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TODAY

Saturday, February 23

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Airbags

Most of the cars have left the parking lot as BD and I step out of the Big Time Picture Company with the two boxes. Inside the boxes are reels for a road movie involving the frattish pranks of three middle aged men on a road trip in an old beat-up Plymouth. The movie is bad, the containers are light.

"See that?" He gestures with a box to an empty parking spot, where there is a dark spot about the size of a dodgeball on the blacktop. "The Plymouth we used in the movie, it sat there since we started working here and that's all the oil that leaked out. Fucking good for a 30-year-old beater, heh?"

"Sure, that's not bad at all," I say flatly. From the beginning, BD had insisted on parking the 'star' of the film right in the front spot of the lot. It sat there for four months and was only moved today because he has run out of money. He may raise the funds to finish the movie, he may let it all sit untouched forever. Regardless, once he decided to stop editing and leave the facility, he lost his prized parking space. We continue walking toward the vehicle he actually drives around, a gigantic black Lincoln SUV.

"How old you, Sean?" he asks. The SUV beeps and doors unlock.

"Thirty-four," I say.

"Thirty-four. Wow. I'm 43, and let me tell ya, it doesn't get any easier when you get as old as 43." I slide one of the two boxes into the back, nudging aside a couple of hockey sticks. "You get older, get some kids, you can't take any chances anymore. I tell you, if you're gonna make something happen, you got to do it quick." I push everything over and reach back as he hands me the second box. "I would guess that you got maybe five years." I slam the rear hatch and we both step back as the doors lock with a chirp.

"I may not make it that long," I say. "I'll do some writing, hand out some scripts. If that doesn't work, I might get out of here."

"Well, wish you the best of luck." He turns and shakes my hand as if to say goodbye. I shake back briskly and smile. "Take it easy," I tell him.

"Right. You too. Been great working with you. I'll be talking to you in the coming weeks. See if we can't get this thing back on track." He smiles and inhales deeply. Then he turns to enter the building. I also turn to enter the building. "Left my stuff back in the editing suite," I say.

He holds the door for me and I duck in, head around the corner. When we cross paths several more times in the next hour, we exchange uncomfortable smiles. Goodbyes have already been said and we just aren't there anymore. It is reminiscent of walking into a Halloween party and unexpectedly seeing my undead ex-girlfriend, looking spooky and lovely. I immediately wished I was actually a hunk of carpeting instead of just dressed up in a carpet roll costume.

I round the corner and see John, the tech guy for the facility, outside our editing suite.

"So! Can we wipe the film off those drives first thing tomorrow? We have another film that needs this Avid," he says. He's taking our names off the plaques near the door. "THE BIG SLEEP-OVER" slides out, along with BD's name, the editor's name and my name, misspelled. I won't miss seeing 'Sean Uiren' every day as much as I'll miss the paychecks.

"Sure, do whatever you want," I say. "Who's moving in?"

"Those Jet Li people working on Fearless. They already have three rooms rented and they'll need another one starting tomorrow." The facility houses many rooms for editing features. Good films are powdered and preened for festivals and national distribution, bad films are worried over, rebroken and reset for additional testing. Money moves in a constant silent stream from the deserving and undeserving alike, out the editing suite doors, toward the big filing cabinet in the front.

"Three rooms for one film, isn't that's a lot of rooms?" I ask. He shrugs and says that some movies just take up a lot of rooms. Unlike The Big Sleep-Over, the first feature BD Shaney has ever directed. He cowrote it with an old acting buddy, directed it and starred in it, covering the cost of the $1.5 million production with a mortgage on his house. Three days ago, he presented it to his best shot at success — a certain agent he hoped would represent it and further pitch it to the studios.

