Copyright (c) 2011, Slow Quill
Mid morning young Karl who was the office junior, tapped on the open door asking if they wanted some tea and biscuits, when he left Anna observed how he had remembered the way Marta liked her tea, earning a friendly poke in the ribs, but despite her sisters teasing, she realized he had also gone to the trouble of providing her favourite biscuits as well, and he was courteous unlike the way other older boys behaved.
While having their break the subject of Svetlana came up, and wondering how her new pupils were getting on, so Marta said she would call to check all the girls were behaving themselves and working hard. Anna was beginning to realize it wasn't just her sister's great ideas, but also she was becoming more decisive, and the people around them treated her with respect and listened to what she had to say without regard to her age.
They went to see Tanya who gave them a brief lesson about the office phone system, and then she printed off a directory of numbers, both internal and external that the girls might need, saying to call her if they had any other queries.
Svetlana was surprised and happy to hear from them, and told them how after one of the girls had phoned home last night it was as if someone had lit a fire under them, and they almost seemed desperate than ever to learn English. Marta asked the names of her pupils in case she knew any of them, and she was interested as to who it was that had phoned home. After chatting a little longer, and assuring Svetlana they were continuing to practice they rang off.
Marta then called Tanya to ask if Ludmilla, Sasha's mum had been in during the past two days, on getting a negative answer she then asked if Ivan was free for a short while so she could speak to him. Tanya's reply made it plain he was always available to see Marta. They were shown straight in and Marta asked Ivan if any of the models or their parents had been told about the forum idea, and he said it was under wraps for the time being, all the people at the meeting had been asked to keep it quiet for now.
"You have a leak, I was just talking to Svetlana and she told me after Sasha called home last night how the girls had suddenly become much more keen to study, of course she didn't know why but I think we might have a guess, only Tanya said Ludmilla hadn't been in over the past two days."
"We didn't need to keep this a secret, but other than those people currently working on the the project, it would be a distraction until we have the bugs ironed out, after all the girls already have a motivation to learn the language, hang about while I call personnel."
A short conversation with the personnel department established that Ludmilla had a cousin working in the I.T. Section, and Ivan said he would reprimand them about it but no heads would roll. As the girls left he once again marvelled at Marta's ability to see things and make connections that others were blind to.
On the way back to her office Marta stopped by to ask Dmitri who would be a good person to talk to in the sales department, he smiled knowing this was probably the seed of one of her smart ideas, and gave her an appraisal of the various characters he dealt with there. Marta chose to phone Alina, who Dmitri said was young, smart, but undervalued which she hoped would change if the girl had time for a little research, when Alina found out who was calling she said she would be there right away. Once you got past the exterior, Alina was twenty-one, a little plain, a little overweight, and had acne, but she was very good at English which is how she got the job, and she was eager to make a career in sales or marketing.
Marta was keen to know how the sales department currently used the forum, and was told that they mostly looked to see how each set was received after it was released, but she had recently seen Dmitri's clever rumour campaign about Natasha's super set and was full of praise at the way he had increased customer interest.
Marta wanted to know if it would cause any problems doing some research on an idea she had, going on to explain that it would be interesting to find out on a name count basis, or in terms of the column length devoted to each model, if there were any relation to sales.
Her idea being if it were so, had they missed out on promoting a model in the past or spent time doing more sets of a model only to find poor sales.
Alina immediately saw the gist of Marta's line of thought and said she would start working on the history logs of the forum and sales numbers, saying how there would be no hassle from her boss when he was informed it was a 'Marta' project. Anna noted her sister making a few whispered comments as Marta showed Alina out.
"What was the whispering about?"
Marta explained she had told Alina how Valya had helped with her complexion, and how she would be pleased to offer her advise if she went to see her.
"After she's been to see Valya, I will speak to her about how Dmitri could be a big help in her research, she might even need to visit him twice a day" Marta said with a smile.
Anna said how she shouldn't play chess with people, but Marta insisted she was merely clearing a space on the board, whatever happened next was down to the pieces.
By lunchtime Anna wanted a break from the forum, it was nice that they liked her, but at the same time some were a bit graphic in what they would like to do with her, a subject they had been discussing, as Marta had explained she had been having feelings about boys that she had found confusing of late in that they were both scary and exciting.
