“Marvelous to see you, my boy! Sit down, sit down!”
Merlin was a giant of an old man, if only through his personality. He radiated a kind of friendliness so intense it became intimidating, a powerful onslaught that could not be stood against. Not that Art intended to stand against it- he had to get the funding from somewhere. He stumbled into the canvas-backed seat pushed up near Merlin’ desk, just as he was handed a glass of wine by a stunningly beautiful office assistant.
“That’s Viv,” Merlin said. “You’ll be seeing a lot of her if you work for Camelot Studios.”
“You’re his assistant?” Art asked her, and she shook her head.
“He keeps me around because beautiful young girls make him feel young, even if I don’t let him touch me. I’ve been slowly embezzling money from him for years to start my new studio.”
“An enterprising girl, isn’t she?” said Merlin with evident delight. “Now, my boy, let’s talk business. I saw those films you sent me- well shot, could hardly tell how little money must have been spent on it! That’s the kind of creative vision we like to see around here.”
Art had been slaving away as a cinematographer for hire since he graduated high school. He had sent around a few reels from those days, plus a couple of experimental films he’d put together himself. He’d worried the latter was a little highbrow for Camelot Studios, but rumor had it that as long as your movies turned a profit, Merlin would more or less allow you to film anything, even if it was good.
“I brought the script for Broceliande, just like we discussed,” said Art cautiously. “I don’t think you had time to listen to my plot synopsis over the phone, but it’s about this haunted forest-”
“Going to have to change the title,” Merlin interjected. “But look, my boy, you can’t expect me to actually read the scripts I produce! Give me blood and tits and I’ll let you film anything. I think I’ve even published some communist propaganda in my day! The point is, are you willing to do things the Camelot way? We give you a very short time and small budget to film all of this- we’ve got to spend more of the money on advertising. I’m already thinking up a campaign- the Forest that Drips Blood! A nurse will be standing by at all times to tend to those whose hearts fail! How does that sound to you?”
Art could barely squeak out the word “Good.”
“Oh,” continued Merlin, “as for advertising, didn’t you say you had a celebrity in the family? Get them to appear in the movie and you’ll get twice the profits.”
“I don’t know if I’d go that far- she’s a very local celebrity” Art mumbled.
“Local is still celebrity! Give her a call, tell her now she’s going to be a movie star. Oh, and throw in some bikers if you can- they’re the hip thing these days.”
Art nodded his way through the rest of the contract negotiation. He’d only told Merlin about his sister over the phone because he knew she’d shown a heavily edited version of one of his movies on her show. He hadn’t expected to be asked to reel her in herself.
Or maybe he had, subconsciously, and figured this was the best chance he was going to get to attempt a reconciliation.
And so at the end of the meeting, still numb from Merlin’s bluster, he left the phone message he hadn’t expected to have to make until a family emergency or some other kind of excuse.
“Hi Morgan. It’s Art…”