Wednesday, March 28, 2007

2 weeks to go

2 weeks to production and everybody keeps asking me if I'm ready. I have to reply "No, not really." Production-wise we seem to be doing okay - we've got a cast, a crew, most of the main locations, and, finally, a locked-off script, but the amount of time it's taken to get all of those things together - coming down to London for auditions, going round Nottingham for locations, rewriting the script on the train in between - means that I feel really behind in terms of actually knowing how the hell we're going to shoot the film. I have kind of got it in my head, but am acutely aware that I need to find a way to get it out of my head and onto paper in some form so that we can do things like, you know, schedule the film. It's very stressful.

Had a meeting with the main cast today - Perry Benson (Dad), Dido Miles (Mum), Ainsley Howard(Birdie), Toby Cooper (Elbie) and Olga Fedori (Lena). We had a good chat about the script and the production, and then did a full read-through which seemed to go well - managed to disgust them at some points (which is good considering they've all read the script before (unless they've only been reading their own parts and so are unaware of the context of anything (which I can't imagine any of our fine, professional conscientious cast doing))), and found out that none of them had actually twigged what the frozen sausages in the script were for (and had to explain, leading to some very peculiar (and slightly repulsed) looks (and if anyone reading this wants to know you're going to have to watch the film - it's not suitable for publication in a family-oriented blog such as this)). I also had individual chats with all of the cast to make sure that they are all prepared for what they have to do. All of them seem up for it and really into being in the film, which is great. I just hope I can make sure that we really get the most out of the script.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Geeks, A Sorcerer and an Asshole.

A couple of years ago, myself, Chris Cooke and Tim Cunningham had the opportunity to go and film an interview with Alex Cox. We were showing his film 'Three Businessmen' at the Broadway cinema - the result of having won the 10th anniversary film quiz in the bar (I fully appreciate that the preceding statement bathes us head to toe in the glow of Geekhood). We went to Liverpool for the day and spent a good long time in the pub with him and his partner Tod Davies talking about Bunuel (the main influence on 'Three Businessmen'), his next film 'The Revenger's Tragedy' and, inevitably, the state of the British film industry. Cox was witty, serious and passionate about film and we had a great time, all told.

However, at that point, I was unaware that Cox had once written, in collaboration with Stan Lee, the screenplay for a proposed 'Doctor Strange' film. If I had known that, I would have steered Cunningham (who was conducting the interview while myself and Cooke were Camera Monkeys) away from the politics of globalization and towards the Wand of Watoomb.

Doctor Strange is a Marvel comics character created by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko (who also co-created Spider-Man) in the early Sixties. An arrogant, cold and callous surgeon, Stephen Strange's hands (and career in surgery) were ruined in a car crash. Seeking a way to rebuild his life, he sought out a Himalayan hermit called The Ancient One, who then taught him in the ways of magic, leading Strange to become the planet Earths' Sorcerer Supreme.

Here's the Lee/Ditko version:

And here's a more recent incarnation:

Doctor Strange is the David Niven of superheroes - suave, mustachioed, unruffled, but still steely enough to take on interdimensional monsters and flame-headed demons. He lives in his 'sanctum sanctorum' in New York's Greenwich Village with his 'manservant' Wong (who contemporary writers have to find new ways of not depicting as a stereotype and anachronism, whilst simultaneously trying to avoid the inevitable gay subtext...). Also, he has an entire lexicon of absurd sounding oaths:

"By the Crimson Bands of Cyttorak!"
"By the Deathless Vishanti!"
"By the Demons of Denak!"
"By the Dread Dormammu!"
"By the Eternal Vishanti!"
"By the Eye of Agamotto!"
"By the Fangs of Farallah!"
"By the Fires of Ikthalon!"
"By the Flames of the Faltine!"
"By the Hoary Hosts of Hoggoth!"
"By the Images of Ikonn!"
"By the Mystic Moons of Munnopor!"
"By the Many Moons of Munnopor
"By the Omnipotent Oshtur!"
"By the Ruby Rings of Raggadorr!"
"By the Shades of the Seraphim!"
"By the Shield of the Seraphim!"
"By the Sons of Satannish!"
"By the Vapors of Valtorr!"
"By the Vapors of the Vishanti!"
"By the Wondrous Wand of Watoomb!"
"By the Wondrous Winds of Watoomb!"

