Monday, 18 July 2011

Filmmaking and Me: Project Alchemy – Post Production Part One (or Fallout/Aftermath, take your pick)

Filmmaking and Me: Project Alchemy – Post Production Part One (or Fallout/Aftermath, take your pick)

I realized the other day that I hadn’t updated this blog for a while. My life has been getting in the way somewhat over the last couple of months, but that seems (at least for now) to be settling down a little bit. I thought I’d take the opportunity then to jump back in, since there are more of my tales to tell and the first few blogs made a hell of an impact on me. Off the back of them, I wrote my first original screenplay in nearly ten years. So it did the job it was intended to do. No reason then to back off now.

So. Where was I?

Ah yes, Project Alchemy – The Aftermath! No that’s not a sequel, merely what came next after the shoot wrapped. If I thought the drama was to die down a wee bit, I was very, very wrong.

I should have been happy after the film wrapped. I’d achieved what I set out to do and in the process won the heart of one of the most incredible women I’ve ever known, but I just couldn’t get over a sense of loss.
Nadia and I were a couple, yes and I was a smitten kitten to be sure, but at what cost had that come? There was still a film to be edited and tensions were still running very high in the group.

A week or so after the shoot I got a phone call from Clayton. “We’re picking you up this evening and having a meeting in Salisbury.” Riiiight, I asked, a little taken back at his insistent tone. “We need to sort out what’s going to happen to the film and we have a contract we want you to sign. “Contract” I thought, what the devil is all this about. “Okay.” I said, “Pick me up and we’ll talk.”

A few hours past and Clayton, Mark and Darren arrived to pick me up for the meeting. I was on guard though and wouldn’t get into the car until I knew what I was walking into. Foremost on my mind was this ‘contract’. So stood on the pavement outside my house and talking to Clayton through the car window, I was passed a one-page document (I still have it) outlining how the group wanted me to surrender all control and legal claim to ‘Project Alchemy’ so that the film could proceed with all creative decisions made collectively by the group. This was a coup, I thought. I stood there on the pavement reading through the document before handing it back to Clayton. “I’ll come with you and have this meeting”, I said “but I am not signing that contract.” After much tooing and throwing, we all grudgingly got in the car together and continued on to the meeting.

The meeting was frosty, most of it coming from me, since I was the one being ‘overthrown’. Slowly, but surely things started to warm and although I was insistent that I would not sign the contract, other compromises and a ‘roadmap’ was agreed upon. Chief among this was that Clayton would cut together an offline edit and that I would take more of a back seat while the project got back on track, but that I would do the final cut. I poured my heart out at this meeting and for the first time, felt as if we could all come back from the brink and that friendships could also be put back on track. I also mapped out the next project, another short film called ‘The Spider and the Web’, which I offered up to Clayton to direct. This was about two assassins, one male, one female who embark on a passionate and violent love affair – it was an action comedy. It served to clear the air and while I was very wary of the meeting to begin with, I was very glad of it by the end. As we were leaving the meeting, Nadia called me on my mobile and instead of daggers being stared at me by the others; I got the piss ripped out of me for being under the thumb. I was grateful for the banter and it reassured me that things might be ok after all.

So the offline editing started, without much input from me, I called in to see how progress was being made, but I stepped back from the process initially, which turned out to be a positive thing. I was glad of this to be honest, it gave me an opportunity to start earning some money, since I hadn’t done any paid work in about a month again and it also gave me time with Nadia, which I was also very grateful for. I was in a relationship, but I had no idea what that meant, or how to do it and although it was fun finding out, I couldn’t shake the feeling that although I was head over heels, I didn’t deserve it. She was my rock during this time though and she gave me a huge amount of support even if this did mean venting her anger about the way I was being treated by Clayton and Darren in particular in the most colourful language I ever heard from her lips. As far as she was concerned I was the glue that held the group together, I was the ideas man, the guy with all the scripts and the ambition to see those dreams carried through. Most of it was out of loyalty to me and I was never able to make her see the contribution that those guys made to my process, such was her anger toward them. Still it was unbelievable to have someone give me that kind of loyalty and she made me feel like I could do anything.

That aside, I always felt from day one that she was out of my league and that eventually she’d lose interest as soon as someone better came along and she realized what a huge mistake she made with me. I couldn’t shake those anxieties; I couldn’t believe my luck and certainly didn’t think I deserved it. She was everything I ever wanted, so why was it, every time we parted company did I feel a certain amount of relief? It didn’t help that we came from such different places, I was an obsessive, ambitious geek and she was a club bunny and a bit of a party animal. This was further compounded by the fact that she wouldn’t give me any public displays of affection in her hometown just in case her ex-boyfriend (whom she left for me) or any of his family saw to two of us together. I understood her reasons, but I still felt as though she was a little ashamed of me. When it was just us though, away from the eyes of the world or our friends, it was amazing and I never wanted it to end.

A couple of weeks past and Clayton completed the offline edit. Clayton, Darren and I got together and watched the entire thing without speaking a word. Clayton had used everything, so it was quite a bloated edit, as was to be expected. I was concerned about a few things, mainly the climax and whether it made sense and also one flashback scene, which was awful. Above all though, it looked great. It had a run time of 40 minutes, which I wanted to get down to 30, but aside from that, it was all systems go. I was chomping at the bit for my turn at bat.

Clayton had cut together the off-line version on VHS and it had been decided initially that the on-line edit would be cut together on Hi-Band Umatic. Indeed all of the rushes had been telecined to Hi-Band for this purpose. However, because the sound had been recorded separately on DAT and there was no, mag track. All the sound rushes had to be synched manually to the video. It was decided at this point that everything would be digitized and that I would cut everything on the new Non-Linear editing suite that had just been installed.

This is when everything started to go south. As expected, by me at least, the relationship between Nadia and I came to an abrupt end. Not a bad one, just an abrupt one. She said she wanted to take a break and I said, let’s just call it what it is, a break up. In fact, aside from the drama that it created, the relationship, which lasted a mere two months, was an incredibly positive experience, one that I will be forever grateful for. Yes it was passionate and intense, but I got out of it an amazing experience and even better, a longtime friendship that is still going to this day.

So that was it, Nadia was out of the picture. I was reluctant to even tell Clayton and Darren and certainly didn’t feel as if I could confide in them. For the first time in a great many years, I felt truly alone.

Tell them, I eventually did and I could practically hear Darren’s heart skipping with delight. I think they both relished it secretly, but soon after hostilities died down quite considerably and although I knew it would never be the same, it did feel as if things had got back to normal. To the point where we started planning the next project, even going as far as cutting together a teaser trailer for it. At the same time I was getting new pick up shots and scenes for Alchemy, although now we were shooting on MiniDV in the hope we could splice it into the 16mm footage without anyone noticing.

Nadia was also involved with this and while it was a little jarring a first seeing her again after we broke up, it very quickly became evident that we were better as friends than anything else. As I intended to cast her as the female lead in ‘The Spider and the Web’, I even went as far as interviewing her ‘in character’ to help with my writing process.

The problems with the film continued though. I was in charge of the final edit, but I was now working full time and the only time I could get to do any was on a Wednesday. The problem was, every time I arranged to do any; I was turned away as the facility we had paid was now too busy. Months went by and it got ridiculous, if things continued the film would never see the light of day. After a while I made the decision that if the film was going to be finished I had to put my money where my mouth was – literally!

I got a bank loan and bought my very first NLE computer! I could now edit on my terms and I set about cracking on with finishing this thing and finally moving on. Oh if only it were to be that simple…..

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