The Kung Fu Version

Fifteen minutes before today’s screening Andy the director of photography thrummmm-m-m-mmms up outside my house on a large motorbike. I swear, if film making doesn’t kill you, your crew will surely try at every opportunity.

It’s a warm spring day and I’m already wearing a T-shirt, a sweater, a fleece and my ski jacket. I pull on leather gauntlets and a crash helmet then hang on to what feels like a very weak piece of plastic fairing behind me as we whizz off through the city streets and on to the motorway.

This is only the second time I’ve ridden pillion in my entire life. I notice how vulnerable it feels to be exposed on two wheels. I wonder abstractly what would happen if we hit a pothole or got a puncture or someone pulled out in front us with no warning. I keep reminding myself to breathe.

I notice that we slide through gaps between cars I never would have thought existed. I notice how sweet the spring flowers smell, their scents windblasted through the grill in front of my chin. I reflect that I haven’t pencilled in personal death or maiming for today so I’ll probably be okay.

Twenty minutes of traffic-jam dodging antics later, we’re at the labs. I let go of the fairing. My hands feel numb.

“That was alright wasn’t it?” remarks Andy conversationally. “Did you see all that traffic? Completely pointless. I’ve no patience with all that.” Yes. Indeed. We go inside to meet Dave, the grader, and Dave, the contact man. “I can never remember these guys’ names,” says Andy. “They’re all called Dave,” I say, helpfully, “except for Greg.” And sure enough, there’s Dave, waiting in the Deluxe foyer for us.

Dave whisks us along to the Deluxe preview theatre, pausing only to scoop up Dave the Deluxe grader en route, and we sink down into the Deluxe seats, watch us the Deluxe curtain rolls back and the Deluxe projectionist rolls the film.

Pip! Now that’s the sound of the marker point for the sound. Pip! That sound matches up exactly with a sync point on the film–a frame which says ‘3’ on the countdown to be exact. Pip! Except to be exact Pip! sounds at the start of the first shot and not at minus three at all. This, dear readers, means that the film soundtrack is in the wrong place and is completely out of sync–two seconds out of sync to be precise. Uh oh.

“It’s like the Kung Fu version,” laughs Andy and sure enough everyone talks then two seconds later we hear their words. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry but opt for laughing. It is pretty funny. What can you do. We just look at the pictures and comment on what’s been done to them.

Dave and Dave have done a great job on the grading. There are just a few scenes which still look a little hot–ie. the whites are just on the verge of burning out–so we ask Dave to bring them down a few points (ie. to darken them). The rest is fine. Much much better than the first mute print, this has glorious saturated colours all looking really rich with more contrast range.

And here’s the bonus: the complete hash they’ve made with the sound means I don’t have to pay for that print. So they can put those small bits and pieces we saw today right and I won’t get charged. I get a free extra grading. My mouth does goldfish shapes and two seconds later I hear “Hahahahaha!” I love the Kung Fu version.

Andy brings me home on the motorbike and on the way back I’m lost in a reverie of how good it all looks and how wonderful it will be when it all comes together. “You’ve got a really great little film there,” says my DP, dropping me off. “It’s really come together and, do you know, I think that’s some of the best stuff I’ve shot.” I am pleased. I think it’s come together very well too–the script, the actors, the images, editing and soundtrack are all marvellous.

Now, tomorrow I’m making my own way to the labs in the morning. It’s not so much the motorbike as that I want to hang around for a bit and pay the bills and maybe arrange another telecine. Andy has things to do and wants to head off sharply. So, no. Not the motorbike at all. Honest. Although if I’m riding one again, I definitely want to be the one doing the steering. Hey, I’m a director. What do you expect?