Writer, history researcher, biographer

Call Centre Carnage Chapter 4

Posted by Suze Appleton on Sunday, June 2, 2013 Under: Serial novel


The lunch passed in a blur of mad ideas, getting madder with every drink, but back in the training room they managed to agree that their video would be set in a lounge, that Pat would write a five minute screenplay over the weekend, ready to rehearse on Monday and the roles they would each play. They left work knowing which was their individual task, to gather props, source equipment  or arrange fundraising. During his weekend Matt, as director, worked out how to shoot the video and drew up a storyboard of camera shots. He envisioned a retro living room brought to life by the addition of the wine cart, with Don dressed up in an old fashioned smoking jacket, maybe even a handlebar moustache. It absorbed him so much that it was a bad weekend for his game. His best score was beaten by Drew on Saturday night and he spent the entire Sunday trying to overcome it. 
On Monday morning he waited anxiously for the others to arrive in the training room. They soon drifted in, apart from Krystal of course, and took their places along the row with a mumbled 'morning'. Pat was last to arrive and she looked far from happy. She slapped her notepad down on the desk.
'I couldn't do anything with that idea we had on Friday,' she exclaimed, 'so I changed it to something far more exciting.'
The group looked at each other in disbelief, after all their work combining ideas on Friday. They all stared at Pat, waiting to see what exciting idea she had come up with.
'I'm sure you'll like it,' she began. 'It's a really good scene, although I haven't written much of an actual script.'
Before she could go any further Krystal arrived and slumped into her seat.
'What's going on? Did I miss anything?'
She looked from Matt to Mina for an answer.
Matt shook his head but Don spoke first.
'No, not much,' said Don, his voice bristling with hostility. 'Pat was just about to tell us her brilliant new idea that is so much better than the one we decided on last Friday.' 
'Look,' snapped Pat, ' It was my job to come up with something and nobody else wanted to do it did they?' Before anyone could speak she continued. 'Anyway, we want to make a bit of an impression so I thought we needed something more exciting than a lounge to set it in. That's a bit ordinary for this product.'
'Okay, okay, Pat,' cut in Matt. 'Don't get upset. Just tell us what you've got then we can see what we think.'
Pat lifted up the front cover of her writing pad and laid a single sheet of paper in front of Matt.
'There,' she said. 'I know it's not much but this is just the bare bones of it, you understand. I'm sure we can pad it out.'
They crowded round Matt to look over his shoulder.
'Scene one,' he read, 'on a dark and stormy night a Viking ship sits moored at the rivers edge.'
'A Viking ship! Don exploded. 'You stupid woman, how are we going to film a stormy night? And one that features a Viking ship? I don't suppose you've got one moored up in your garden pond by any chance?'
'Don't be so negative,' Pat spat back. 'It's a better idea than you in a smoking jacket, looking like a creep, you nasty man! At least it will stand out from everyone else's video.'
Matt thought about all his wasted work with the story board and looked up exasperated, to catch sight of Krystal grinning with glee.
'C'mon guys,' put in Mina, 'let's keep calm. Don, I'm sure Pat was doing her best, but Pat, although it's very imaginative have you any idea how we can film it, or where we could?'
Pat turned to talk to Mina, trying to ignore Don, who was pulling faces at her.
'Well, Mina,' she said, 'the reason I came up with the idea was because this area has a strong Viking heritage, funnily enough. The name of the town is actually based on a Viking settlement so I think we should exploit that, give this a bit of gravitas, a bit of heritage. So like I say, I haven't mapped it out completely and, okay, I may not have thought through any details but you've got to admit it's got more interest than a lounge.'
She spat the last word in Don's direction as she got more enthused about her idea, but Jamie wasn’t keen either.
'I'm not using my camera out if it's wet,' he moaned. 'It cost me a fortune and its only meant for indoor use. I'm not taking it out in a storm.'
'I'm not taking me out on a stormy night either,' retorted Don. 'So you can count me out of that for a start. And anyway, not that I know much about filming but aren't we going to need some kind of lighting to film? Or is this boat handily parked under a spotlight? Did they have them in Viking days?'
Mina looked anxiously from one to the other as Krystal jumped in with her take on the situation.
'Even better,' she enthused, 'the ship has the dead body of this warrior, whoever the idiot was who founded this place, and it's his burial, so we start with the tribe firing blazing arrows into it. Then it gets all on fire as it drifts out to sea, and the only thing that survives is his horned helmet because it's so soaked with blood and gore, and it floats back on the tide, so the tribe fix it onto a dinky little cabinet that they used to carry the bottles of mead or whatever to the wake. That way, I can do explosions and a dead body. Don can drink mead or whatever, you and Jamie can be warriors, and me and Mina, okay, and Pat, can all dress up as Viking maidens at the wake. What about it?'
