“Ladies and gentlemen,” Owen Ludlow began, “if you’ve seen this morning’s news, you know the grave problem we face.”
Around the table, heads nodded wearily. A few people looked grimly at the poster for Carpenter Shop Studios’ forthcoming motion picture release, The Tempter’s Snare. It featured a likeness of Jillee, the hottest young star the Christian movie studio had; she was 22 but looked like she was going on seventeen. On one shoulder was a smaller likeness of her as an angel, and on the other shoulder a small image of her as a devil. The art department hadn’t gone out of its way to do anything other than get as many pictures of Jillee as it could on one poster.
But then, that was all that was needed to sell one of her movies.
Ludlow, the chairman of the studio’s board of directors, had become increasingly concerned his star was inching her way toward crossing over into mainstream films. This morning, he had confirmation that Jillee was attempting to shed her good-girl image.
“We’ve sunk entirely too much into this movie to not release it,” Ludlow told the other board members. “But we’ll be laughingstocks if we do release it. This movie is about a girl who is tempted by all the standard vices but holds on to her faith and her innocence. And Jillee is making certain she is seen as anything but innocent.”
The only usable quote the young woman had given the media had been, “I’m an adult, so it’s nobody’s business what I do.” The rest of her slurred statement had been largely bleeped out, even on cable.
“Maybe we can hold the film for six months or so,” said Ken Frobisher. “Let the brouhaha die down.”
“After last night,” Manuel Garvas said, “I think the only thing we can count on is Jillee’s lengthening police record. I don’t see how we can ever release the film as it is.”
Lana Bergstrom put a thoughtful finger to her lips.
“Do you have an idea, Lana?” Ludlow asked.
“Yes, I do. Let me make a phone call to see if it’s possible.”
“Please,” Ludlow said.
“Do you have the number for Chuck Mervon in CGI?”
Ludlow consulted his own phone’s address book and found the number Bergstrom wanted. She made the call.
“Hello, Chuck, this is Lana Bergstrom. How are you today? Oh, I’ve been better, frankly. I’m in a board meeting. Yes, Jillee. Yes, the party. The SWAT team. Hmm? No, so far as we know the stories about a pony aren’t true. Listen, Chuck, you did all the CGI work on Now An Angel last year. So you’ve got Roni Tuscari in your computer, right? So you could replace Jillee with Roni’s computer image and we wouldn’t have to reshoot, isn’t that right?”
Eyebrows and quick prayers went up around the table.
“That’s what I thought. We would just have Roni dub the lines and it would be like she had done the movie in the first place. Great.” She looked around and saw everyone’s head nodding, including Ludlow’s. “Get started, Chuck. Thanks, bye.” She clicked off. “Amazing what modern technology can do. Legal should be able to get Jillee out of our lives without too much fuss, and Roni gets to star in a movie without all the work.”
And Roni, who really was sixteen going on seventeen and still lived under her parents’ roof and thumbs, wouldn’t be causing any embarrassing off-screen scenes.
“The technology is really that good?” Frobisher asked.
“It’s good enough we almost don’t need actors,” Bergstrom said. “Trust me. You won’t realize Roni didn’t shoot the movie on a set.”
“Lana, thank you,” Ludlow said. “You and Chuck have just saved this studio a great deal of money.”
“Always happy to help, Owen,” she said.
“It is a nice, simple solution. Jillee gets the boot, and we get to release our film just as planned,” Garvas said.
Bergstrom smiled slightly. “Well, Manuel, it’s not quite the same film. It’s going to be a digitally remastered virgin.”