sat with her knee touching his even though the script did not direct her to. If asked, Billy would say it was not intentional, the awkward switch of the part in Yvette's hair—right side on Tuesday, left on Wednesday—but people would still wonder.
Frank, Billy's lover, who helped get Billy the job, was the wardrobe coordinator, and he didn't like the way Billy looked at Emilio. He knew a crush when he saw one, and he was so busy complaining about it to Vera in between takes, that he overlooked certain details. Emilio's shirt was unbuttoned two buttons in some scenes, three in others. There were sunglasses tucked in his shirt pocket. Sometimes.
There were other issues too.
The clock wasn't reset and time didn't match so that when Julia entered the diner, strode over to Emilio and Yvette and said, "You left home six weeks ago and here you are?" it was 10:37 on the clock on the wall and it was 4:20 when she strode out after slapping Emilio with her purse. Too long to be in Ivey's Diner, even if the peach cobbler was the best in town.
There was mustard on the table and then there wasn't. The flowers by the diner door were blooming on Tuesday and drooping by late Wednesday afternoon.
Things happened. Continuity was lost. Each take did not match the previous one. The actors had anxiety attacks, the director had a migraine, the cameraman's teenage daughter was in drug rehab.
A countertop with three dishes, a countertop swept clean. Details some moviegoers would later catch. They would chuckle and feel smart and post comments on websites.
What they wouldn't pinpoint, or mention, because they did not know, was this: the human heart could not be held to continuity. It did what it wanted.
Julia had a postcard from Carlos hidden in a dresser drawer. It was addressed to the cast and crew of Emilio's Girls. On the front was a rainforest scene. His note on the back said many things and mentioned the sighting of a rufous motmot. Julia read his cramped writing almost daily. She fanned her tears with the postcard until it warped and crinkled. No matter.
She knew the words by heart. They never changed.
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