Marta wondered if they needed to speak with the admin department or the studio manager to find out where Vladimir was this afternoon, and if he might have time to advise them on the shoot they were planning. They stopped at admin first as it was closest, and the guy that had been short with Anna before saw them come in and rushed over to them.
Before they could even speak he was apologising for his lack of helpfulness when they were last here, but he was new to the department, it also seemed that the reputation of both girls was in the ascendant. He apologised again that he didn't know where Vladimir would be but offered to phone the studio manager or take them to his office, they thanked him but said they knew where that was, and would call in as it was on their route to the props department anyway.
The studio booking manager was able to tell them Vladimir was not in today as he was at a location shoot to the south of the city. Marta explained how they were looking for advise on shooting a video in the kitchen of the apartment where they were staying.
"Oksana is the one you need to talk to, she has used the apartments to shoot a number of videos, apparently it's all in the balance between natural light, and fill-in lighting, I'm told a video camera can't cope over such a wide lighting difference the way that our eyes can.
I'll give her a ring, she's not due in studio three for another hour or so"
As luck would have it Oksana was at their next port of call discussing props she would need for some up-coming shoots, so they went over to speak to her and Andreas, the man who ran the props department. When Marta explained about the cup-cake shoot, Oksana immediately wanted to know if someone had been assigned to shoot it, and on finding out that nobody had, she asked to do it as she had heard from John how easy it had been working with Anna.
Talking about the run through they had done, Oksana came up with some ideas and asked Andreas for a few items they could use, she got really excited when she found out Anna was going to talk in English during the shoot as she spoke English herself. She then asked what apartment they were using, then referred to a small notebook, saying how the light would be better in the morning for the kitchen of that particular unit.
Marta said how they had been so busy since they had arrived they hadn't even thought about a day, or time for shooting the video, but that they were both engaged in some research at present and it would be easier to concentrate if they had cleared up some of the things they were working on, so would Oksana be available on Friday morning.
Glad to have that settled they headed back to Marta's office, but ended up talking to Dmitri who gave them a preliminary copy of the rules they had so far worked out for members who wanted to access the 'speak to the models forum'. He asked them to look it over and give him any feedback on changes they thought might be of benefit.
Taking it to 'their office' as Marta insisted, Anna's professional name was on the door too.
There has been a recent desire to learn English among some of our models, and we hope that as they become proficient more of them will take part in the forum. We consider this could be an educational experience for the girls to converse with their fans from all around the world. A code of conduct is necessary to ensure that no comments that may be considered in any way offensive or of an inappropriate nature appear on the forum.
1. Please bear in mind the age of our models, and that English is new to them.
2. Members should at all times be well-mannered and polite.
3. Do not use swear words, slang, derogatory terms, or any sexual terms or innuendo.
4. Please keep your exchanges brief, because the girls are reading, what is to them a foreign language, also to give others a chance to join in.
5. Do not criticize the girls in open forum, but constructive comments are welcome.
6. You may not ask questions about a models home or school location.
7. You may not ask to meet, phone or write letters to the models.
8. You should not ask questions of a personal nature, nor about their home life.
9. It is permissible to talk of a models hobbies, interests or ambitions.
10. It is also permissible to make suggestions for future photo or video shoots.
Please note that the forum administrator or any of the models have the authority to ban any member temporarily or permanently for infractions of the rules and guidelines.
After talking it over they decided it covered the issues that had concerned them about what they had observed in the member to member forum, then Anna noted that look on Marta's face that meant she was thinking something through. Marta said they needed to go and talk to Dmitri about training.
Marta wanted to know if it were possible to set up a practice forum just inside the office, so that two or three people could talk to a model, and she could talk back just as the real one worked. Dmitri said they ran 'in-house' tests on the systems before they were rolled out in order to find any bugs, so yes it would actually help him if some people played with it for a while.
She went on to say how the models needed to try it first if only for their keyboard skills, and some of the staff who wrote in English could pretend to be members, then they should break the rules in different ways to see how the girls handled the various situations. Dmitri said he would look at the software options so that the girls could have 'kill' buttons to temporarily or permanently bump people off the forum for braking the rules.