They all fell silent as they considered the idea. Don brightened up at the thought that it would still include drinking. He was sure he still knew a man who actually made his own mead. He'd tasted it once and he didn't remember much else about the evening so it must have been good. Mina wasn't sure about being in a film but maybe if she was disguised it wouldn't be too bad, although she struggled to picture Krystal as a demure maiden. Krystal on the other hand saw herself as more of a warrior maiden, complete with axes, horned helmet and a sharks teeth necklace. Okay that last one might have been mixed up with a pirate film she had seen but she had a necklace that would fit the bill. Jamie worried about his camera while Matt thought about the practicalities. They obviously weren't going to get their hands on a Viking ship but he did remember playing a computer game a while ago that included the scene of a warrior prince being  sent off with burning arrows. He could soon transpose a Viking ship into a scene and fill the scene with flames, then they only had to actually produce the indoor scene. He brightened, it might just work. Until Pat put her spoke in again.
'No, no no,' she cried, 'I was thinking more that the helmet would be a peace offering to the townspeople and it would be about welcoming new people to the place and drinking in peace and friendship. No wake, no dead body, and no flaming arrows!'
'That's doesn't sound much like Vikings to me, Pat,' scorned Don.
'Okay, okay, enough,' said Matt. 'Look here comes Jessie, let's ask her what she thinks. I still think it's going to be difficult to make any film look decent without the proper resources, like a sound engineer and lighting. Lets see what we can get out of her.'
Jessie walked into the room and clapped her hands for attention.
'Hi guys, hi everyone,' she called, 'how's it going? All excited about your videos? We're hoping for great things from all of you, you know. You bring a fresh eye to the products and give us new and exciting perspectives for marketing.'
Krystal groaned as Matt slumped his head forward.
'Where do they get these people from?' Don shook his head, clearly unimpressed.
'Erm, excuse me Jessie,' Joanne spoke up. 
'Yes,dear,' beamed Jessie, 'what is it?'
'Can I ask,' began Joanne, as all eyes turned to look at her, 'can I ask how we're supposed to suggest things when we have no idea how the company actually works? All we've been given so far is the catalogue of products and told to watch a load of duff videos. How do we know what works and what doesn't until we've actually been out on the phones to try out our sales techniques?'
Jessie looked flustered.
'Well, er, that's where your personalities and skills come into it,' she blustered. 'It's not for us to tell you how to do things when you might be able to see a better way but you don't suggest it because you think you have to do it our way. As a company we're very open to new ideas.'
Matt sighed. She had obviously been well trained in how to not answer a question, and she was the only one who who might actually teach them something. They were clearly going to get nowhere with her.
'Now,' she said, regaining her customary bounce, 'if there are no more questions we'll get on with your projects. Who would like to be first to give us a sketch of their video?'
The girls on the front row practically jumped into the air with their hands reaching for the ceiling, just like a row of infants in school. One of them even called Jessie 'Miss'. Jessie beamed at them and happily called them forward.
They ran to the front of the room, turning to face everyone, and with much giggling and scolding from Kirsten who had appointed herself as director of the video, they all began to talk at once about how they were doing a version of a programme called America's Next Top Model. Their film  seemed to include school uniforms, a party and a cat fight over the use of the curling tongs, the product they were actually trying to promote. It wasn't clear how they expected customers to feel the need of the curling tongs when all they seemed to be used for was to hit each other. At the end Kirsten silenced the others and gave a little speech about product placement and how they had brilliantly secured sponsorship from GKD, (a rival manufacturers of hair straighteners), a local hairdressers and Mr Khan, the newsagent on the corner.
The second row still didn't want to come forward with their idea, there seemed to be a dispute between the two halves of the row. The two older women didn't seem keen to join in and one of them looked as though she was on the verge of tears. In exasperation Jessie told them to come forward and tell everyone what they did have. In front of Don, Fiona pushed past the boy on the end of the row and walked to the front of the room.
'I have a bwilliant idea,' she lisped, 'but no one else will listen to it even though they can't come up with anything better themselves.'
