Friday, June 16, 2006

Chronicles 23 - Post-Cannes Radio Silence

Just got back from London for a post-Cannes mopping up operation i.e. I bagged meetings with people like Icon, Pathe, Weinstein Company, Content Film, Lions Gate and a couple of prod. co's etc who I couldn't nail down in Cannes.

On the whole it went quite well, one major sales agent with a very good reputation has read and liked the rom-com script and thinks it will fit well into their slate. Of course, since it's a rom-com I need name actors attached. That's the hard bit. The actor's agent I'm dealing with right now is being "difficult". The agent read the script but doesn't feel it is suitable for his client and the assistant keeps on harping on about the finance and the fact that the film won't be fully financed without the actor's interest. Hello! That's how it kinda works with indie films, most indie-financing that incorporates pre-sales is cast contingent! By the way this is the same actor I met in Cannes who told me he was looking forward to reading the script!

Anyway, I've told her that I need to know whether they are forwarding the script to their client by the end of the day otherwise I'm moving on. My guess is that they won't get back to me. Actually, I started writing this blog on Friday and now it's Monday and predictably I didn't hear a thing. I've emailed the casting director to see if he can pull any clout. The casting director isn't being paid at this point so I am still in begging mode. As an indie producer it really is a question of, "Don't ask, don't get".

I also met with a producer who is interested in developing a feature animation project I pitched in Cannes. It's a project I developed with an animation artist friend. I essentially have a brochure which contains a number of animation ideas consisting of synopses plus visuals. She honed in on one project which seems to be the one most people respond to and we're now talking more seriously about moving ahead together on the project. She wants to talk to the Weinstein Company about it next week.

Apart from that, I'm still in Post-Cannes radio silence mode at the moment. The illusion with any intensive campaign such as a film festival or a trip to LA is that after having had so many meetings in such a short period of time and hence so many script requests one can be led into thinking you'll be barraged by a slew of offers 2 weeks later, and, that you'll somehow be faced with the problem of prioritizing them! The reality is somewhat different and even though I always fall into this "bidding-war" fantasy the inner "Mr. Realistic" voice tells me a different story - and he's always been right so far.

I've had a few passes since Cannes, a positive response to move forward with an animation project, (which is good!), a producer excited about producing my short film (which is also good!) - the rest is radio silence. Now, this isn't necessarily a bad thing - in my second Cannes festival it took a few months for the UK co-producer who I ended up working with for 3 years to get back to me. It's kind of a given that some people will be fast, some will take weeks, some will take months and some my dear friends will NEVER EVER read your precious opus. That's just the way the cookie crumbles.

So the question is: When to get down to that most inane of tasks? Shooting off the follow-up/chasing-up email? It is said that one always chases bad news and good news will find a path to your door. Not always (but mostly) true, in my experience. So, next week will be a month after Cannes, feels about the right time for a follow-up email, although I may chase the people who promised a quick read. I also have 3 scripts to read, 2 from other writers and one of my own(!), so I know how easy it is to procrastinate on reading (and writing!).

The rom-com is progressing well on one level i.e. sales agent, finance, bond company, bank, director, co-producer, casting director etc is kind of in place but bagging that bankable star is proving difficult - which doesn't seem to be that unusual.

I've just finished reading Richard E. Grant's diaries on the making of Wah Wah which he wrote and directed. I was surprised that with all his A list contacts he had similar problems in attracting talent i.e very long response (or non-response) times. Colin Firth took 4 months to pass, Ralph Fiennes took 14 months - to pass!

I'm not sure how helpful the UK casting director can be in bagging key bankable cast so I'm going to hit the phones and contact some major casting directors I met in LA a few years back.

So, the main focus now is to get a bankable lead to activate the finance for the rom-com, write a treatment for the feature animation and write the second draft of my comedy heist movie which I've been pitching in Cannes and London to a great response.

I've really been procrastinating on the Heist movie. I think it's the usual fear of failure thing - the pitch sounds great - it's not only funny and current but it's smart - the question is - can I deliver on that? Can I deliver on plot? David Mamet said that dialogue is easy and plot is difficult. I agree. Plot is and always will be hard work and I'm always amazed that I'm able to come up with some kind of plot at all! If you rush plot the script suffers. I did that on my last script, a family comedy, and even though I got great feedback on the humour, concept and dialogue I was told the plot was weak.

You definitely can't rush the plot on a Heist movie so I know it's going to be hard work to pull off a smart plot or at least a plot that is feasible. I guess what I'm suffering from is fear of hard work! The thing with producing as well as writing is that it is hard to quickly switch roles. As a producer you are constantly on the net, emailing, making calls, organizing etc and it takes some discipline to switch from "producer mode" and enter into the "creative space". I need to work on that.

Last week I had a play on in a theatre for 2 nights. I wrote a piece for 4 actors who did a fantastic job of bringing the text alive not only in terms of delivery but also in terms of choreography. A very satisfying experience to not only work with actors in developing ideas which you know will be realised in a relatively short period of time but to go from hearing a reading to going into a rehearsal to seeing it played in front of a live audience (and to a positive response!). Great fun and very rewarding. A welcome respite from the painstakingly long process of making movies, (that may never be made!). So, apart from all the feature stuff I'm going to be adapting this comedy play for a wider audience. Along with the day-job it seems I don't have to worry about keeping myself busy for the next few months ;-)

Oh - I nearly forgot. Had a follow-up meeting with a prod. co. I met in Cannes who liked my short film script which is partially funded and they are very excited about coming on as producers to get all the kit, crew, cameras etc and will provide post-production facilities and will even try and get more funding! Great! The short will showcase the director who will then shoot the feature which I'll write and co-produce. The short and the feature are both based on plays of mine. All this was as a result of a meeting in Cannes which I was almost not going to take! You just never know :-)

Ciao for now! See Chronicles 22