Friday, November 27, 2015

The Indonesian job - The Emotional Roller Coaster

"Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing." Lao Tzu

After the short hiatus caused by the immigration issues, Rini informed me that the entertainment lawyer assured her that they would have an answer by the following Wednesday, September 30th.

The time between that Friday and the following Wednesday - and then, until the following Monday - became what various people described as "an emotional roller coaster," and "an abusive relationship".

The latter came as a result of numerous conversations with my key people, where I was simultaneously telling them I wanted and needed them, and that they should consider other work if offered, because I had no guarantee it would happen. It was Adam, my gaffer and G&E vendor, who used the term above, albeit jokingly.

"JB," he said, "this is like an abusive relationship. 'I love you please stay. Go Away! No, please come back.' " Years of working with my key crew has lead to some rather gallows and definitely politically-incorrect humor, and this was certainly right up there.

There was little funny about what Rini and I were doing. We spent a lot of time asking each other questions neither of us had the answer to. What were the chances we would actually get turned down? Did we put anything wrong in the material? Could we give them anything new? Should the director, and not the star, have been the 0-1? With the push back, how many days could we actually get in?

The most frustrating thing was, well, doing nothing. Because there was little that we could do. Pre-production is all about planning. Neither I nor my team could do any. Nothing we could tell potential locations, which there was a very good chance we could lose if we did not act. Nothing to tell vendors who were holding equipment. No way of knowing which crew people we would lose and no way to reach out to replacements for a project we did not know was happening.

We were in Lao Tzu's dilemma. We were busy doing nothing.

Wednesday almost came and went, and no word. It was late in our afternoon when Rino got word from the entertainment attorney that the first step was approved, but they had to do the interview at the embassy the next morning.

This was great news - we had passed the harder test - and while they could get turned down at the interview, it was unlikely.

At that point, it was the middle of the night for the Indonesian cast and crew. Rini woke all of them up and they rallied for an 8AM (their time) interview at the embassy Thursday morning. If that all worked out. they would be on a plane and arriving the following Thursday, able to shoot seven days. We would worry how to shoot seven days straight - we were on again!

I alerted my key people. It was not certain, but it looked good. I had my key production people ready to come in on Friday, with full prep to start the following Monday.

On their end, all of the Indonesian cast and crew were at the embassy, the cast with their agents, an hour early.

All except Raisa (who was the 0-1) and her manager. They were ten minutes late.

How this could have happened after so long was beyond any of us. "But, Rini, how could they not be...." The answer? "I don't know JB. We are frustrated, too."

This wasn't a death blow for the project, however. The rest of the cast and crew would arrive the following Thursday late afternoon, and Raisa would be there even later, in the middle of the night, ready to start shooting Friday. It was far from perfect, but we had left perfect at the altar a long time ago.

My team - Arneece, Aliki, Leigh and Brian - were coming in on Friday. We could start. I just needed them to do the funds transfer for production.

Early on, I had discussed that I could not commit money we did not have. At one point, all the funds were to be transferred September 7th. After that, we had draw downs of the funds. Enough funds had been transferred to keep us afloat, but the majority of the funds needed to be sent, and now.

Accept the investors were not able (or willing) to send immediately. It would have to be the following week.

This was impossible for me. I could not ask people to come in without knowing if the funds would be there. There was scurrying. There was negotiating.

Finally, I insisted that 2/3 of the funds needed to be transferred Monday AM my time, and the rest the day before we started shooting.

They agreed, but I could not be sure that this would happen. I had to put my foot down. If the funds were not in my account Monday AM, I would have to call the entire thing off.

It was the worst of positions for me. I had many people on both sides of the ocean depending on me. My people here had been loyal. My choices were asking them to stay over the weekend, or releasing them when a few more days would make it happen.

It was among the most difficult decisions I had to make, and I appreciated the input from all of my people.

I was up most of the night on Sunday. My key people were on stand-by - four days before we were to start shooting, with no locations secured and nothing definite. No tech scouts. No shooting schedule.

Then, Monday AM, it was in. Deep breath.

My team came in Monday morning, and we started to plan. Leigh needed to reach out to all of the locations. Brian needed to simultaneously prepare a production schedule with locations we did not know were available. It was the film version of chicken-and-the-egg, and we were pretty much an omelet right now.

Tech week - or what was left of it - was about to begin. Word went out to all our team - and our new costume designer, Caitlin (who had been "hired" without knowing if we were shooting) - that were were back in "prep" - for three days - starting Tuesday. It was a lot to do, but we had the people to do it.

Like a Law and Order episode - or a roller coaster - there were still more twists.