I'll Tell You How I Got My Start In Films


I'll tell you how I got my start in films.

After the war of the Sevens, once the fires had burned out and the buildings had fallen down, the dust had settled, the dead were buried and the wounded, raped and terrified had gotten back to the tattered remnants of their lives, I was assigned to the War Crimes Trials. Now, the war criminals were not the famous ones, the top tier -- I was not the sort of star who could command that kind of role! -- they were a second or third layer, the senior officers, military men who had carried out the orders to kill and destroy and so forth. My role was complex; I would be both a reporter or investigator and a prosecutor. And I was to be an actor as well, because we were going to make a movie out of the trial -- not a standard, old-time documentary, either, or a historical fiction, but the sort of performance-enhanced fact-based verité in which the real world plays the most important part, for when we tried the war criminals, they would truly be tried, and when we condemned them to death, they would truly be executed. This is common enough today, but we were among the first.

I found that the trials had been set up in a nearby neutral nation, in a old, now disused cinematic compound near the capital, which included a large movie theater, several modest sound stages, an open area with some deteriorated outdoor sets, and a number of offices. The compound, as a whole, occupied a city block in an outlying, largely abandoned industrial zone. Most of the personnel, including me, were assigned small trailers or huts to live in; some of the important persons stayed at the hotel. Imprisonment needs were met by a loan of a few of our Government's portable high-security prison modules, which we were very fortunate to get. The technicians bringing in the modules (which actually contained the prisoners) also were able to completely yet unobtrusively secure the area, "wired, ringed and gated" as they put it, in a few hours. When I complimented them on their efficiency, the chief engineer -- a old but hale fellow in the regulation khaki -- twinkled through his steel-rimmed glasses, and said, "Yes, we can turn just about any place into a high-security prison in a day or less. We've had plenty of practice lately!"

The director of the trial and the film to be made from it was Lydia Tybalt, whom I'd met a few times several years before when we were both starting out in the Service. She'd done quite well for herself in the Department since then: now, she was a businesslike woman in vigorous early middle age, well dressed in very businesslike garb, usually dark blue, at the top of her form. Even her body had filled out into a very respectable solidity. The trajectory of her career was rising sharply and I felt privileged to work with her. As was evidently her custom, her preferred method of direction was from behind a desk or table, giving the participants the general, comprehensive plan and outlook of the action, and letting everyone find their own path to the objective. For this she had assembled people like myself who were capable of a variety of roles, both in actual life and in film, with a good capacity for thinking and acting indepently in exten