"It's easier to bone the President's wife than to get a movie made." Ray Charles.

How a cult music book became a cult music documentary, and it only took ten years.

Monday, February 28, 2005

Only just over a month to go. Now hard questions turn up like, from our small pot of development funding, what do we actually spend the money on? We seemingly need a ‘business plan’ to show to potential investors – something outlining projected profits, revenue streams, marketing ideas and so on. And for some reason we’re being told that this type of thing could cost us in the region of two grand. That would be fine in some situations, but that two grand could equally be spent on shooting another night at the Barbican – we’re prioritising the Ardent night because that’s where most of the cast of characters from ICFM will end up playing, and because it’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event. But, hell, so are the Stax and Hi nights...

Anyway, it’s an ongoing discussion and one that I find makes me queasy – the idea of giving money to an accountant that could be spent on going out and shooting, that goes against my grain.

Speaking of shooting, as if there wasn’t enough going on, I’ve found myself making a no-budget short weekend after next. I mentioned way back that I’m working with Sebastian Horsley on making a film based on his excessive and disturbing life story. The first part of the plan is to see how well we can work together, and to that end I’m organising a very small shoot, sort of a semi-documentary but featuring some actors. It’s largely improvised, which is a way of working I’ve never tried before, but I have a feeling it will suit the material. It’s a tightrope walking exercise, filmmaking without a script – but over the last few years I’ve found myself completely bored by most fictional enterprises, except those that manage to make me laugh. It’s like the dead hand of the script editor hovers over practically everything, neatening things and making everything echo or foreshadow everything else.

A good example is Million Dollar Baby, which I saw last night and which is excellent film-making, but God damn – every single shoe that’s lifted in Act One gets dropped with monotonous, almost hypnotic regularity in Act Three. Life isn’t like that. This film survives because Eastwood is a masterful director and has attained an iconic stature unlike that of any other living actor, and – what’s more – he’s aware of it and knows what to do with it. But the template is tired – which is why documentaries and reality TV, with a few apparent rough edges left intact, are what’s making the grade now. That and semi-improvised drama, like Pawel Pawlikowski’s two stunning features, The Last Resort and My Summer of Love. I don’t pretend to know exactly what I’m doing with this short film but I intend to find out along the way. I might just find out that I would be better off working to a script, but even that would be useful to know.
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