Monday, 2 May 2011

Smurfland and Gomorrah

Just because all the banks are on holiday doesn’t mean that the Charmed offices aren’t open for business as usual.

I say business as usual, but it has been an unusual couple of weeks. Not only have we been splitting our time between zombie responsibilities and the extra-curricular Bollywood Baraat shoot, but people that we need to speak to have been on holiday or incommunicado. And then, just when it was getting back to normal, my cousin’s extended stag party went and collided face-first into office hours.

But, actually, getting a little distance from the minutiae of the project allows one to reflect in a slightly more philosophical way on the nature of low-budget feature production.

Put into terms simple enough for me to understand, classical project planning strives to break an enormo-endeavour down into individual tasks, and then looks for the dependencies between the blocks of work. Complete tasks A and B, and this will allow you to make a decision C and kick off task D. Chuck all the pieces onto a calendar and an über-logic appears; you can see what your critical path is and when to expect everything.

As far as we can tell up to now, film-making is like that but with all the dependencies taken out. There are a hundred different tasks that need to be done, but you never have enough clarity and certainty at any point to get yourself into a position to make a properly informed decision. It becomes a multi-dimensional plate-spinning exercise, fuelled by optimism and obsession, where you are forced to mentally calculate the compounded risks and probabilities of every choice you make along the way, so that you can chase down potentially unnecessary contingency plans and continually re-tweak each element of the model on the fly. And then you have to make sure everything is in one place to be ready to shoot on a specific day.

It’s basically like cooking a Christmas roast with hundred different constituents, knowing that you have to serve it up exactly two minutes before the Queen’s speech starts.

With thirteen weeks to go before the start of principal photography, Jake and I have to start nailing down some of the larger unknowns. You fill in a couple of numbers on the Soduku grid and the overall solution becomes easier and more manageable. And we need to start by sniping off the largest unknown of all – the budget.

Everything hangs off the budget. Once this is written in stone, a whole load of decisions go and make themselves. So it has been decreed that Friday is our drop-dead day. At close of play we will add up whatever cash we have secured, and we will plan to go and make that film.

Four days to chase down a bunch of open financing leads. Such is the glamorous life of a film-maker.

But enough with the boring film chat – I saw something on my cousin’s pre-wedding jolly to the centre of war-torn Bournemouth that shook whatever faith in human-kind that I still had left. A man had been hand-cuffed to what I’m going to carefully refer to as a Little Person, who was himself painted and dressed as a Smurf. If your Best Man is the type that best expresses his love for you by trying to spoil whatever fun you might have planned, it seems that he now has the option to pay to have you shackled to a Little Person for the weekend. This guy then gets to watch you sleep, drink, shit and vomit on a lap-dancer; by eight pm the Smurf and his wrangler had clearly already fallen out with each other. As a lot of you get set to return to work after the long Easter break, know that someone swapped some serious pride in order to make a living this weekend. Spinning.

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