The following afternoon at four, over mint tea and sandwiches, Francesco had been surprised, not by Radouan’s cleverness at negotiating but by his masterly command of the film business. Surprised and dismayed, but he reminded himself that anyone who played chess and backgammon as Radouan did, where the end game was thought out well in advance, should never be underestimated. Knowing he’d made a big mistake telling Delphine how great she was, he sighed inwardly – a big mistake!
‘Look iss me who’s doing you a favor,’ he said trying to cut his losses, ‘you and Delphine... so many imponderables in this business and you want all this money... iss not practical... not even friendly, my darlings.... the risk... in film making there is no way you can predict what will happen. Delphine could fall ill - have an accident...’
‘Which would be covered by the insurance policy you will take out,’ Radouan replied calmly.
‘Really...’ Francesco drawled and rolled his eyes, ‘Say I do agree then, the length of the contract you propose iss too short. The time frame must be longer... if I’m to pay out all this money before even deciding what her first film will be like...’ he waved his arms in the air, ‘I mean iss a huge investment... the contractual period muss be longer... muss include a minimum of three pictures. I won’t build her up juss to see her leave me...’
‘But what if the film’s a dud?’ Radouan snickered, ‘You want to be committed to her? Do we want to be committed to you?’
‘I do not make DUDS,’ Francesco hissed dismissively, ‘but that’s the whole point of a longer contract... the first film might go nowhere but a second or third film will make her a star... it often happens that way.’
‘Believe me, habibi Francesco,’ Radouan urged, ‘a one-film contract is to your advantage. One film with an option to renew at a discount... first refusal, whatever you like...’
‘But thirty million francs, that’s five million dollars!’ Francesco gazed at the ceiling.
Radouan’s eyes flashed ominously ‘That’s NOTHIN’. You said yourself the rushes were spectacular - tha's the word you used - and when her pictures appear in all the Vogues worldwide, then it will be too late for you, habibi... you will have to pay much, much more. Thirty million francs? Really it’s too cheap.’
‘Iss not cheap at all, Francesco said truculently, ‘e troppo, malto troppo.’
‘These days it’s nothin’ and you know it.’ Radouan stared hard at him, ‘when you think what you’re getting it’s a bargain’!’
Francesco put on his glasses and examined the provisional contract Radouan had drawn up: ‘And this business about points... gross points. Nobody gets them anymore...’
‘You get gross points, you always get them...’
Francesco puffed himself up and smiled benignly, ‘But I am an icon, my dear, I am Francesco Monte...’
‘Right, habibi! So you give some of your iconic points to Delphine here who is a world class model...'
‘And final cut...’ Francesco grimaced, ‘do you know what you’re asking? Distributors would never agree, NEVER, even I do not get a final cut without a fight...’
‘Then you have to fight. We have to be sure she isn’t trashed in the final cut. But if you agree to three percent of gross box office....’
‘You are crazy, mi amico … absolutely mad! Superstars, some times they get half a percent... half of one percent! And you are asking for script approval too...’
‘Of course, what do you think? If she can’t approve, how will she know she can do it?’
‘Scripts are for the money men, I never follow a script I have a concept.’
‘Call it what you want. Concept then... she has to have concept approval at least...’
‘Ideas... my ideas come together as I get to know someone and use their personality to give voice to my feelings... SENTIMENTI – which is why I’m a great director, I don't work from scripts I work from feelings... so forget scripts and concepts, they’re not important...’
Delphine, amazed by this performance, sat by demurely sipping her tea, trying to look serious and intellectual; trying to remain calm... trying not to laugh at them.
‘I can see you’re not in the mood to negotiate,’ Radouan said finally and got up to leave. ‘Com’on Delphine, we’re wasting our time here, we’re due out at Aicha’s place for drinks.’
Francesco jumped up and waved his hands. ‘ASPETA, wait safi safi sit down... SIT DOWN! Again you are leaving my shop... I can’t believe it... after all these years... treating me like I’m some carpet dealer in the fucking souks...’
‘We’ve been through this before,’ Radouan smiled, unmoved, ‘you know Marrakchis are famous negotiators...’
‘Let’s get to the point then: you give in on the final cut and the gross points and I’ll agree to your price.’
‘Sorry we have to have gross points and we can’t go lower than two percent.’
‘One half of a percent...’
‘OK OK... one percent but only if the gross is over fifty million dollars in the first week...’
‘No no habibi...NO!’ Radouan bared his teeth. ‘We have to have one percent from the first ticket sold. We’ll drop the script approvals but we want a salary for Delphine while the film is in production, twenty-five thousand a week; separate dressing room, separate hair dresser and makeup teams, approval of publicity, a sky blue Lexus convertible and all her personal expenses until the film debuts. Further details to be drawn up by our attorneys...’
‘Who’s your attorney?’
Francesco groaned. ‘I might have known! But HOW... how do you know this person? Or shouldn’t I ask?’
‘Don’t ask!’ Radouan got out a pen, ‘So we cross out these and initial the rest. Then you sign and Delphine will sign and I will be the witness. And in the morning you will telephone your bankers to transfer five million dollars into her account at Paribas.’
Francesco looked skeptical, ‘Tomorrow?’
‘I’m not sure I have that much cash, I may need to sell some shares.’
Cracking his knuckles, his eyes rolling in their sockets, Radouan stormed around the room. ‘Until the money is in her account there is no deal. Really! I’m ready to tear up this agreement right now. On the head of my mother, I swear, just in the last hour Martin Segal has called me from New York. He’s been to Conde Nast, seen Delphine’s pictures and has a much more profitable deal for us elsewhere... He says she’s dynamite... what does it mean, dynamite?’
Francesco smiled condescendingly. ‘I will do my best to make it happen by tomorrow, but please...’
‘What does it mean this dynamite...?’
‘It means he thinks she is going to be FAMOSISSIMA! HUGE! Explosive! Unstoppable! Dynamite is an explosive...’
‘You see, I told you.’
‘Please akhouya, my brother, I cannot stand talking like this with you a moment longer... it will wreck all my feelings for her... my ideas they’ll just stop coming... You’ve won big. Be happy and relax.
©Elwyn Chamberlain 2006