A feeble cry of protest was muttered along the row but no one offered to come forward. The two older women on the right hand side of the row shook their heads at each other as Joanne, sitting in front of Matt, tutted and bent down to get her mobile out of her bag, becoming engrossed in a message that had just come through. Next to her the rather languid young man was leaning back in his chair, twirling idly from side to side as he doodled on his notepad on the desk in front of him. Jessie smiled encouragingly Fiona.
'Well, go on then, Fiona,' she urged. 'You tell us what you've got and we can start from there.'
'Yeah, okay then, it's like this, y'know?  There's this new band, alwight, and they have a bwilliant wecord but no one will give 'em a bweak, and they see the kawaoke set in our catalogue so one of 'em buys it and when the others see how good it is they all join in and just then an agent is passing and signs 'em up stwaightaway. And I have a fwiend who owns a fancy dress shop so I'm sure I can get some great costumes for us all, y'know? It's ok, yeah?'
Jessie looked over at the rest of the group, smiling her best persuasive smile. 
'Well, that sounds like a fun project, doesn't it guys?' 
The young boy at the end of the row blushed. The two older women folded their arms across their chests and looked disgusted, while the languid young man continued to twirl his chair, keeping his eyes firmly on his doodling on the notepad in front of him. Joanne looked up from her mobile phone and sighed. No one ventured a comment.
'Well, I'm afraid that's the decision made then,' said Jessie. 'In the absence of an alternative this is it. We haven't got time to play with unfortunately, as these films have to be done by the end of this week.'
'End of the week!' A cry went up around the room as everyone protested. The two older women folded their arms even tighter and almost turned to face the wall.
'Okay! Okay! Everyone calm down. It's plenty of time,' soothed Jessie. 'We're going to give you time to work on it and I'm sure you'll come up with some brilliant stuff. It's even possible that John will bring his good friend, Hugh Postlethwaite from Quality Curiosities TV, to judge the final films for possible showing on his shopping channel! Now that would be a real breakthrough for one of our staff to achieve that. It's a very hard market to break into. Now, last but not forgotten, what about you guys on the back row? What ideas do you have? Come on, guys, come forward and tell everyone your ideas.'
Warily, Matt pushed his chair back and followed Don and Jamie up to the front of the room. Mina and Pat walked up the other side of the room, leaving Krystal remaining seated, looking mutinous. Mina looked back and urgently waved her forward. Begrudgingly she stood up and sloped to the front of the room, slouching behind Mina and Pat. Matt and Jamie looked at each other, wondering who was going to speak first. Don decided the matter for him.
'We're doing the Viking Wine Chariot and I'm going to play an old Viking chief getting drunk at the wake for a warrior who's just been pushed out to sea in his flaming boat,' he said in a rush.
'No, no, no,' protested Pat. 'I mean, yes, we are doing the wine chariot but our film is set on a dark stormy night where the ship is being lit and sailed off, then the warrior's helmet is ceremonially placed on top of the cabinet where they keep the mead.'
'Great, great,' enthused Jessie, sliding a quick glance at her watch, 'that sounds fabulous, thank you guys. If you'd like to take your seats now I can tell you how we're going do this.'
She waited as they wandered back to their seats, Krystal pushing past Pat to get back first. Matt and Jamie looked at each other and shrugged. They were the ones who were going to have to film this and no one else seemed to consider any production problems they might have.
'Okay, guys,' Jessie continued. 'So, shortly we're going to have a quick break then we're going to split up into our groups. Before we do that I just want to have five minutes with each group to talk you through any production problems I can see you might have, so first group, can I see you now please? Can the rest of you, especially Fiona's group, get your heads together and work out where you're going to start? Great. Okay then Kirsten, just talk me through your plan again. So how are you going to make viewers want to buy our hair tongs?'
The front row moved into a huddle around Jessie, giggling and fighting for attention, including Ella who giggled and pouted with the rest of them. Matt watched as Jessie's head bobbed up and down, nodding at all the comments. She soon moved onto the second row, leaving the girlie group twittering with excitement about how they were going to do their hair. There wasn't quite as much nodding with the second group and Matt could hear her pleading with the two older women to join in. Jan was refusing point blank.
