By Darien Cox
Production assistant Shaun Doyle is thrilled when he's invited to work a week long film shoot in The Dominican Republic.
But he's baffled upon meeting Dylan, the handsome cameraman and co-owner of Vivid Productions. While breathtakingly hot physically, Dylan is overtly cold to Shaun.
Determined to get to the bottom of the crabby cameraman's aversion to him, Shaun pushes to break through the man's barriers, and discovers a scorching heat that overwhelms his body, along with an emotional roller coaster that threatens to break his heart.
I lowered the colored filter I held and looked over at Dylan, who stood between two cameras on the other side of the large studio. The vast room looked like a gray, artificial cave when we first came in, rounded walls, no corners, but now with the gear set up and people milling, the space had gained angles, light, and color.
“Can you get a microphone on him, now, please?”
I tensed at the tone of Dylan’s voice. We’d only been on the job three days, but I could already tell the guy didn’t like me. It was a shock, because I thought myself a pretty likeable guy. Plus I’d worked with Rooney, the other owner of the production company on several shoots, and had gotten along with him great. This was the first time I’d met the other half of Vivid Productions, and was disappointed that Dylan didn’t share Rooney’s whimsical, humorous approach to life and work. Not that I was immune to hard work, just the opposite, but something about Dylan made me feel obligated to prove it, and I shouldn’t have had to.
I was a professional, I didn’t need to be coddled, but the man hadn’t said one friendly word to me since we’d arrived, and we were a pretty small team. I might have let it slide if he’d said nothing to me at all, but on yesterday’s shoot, he yanked a cable wire out of my hands, saying I was moving too slow. I’d barely picked the thing up before he took it from me. And later, while I was going over some script notes near his precious camera, he’d asked me to please get the hell out of his way. I’m not sure if the ‘please’ was supposed to counteract the ‘hell’ of the request, but there was no smile, no ‘hey, just kidding’ grin, no eye contact at all.
Dylan was gorgeous, which didn’t help matters. Short dark hair with a subtle wave, black brows and lashes over eyes some shade of blue...or perhaps hazel. I hadn’t allowed myself to keep prolonged eye contact with him, even when we all went out to dinner the last couple nights. At thirty-three, Dylan was six years my senior, but I’d always liked older men. Especially ones with perfect jaw lines—slightly shadowed, but not unkempt—the hint of a fit body under loose, unremarkable clothing, and a gaze that brought heat to my face, even when that gaze held irritation bordering on scorn. I might not have been able to meet his eyes, but had watched his cargo-pants-wearing ass as he bent over to pick up equipment enough times to know it would look great in a nice pair of jeans—or better yet, in nothing. I liked when super good looking guys didn’t draw attention to it, and Dylan had that devil-may-care essence about him, like he wasn’t even aware of his looks.
But despite his physical allure, he pissed me off, treating me like some slacker. Because that’s what he was saying, what any boss was saying to an employee they harassed. I don’t think you can handle this job. Well, to hell with His Royal Snit-ness. I, Shaun Doyle, was a busy, sought after pro in this field, and freelancing paid me well. So fuck this Dylan guy.
“You got it, Dylan,” I said with practiced enthusiasm, something one had to master and maintain to work on a film shoot. Behind the scenes on another shoot weeks back, I’d heard Rooney gossiping about actors, and even other production assistants, who ‘couldn’t hold up on long shoots.’ He said this as though it was a crime against nature. I’d worked with Rooney several times before, and despite his niceness, he had no qualms about calling at five in the morning and ending work at midnight.
But I always held up. And that’s why I was invited to the Dominican Republic to work on a government sponsored film. Already it was more exciting than any shoot I’d been on, and we still had the good stuff to go. But Dylan’s strange aversion to me cast a cloud over it all. I intended to ask Rooney about it later, in private, because even with the great money, I couldn’t work this way all week. It was starting to become awkward.
Dylan was still watching, so I gave him a nod and set down the filters. The friggin guy had just ten minutes ago barked at me to set up the lights. My eyes searched the chaos for Chase Sibello, the other production assistant, and found him tangled in wires and audio equipment near the wall.
