Saturday, October 22, 2011

Arrested development: the importance of having the right producers onboard

It has been a long time since I had the time, focus and energy to write a proper blog update. The summer has flown by with busy ‘summer fun stuff’, a busy workload at the agency, selling our house and looking for a new home... and the developments (!) of my feature project, ‘Shadows’. This blog is about the trials and tribulations, the hopes and the disappointments and the false dawns and frustrations of film development.

Sometimes I get the
feeling  I've been here before!
At one point, all seemed to be going well with Shadows. I had completed a draft I felt was right and we could finally start to plough ahead. Readings of the screenplay produced very positive and enthusiastic feedback. All seemed to be going well and building momentum (so I guess the writing was on the wall). There’s always a rug beneath your feet that is waiting to be pulled from under you just when the going looks good, isn’t there?

I had two producing partners here in Malta. The idea was that we would work together to get the project going and to get it produced it on a low budget in Malta, aiming to be part of a fledgling local production industry made all the more possible for such a tiny nation with the emergence of HD, digital and the internet age (Malta has already made great strides as a location and service industry over recent years, which means that local  technicians and crew are pretty well trained ‘on the job’).

Our triumvirate agreed to work together and apply for upcoming development funding... aware of the fact that... to take the project forward, we would need to cast our net to foreign shores and attract producing partners capable of taking on the ‘proper’ producing role (package the project, pull funding elements together, promote and sell the film etc.). We were well aware that, despite our professional experiences, our collective producing abilities left much to be desired (I am a writer and director, the other is a cameraman and editor and the other, an actor and TV and stage director). Development funding would help us travel to film festivals and markets, storyboard, build a web presence, compile a proper budget. This process was intrinsic to our plans.

It all sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Well, whilst I compiled projections of cast and crew requirements, drew up rough schedules, researched funding options and the latest trends in promotion and distribution for micro-to-low budget films, and penned the beginnings of prospectus about the project with which we would lure the much needed partners, and ‘partner two’ translated the script to Maltese (the plan was to base the film within the fabric of the Maltese landscape circa 1981)... the ‘party three’ kept promising to do his bit.

And kept promising.

And still kept promising.

All despite my chasing, prompting and offers for him to speak up and say he cannot fulfil his side of the bargain if the case.

And whilst he kept promising, the deadline for submissions to apply for that much needed development funding was fast approaching. Time was running out. These submission forms are never a walk in the park (another reason for a proper hands-on producer).

Sad truth is, party three never even fulfilled the most basic requirement on his part; to read the draft prospectus I had put together and give me his feedback. I had even written his bit. This is the equivalent of somebody not wanting to swallow his food even though it has been cut and chewed for him!

“Why didn’t you drop this person at the first signs of procrastination?” I hear you ask.

Well, he was fundamental to the bid for financing, seeing as his production company fulfilled some of the funding prerequisites, and he is a long time collaborator and friend. I wanted to remain loyal. He was somebody, I felt, who would be important for me to have around and who I could feel comfortable with and let me be as creative as possible. He also understands exactly what I want on a shoot and there’s a great synergy and short hand between us on set.

So much hope and enthusiasm on my and partner two’s part was dashed. It was clear this vital cog was not going to be one upon whom we could rely. Even if he said he would deliver.

This has taught me a lesson. One I thought I had learnt already, but clearly I hadn’t (thinking about it all now... party three is a repeat offender... reliable so long as most of the hard work is done for him and enthusiastic so long as projects land in his lap, but not capable of grabbing the bull by the horns and making a project happen from ground zero, and I should have recognised that earlier). Hope is a cruel illusionist.

So, here I am... with Shadows back in the incubator and back to square one.

I have to think about the direction from here.

Take heed; the cruel truth is, it is vital to work with the right kind of producer/s. Too much time can be lost without the right people onboard. Too much emotional investment. I have to find these people... but they don’t exist in Malta. Once we’ve got our house move out of the way, I have to re-focus and get busy. I need producers who feel passionate about the project and can deliver. No more bullshit.

The joys of the ups and downs of filmmaking!

I know I’m not alone.

No comments:

Post a Comment