Two years ago, I began shooting an ultra-low-/no-budget feature. Amidst the panic and fear and enthusiasm, I felt like I was doing something tangible. No more making things up and putting them to paper – I had to make a freaking film of it. In rare moments of lucidity, I felt like I was on the threshold of arriving; if I wasn’t careful, I’d catch myself drafting acceptance speeches.
Alas, despite a selective reminiscence, things went to shit after production wrapped. The culmination of a year’s work up to that point, along with the buy-in of many generous, talented, willing people to whom I’d given my word, came to a sudden and crushing halt. Written contracts were finally presented and their content was nothing like I’d agreed to verbally much earlier. Verbal agreements that I’d shaken hands on weren’t being honoured. Belated negotiations began but I got the very distinct impression that I was expected to be so desperate to get the film finished that I would sign anything – including signing away all rights and claim to the film for two dollars.
Never – ever – start a feature without a written contract. I have learnt my lesson well. Life is too short to kill and dump the bodies of people who would bareface steal from you. (Unless you’re fully and totally committed to go all the way to ensure your continued freedom.) (Note: prepping a feature is excellent preparation.)
The first six months were the hardest. I had to explain to everyone why the project crashed. I tried one door after another to finish post-production, to get it up and limping along, but I failed.
The next six months were just as heartbreaking but in a completely unexpected way: I couldn’t let it go. I was depressed. I was a lot of work to live with.
In the year that followed, it was less and less on my mind, and more and more I realised that, although scriptwriting – especially when I was getting paid for it – was pretty cool as a career, I had been infected by the filmmaking bug.
I wanted to make another film. Just writing one was not enough.
So. Here I am.
Tomorrow we start shooting a short film – funded by Creative New Zealand’s Screen Innovation Production Fund, thank you very much – with the help of as many culprits from that feature as are still talking to me and – horror of horrors – are willing to work with me again.
Time for BREAK to make way. Thanks for the lessons. And the memories.
Time for a new adventure.