Saturday, May 25, 2013

Double - Part 3 - Greetings from Cannes

"I lost a year or two in there, trying to get films financed 
that I didn't know would never get financed."
-Richard Linklater, (Director of Slacker and  Dazed and Confused)

If one lesson to be learned from our experience on Double was about working within your means, Leslie, our director, seemed to be learning a different lesson. 

When I talked with her about shooting ratio, she shot more, convinced that was the way to be more productive. 

The day the reality of the numbers hit, that day when we knew we had to shut the project down if we were to do so with no outstanding debt, was a day that exhibited once again why we were not going to make it as a low-budget, indie project.

I was busy trying to make arrangements for our shut-down when I left set in the morning. When I left, we were about to roll on the first shot of a complicated interior scene/ At this point, a sense of relief had washed over me; even if it took all day to get this scene, hey, we would have it in the can.

I came back hours later to find we were still about to roll on the same scene. It took some incredulous questioning on my part to clarify that, in fact, we had no part of the coverage.

After setting up for the scene set up on one side of the space, Leslie decided she did not like the angle - and had us set up the scene at the other end of the space.

Anyone who has ever been involved in setting up a reverse of a lighting set-up understands the undertaking - the lighting had to be completely torn down, the dolly track moved, the camera set-up re-framed.

In baseball, it is said that a pitcher who takes a lot of time between pitches and/or throws a lot of walks tends to lull his defense to sleep, leading to errors. For similar reasons, a methodical, slow director who changes their mind will make a crew lazy - there is no other word. There are only so many times G&E (grip and electric) will rush to light a scene, only to see the set-up change. Sooner or later, things slow down.

This was the set I returned to - folks moving at medium-speed, awaiting the inevitable change. While the AD and I did everything to keep things crisp, we focused on keeping everything as sharp as possible, and getting it right.

Much like her decision to shoot more film than our budgeted shooting ratio, Leslie now saw our shutting down as even more reason to do things her way. One way to look at it was stubbornness and a refusal to adapt. Another way of looking at it was an artist determined to stay true to her vision despite adversity.

Regardless of how you looked at it, Leslie's plan was to go to Cannes, where she would take a trailer that would help her raise more money to complete the film. She asked me to put together a budget for what it would cost to finish the film the way she wanted to, shooting a higher ration and with more time. That, I did.

The trailer she put together looked great; as an experienced commercial director, she knew how to sell something in a short period of time. Still, I was not convinced she would get the money she needed, but hoped for the best.

We had a party to reward the hard work everyone had done - Leslie made sure that the words "wrap party" never came up, and I can understand that. At the party, I joked that she would go to Cannes and that all I would get would be a t-shirt that said, "My Director went to Cannes and all I got was this lousy t-shirt!"

To her credit, she had not lost her sense of humor. She returned a few weeks later, sure that the contacts she  had made would bring in the additional needed money.

When I showed up at the office to meet her, on my desk was a t-shirt from Cannes.

Leslie went on to direct some television, and more really good commercial work, but does not have a feature to date. Double was never completed.

Unfortunately, that t-shirt*, some interesting memories, and a great trailer are all I got from that shoot.

*Incidentally, the t-shirt shown above is not the t-shirt I received. That, too, is long gone.

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