Tuesday, 1 January 2013
It was January last year that I sat down to write the script for my first feature-length film. After a dozen or so short films and with the prospect of passing the personal half-century mid-year, it seemed time to do something a little more ambitious.
I’d made films as long as 25 minutes, so in theory a 100-minute film should only be about four times as difficult, right? Wrong. There were times I regretted even starting. There were times when it seemed the project was doomed. But somehow, despite delays, mistakes, equipment problems, unavailable performers, injuries, the British weather, repeat injuries, last minute-allergy discoveries…despite all this and more, it somehow got done. (Well, I say 'done'…almost, almost…)
I recently had a chuckle to myself recalling the two weeks I booked off work for July, thinking ‘that’s when I’ll be editing the film’. That was actually when we shot most of it, due to delays in finalising casting. But it’s clear to me now, with the perspective of hindsight, that with ANY other combination of performers in the lead roles, the film would never have been completed at all. After what seemed a calamitous start, we were quite ridiculously fortunate. If Talia had not brought Jess to the first read-through, if another Jess had not had to drop out, necessitating the last minute casting of Megan, if both Megan and Jess had been just a fraction less reliable and considerate, everything would have come unstuck during those two crucial weeks in July.
And now here we are, a year on from the first tentative notes I jotted down – How to break up the filming so I wouldn’t be scheduling loads of people together? How to give as many people as possible an opportunity to appear? How to get a head start before I could afford to buy a DSLR? (all of which questions were answered by the same idea) – and I have just one character still to film. (Ok, I’ve been in that position for nearly 2 months, but I’ve been waiting for an actress to get better. I’m nice like that. (Should vegetarians be film directors, do you think…?))
So now seems a good time to look back and thank everyone involved; too many to name individually (30+ speaking parts, for a start!), but from the top: Talia for her enthusiasm and (mostly!) unflagging energy, as well as for all the people she brought to the project, and for her amazing, almost machine-like ability to perform in the most trying circumstances; Jess, for rescuing the entire production and for being always cheerful and reliable despite giving up two weeks of her life at a time when she was also moving house – and of course for giving a perfect performance in a role I thought I couldn’t re-cast; Megan for stepping into the breach and also rescuing the production, and for being steadfast, thoughtful and adaptable (being far more used to theatre performance) throughout; Caron for agreeing to take part before even finishing the script, and sticking with us through all the subsequent delays; Sharon, for mastering by far the most involved dialogue of any character, and for cheerfully winging it when she hadn’t had time to master it – and for AD’ing one evening and saving me from a breakdown; Miranda for braving unimaginable pain to make sure we got shots of her and Jess together, and for giving a great performance whether in agony or pushed for time; Chloe for her patience with scheduling and for coming all the way from London and helping to make sure Thea’s scene had the right impact; Lana and Lizzie for personifying their characters perfectly and for making the trip up the Devil’s Dyke twice so we could get it right; and Jo Maultby for her amazing musical contribution and her acting debut as the busker.
Others who deserve a mention; Chris Andrew for great stills and other duties, Jenni, for a perfect location and another acting debut; all the interviewees, Literary Ladies and party extras; Hulya for the use of her spacious flat; Joe and Luke for the score, still developing excitingly as I write – and a special last thank you to Sophie Groome, production assistant extraordinaire (script prompter, boom operator, camera operator, and briefly onscreen as ‘begging student’) without whom so many shoots would have been much more difficult.
The film is currently on schedule for a showing around Easter 2013. No doubt there will be more problems to wrestle with along the way, but for now, it doesn’t seem too indulgent to sit back and say – Thank you everyone, and well done.