What Gives?

Okay, well here’s the latest in the film saga and life in general. In last month’s episode our friendly lab guys and girls lost the DAT containing the soundtrack for Last Train. This meant the film couldn’t be sent out to festivals or distributors as the video was mute. Our story begins this week with me returning home after a weekend away to find the following messages on the answer machine…


Pete (friend): “It’s half past five on Sunday. Elusive character aren’t you? What’ve you been up to? Been busy? Give us a call…” [I resist urge to reply with comment along the lines of ‘I’m compiling a bootleg CD made up of sampled messages but no, not really busy other than that.’]


Lucy (friend): “…I’ve just been to see A.I. and I’m in a state of shock because it’s probably one of the worst films I’ve ever seen in my life. The whole audience were in tears at the end and it was tears of pain…” [a few more minutes of ranting follows and make mental note to put her straight about why A.I. is important]


Matt the Grader [the audience cheers]: “Just calling to let you know we’ve done your sound layback [hooray!]… Do you want any VHS’s? [cries of yes! yes!]… the invoice cost is �496.16 including VAT…”

Woah there!

The invoice cost is how much? We agreed on a price of �185 plus �22.60 tape stock plus �40 for the sound layback plus tax (VAT). How, pray tell, did the final price double? I phone the lab. Of course, Matt’s at lunch. I ask for the nice Ted character who initially quoted for the project. He’s off sick. I twiddle my thumbs.

Some time later, I call back. “Oh,” says Matt, “apparently they’ve charged you for two hours telecine grading instead of one.” I reply, “It was maybe an hour ten at the most.” He responds, “Well there is set up time outside that… When can you come in?” I interject: “Er, I don’t think you understand. I don’t have �496 [lie]. I have budgetted for no more than �300. We need to discuss this.” Matt: “Oh, okay. I’ll get the person responsible to call you back.”

The rest of the day passes uneventfully. Certainly not interrupted by the phone ringing. I have enough time to reflect that the telecine grade probably took an hour and a quarter tops–not two hours. They kept me waiting so it started five minutes late anyway. The set up happened while I was there. And the telecine grader spent at least ten minutes trying to get a colour channel to work that just wouldn’t. Plus that’s on top of them losing the DAT and wasting a month. So I figure the two hour invoice is a leetle teensy bit cheeky.

I call the lab back the next day. Without a hint of irony, Matt asks, “Didn’t they call you back? Hang on, I’ll put you through…” [time passes, continents form, life evolves, the deadlines for the European Film Festival and Sundance pass into history] Matt returns: “They don’t seem to be around at the moment. I’ll get them to give you a ring this morning.” And of course they don’t.

And that brings us to today.

So, in short, I am an elusive character who doesn’t return all his messages, opinions vary on A.I. and I *still* don’t have Last Train on video. Which means I can’t get it shown anywhere. Which means I am no further forward. And the lab wants more money for the part of the job where *they* caused the most problems.

Meanwhile, a large chunk of Manhattan lies buried under a pile of smouldering rubble brought about by an incomprehensible form of hatred for life and freedom and the world has very definitely changed. Is Last Train anything anyone needs or wants or desires in the context of that? Maybe it says something about life and hatred too. Maybe it doesn’t. I don’t really know the answers to any of these things.

I guess I just keep putting one foot in front of the other so yesterday I also phoned the editor who’s helping out with Fate & Fortune. They’re re-doing the EDL–the only thing needed before finalising the graphics and getting the negative cut. They tell me that it could be–possibly, perhaps–done this coming weekend.

Yeah, right. Fat chance. I know, I know–it’s all favours favours favours. Still, somehow the prospect of finishing actually does buoy my spirits a little and I think of changing the end credits to read ‘copyright 2002’ which will mean I can enter it into next year’s festivals. In other words, I keep going. And that is always enough.

Woah. Never mind all that. I just came off the phone to the lab and explained to them about the telecine costs and that I’d only had an hour and ten minutes at the most and blah blah blah. So they gave me the story of the operator filling in the timesheet and “it’s always right” and “we’ve never had a problem before”. I argue. Of course.

Eventually the person on the end of the phone (the accountant, I think) gets bored. She suggests we call it an hour and a quarter and will adjust the invoice accordingly. I breathe a sigh of relief. And I continue to regale her with tales of the lost DAT and why I’m feeling like their company is not the wonderful experience–except for the nice operational staff–that I thought it might be.

I listen patiently and understandingly while she tells me this has never happened before. I only mention once that the rerecording mixer had the same problem with the same lab only a couple of months ago. I don’t repeat that again but do add that I’ve missed the European Film Festival and Sundance. Eventually she decides to give in and adjust the invoice so it’s back to the rate for one hour. Total: �279.18. Result.

I’ll be picking the DigiBeta up tomorrow.