"When the beta software version is ready for testing, Anna can be our first guinea-pig, and I will arrange as many of our English speaking staff as possible to play the part of members, to trial the system, and of course see how Anna deals with the perverts", he said winking at a blushing Anna.
The girls went to their office to polish up the cup-cake shoot, both in terms of the actions with respect to tips they had been given, and also improving the dialogue to match the new additions, from there they went on to look at some of their other scripts.
They were so engaged in the discussion of changing panties, for one script where Anna is supposed to be trying everything on from her underwear drawer, that a red faced Karl had to knock a few times on the open door before they realised they had a visitor, there was an awkward moment of silence, before Anna invited him in.
"Sorry about that Karl, Marta, my sister, manager, and all round genius, just likes to make sure of every last detail, it's that chess brain of hers", he then told them how normally he had little contact with the models being in the I.T. Department, which led to a discussion on how he didn't make drinks for the whole admin section, just the geeks. He was a trainee learning how to write computer code, they found out he had landed the job through a locally based chat forum because he was an avid gamer, geek, and chess player.
They chatted for a while longer as he served their tea, and before he left Anna said he should play chess against Marta as her club didn't get to meet over the summer, as soon as he was out the door she received a poke in the ribs.
Marta looked at her sister, "Wasn't it you that said how I shouldn't play chess with people, and now you set me up."
"I'm not playing chess with people, I'm getting people to play chess, you both like chess, perfectly harmless for a first date."
"He's like sixteen, I'm too young for him, he wouldn't think about me in that way."
"So you didn't notice him looking at you, or that he was trying to hide the fact he was hard by standing so close to his tea trolley, besides you're mature for your age you should have a boyfriend. Lots of girls have older boyfriends, and if you only get together at the office he will have to behave himself, and not do octopus impressions"
Both girls laughed at Anna's description of how they had seen many girls swatting off the groping hands of boys they saw at school. "Marta you're the clever one you work it out, he's a gamer, so might not mix much with girls, but he's also a trainee geek therefore he wants to make something of himself, he's polite, and I'm sure he's interested in you"
Marta seemed to loose concentration on the video plots they had been working on and suggested they look at the latest picture sets to go on line, then they went on to view the members forum in real time to follow the current threads, to see what comments were being made on recent releases. Marta pointed out that after nearly three weeks, Anna's super set was still a subject of discussion, then they picked up on a comment about an up-coming video release. Navigating the site, they found the 'What's New' page and saw an announcement about 'Natasha' planning to do a video in the near future.
They ran out to see Dmitri, after checking through his system he told them that the page had only been updated in the last fifteen minutes, he then logged into the members forum to see there was now a stream of speculation about what kind of production they could expect from her first video.
With a gleam in his eye Dmitri used his 'member persona' to seed the debate with the rumour that 'Natasha' had been taking English lessons, this caused him to be flamed by a number of the people joining in. He then went on to say a friend of a friend knew some-one who worked at the studio, and they could apologise later when he was proved right.
They all sat there grinning as the discourse rapidly continued scrolling down the screen. Marta looked about the room as the text was now moving to fast for her to follow, and asked Dmitri about the different sized screens, he went on to say how the newest, largest screens were dished out according to seniority because they were expensive but they still had some less demanding jobs for the smaller ones, but he couldn't help thinking that was not an empty question, another of Marta's ideas was on a slow boil.
He could almost see the change of gears as she then asked if there was in place any data-base about the models, with regard to if they had any computer experience or if they could type, or about any other skills they might put to use making videos. Dmitri wrote a quick memo to Ivan informing him of another Marta idea, warning him he thought some more were bubbling away in the background. As Marta read his note, he got a poke in the ribs.
Valya showed up a little later so they grabbed their things including the laptop and headed off to the apartment, where they caught up with how each others day had gone, with Anna talking about how she thought Karl was interested in Marta, and how she had nearly set up a chess match between them. After Valya had watched the spectrum of emotions play across Marta's face as her sister tried to embarrass her, she called Andreas who was still at the studio and asked if he had a chess set, on finding he did, she asked if he could loan it to Marta until further notice.
