Chess pieces, life size – what a wonderful spot from KL Caley at New2Writing.com for today’s #writephoto prompt. I’m extremely grateful to Joy Weese Moll for her comment on last week’s Chandelier/A2ZTheme Reveal, as it gave me the idea for today’s event. Like Rebecca Douglass and her aliens v scots writephoto saga, this could become something more than a one-off set of characters. It might be worth your checking Chandelier to appreciate the background. This is 1000 words.
Six months after the initial set proposal, we were nearly finished.
The studio within the castle had worked wonderfully. No need for extra scenery; it was all ready, the drapes, the pictures, the lights, the grubby corners…
Outside, the wide sweep of the drive through the park presented an artistic setting for all of the crinoline-rustling and horse-riding events through which the two love interests demonstrated their passion.
The final scene scheduled was the stolen kiss at a chess match. The resulting duel between the old lord and the upstart had been filmed months earlier, while the actor playing the old lord was relatively sober.
Originally this was planned to be a straightforward board game in the drawing room between the noble lord and the upstart lover. After four days of trying, with the scriptwriter working feverishly every night to get more spunk into it, the director said it wasn’t working, there was as much tension as a wet fish on Monday.
It was an understatement. The upstart was no Thomas Crown and goodness knows the old lord was not a glamorous woman. No tension in the piece at all.
It was then I remembered the huge chess pieces in the stables storeroom.
I took the director to look at them.
“We’ll use them!”
“They’ll need repair, and a new coat of paint.”
“No we’ll just use them as they are, do the scene in reverse and stick bits back on them if we need to put a shot or two in earlier.”
So that’s how we did it. I laid out a new square on the on the extensive patio that ran the length of the ballroom. We could only find red and blue washable paint, so we used that in checkerboard pattern. Then we set up the battered chess set ready to film the scuffle between the lord and the love interest. The blue king already had a broken nose, the red queen (the love interest) had lost her crown. Pawns were missing arms, feet, and even heads. The bishop had lost his mitre, and as for the castle: well, its crenellations seemed to have been ruined by rooks.
Strangely, it worked. The actors moving pawns and other pieces put their backs into it, and some of them even acted, perfectly creating the impression of partisan to the lady, but beholden to the lord.
Then we needed to step back a few moves, and replace the queen’s crown, and the king’s nose. Various pawns got bits stuck back on, sometimes they even fitted. The upstart rode his horse into the midst of the fray, swept the red queen off her feet and planted a kiss on the actress’s lips.
Three more takes then we called a halt before the light went. The chippies got to work on bringing the pieces back to a pristine form for the next day, and we had a decent night’s sleep for a change.
The row next day was spectacular, even by our unit’s standards. The chess pieces were in the same state they’d been when we’d called it a day. The gaffer insisted they’d been perfect when he went to bed, and I supported him, since I’d seen them before he finished.
“How long to fix them again—and now, so nobody has a chance to vandalise them again?” The director had already summarily dismissed anyone he no longer needed, on suspicion of wrecking the movie.
“Give me till two—that’ll only give you two hours of light, mind.”
“Just do the necessary, as much as you can. Kings, queens, knight, a few pawns, if we have one of each colour we can stand them in during post-production.”
The chippie nodded and got going.
The director stormed off.
I considered following him, appeasing him, but I couldn’t see how. Why would anyone take a wrecking machine to this final piece of business? Although it was a crucial scene.
At two o’clock we reassembled, everyone in position. The chess pieces looked immaculate. Chippie announced that anyone touching the red pieces would get paint on them, “apart from the queen—that’s just her head you need to avoid.”
We struggled through set-up and two aborted takes with the old lord forgetting his lines or missing his cue. Another when the upstart’s horse decided it was an appropriate time to urinate on the chess board, which of course washed the paint into a purple stinking mire. The actors had to stand in it while the director changed the camera angle to avoid the mess.
At last we were ready for the final panning shot, when a bit of murmuring drew my attention.
“What?” I asked.
Two actors pointed at a woman wandering through the set in a pale muslin robe, completely out of fashion for the period we were in.
“Move her off!” someone ordered, but the strangest phenomenon seemed to occur, with actors and stand-ins reaching for her and missing. I signalled to the panning camera to record the event, which to my eternal thanks he did.
“The light’s going!” I called to the director.
“Action!” the director yelled, although the cameraman was already panning, he just swung back and did it again.
“Cut and WRAP!” The director said, and I’ve never seen so many actors leave a set so quickly.
The mysterious interloper was nowhere to be seen. But the chess pieces had lost their new fittings. “Who was that, anyway?” The director asked as he came up.
“I have a horrible feeling that it was our resident ghost. I’m so sorry—”
“A real ghost? Fantastic! Let’s hope she shows on the reel.”
It was hardly the response I expected, but as they cleared away and packed all the accoutrements into the great wagons they’d come in, I wondered.
Should we put in a contractual clause about the appearance of our ghost on film, even in the rushes? Maybe a double royalty or something?
It could be the selling point of the decade. For the film, as well as ourselves.
© J M Pett 2023
3 thoughts on “Chess | #writephoto Flash Fiction”
Oh! Jemima this is absolutely great I love it… looking forward to more you had me captived in the first episode last week.
Could this be the same place that the Aunt who lives in the turret is based or is she near enough to visit….. looking forward to more 😊😊😊😊
Clever, clever, Jemima! I loved this.
Very nice! The ghost doesn’t like change… don’t clean the portrait, don’t fix the chessmen…Things could get interesting at this castle.