Try fitting one (or more) of those into your conversations today.

The idea of a Cox/Lee Strange film is great - and Cox, on his great site, even offers the opportunity to buy the script, along with a whole host of others.

I've often thought that the films that filmmakers never make are some of the most interesting, maybe because they only exist as unfettered imagination rather than as concrete/celluloid fact, and the list of Cox's unproduced scripts is a great read in itself, from 'GRINGO BALLS' (1978) "Attempt at a surrealist Western! An early HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER full of dopey religious symbolism. Had I just seen EL TOPO and THE HOLY MOUNTAIN? Yes, I had.", through 'THE ASSHOLE' (1990) "Co-written with Dick Rude, for him to direct. Otherwise known as MR NICE GUY. Faustian story of a malevolent pool hustler and his miserable world, which is transformed by his acquisition of a Magical Pool Cue." and, more recently, 'HELLTOWN' (2002) "A man has until sundown to save a baby from satanists. And he's hungry."

By the Deathless Vishanti, it's a good read!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Maximum Uncertainty

We're currently deep in pre-production for 'Mum and Dad' - and close to the stage of Maximum Uncertainty - we've been casting (but haven't yet cast anyone), we've found a location (but haven't yet secured it), we've had the script signed off (except I still need to redraft it) and we're still waiting for our first chunk of money (save some cash Lisa managed to wangle me to pay for my constant trips to London and back.) I'm yearning for the period of fatalistic calm that inevitably follows...

At the same time, we've been finishing off "Deliver Me'. Grant's been doing a great job on the sound design, keeping the low-key tone of the piece while still building up the intimate and creepy atmosphere, and Steve has given us his new music. The reference I gave to Steve was the score for a relentlessly miserable 1972 Aldo Ladi giallo called
'Who Saw Her Die?', by Ennio Morricone, and he's really flown with it. It's got quite a retro Italian feel - quite full-on, but in keeping with the tone of the piece. A good sign was that I've been finding myself humming it.

Also, in my odd moments when I want a break from both projects, I've been starting to script 'Damaged'. I'm about halfway through so far and it seems to be going okay - it's going to be a bit different to my previous films, still horror influenced but with a more complex structure and, hopefully, some emotional enagement (where that emotion isn't just disgust and repulsion.)

All of this work really feels like work at the moment, though. It's quite a slog getting through it and keeping myself upbeat. Casting sessions - where you have to repeat the same thing over and over again to different actors - are really hard for me sometimes (obviously, that's a comparative notion of 'really hard' - I mean it's not like I'm trying to defuse a bomb or anything, I just find the relentless need for me to be energetic and enthusisatic quite tiring. Maybe I should be like David Lynch and just not tell the actors a bloody thing.)

I just have to keep reminding myself that in a couple of weeks 'Deliver Me' will be done, 'M+D' will be too far down the line for me to stress about (beyond the usual levels of stress involved in making a film with a Lilliputian budget) and I'll have got a script - in some state or other - for 'Damaged'. So the things I'll have to think about will have shrunk to the size of a single feature shoot, rather than existing as some weird kind of mental Venn diagram.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Four blokes walk into a bar...

"One For The Road", Chris Cooke's 2003 anti-buddy movie, has just been rereleased on DVD by Prism. After a couple of years of being 'competitively' priced at a penny under twenty quid in its original Tartan release, the film is now available for round about a fiver. Admittedly, you don't get the whole host of extras that we sweated over (As well as being Camera Op on the film, I also recorded and cut the commentaries and a whole slew of 'virals' (which you can still see here...)), but hopefully it'll help the film find another audience. If you need any more convincing, read Will Self's review (and, as a bonus, learn what the word 'adipose' means.)