The "I Job" cast had all agreed to do this con as a promotional freebie -- but as usual, we all knew that paying work would take priority. Less than two weeks before the day, just as we were being locked into a Sunday slot, Gemma let me know she'd got another gig. (Hope it went well, hon!) I immediately started searching for a backup... but suggested to the ever-helpful Paul Deuis that maybe Louise Jameson might be interested in stepping in to read the part.
The cast and I weren't planning on showing up to the convention until the Sunday -- Paul assured us that everything was under control, and I was still busy trying to lock in a backup actress. (BTW, thanks to Sheree Mirabito again for saying yes!) But on the Thursday, Paul said that the video-room guys had asked whether they could show "Time Rift" -- I blew the dust off my DVD copy and said I'd bring it over on the Friday.
Friday night, I get there as they're setting up, and Paul already has the thousand-yard stare of a con organizer in the final moments of panic. I immediately start helping them carry everything up from their cars.
While I'm there, they finally get to ask Louise whether she'll step in to do the reading -- and she says yes.
Meanwhile, I've found out that they'd inadvertently put up a website schedule which had us on at 2:45 rather than 3:45, before taking it down because they'd told us 3:45. I ask whether it'd be possible to do 2:45 after all, because it would make it a lot easier for some of our actors to get to their paying gigs in the evening. Paul looks at me with a face which suggests that crazed giggling is imminent (and lord, is that ever fair enough). I quickly interject that I'd print out a bunch of posters to advertise the time change, and he says they'll announce it on the day as well. A flurry of texts to the cast members, who are all very much in favor of this, and it's a done deal.
Then I find out I'll actually have five minutes to catch up with Louise! I thank her profusely, promise to send her the script that night (care of her con escort's email), and agree that we'll try to work out a time for a read-through with the cast early on Sunday but that if she can't find a moment "you'll just have to trust me". Ohhh, I trust you, say I with a grin even bigger than hers.
(We also talked "Kaldor City" -- she lit up when I mentioned that David Collings was involved, and I ended up offering to mention her interest to the producers. Watch this space...)
Then it's off home -- I've still got to work on the Kaldor City script, there's the script to email and posters to print out and the sound FX to organize.
Saturday morning is a flurry of poster redesign. Then Phillip texts me to say that the script email didn't come through -- dunno what's happened, but he won't be able to get it printed now even if I email it again, I'll need to bring the script down myself! So, back off to Bankstown, bearing the 20 pages of script Louise will need (all carefully highlighted to mark her part). I stick the posters up and hand the script over to Louise in another five-minute burst of desperate gratitude. Meanwhile, Todd has just warned me that things could still go wrong on the day -- even though Louise thinks she'll be free around 11ish for a quick read-through with the cast (cue further texts asking the cast to turn up three hours early), the schedule is as always a moving target, and we should probably make sure we have a backup if Louise ends up not being able to perform at all (cue further texts to Sheree, who I'd just let off the hook as backup, if she wouldn't mind climbing back on the hook).
Home again home again. But the time that I'd been planning to spend on loading all the FX into the soundboard program has been lost to the journey... I end up working late into the night.
And at about 1 AM, the soundboard program starts flaking out. It'll play cues all right, but it won't fade them out or stop them on cue! The only way to stop a background ambience is by hitting the Stop All button -- and sometimes the program hangs so that even that won't work, and it keeps playing forever.
My life starts flashing before my eyes, and doesn't stop for about twelve hours straight.
Sunday morning. The key cast members have agreed they'll be there at 11. I'm in the cab frantically trying to make the soundboard work, and finally reworking the whole cue sheet out of sheer desperation.
A brief note about the Bankstown Sports Club, home of the convention. The place is like an unholy mating between an RSL club and Las Vegas. Not a Vegas casino -- the *whole* of Las Vegas. There's a tropical island built in the center of it, and along one edge there's a Japanese pagoda squeezed between the vintage train station (one of the restaurants) and the Italian town square (another restaurant precinct). And that's even before you get into the Grand Ballroom or Monkeymania (the kids' play area where at least two of the cast members got lost and inadvertently ended up in. Well, they *say* it was inadvertent...).
