Holly sat very still as Matilda ran the eyeliner along one eyelid and then moved on to the other.
“Almost done,” said Matilda quietly, as if afraid that raising her voice would somehow jostle her own hand. “There. You’re done.” She stepped back and Holly swirled around in the chair to examine herself in the mirror.
“Oh…” she stood up and stare. The makeup Evelyn and Matilda had picked out was of a copper color which was an effective contrast against her hair. The dress which Evelyn had showed up with and insisted Holly wear that night was, Matilda had assured her, designer which Holly figured out meant ‘very expensive’. But it was a beautiful dress, knee length and black with silver embroidery.
Evelyn, who was watching from the sideline nodded with satisfaction. “Perfect.”
“Here,” said Matilda, returning with a pair of high heels. “These should complete the look.”
“This is really nice of both of you,” said Holly, as she leaned against the wall and bent down to slip on the shoes. “I really appreciate it. But is it really necessary?” she asked a little anxiously.
“Victor is introducing you to the head of a studio and you need to impress him,” explained Evelyn calmly. “It’s a party, not an audition, so you can’t impress him with acting or how well you can monolog. The only thing that will make an impression on him is whether you look the part and strike him as someone who could be famous. And unfortunately when it comes to female actors that comes down to the very basic question of ‘does he find you attractive’? It’s petty but there it is.”
“I’m not sure then that I should be…”
“Holly you misunderstand me,” said Evelyn quickly. “I’m not saying flirt with the man or do anything wrong. You just have to look beautiful. As far as male studio heads are concerned that’s the only thing that counts when looking for tomorrow’s actress. And they have to be convinced every other man in America will find you attractive. So it absolutely sums it up that all you have to do is look the part. After you’re cast then you can actually use your real talents.”
Holly looked doubtfully down at the dress. “So there’s nothing wrong-”
“Absolutely not,” said Matilda quickly. “You go to the party tonight and have a good time. That’s all you have to do Holly. Evelyn is just busy giving rent to one of her favorite subjects: sexism in LA.”
Evelyn rolled her eyes, but the smiled at Holly. “Do try to have a good time. Just,” she shrugged, “Look glamorous while you do.”
Feeling better Holly smiled. “Thank you again. Both of you.”
There was a knock on the costume department door and the three women turned at the sound. It opened and Ian stepped in.
“Oh Holly,” he said surprised. “I thought you’d left already.”
“Um…” Holly suddenly realized she wasn’t entirely sure Ian would like his costume designer using work time to help her get dressed for a party.
Evelyn however seemed to feel no such compunction. “We were helping Holly get ready for an event at McCall’s tonight. There wasn’t much else to do while we hung around and waited for the scene to be set up.”
Ian nodded absently as if he was only half paying attention to Evelyn. Instead his focus was on Holly. “I’m actually glad I ran into you. I went talked some things over with the network this morning and I’ve been looking for a chance to talk to you about it. Basically we want to offer you a new contract.”
Holly blinked. “What?”
“We want to extend the duration of the current agreement but also increase your role. We want to bump you up to a regular and by next season we’d add you to the opening credits.”
“Holly dear, you said that already,” Evelyn pointed out.
Ian smiled. “I know this is a bit sudden. I wanted to short out the financial part of it with the network before I brought it up with you. But they’ve given it the go-ahead. There would of course be a pay raise that would be scaled to increase over time. We’ve really happy with the work you’ve done so far. You’ve done a good job and I’ve talked about it a bit with the writers and they had some pretty exciting ideas of where we could take your character over the next few years.”
“I…wow,” Holly blinked. “Years?”
Ian grinned. “Yeah well, I know you’re probably going to want to take some time to mull it over and look over the contract.” He hesitated and then added, “Ordinarily I wouldn’t say this but you seem like a nice kid so I’ll give you a piece advice. Get a professional agent to look over the contract. The network is open to some negotiation. Anyways. Maybe we can get together tomorrow and we can go over this in more detail?”
Holly nodded weakly.
“Great. Well I’ve got get back, I just wanted to let Matilda know Walsh and I need her down by the bank set. Wardrobe malfunction.”
“I’ll be right there,” said Matilda.
“Great.” Ian turned and left.
“That’s amazing,” murmured Holly, when she had finally regained composure. She realized the two other women were watching her, and she shifted nervously.
“Of course it is. Congratulations!” said Matilda eagerly.
“It is wonderful dear,” said Evelyn. “But…”
“But?” asked Holly, alarmed.
“But you really have to consider before you agree, so don’t commit to anything when you talk to Ian tomorrow.”
“You don’t think it’ll be a good contract?” asked Holly confused.
“It’s not the contract itself. But you have to make some decisions career-wise. Knowing TV contracts and what it sounded like Ian was offering, I wouldn’t be surprised if they try to sign you for a five year deal.”
“Five years?” repeated Holly excitedly.
“Yes. You have a new movie coming out and you don’t know how that will do. I know Victor is interested in casting you in some other parts. You’re meeting this studio boss tonight. And well…you are dating Alan Ryder, which has meant publicity, and you’ve actually been handling it all pretty well lately. If you sign onto Homestead for another five years a lot of your time is going to be taken and you’ll only have the summer for other projects.”
“But I like working on Homestead,” said Holly. “I like the people and I like the set and it’s nice to know I’ll be here tomorrow and next month and the month after. It just feels nice and, well it’s fun.”
“But it’s not film,” said Evelyn. “This industry most definitely has a hierarchy and you make it to the top through film and not television. And it’s very hard to make that jump after a certain point. Do it early, before you’ve been type cast. The actors who make the leap are very few and most of them are male. So if I were you I’d wait and consider before committing to another five years on Homestead. Alan may be able to afford to hang around a few years because he’s already made it in movies but your career is still a nebulous state. It can still be directed down certain paths depending on what you want to be. And it’s very hard to change that path once you’ve started.”
“I don’t know…”Holly ran a hand nervously across her hair.
“Just think about it and don’t agree to anything when talking with Ian tomorrow.”
Holly nodded hesitantly. “I will think about it.”
The door opened and Alan stuck his head in. “Holly are you…wow.”
“What? Is something wrong?” she asked, her mind still anxiously rerunning Evelyn’s words.
“No. Not at all. You just look beautiful,” he said.
Her attention now focused on him solely. “Thank you.”
“Are you ready to go?”
“Yes.” She waved to Evelyn and Matilda and left, Alan taking hold of her hand and leading her across set towards the parking lot.
Matilda sighed and shut the door behind them. “You know Evelyn,” she said, putting away the makeup they had used on Holly, and fishing a small portable sewing kit out for a drawer. “Has it occurred to you that maybe Holly doesn’t want to make it to the top and is happy in a supporting role?”
“But she could be so much more,” said Evelyn waving her hand as if flicking the idea away.
“She’s also very young and doesn’t know much about acting.”
“And she’ll learn. I know she has a very promising career ahead of her.
Matilda shrugged and headed off after Ian.