In a daring (and wise) move, the rep stopped the screening halfway through and said that he and his company were interested in pushing films with "edgier" content. BD was crushed. He hadn't yet shown the film to anyone except yes men, largely a group of various fellow actors and drinking associates. After suffering such a cold denial from the film rep, any normal person would find themselves faced with the grim understanding that they'd somehow accidentally fashioned a bad movie out of lousy writing, poor casting choices and tossed-off performances. BD wasn't that person. I remember one call to a potential agent involved the following: "We're trying to get into Sundance. Well, it's a road movie for the Wal-Mart set, kinda like Easy Rider meets Field of Dreams. Yeah, it's not the typical Sundance road movie with three Japanese-Brazilian retards on a bus together. So you understand why I think the festival jury might not, you know, get it."

John leaves, whistling a Shins song as I open the door. The editing room smells like warm sushi and old coffee. Walls have been cleared of script notes and there's a pile of garbage sticking out of the can, the end of a torn calendar lolling out. On the section that is visible, all the days up until today have been crossed out. The phone rings.

"Hey, Sean! How's it going?" says Reid, the visual effects artist. I'm dropping leftover post-it pads and Sharpie pens into my messenger bag. "Are you guys packing things up?"

"Yeah, we're all finished here," I say while scooping up some loose change and paper clips from the editor's desk. I put it all in my pockets.

"Well, BD said that you'd be getting me some numbers tonight. For the effects shots. Sean?"

"There's nobody here, everyone has left. The room is about to be cleaned out and the drives have to be wiped tonight." I stop grabbing office supplies, aware that a thread has come loose. "BD said that we were shutting things down. I thought this was it."

"He didn't tell you that you'd have to give me information about the effects shots? None of that?" The question hangs in the air unanswered as I look around the room. Reid tells me that he'll email me a list of what he wants as I sit down at the computer. Sounds good, I lie.

The message arrives a few minutes later and I scroll down, feeling my stomach turn at the amount of things still to be done. I wasn't expecting this at all. The cool hum of the fluorescent lighting follows me as I slowly walk down to the soda machine. I buy three Diet Cokes and a DIY bag of shitty microwave popcorn. When I microwave it, half the bag inflates before the acrid burning hits my nose.

Eight hours later, with extensive phone guidance from Reid and a fellow assistant, I apathetically email back what I think is the right information. As I pack up my bag and prepare to leave, strange thoughts nose sluggishly through my overtired mind. The cold air outside is thrilling and the brain cells activate as a sharp stab hits the bladder. When I reach my car, I pull out my post-its to scribble down several things under the light of the parking lot lamps. I stick note after note on the dash until a half dozen yellow papers hang in a line, a strand of frames. I've written down the following things:

- stroked her white shoulder as she lay, sleeping, facing away from me
- lose yourself in lines dissecting love
- youth — a narrative and two other stories
- never lose your beginner's spirit
- buy cat chow, toilet p, stamps

I start the engine and drive past the front of the building. A large clock outlined in a circle of neon glows through the front window. The sign out front, Big Time Pictures Editorial House, disappears in the rearview as I turn away. Driving home past the checkerboarded buildings of downtown, I lower the window and pass a man sitting on the tip of a roadside accident turnoff. He's illuminated by flashing hazards from a reversed minivan. I see him talking on a cellphone, maybe shouting.

First one note lets go of the dash, then another. Then the air is crackling with post-its, unsticking and flapping around as the cool air from the highway flows in the window. I stare at dark around the glimmering skyline. I am not thinking about that awful film I spent the previous eight hours working on. I am thinking about you, Chicago, about Old Style tall boys disappearing and the plastic bag left on the counter. You with fantastical snow cats, major malfunctions and flying machines sketched out but never constructed. A flashing sign points me toward the 101 and I turn onto it, remembering your safe arms and the stars and the bars and the barmen. As I signal I rub my tired face and wipe the contact lens out of my left eye.

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About the Author(s)

Sean U'Ren is a video editor who recently moved from Chicago to Los Angeles. In this occasional column, he shares his experiences transitioning from one city to another.

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