Tom – part one

I always tell people new to the film business and looking for a way to break in to never work for free (or for ‘deferred payment’; deferred translates as ‘what a sucker!’). If you feel you must, do it one time only. It rarely pays off.

PG & porter

I worked for no pay once and boy, it turned out not to be free at all. Usually the worst thing that comes from working for free is that the golden promise of future paid work never materializes. That was true in my case, but I also got a bonus. My friend Ant said later that I should have had a t-shirt printed that said, “I worked on Dark Dreamer and all I got was a lousy set of baggage.” No kidding. I got the deluxe edition. It came with so many pieces I should have insisted on a personal porter. I lugged that luggage around for years. I still have quite a few pieces; that shit was built to last.

A year or so after Andy and I had divorced, I got a call one day from a man prepping a short independent film. A mutual friend had recommended he contact me. Tom was the writer and director and he needed an art director. No pay, but there would be great craft service and an art director’s credit! I had just come off of a very good job so had a bit of money tucked away. Tom was charming and funny and infectiously enthusiastic about his project. Plus, he had already lined up a bare bones crew of some great people, all willing to work for free. It was a seven-day job. It would be a blast! I said yes.

And that was it. One phone call and my life shot off on a trajectory I never saw coming.

Working on the movie was fun. It was late October, when Texas is at its most beautiful. Friendships were forged. I fell in love with the FX guys; I called them my seven dwarfs.  Working with them was more like play. And during all of the madness of a no-budget shoot with ridiculous hours and all-nighters, a fondness and unspoken attraction developed between Tom and I. Which would have been lovely had he only not been married.

Tom took me out to eat a week or so after we wrapped as a thank you. I remember precisely what I was wearing that day. (I have some sort of savant ability to remember in vivid detail things that have emotional value to me. It’s a thorny rose.) He brought me home after lunch and I invited him in. Looking back now, that day is rife with what-ifs and if-onlys. What if I had said goodbye at the door? What if one of us had had somewhere later that day we needed to be? In truth, those fruitless questions are only tiny flickers in my mind. What happened, happened and I have always accepted full responsibility for my part.

Now I’ve made it sound as if the Apocalypse was only minutes away and we tripped some cosmic wire that made it so! No, it was much more mundane. The fallout from our choices would take years to unwind. But on that day, this is the simple thing that happened:

We sat on the couch and talked after lunch. Alone, the warmth between us could no longer be brushed aside as it had been on set. Before Tom kissed me for the first time, he looked at me intently for a long time: “I see pain in your eyes.” I knew there was going to be a price to be paid and that it would be painful; I just had no idea how much. But on that beautiful autumn day, when he did finally kiss me, I didn’t care.

I don’t intend to tell every detail here about the years Tom and I were involved. As with Andy, my and Tom’s story is worthy of its own telling. Our past so often informs our present and my relationship with Tom and its repercussions have a very great deal to do with my relationship over a decade later with DK. I’ll try to keep to the bullet points. Click here for part two.

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