Day Off

Sleep. Sleep sleep sleep. I’m currently working a 60-hour week. Yes, of course, there’s some slacking in there but once you add in all the travelling time, 60 hours pretty much covers it. Two days of that is overtime. I need the money. Boy, do I need the money. Entering a film festival in the USA costs $30-40 and in the past month I’ve entered about 50, so do the math.

Those entry fees don’t include tape duplicating, by the way. Nor do they include postage. That’s just the entry fees which are bleeding my bank account white. Oh, and interesting fact: pretty much nowhere else on the planet actually charges an entry fee to be considered for a film festival. That’s right. And, yes, it’s to ‘be considered’ as opposed to be shown. Most of these festivals will only show ten percent of the entries.

Maui, for instance, wrote me an email this week all the way from the Pacific to say, Pacifically, that they’re only showing 64 of the 600 entries they’ve received and mine wasn’t Pacifically one of them. That’s 600 multiplied by $30. Yes, 18000USD, for sitting watching other people’s films. Not the money from entry fees which you need to run the festival. Hmmm. I’ve been thinking about this business idea where I run a film festival in the USA. Aloha moolah!

Despite that, in the past week I’ve managed to go to something called Filmstock–a local film festival, three rail stations up the line, ten minutes distant–and taken in two dozen short films made by peers I’ve never met in four sessions over two days. They were really good. I’ve also seen Some Like It Hot on the big screen on Monday, Unfaithful (Richard Gere/Diane Lane) Tuesday, and Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire/Kirsten Dunst) yesterday.

Yesterday, Thursday was my day off. And I slept. Boy, did I sleep. I could have slept for Britain. The neighbours don’t know if I’m in or out which I think is a good thing. When I finally did surface, it was some time in the afternoon which I initially spent productively shoving videotapes into envelopes and getting them down to the post office for the cast and crew of Fate & Fortune. Then I had my Spider-Man fix at the local multiplex.

*****

Spider-Man actually lives up to the hype, I think. But then I’m the target audience. I *was* that geeky kid at school who drew superheroes in his text book and secretly loved the girl next door. Of course I didn’t have any super powers and Hemel Hempstead (let’s call it Hem-Hell, shall we?) only had one large tower block, so swinging on a thread was out of the question. Nevertheless I could relate to Spider-Man.

You know, what’s really pleasing (and I won’t review it here but just a word) is you can see that Stan ‘the man’ Lee has been consulted and respected throughout the production. Peter Parker is insecure, Spidey wisecracks and there’s a humanity there which only the Marvel comics really ever achieved. In the end, he’s a true hero, even if it is a comic book hero. He makes hard choices and you see him struggle to live up to his ideal of who he should be. That’s why he’s the best.

*****

So, I see Spider-Man and it brings a lump to my throat, partly borne of nostalgia, partly because the movie actually does have some emotional depth. And I figure, I’ve worked hard, I’ve played hard, I deserve a lift. I deserve steak. So I go shopping and I find prime steak, a potato I can bake and some broccoli. I also stock up on wine, in my usual clueless fashion–ie. go for the quality graphic design of the labels and look for the shelves which are almost sold out.

At the checkout they question the validity of my American Express card because the signature is nearly worn out and we have this scenario with coupons and airmiles vouchers which I eventually win. I buy a lottery ticket on the way out too. This is something I never do. I’ve played the lottery twice in my life, in fact, but I was sent a piece of turquoise on Tuesday and there was this clairvoyant said I should buy a lotto ticket two days after someone gave me a piece of turquoise…

You can see I’m not going to get rich quick, can’t you? Maybe I should also confess to buying Telewest (LSE: TWT) at 4.50, then again at 2.50, 1.20, 60p, 20p and lately 12p. I compulsively check the latest price. They’re currently worth 4.5p and going down the U-bend. It’s not my whole portfolio, you’ll be relieved to know, but an expensive lesson–don’t buy a company so deep in debt it can’t trade out and which has already realised it’s potential value when the previous owners sold it. Several times.

*****

Back home I eat steak and drink fine wine. It is good. Life is good. I look at the redraft of my new script for Strawberries and decide again that it’s ready to start shooting, perhaps in September. I send copies out to people and think that I really need a producer and a production designer. I call my friend Paul and tell him I’d like him to sculpt a chess set to look like fruit and he makes these gargling choking noises. “Do you know how long that will take?” he asks. No, why would I? “I’ll think about it,” he says, eventually. Good.

I’ll think about it too. Meanwhile, it’s time to pass out. The night has reached the incredible hour of 10pm and there’s work the next day. The emails stack up, the boards go unread, the cooker, fridge and various appliances disappear under piles of correspondence and paperwork in the kitchen. Who knows what tomorrow will bring?