Anyway, Craig and Brendon finally find the convention on level two. And then Louise gets offstage, and starts apologising -- she had almost no sleep last night (thanks to the massive storm which we only caught the edge of in Ryde), and this is her only break, she read the script last night and loved it and she still wants to do the performance but the read-through... we're immediately saying we entirely understand, she's completely off the hook, and Craig, Brendon and I adjourn to one of the cheaper restaurants to start rehearsing.
At this point Brendon's still playing Baz with an accent (and a pretty good one, I must say) -- remember that Brendon was originally recruited just to read in locally at the recording while Rupert Booth is recording his lines in the UK. But because of, well, abject fear about how our performances will stand up next to Louise's, we decide to drop the accent and just let him do Baz as an Aussie.
And suddenly... the chemistry between him and Craig just *ignites*.
A couple of scene readings (while I'm still frantically trying to sort out the soundboard, remember), and he and Craig are bouncing off each other wonderfully. When Kyla turns up, and I've finally got the soundboard behaving (though I'll still have to fade things out manually by cranking the volume knob), we do a read-through of the whole thing... and I'm flabbergasted. Seth and Baz have a rapport they've never had before (what with the Skype delays with Rupert), not even at the previous live performances. By this point I'm already thrilled that if the sequel ("I Contact") gets made, I've already promised Brendon a part of his own -- he really deserves to be a full member of the cast. And I'm seriously thinking about arranging another proper recording session of "I Job" just to get this back-and-forth on tape. Basically, I think the Craig/Rupert recording will at least be able to equal this vibe (Rupe's got his own edge), but I doubt it can *surpass* it...
Less than an hour to go. Alistair gets there (we'd given him a free pass on the earlier read-throughs because his part in these scenes is small and he wouldn't interact much with Louise), and by then we're confident enough that we don't need to do any more readings. Al can do his part cold.
Showtime. We mount the stage, the tech boys (Jon and Aaron) are frantically reconnecting everything and coaxing a balky mic back to life. Louise turns up, ready to go. I kick off with a brief introduction.
And we're off.
The next fifteen minutes are an adrenaline haze. But I can hear how everyone's bringing their A game. Because I'm running the laptop and twiddling that little volume knob for all it's worth, I've sort of half got my back to Louise... but suddenly hearing *that voice* biting into my lines is stunning. Proper RADA-trained acting talent brought to bear on my little script. And Kyla's rising to the occasion and matching her jab-for-jab as Lee and Britta snipe at each other, and Craig and Brendon are spiralling up into a frenzy of glorious panic, and Al's adding a wonderful edge of contempt to the whole thing, and when one of the sound effects gets swamped Craig covers for it seamlessly by adding to a line, and I steal Louise's mic to cover another missing effect with a vocal "schhhhhloooop" sound and the audience loves it, and I'm reading the I voices live along with their pre-recorded effects-laden lines just to make them clearer and the creepy bits are really creepy and the ambient sounds are working and Brendon's selling the freaky bits as hard as he can and oh thank God the soundboard hasn't hung and I deliver a final "TO BE CONTINUED" in my I voice and...
...oh my God.
As I say right afterwards to Louise while thanking her yet again on stage... since this script was written I've seen it performed multiple times. There have been at least two complete read-throughs with different casts, rehearsals, two live performances at conventions (the one at Gallifrey with Rupert, Nigel Fairs as Seth and Julie Caitlin Brown as Lee was a close competitor), the actual recording... but this was by far the best. It was like watching the script get up and dance!
And as Craig pointed out afterwards, the really uncanny thing about Louise's performance was that we could hear Gemma's performance in it. They hit a lot of the same nuances in their choices and line readings... but Louise was basically doing it all as a cold reading. Now *that's* skill.
(Oh, and Scott Handcock, who'd played Baz at one of those early performances at Conflux about a decade ago, turned up and congratulated Brendon on his performance. Classy!)
And the icing on the cake? After the show, Louise *asked to see the rest of the script*. Cause she wanted to know how it ended! Now that's properly ego-boosting. :-)
So basically? Gemma, you know we're all committed to this relationship for the long term... but we all just had a fabulous one-nighter with Louise Jameson. :-P And it was one of the best nights of my life!