I fully expected that the first project I’d tell you about would be my film BRAVE THE DARK, starring Jared Harris, which shot in the States last year – but another project has leap-frogged over it.
And amazingly, it’s another feature film. After trying to break into screenwriting since I first turned professional with my theatre adaptations exactly 30 years ago, it really does seem as if I might have two films coming out this year! Here’s how this one happened, if you’re interested – or just enjoy the pics.
The piece to thunder up on the inside is THE IMPACT, produced by Create 50, an initiative of London Screenwriters’ Festival. A crowd-created feature; we’ve achieved a world record with this extraordinary project, for the highest number of writers and directors on a film! (67 and 40, respectively)
So how did I come to be involved? It started quite a few years ago with a competition for scripts of 3 pages or under. We were given the overall premise, and a backstory in the form of a timeline leading up to the start of the film.
I happened to be on tour then, understudying Siobhan Redman as the ‘Lady of Letters’ in TALKING HEADS. (Get that hair!)
I didn’t have a huge amount of spare time, but I managed to come up with some ideas and dashed off 4 mini scripts in my dressing room.
As each script was submitted it went up on the Create 50 website where the whole community could rate and comment on it – a unique part of the ethos. People were amazingly generous with feedback to help each other get the scripts the best they could be (writers could rewrite as many times as they wanted). Amazingly generous with their time, too; some folks read and commented on hundreds! It was fascinating to see so many ideas on the same theme. Eventually there were around 2,800 scripts, from all over the world.
Then came the judging, with high-profile writers such as Ted Tally, Nicole Perlman and Joe Eszterhas, and I was thrilled to learn that one of mine (“The End’s Beginning”) was among the 50 chosen. Time for the filmmaking!
The winning scripts were made available to any producers and directors who wished to make them. For ‘reasons’ mine was set in Australia (trying to avoid spoilers here! Let’s just say, the backstory had mentioned an astronomer from there who I’d made one of my characters, so it needed to be consistent in case another film mentioned him. Continuity in a film made by so many is quite a thing). It wasn’t getting picked up by filmmakers browsing the Create 50 site so I tried people I knew and even approached some film schools there, but with no joy. There was no point being picked if it never got made! I was even wondering about making it myself, but none of my industry contacts was available and I’d never directed or produced for film before so I knew I’d need a lot of mentoring. Then with time running out, I was randomly recommended to an Australian producer, Richard Stewart, to give feedback on a script he was considering.
I spoke to him about THE IMPACT and we were suddenly in business, as he got director James Lingwood on board. It was soon shot, with Joey Vieira and Ron Kelly as the leads. They did a fab job and the film got through!
With my script safely underway, I decided to launch out in my filmmaking debut, in the spirit of this wild and impossible project. Several professional actor friends were up for it – and a bunch of fantastic kids in major roles – with amazing folks I know through my church stepping up as crew, lending their homes – heck, we even had some drone shots! We filmed 2 shorts over 2 weekends: “Pizza”, a terrific script by David Toms which I strongly felt deserved to be made, and my own “Choose Life, Choose Liverwurst” as a wildcard – allowed, as long as you did a winner too. (The food theme is entirely coincidental!)
We didn’t get picked, but I’m intensely proud of what everyone achieved.
The films went through the same critiquing/judging process as the scripts, then it was over to Chris Jones and the Create 50 team to edit the chosen short pieces into one. Post production is challenging on any film, but when it’s been shot by a whole mob of people on diverse bits of equipment! It was a stroke of genius to ask Joe Eszterhas – sometimes a speaker at the screenwriters’ festival – to write a short script to kick the film off, with Olivia Williams to perform it. An audacious touch to top off an outrageously ambitious vision.
The edit took them years, but we got to our world premiere on May 31st in London. I did the red carpet stuff, signed the poster and applauded the awards ceremony (which included one for each of us writers!) – but really the most remarkable thing was watching it on a big screen with full, rumbling sound. Scripts I’d given feedback or encouragement on; roughcuts I’d watched on a laptop. What an achievement – for everyone involved.
There’s an online premiere on Saturday 25th June at 8pm, UK time, and it will stay available to watch for 48 hours. It’s free but you do need to register, so bag your place in the virtual auditorium. (The popcorn can be real)
Hope you enjoy it!