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June 15th

I buy a lottery ticket on the way out too. This is something I never do. I’ve played the lottery twice in my life, in fact, but I was sent a piece of turquoise on Tuesday and there was this clairvoyant said I should buy a lotto ticket two days after someone gave me a piece of turquoise…

Now you’re all sitting there wondering if this actually came to anything. The funny thing is that I got a cheque through the post this morning for 100 from a club lottery I have been doing every month for some time but had forgotten about because the money goes straight out of my bank account. That’s right. Yes. And yes. I won!

To coincide with that I got an invitation from the director’s guild to go on a one-day workshop with the New Producers’ Alliance at BAFTA this coming Friday. It’s something called Zentropa Film Day and is being run by a group of auspicious Danish film makers, including some of the people who worked on Dancer in the Dark.

As luck would have it, I’m not actually working on Friday, so my lottery winnings are almost immediately spent. There’s some technical talk, a chance to network and a one hour session where we can openly pitch ideas at the Zentropa CEO. I wonder what he’d think if I suggested my feature idea for a group of immortals living under a university town in the industrial north of England?

Best hope for the day, anyway, is that I might bump into a producer at the NPA who can help with Strawberries. Meanwhile, I still haven’t checked tonight’s national lottery numbers so I go and have a look. I’ve won 10–my money back. Life, as I said before, is good.

*****

Talking of money, on Friday I discovered that there’s a pool of money being offered by the London Production Fund for shorts. The deadline for applications was 5pm Friday evening. I phoned them. They said, “The office closes at five. We won’t be looking at anything until Monday. There’s a letterbox.” I don’t need a bigger hint.

The script is done. Tonight I’ve drafted a budget, which I might bump up a little, but not too much, so that we can have decent catering and a good set of prime lenses. I particularly want a long telephoto to shoot with, something that was sadly lacking in both camera kits on Last Train and Fate & Fortune.

Applications also have to include a synopsis and a one or two page treatment–“It must describe and evoke the work you are proposing to make”–ie. the cutting style, camera angles, filters, lighting, style and suchlike. They also want a career summary–I kick myself for not updating my resum two weeks ago–and then they want my marketing and distribution plans.

Hang on.

Marketing and distribution plans. For a short? Who are they kidding? I’ve sketched out a budget for video copying, festival entries and publicity material. I trust that’s the sort of thing they mean. It comes to around 5,000. Shooting on 16mm and editing to finish on DigiBeta comes to roughly the same amount, with another 2k if I want to have a 16mm print made.

Yep, marketing is half the budget.

*******

Well, marketing might be half the budget, but production design is a huge percentage of the look. On Last Train I did my own design work. On Fate & Fortune I worked with an art director, a graphic designer and Jaffa did a lot of property construction. The DoP and I knocked heads together to get very specific locations and vehicles. Next time, on Strawberries, I want a designer to take on getting all those things done.

Last month I bumped into the sound editor from Last Train at the Production Show in London, as mentioned previously on this board. Also mentioned previously, I found out she studied textile design and fashion and is keen to take on the role of production designer, so yesterday I spoke to her and sent her a script. We shall see.

*******

Getting there, gradually. Maybe I’ll get sleep on Monday. In the meantime I just keep thinking. Yes. Getting there.

One. Bit. At. A. Time.

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June 16th

Talking of money, on Friday I discovered that there’s a pool of money being offered by the London Production Fund for shorts. The deadline for applications was 5pm Friday evening. I phoned them. They said, “The office closes at five. We won’t be looking at anything until Monday. There’s a letterbox.” I don’t need a bigger hint.

Application form – done
Synopsis – done
Treatment – done
Full Script – done
Budget – done
Schedule – done (rough)
Career Summary – done
Exhibition & Distribution – done (kind of)
Supporting Material – done

Checked with Whatever Pictures. They aren’t applying and I can use their address, so that’s pretty much it. Now I have to find where this letterbox is, drive there tonight, then wait until September to find out if I’ve been successful in getting some hard cash…

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June 22nd

got an invitation from the director’s guild to go on a one-day workshop with the New Producers’ Alliance at BAFTA this coming Friday. It’s something called Zentropa Film Day and is being run by a group of auspicious Danish film makers, including some of the people who worked on Dancer in the Dark.

Would you believe it? They cancelled it “due to unforeseen circumstances”. To round off this thread, I got another day off. Ha! It was spent watching England lose in the World Cup quarter finals, followed by napping, filling out three application forms for different directing jobs, talking to people on the phone, chasing up an application form to get funding from the National Lottery and, finally, going to the Lower Red.

More napping follows soon.

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