B L O G
...the story behind the story...
A blog - Part 3
At first it felt like the party was over. Everyone had left and I was left to clean up. I took my position back at my office after a 24 hour sleep and breathed a sigh of relief, I had gotten through it, well, that part of it anyway. I took down the photo of me and my producers on the film that had failed and put up a new one of me and my new producers, smiles on our faces on the last day of principle photography on UNTITLED. Now called UNTITLED (a film) (The original title had caused so many technical file problems in the editing and post production process, who would have known!)
The next day I moved my editor Emma Collins into another room in my office. We locked ourselves in to what was to become a month of editing. During this time, fuelled by sandwiches and crips we started to cut, snip and glue together what would eventually become my 1st cut of the film. Emma being very experienced was quick and extremely creative helping make this part of the process something that I had no idea I would enjoy so much. We glued together scenes, chopped away at dialogue and managed to create a 1st cut of the film which was running about 1 hour and forty minutes.
Untraditionally as I was producer, writer, director and part financier, it went incredibly smoothly as we made decisions together. No surprise visits from exec producers or from financiers who would stick their tuppence worth in. Sometimes in situations like that, people would rather make a suggestion than not say anything at all. I was a free artist doing what I had intended, making all the decisions myself without a suit or distributor in sight. It was bliss.
After the month was over, we had a little screening for a few people in a colour grading suite in Soho. The lights went down and my film appeared before me on a large screen and suddenly my heart began to race, would they like it? Have I done a good job? The screening went well, lots of pats on the back, compliments from pleasantly surprised friends and colleagues at what we had managed to achieve at such a low budget. Producer Mike was beaming and I thought, that’s it I had made a film! It’s done and I’m ready to show the world!
My Executive producer Barry Navidi ( a seasoned producer and partner to Al Pacino) was ready to see the film across the water in Hollywood. I was so excited and convinced I had made a good one, I couldn’t wait to send it over. We were to send him a link with a lovely email telling him we’d completed and were ready to show the film to prospective investors and distributors in order to raise a little more money to complete the post production phase and maybe even get it sold at this point. I pressed the button and it went.
Within a couple of days we got an email back. Well, it didn’t emulate the pats on the back I got from friends and associates at the 1st screening. No, it was the opposite. His response was verging on unkind or that’s how it felt. The film is too long, your leading man is boring, there’s no pacing, one of the actresses will have to go! Yes, we’d made an interesting film that may have a life at festivals and that friends and family wouldn’t dare hurt my feelings by saying it wasn't good, but it isn’t ready. He asked me to make the changes he was suggesting and have a look at it again. Do anther cut, then another after that, maybe a third and a forth, show it again and again, get more responses see how they go before we lock the film for completion. Chris, it isn’t close to being ready. Send me another cut.
Producer Mike and I were aghast and our 1st reaction was to turn our backs, how could he say this about my baby telling us it was ugly! I don't care how many films he had made, that he had just finished a film with Al Pacino, that he had awards up the yazoo - This was MY film and I know better than anyone. He didn’t get it! It was too ‘arty’ for him! He’d been living in Hollywood too long!
As he was the exec, I did go back to the cut, I sheepishly trimmed here and there, snipped away a couple of minutes, not that you would notice and sent him basically the same version with some token changes - I didn’t care, I was the auteur, the visionary behind it all - f**k him!
A conference call was set up and producer Mike and I were ready for a fight. How dare he say that about my cute, sweet and clever baby. All my responses to his critiques were swimming in my head, I was ready to let rip, tell him what I thought. Well, we didn’t get a word in. He screamed, shouted, even squealed at us for forty minutes - Who the f**k do you think you are!! Why should I peddle your masturbation of a film with no pacing and loaded with exposition. What the fuck have you done before! How many films have you sold to distributors and actually got seen in the market place! He told me in his own imitable way, that I was nothing, I didn’t even have the right to make a film! I should go home and stick my head in the oven. Don’t contact me until you’ve fixed it! Then he hung up.
Everything he had said, rather screamed at me, I took on board and watched the film again, his voice ringing in my ears. The next day, I let Emma go (she was due on another movie) and spent the next 16 weeks editing on my own for 10-15 hours a day. It was arduous but I had also learned how to edit and deliver a film. At one point, I was so exhausted that I thought I had lost the film, 16 weeks of work, gone from my hard drive! I rang producer Mike panicking and losing control. He advised, I go home and get some rest then re-visit. The film was there the next day, I was just edit blind!
I finally finished the version I thought I was happy with. I addressed 60% of my exec’s notes (I didn’t dare lose one of my characters though!) And guess what? He was right. There was so much I just didn’t see, so blinded by my own accomplishment of just having made a film that I had missed the point. The audience.
My next cut was snapier, sexier, funnier and ultimately more exciting and just complimented the uniqueness of the concept, that was when it became an audience’s film. The next screening was something special and it made me reflect on the last one. This time it was with an audience who not only liked the film but felt it. I certainly learnt quickly that filmmaking and story telling are two separate processes and that no-one cares how you get there, all they care about is whether they care, care about your story and your characters. It’s as simple as that.
Now I am on the verge of screening the finished product and I’m nervous as hell but confident I’ve made the film I wanted to make and that it will have an impact on those who choose to watch it. I’ve joined a very special club but the fight ain’t over yet!