“Hey Chase, can I have a lapel mic?”
He grinned as he tossed me the box. Chase looked too damn happy to be working for the same bitchy cameraman I was, but then I hadn’t heard Dylan bark at him once. I knelt down, and Chase looked up at me. His brown skin was sweating slightly. I’d worked with him a lot before, and knew he was running around as frantically as I was. “Hey,” I said softly. “You’ve worked with Dylan before?”
His big grin reappeared. “Yeah. Dylan’s cool. Why?”
I stood. “Never mind.” I held up the mic box. “Thanks.”
Chase and I were the only two PA’s for this week’s shoot, likely because it was a government client, the shoot was out of the country, and they’d won the bid by pricing too low—something they did often according to Terry, the loose-lipped old man who handled the books back at their Boston office.
But it didn’t matter that there were only two of us. Chase, with his youthful brown skin and long, Disney character lashes, had to deal with age-ism as much as I did, if not more. But like me he was older than he looked, and he was damn good at his job. We were both used to handling multiple tasks in a time warp, and had worked on larger and more chaotic shoots than this.
Digging the mic out of its box, I approached the stocky, black haired man they planned to interview. He was plant manager for one of the companies the U.S. had set up down here, and though Ashley, our Washington liaison, hadn’t come right out and said it, Juan Reyes was supposed to smile at the camera and tell the world how wonderful his American partners were. I’d read the script.
Sitting on a chair with a white standing screen behind him, Reyes’s hands gestured like a conductor, swiping at the air as he chatted nonstop to Ashley, the client representative that had flown down with us to supervise the filming.
Juan Reyes grinned up at me as I approached, bronze skin wrinkling around his brown eyes. “Hello again, Shaun, my All American Boy!” he said, his accent making music of the words. “So handsome, you must have left many girlfriends behind for this work. Tell me how many, three, four?” He let out a wheezy laugh, nodding up at Ashley conspiratorially. Ashley smiled; that strained, mannequin grin she kept plastered on her face most of the time, but she cast a fleeting smirk at me.
Ashley was a strange chick. She spoke in the soft, kindergarten teacher tones of one who deals with the public regularly, wore sensible shoes, and styled her red hair in an unfashionable bob that she’d probably had since the 80s. And she occasionally gave me a creepy, knowing smile for no reason. I had a feeling Ashley’s gaydar was at sniper level; she seemed to have known what I was the moment we shook hands on the airplane. Not that this explained her need to gawk at me.
I wondered for the first time if maybe Dylan had guessed my sexual orientation too, and homophobia had something to do with his disdain. I noticed he wore a thick silver ring on his left hand, and it had decorative carvings, didn’t really look like a wedding ring. But he wore it on the traditional wedding finger, so he was probably as straight and married as Rooney. But Rooney was no homophobe; he was so unlike that, I couldn’t imagine him being business partners with someone who was.
“I’m going to pin this microphone onto your shirt, Mr. Reyes,” I said, my ‘the customer’s always right’ smile firmly in place. I caught Dylan staring at me from behind one of his cameras, but he looked away quickly.
“Yes, yes, do what you need to do, young man,” Reyes said jovially.
I fought not to wince at the young man. Juan was nice enough, and I was used to people thinking I was young...well, I was young, only twenty-seven, but could still pass for a college kid depending on what I wore. But I’d worked long and hard to develop a reputation as a skilled professional. Yet still, when working with new people, I often found I had to prove myself all over again once they saw my face. I was a man that would always be cute, occasionally called sexy by certain interested parties, but rarely had I been referred to as handsome.
It was my blue eyes and blond hair that made Reyes decide, when we’d all met for dinner the night before, that I was an ‘All American Boy’. Reyes was all right, he had no malice toward Americans, as others had already shown us in this country. And he possessed the same laid back, flexible approach to business as many of his colleagues. And it hadn’t anything to do with laziness.
