There are only four clear days remaining between now and the day we start the camera rolling on Take 1.
Four days sounds like a lovely long time, doesn’t it? Imagine if you had four whole days to yourself, and no commitments. You might lie lazily in the sun, or you might catch up on that book you’ve been meaning to read. Maybe watch that DVD you bought ages ago because it was one of the Films You Really Ought To Own, but you could never quite summon the enthusiasm or find the time. You might phone an old friend and go out for the afternoon – pub lunch, walk by the river, or just sit and gossip about whatever came into your head, until you suddenly realised it was getting dark and the afternoon had crept away to be replaced by evening. You’d want to do some shopping, perhaps, but it would be fun shopping, not groceries. A game of Scrabble. Surf the internet until your eyeballs popped out. Half a day wasted on Draw Something or Cut the Rope. Beer. Curry.
Let’s whip away that idyllic vision. Let’s fill those four days with phone calls. Go and book tables and chairs. Spend ages trying to get through to a hotel you’ve booked, only to discover they don’t have a call centre or a direct line to the hotel, and you can only contact them online. Take calls from someone 200 miles away from you who’s trying to fill your head with technical stuff that he understands but you don’t, yet despite that you’re called to make a decision about it. Call sixteen people whom you have to get in the same place, at the same time, all coming from different parts of the country, all taking different forms of transport, all leaving their destinations at different times. Cancel a restaurant you’ve booked because one of your party can’t eat that type of cuisine, and it’s not fair to exclude them. Take a call from a second person who’s filling any space left in your head with even more technical stuff you don’t understand. Listen to a good friend complain about someone. Take a desperate call from another friend who really, really wants you to buy something you can’t afford because they must have it. Spend ages writing out a food shopping list for someone, then realise you’ve left the milk off it (literally). Ask someone to come to your house two hours earlier than you’d originally arranged. Design a checklist only to have someone point out you’ve done it wrong. Go shopping, and fail to find the very thing you most wanted. Back home, go online and move some obscene amounts of money from one account to another, money which is all going to disappear from those accounts in the space of a few days. Take another call, on a line so bad you can’t understand a word. Start filling in a legal document you don’t fully comprehend and there is no one around to help you understand it. Call an insurance company. Call a car hire company. If you think this sounds like planning a wedding, you’re not far wrong.
And that was one day – today. There are four more days of this to go. And the really ironic thing is that nothing is going seriously wrong with this production (yet, bangs head on nearest piece of wood). Except the budget going out of control, but that’s a mark of my inexperience more than anything. It’s only recently come home to me just how ambitious this project is. Most first-time producers start out by making a simple short film, probably one location, a cast of two or three, maybe a comedy, something dialogue rather than action-driven. And shot on a DSLR that one of the team just happens to own. It’d still cost a lot, but it would be manageable. They wouldn’t try to get a professional cast and crew into the middle of some woods, with no electricity or running water, and stage a car crash and a murder on an isolated road (not so isolated it doesn’t have pheasants running through it just before the shooting season).
But then, if you’re going to make a short film that isn’t run-of-the-mill (and who wants to see yet another one of those?), why not pull out the stops and really go for it? So whatever private hell I’m going through (see the previous production diary), it doesn’t matter because this is serious. This is high league film-making. This film won’t win an Oscar – heck, it may not win anything – but when it’s ready it’ll be powerful and distinct and compelling. And all those phone calls and shredded nerves will disappear in a wave of joy.
After all, what do you remember most about climbing a mountain? The difficult terrain you had to clamber over? Or the view, and the sense of achievement, when you reached the top?