'I'm sorry,' she declared, 'but it's just impossible. I told them when I took this job that I would need time to deal with my mother. She eighty-nine, for god's sake, what am I supposed to do? Tell her to die quietly without bothering anyone? After she's given her life to me and my brothers, who are quite useless and are leaving it all to me. I have to do it because no one else will. If you think I'm going to cast her to one side for a stupid exercise that I have no skills for and no reason to think will have anything to do with the job I was hired for, then you're wrong. Why are we wasting so much time on riddles and role playing when it has nothing to do with answering telephones?'
'Hear, hear,' agreed Sybil sitting next to her. ' I mean I haven't got the same responsibilities as Jan. My mother died when she was only fifty, god rest her soul, but I understand what she means. I have grandchildren that I want to spend time with. And I'm too old to be pretending I'm in a pop group, for heavens sake!'
She shot a dirty look across to Fiona, accompanied by a glare from Jan.
'Yeah, yeah, of course, I understand completely,' said a flustered Jessie. 'If you really can't take part then that's cool but I think Fiona has a really good idea, we just need to pull it together and make it work. Maybe you could be looking for sponsors if you don't want to be part of the actual filming? That would be a really useful role to play, crucial, in fact.'
Jan and Sybil exchanged glances. It didn't sound much better to them at all. Neither of them wanted to play a part in this at all but reluctantly they consented.
'I could get my Hayley and Justin to play a part,' put in Joanne. 'Hayley's big for her age and looks older than twelve, and Justin is nine, maybe he could be a fan. Just as long as they're both in it. I'll have fights otherwise.'
'There you go. That's positive, Joanne, thank you,' beamed Jessie. 'Okay now, you and Fiona work on that with Alex here and, sorry what's your name again young man?'
The languid young man mumbled something, his eyes still fixed on the paper. With a little encouragement she got his name out of him.
'Sean, that's great,' she said, and added, nodding at the drawings on his pad, 'I can see you're very artistic. I'm sure you'll be a great help. Maybe you could draw up the storyboard? That's an essential part of a film you know. Without that the director has no idea what scene to shoot when. So you're agreed then,' she said standing up. 'Fiona is the director, Alex can write a script and Sean will produce. Great. Great, guys. Good one. Get to it. Great.'
She came round to the back row and gathered them around her.
'Okay guys,' she began, 'a dark and stormy night then?'
Matt held his breath, waiting for Jessie to point out the futility of trying to make an amateur film with sophisticated effects, especially one that would involve pretty intense technical resources. To his surprise she made no mention of it.
 'It's such a great idea. Great idea,' she enthused. 'Brilliant, so different. It could be the winner, you know.'
She beamed at them all as Pat sat up proudly in her seat.
'But what about producing a storm?' Matt had to ask the question. 'How can we film a storm? And it involves a body lying in a Viking ship. There's a few production problems I can think of right there.'
'Now, don't be defeatist before you've even tried,' said Jessie, ignoring him to talk to Don. 'So you're going to be a Viking chief, how exciting! And who came up with the idea? Great, great. Now who's doing the storyboard in this group? And the directing? Looking for sponsors?'
They looked blankly at her until Krystal spoke.
'I'm sorting out the dead body,' she said, tapping the side of her nose. 'No questions, you understand but it will be very lifelike...'
'Right, right. Great,' Jessie replied, 'and moving on. So Pat's the scriptwriter, Don's one of the main characters, what about the rest of you?'
Within minutes Matt found himself responsible for production, the very job he hadn't wanted, Jamie claimed a technical role, on the grounds that it was his camera, Krystal actually offered to do a storyboard.
Matt wanted to ask Jessie more questions always ne. He had hoped that she would pour some common sense onto Pat's idea but Jessie jumped up and  moved away before he had a chance to speak.
'Okay then,' she called out as she got back to the front, 'I think we've all earned a nice break now. If you all come back to this room after break, you'll be going to work in separate rooms. If you can be back here in twenty minutes I'll be back with Jo and Marilyn to tell you where that will be, but great work so far guys. Some brilliant ideas, I have great hopes for you. Great, great.'
She gathered up her bag and left, giving them her trademark beam as she walked out.
'Great. Great,' mimicked Krystal,glowering. 'Yeah, it is. I get to legitimately do a dead body, watch out if I don't like you...'

In : Serial novel 

Tags: script viking training 

Welcome to my page of stories. It will be a mix of short stories and serial chapters of a novel that I am currently editing, a process that isn't going as fast as I want. My intention is to post at least one piece of work per week and your feedback is more than welcome, either here, on Twitter or on facebook. In the case of the serial it may even change the course of the story...

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