There was, as Rooney had explained it, a standard ‘twenty minutes of bullshit’ rule when dealing with the Dominican businessmen. Instead of starting a meeting at nine sharp, and squeezing as much out of the time as possible—which was the norm back home—these people spent nearly a half hour discussing everyone’s children, spouses, sporting events, restaurant choices...anything but work. Once that was out of the way, they were attentive and efficient. They just didn’t do things here like they did in America, and I loved it, personally. While Rooney was rolling with it, I could tell it was driving Dylan bananas, though he’d said nothing to our various hosts.
Dylan seemed to be taking it all out on me, which baffled as much as it angered me. We’d just met; what could I possibly have done to piss him off?
I finished setting Reyes up for audio, then went back and completed putting up the lights the way Dylan had requested. Shuffling around, I found Chase set up as well, so I scanned various things that might need doing. Finding everything ready to go, I left the studio and found Rooney, who was going over the script with Pippy Jennifer, (actress names – yeesh), the talent who would be asking the interview questions.
“Everything’s set up inside, Juan’s in place. What else can I do right now?”
“Ummm...” Rooney tapped his chubby cheek with one finger, his lips puffing out beyond his brown goatee. Rooney’s looks matched his jolliness, with his big belly, red nose and slightly clown-like, unkempt hair. “We’re using three cameras on this. Dylan and I will take the outers, so go tell him you’ll monitor the static shot.”
I nodded, but he didn’t miss the eye roll, and a grin dimpled his cheeks. “I know you can handle more than a static shot, Shaun, but you get paid the same either way, so take the easy where you can get it. I’m gonna have you hanging out of a helicopter before the end of the week.”
“Awe,” Pippy said, her perfect face grinning. “It’s okay, sweetie, Daddy will let you play with a helicopter later! Now go do your chores.”
I’d previously worked with Pippy on a hellish supermarket commercial and got pissing drunk with her after. We liked each other, so she was allowed to verbally abuse me. She was one of those generic blonds who looked like every other generic blond actress, but she wasn’t dumb. I hoped she eventually ‘made it’ but doubted she would. She had talent, brains, and drive, but there was nothing out of the ordinary about her pretty face, nothing to make her stand out.
I gave Pippy the finger and grinned, then practically dragged my feet going back into the studio. Rooney didn’t realize my hesitation had nothing to do with taking on a boring assignment for the shoot. It was because I had to walk right up to Dylan and ask him for the honor of standing still for an hour beside him.
I watched Dylan tweak his camera like an attentive lover, his face peaceful and handsome, and felt that odd twinge in my lower belly. It angered me that I was so attracted to him, and that his pinched, impatient sneer only appeared when he had to deal with me. He was nice to everyone else. I didn’t want to think of him that way, because it made me feel like one of those people who liked bad boys, or had some subconscious need to be demeaned. That was not who I was.
Balancing my pride on my upturned chin, I stepped up to him abruptly, trying to show confidence in his midst, but only succeeded in startling him, and he dropped a lens.
I winced as it landed on the hard rubber floor, only vaguely relieved that it rolled on its side, unbroken, toward my feet. “Sorry,” I said, and scooped it up, handing it over to him. He snatched it from me, his jaw tight, and the confidence I’d summoned fled like a frightened deer. “Sorry,” I said again, and wanted to punch myself in the face for my groveling. But a PA who broke equipment got talked about, and it could ruin a reputation. But shit, it wasn’t me who dropped it.
Regaining myself and attempting to broaden my shoulders a bit, I said, “Rooney wants me to monitor the static cam.”
He held my eyes, then turned away, placing the lens gently down on his work space. “No need,” he said. “I can watch the two.”
“It’s no problem,” I said. “Everything’s all done and I can still tweak things that come up if needed.”
He shook his head. “I know these cameras, better let me do it. Go make sure they get the lunch ready for when we’re done.”
I smiled my big fake smile and gave him a nod, not that he was looking at me. He was looking anywhere but at me. So I was to be sandwich boy today. Whatever. As Rooney said, it paid the same either way.
On my way out of the studio I glanced back, and saw Dylan hovering protectively around the central camera, the one I was denied access to.
