I’ve only gone and got myself some cash! Things have taken a dramatic leap forward in terms of the first film for The Fear trilogy, Killer Bird. Since January I have managed to save up roughly £600 for the project from my own pocket, which is not nearly enough – nowhere near. Not even enough to tentatively start casting with the hope I save another £600 by the time we start shooting – knowing that I can afford to for at least food and travel expenses. Whilst I was doing all I could do ready myself for eventually being ‘ready,’ if I was honest with myself, I may have been able to start one project this year, but definitely not until much later on in the year. Not until I spoke to my Dad.
I now realise that I was probably walking into this idea blindly and naively hoping that I’d win the lottery or something miracle would descend upon me. I knew that I could save money. I had done in the past when I was a student saving up for my current camera set-up. I spend a lot of time telling people no. I can’t do this, and I definitely can’t do that. A second pint?! Don’t be silly. That £3.40 needs to go towards my next film project. I had made my first two scripts (post-university) into films that cost roughly £300 each – and they were 15 page scripts. Killer Bird has now been trimmed to 30 (it was 50). By that calculation I should need £600. But simply put, no. Unfortunately the maths doesn’t work out that way. There is just no way that I could make any of the The Fear trilogy projects with the type of budget I’ve previously (reluctantly) accepted and worked under. These projects are intended as a set up from what I’ve done previously, which means more actors, more crew (beyond just me and a friend) and more equipment – the main reason I made Cupid when I did was because it was manageable for the situation I was in at the time, even though I always intended a film from The Fear trilogy to be my next after Ring Ring – but I realised that these bad boys require more attention.
Let me try to give some context here. I remember last year thinking that I’d probably have to work for a whole year in a job without making anything in order to save enough money for these projects. When I was working at my previous job I got decent tips on top of my wage, and also living in a shared flat which cost me a lot less than where I am living now. So now I am in a job that pays me less and in a flat that costs more – and I really struggled to afford That’s Not Me and Ring Ring. So how on earth was I expecting to raise the cash for three 30 page scripts?! Madness! But I’m ambitious to say the least. But now thankfully that has all changed. How exciting! Credit to my Dad, he didn’t buckle or even stutter over the idea of lending me the money I needed to move these projects forward.
Within a day or two the full amount was in my account – an advantage I’m sure many, many filmmakers in my situation do not have the luxury of having, so I am extremely appreciative over what he has done for me, and aim to pay him back not only with the money he’s lent me, but also making some damn good films. We’ve agreed that I will pay him back roughly the amount I was saving each month, which just leaps everything forward. I’m not losing any money, I’m just getting it now rather than later. What’s more, with the added dollar I managed to save by myself, I am able to buy a few pieces of equipment I’ve been tempted to buy for some years. Namely, a glidecam and track & dolly. I want to do an entire post of my theory of moving the camera, so I don’t want to go into too much detail now. But let’s just stay I like a stable shot. I find something esthetically pleasing about it – something I don’t get from a roaming handheld camera. With a glidecam and track I should be able to plan some camera movement, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for years – if you ever get round to watching my films you’ll notice the camera is always locked off. This has something to do with filming by myself, but again, more on that another time.
So now I can begin assembling a crew for Killer Bird. I want to stop referring to The Fear trilogy for now, and concentrate on Killer Bird as a stand alone film – mostly to stop any confusion on here and on my social media sites as I’m now going to start promoting the film quite regularly, and if I keep talking about a trilogy of films, it just won’t sound particularly focused – even though it is. A weird contradiction I’m aware of. Obviously I am not going to waste the money, so I’ve been given some rest bite from thinking about how to raise money for my feature, and now I’m obsessing over how best to spend this money. Even though it’s the full amount I wanted, it is still well off being enough to crew equity. I wish I could pay everyone NMW or higher, but to have everything kitted out with the necessary people in each role, would cost upwards of somewhere the budget for my first feature will be. The budget for Killer Bird will certainly be a step-up in comparison to my previous short films, but I’m still not that far up yet. I am still going to rely on people volunteering their time, with promise of experience and food whilst on set. I will pay my primary cast (I think there is five roles) a fee of either £40 or £50 a day – I haven’t settled on a figure yet, as preferably I’d like to offer £50, but if I offer £40, that £10 saved on each actor on each day will equate to roughly the food budget. And will that difference really mean that I won’t get the actor I want? Because I’ll assume that they’d understand that their essentially working for no pay, but a token of appreciation is being offered for how much I can afford. So maybe I’ve just talked myself into offering £40. There is a part of me that also feels that my work is getting noticed enough to warrant an actor feeling like they want to work on my project for something more than just money – even though that may be considered a controversial attitude because there is so much outcry for ‘no pay’ projects, but surely it’s better to offer what I can afford rather than nothing at all, and then it’s up to the actor to decide whether they’re interested or not – I think this attitude stems from my hatrid of seeing adverts and calls for cast and crew that say: “We want professional and quality applicants. Great for your portfolio or showreel. Prospect of future paid work.” – And I’ve promised myself never to post a job advert like this. On a side note, I’d love to accept one of these jobs and turn up to the gig and just do a really shitty job.
So once the actors have been cast I will begin to look at locations. I have a fair idea where I’d like to film as I once did a recce for a short I was working on a few years ago called Sabotage – which was one of many disasters that year, and it was abandoned twice as it snowed in March if my memory serves me. Wow, maybe that’s three years ago now. Maybe four! So I want to hire a car for the day so I can familiarise myself with the locations a little, but the only problem I foresee is the pub location at the beginning and end of the script. I envisaged a pub called The King & Queen, which has a pool table laid out exactly as needed, but to be honest any pub with a pool table would probably be useable – as long as they allow us we’d make do! This project will by far be the largest cast & crew I am going to assemble. I have been rather timid with previous efforts, protecting myself from any hassle of dealing with unreliable people by keeping everything to a bare minimum. My attitude has changed somewhat, but as long as I can keep together a skeleton of vital people, I can take on more responsibility of having people there helping out. Today I am meeting a guy who I hope will confirm his availability to work on Killer Bird as AD which will be a massive bonus and he’d take a lot of the slack that I am otherwise keen to avoid. There is a relationship that develops with strangers on set where they want to ask you loads of questions about what you do and your process, just being polite, and then there’s me not wanting to come across as controlling or rude. It is a game that only distracts from the important task at hand. So this time I will make sure to meet with any one working on set a few times before hand to make sure there is none of this ‘getting to know you’ on set. This is going to be a busy and long shoot, and I’ll need everyone’s focus on filming.
So now I suddenly have too much to do. Without the money I was ambling a long knowing that it could take months and months for the finances to be ready. But suddenly the engine is purring and seat belts are clicked. Now all I have to do is put my foot on the accelerator.