Before either girl could comment Valya told them about a shoot happening at a beautiful lakeside location tomorrow morning, and if they would like to come along they should go to the shops now so they could put together a picnic, without giving her a chance to say what any alternative plan might be they were dragging her out the door.
The goodies they came back with were meant to feed three youngsters and two adults, but Valya was sure they had sufficient to pig out all day and still have leftovers, after loading the fridge and cupboard she took them across the hall to the other unit the studio owned to hunt out a picnic basket that was kept there. The mirror image apartment was the one their family would be using when they arrived on Friday, and Anna said she would like to get some flowers to welcome her mum, Valya asked if she had any favourites and when the girls told her she made another call.
"The fresh blooms will be delivered and arranged Friday afternoon, you two just need to write your mum a note."
In a slightly sulky tone Anna said she had been going to buy her mum flowers, Valya said although she or Marta hadn't gone to the shop themselves, the flowers were from them, as there would have been no flowers if she hadn't suggested it, which made her feel better.
Rather than go out again they sorted through the take-away menus in the kitchen drawer and eventually decided on pizza. The next morning they were up very early in order to get ready and pack the picnic basket, and a few other things they would need for the day out, Valya also reminded them there were no bathrooms where they were going for the shoot, so unless they really wanted to go and poop in the woods like a bear, they best go now.
When the Sandra called up to say she had arrived, they were ready and went straight down to find an enormous SUV parked up outside, they quickly loaded up as Sandra wanted to head out before the morning traffic built up. They crossed the river and were soon out of the city and heading up into the hills towards their destination with no problems as most of the vehicles they had seen were heading towards Kiev.
The girls sitting together in the back seat were left to make their own introductions, Marta and Anna recognised the girl by her site name from photo and video sets, but found her real name was Katharine, though she preferred they call her Kat. She had her twelfth birth-day a few weeks ago and had been with the studio for nearly two and a half years, with a good steady output over that time, this would be her fourth location shoot so far.
It turned out that Kat was local, living in Kiev and had been spotted and recruited by a staff member from the studio, but now her family had moved to another part of town, which lead to a conversation about the area where they had seen the house they liked, and about the two local schools favoured by girls working at the studio. They worked out if they went to the same school they would be in three consecutive year groups, due to where their birth-days fell in the course of the school calender.
Kat brought up the subject of Marta's English speaking video idea, saying how she liked languages, as with most Ukrainians, Russian was her second language, and she spoke Rumanian and a little French, and how she would have gone on the intense English course starting this week, if it had not been for the shoot she was booked for today.
She went on to say how she had been to every major book store in town for study aids in order to get a head start for when she could take lessons.
This started an impromptu lesson as Anna and Marta began teaching Kat odd words and short phrases, then naming their items of clothing as well as various items in the car, which made the journey seem to fly by.
They branched off onto a minor road and continued for another twenty minutes before pulling up beside a locked gate to a track that lead off into a woodland area they had been skirting for a while. Sandra handed Valya a key to open the gate, she drove through and waited for Valya to lock the gate behind them before proceeding along the rough track between the trees, eventually coming to a beautiful open area beside a small lake.
Sandra had parked in a well shaded area and laid out a large ground sheet, she then got everyone to help unload all of her equipment onto it, four aluminium boxes, a few tripods, some strange disk shaped zip-up bags, and sundry other bits of kit, by comparison all Valya needed was her compact location make-up box.
Marta offered to help Sandra set up, meanwhile Kat was sitting in the load area of the SUV with her legs dangling out the back as Valya worked on her make-up, it was previously decided to leave her shoulder length hair to hang free and natural for this type of shoot.
Anna and Kat continued their conversation from earlier about learning English, until Anna asked why Kat hadn't got a chaperone, it turned out that as Valya was already playing that roll for two girls, Ivan thought she could do it just as well be for three. Anna said she should she get paid twice for today for being a chaperone and doing make-up, but Valya said that as the make-up staff worked so closely with the girls, like the photographers, they got a bonus based on how well the sales went for the girls they worked with. Anna then got worried that Valya had been spending to much time looking after Marta and herself, and if it would mess up Valya's work and bonuses she could make with other girls.