I was as good if not better than half the cameramen that worked the circuit in and around Boston, and if Dylan would give me a chance, I’d prove it. He probably figured I didn’t know what I was doing because of my PA status. Cameramen were a competitive lot, and I liked money too much to wait my turn for jobs. Working as a production assistant kept me in steady cash. I craved camera work sometimes, but I’d learned that my greenbacks came from being a jack of all trades, everything from lighting, audio, continuity direction, equipment set up, whatever was needed. But it also meant I was a step-and-fetch-it. I picked up coffee and ran to the electronics store: menial tasks like making sure lunch was set up.
When I stepped out of the studio I ran into Rooney and Pippy coming in. “Dylan won’t let me run camera,” I said bluntly to my other boss. “I’m gonna go check on lunch.”
Rooney rolled his eyes. “All right. I promise you can do more on tomorrow’s shoot.”
“I want to talk to you later,” I said.
Pippy had been summoned by Chase to set up for the interview, so Rooney and I were alone for the moment. “What’s wrong?” he asked, his chubby cheeks bordering on jowls as he frowned, which he rarely did, so it made his face look odd, like a tragedy mask.
“Not now,” I said, but sighed heavily, and surprised myself for letting some emotion bubble up. I didn’t cry, I’m not that much of a wimp, but I think my teeth gritted a bit, and Rooney noticed.
“Come outside for a minute,” he said. “Dylan, be five minutes!” he shouted. Dylan waved a hand in the air, but didn’t look up from his monitors. I was glad, because I didn’t want him to see me tattling on him to Rooney.
I followed the stout man into a community kitchen, but the Spanish speaking women at the other table paid us no mind. Once we sat down in the corner, Rooney looked at me expectantly, and I realized I hadn’t rehearsed what I was going to say.
“Um, it’s about Dylan.”
His eyebrows raised in surprise. “Dylan? What about him?”
I looked down at my hands, feeling awkward suddenly, although Rooney and I had always had a comfortable rapport. “Is he always so...abrupt with production assistants?” I realized as I said it that Dylan had been friendly enough with Chase, so I shouldn’t have used the plural.
“Is he giving you guys a hard time?” Rooney asked. “That doesn’t sound like Dylan.”
“Really?” I said. “Okay, well, it’s not Chase, it’s just me. He keeps snarling at me and acting like I’m some bumbling intern in his way. It’s freaking weird, there’s something about me he doesn’t like, and I just want to know what it is, so I can avoid doing it in the future.” There. Diplomatic.
Rooney rubbed his eyes, stretching, and let out a small groan. “Oh. Well, I don’t know. He’s going through something right now, but I can’t see how it would affect the way he treats you.” He looked at me, and something flickered in his expression, as though a light bulb had just gone on over his head. “The only thing...look, this isn’t something we can talk about now. Meet me in my room a half hour before dinner tonight, and we’ll steal a minibar drink. But only if you can keep a confidence.”
“Of course,” I said. I frowned, then stood. “You better get back in, unless Dylan-the-wonderful can run three cameras at once.”
Rooney laughed heartily as he stood. “Don’t be too hard on him,” he said, giving me a quick pat on the shoulder.
I went to find the woman we’d met earlier, who was arranging our lunch. She was a pretty older Haitian with lustrous dark hair snaked with silver. Her speech was an alluring medley of French and Spanish accents, but her English was very good, and she assured me all would be set up, and I needn’t do a thing. Then she patted me on the head and told me I was handsome. Perhaps I should consider moving to the Dominican Republic, I thought, as this was the second citizen to call me handsome, where at home I was merely cute.
Thanking her, I decided to go sit on my ass and have a Coke while I waited for the shoot to be over. I felt rebellious taking such a luxuriant break from the action, but hell, I’d more than offered my services. I thought of Dylan though, so it wasn’t really a break. I started mulling over the Dylan hates Shaun mystery, but my mind wandered, and it turned into the Dylan kissed Shaun fantasy. I hated inconvenient crushes. I hoped that what Rooney had to tell me later was something particularly slimy, treacherous, and would make me see Dylan as revolting.
Though at this point, I wasn’t sure that could happen, even if I learned he kept human heads in the freezer.