Valya laughed and said how she was doing very nicely looking after, and mentoring two of the studio's hottest rising new stars, besides she had fitted in a studio shoot of one of her other girls yesterday, and working with Kat today meant she had enough girls that had steady or emerging careers to balance out the girls who were less successful or fading.
Marta was asking questions about the various items as she helped unpack the equipment and help Sandra set up for the shoot, and what differed from the way that they worked in the studio environment. Sandra noted from the perceptive remarks and questions why this girl had caused such a stir among all the people she had dealt with back at the studio.
"Marta, Valya tells me your family are coming to Kiev at the weekend with a view to moving here, if you do, I think you should talk to Ivan about you visiting every department for a few days each to see how they run, and what they do. Professional internet web studios like ours are a fairly new type of business venture, but you seem to see ideas and possibilities with a fresh eye, so the better informed you are, the more I think you will improve the way that we operate."
Marta thought about the suggestion for a moment, she had observed studio photo and video sessions, and had the hasty tour around, but apart from a longer visit with the costume design people, most of her experience of what went on was from her association with Dmitri from the perspective of the technical geeks, and she could see the merit of Sandra's suggestion in how that would give a better understanding of the operation.
Within half an hour of their arrival they were ready to start, Sandra explained how she wanted to use the sun, and some of the effects of light through the trees to affect the final outcome of the shots she was trying to achieve. In order to do this they would move to various locations she showed them on a map of the area she had drawn, complete with times that they should be there to make use of the natural lighting.
The map showed several spots each with notes about the relative positions of the model to the camera, and the use of in-fill flash or about using reflectors. While Kat went back to the car and slipped out of the dress she had travelled in, found some panties and sandals in her bag of accessories, and got a blouse and skirt from a hanging garment bag, the others moved equipment to the first spot on the map directed by Sandra.
Sandra asked Marta and Anna to each open one of the disk shaped zip-up bags, and laughed as the reflectors came out. They were silver coloured cloth disks with a springy wire edge that kept them taught, but they were twisted into a figure eight then folded in half to fit in their storage bags, and popped out like a jack-in-the-box when the girls released them, much to the amusement of those who looked on.
As the session began Sandra directed Marta and Anna how to hold the disks to provide the in fill light she needed at various times as she took her photographs, at the next site she had Anna use a reflector, while Marta held a remote control flash unit that was triggered by the camera. Both girls soon realised what was needed and required less input from Sandra, who aimed most her comments to Kat, and they adjusted as necessary.
They moved from one site to the next as indicated by Sandra's prearranged agenda until after the last shoreline shots, the next location indicted was in a shallow part of the lake that caught the sun and was very nice for bathing by this time of the year. Kat was naked by now having divested herself of her few garments over the course of the shoot, and now Sandra and Valya removed their dresses to reveal they were both wearing bikinis underneath.
"Hey, that's not fair", Marta complained, "we haven't got any bathing costumes with us."
Valya said how she had thought all the youngsters would be happy to go natural, though she and Sandra weren't allowed to be naked with the models on shoot due to studio rules.
Anna shrugged and stripped off to get in the lake, and after a pause, Marta also undressed to enjoy the water and the sunbathing, but thinking how she and her sister could now throw out their old ratty bathing suits they had at home and buy some new ones.
The reflectors weren't needed in the lake as the water did that for them, they just had to stay out of shot, as Sandra moved around Marta asked if she ever cropped the images that she had taken, and when she found that it was quite common with location shoots asked if they could try something out.
Marta explained what her idea was, and how she was not certain of the exact angles, but she positioned Kat and Sandra, then she and Anna splashed water as high as they could as Sandra clicked away, and Kat revelled in the spray. As a rainbow is dependent on the relative positions of sun, water droplets, and viewer, they had to await the results but Sandra assured them she had been able to capture some promising shots.
With the work for the day complete, a blanket was laid out in an area of dappled shade where they all enjoyed the picnic, and talked about the issues of location shooting.
Marta wanted to know how they found places like this, and was told they had a location scout whose job it was to find them, but this particular place was actually owned by one of the original investors who had started up the studio, and there were also a couple of other spots in this private estate that she had used before.
To be continued in chapter 11
Authors love hearing from their fans.