London Calling

I awoke muddled. Miss-the-tram-stop-and-have-to-walk-in-the-rain muddled. It’s all Big D’s fault for getting married yesterday. The day was hot and muggy and we had no problem with the idea of leaving the festivities early. Then there was a very light rain, the breeze picked up, and I was in a really good place, sitting out in the bar’s garden, drinking beer someone else had paid for, watching the sunset. We stayed longer than we should have. Also, I should never ride the trams before I’ve had tea.

I woke this morning at 5:30, tried to go back to sleep but there was too much to do. I had crashed at fuego’s after making plane reservations, and I was up in time to see them off to work. I sat down to check emails. I had a few responses to my announcement of travel plans, and a couple others from Rudolph (we’ll call him Rudolph until I forget and give him another name). Rudolph is on the ball. He’s not terribly experienced but he has the one key quality that every producer must have: he does not wait to see if things work out. He has a list of concerns, and when he has a problem he makes sure he’s not the only one with the problem.

Currently he is most worried about filling in some key holes in the production team. These are all volunteers, so in some cases they want to work on the project that will best help their own careers. That’s either the best script or the project with the industry mentor whose ass they most want to kiss. Our mentor, Seldom Seen Smith, could be a big boost for a New Mexico filmmaker’s career, but he hasn’t made an appearance yet. So fair enough, the Director of Photography candidates are waffling, but Rudolph doesn’t like uncertainty. He wants these guys to commit. I want to make sure that when they commit, they really commit.

This morning Rudolph also sent some heads-up messages about a couple of potential Ruthies. One candidate, apparently, is really, really tall. We’d probably have to hire Kareem Abdul-Jabaar as the pirate captain, but I’m not sure if he can say “Arrr!” with sufficient gusto.

Rudolph, despite his concerns, seemed to be looking forward to taking a break today and cutting the top off a car. And here’s one of the cool things about making a movie. People say yes to the most outrageous things. rudolph has a buddy with an old station wagon that runs well. All he wants out of it is he motor, so the body is our plaything. Because we’re making a movie. The art director says she can cut the top off no problem. It’s just how things work.

In the last shot we wanted fighter jets to fly past. Knowing that that was an outrageous request for a production of this scale, we wrote in a pair of black Suburbans instead, the kind the intelligence agencies are stereotyped to use. Rudolph said the suburbans were going to be a problem. There is really no money in the budget to rent cars, there’s just people and equipment. At some point we mentioned that what we really wanted was jets, anyway. It’s not a done deal by any means, but apparently jets are more doable than cars, since if the government agrees, they pay for it. The governor of New Mexico is not a lightweight and he’s a big supporter of this festival. So we’ll see.

Jets. That would just plain kick ass.

The flight from Prague to Gatwick was an odd one. I flew on a budget airline called “Smart Wings”, which may be Czech-owned. The crew was czech, and I took the in-flight magazine as a czech tutorial since it had the same articles in both Czech and English. While the crew may have been czech, the passengers were English. They were drunk english men, to be precise, most of them on the large side, all on the loud side. Some groups had matching shirts, so I assumed there was some sort of sporting event in Prague that had just wrapped up, but one group’s shirts were to commemorate a bachelor party.

I looked around the waiting area and there was exactly one female waiting to board, sitting as far away from the worst of the drunkards as she could. In the end there were two female passengers on the sold-out plane. We almost didn’t take off; the copilot came back to talk to some of the rowdier passengers. Riot on Airplane I imagined the headlines. I’ve had enough tear gas in my life already, thank you. (It doesn’t take much tear gas to be enough.) Finally things calmed down and we were on our way, but the copilot put in an appearance in the cabin a couple more times. “Don’t make me pull this thing over!” It wasn’t a long flight, it just seemed that way.

So here I am in a bar in England, paying far more for my beer than I am used to paying, but I must say I’ve been missing the ales. I keep speaking czech to the bartender. It’s the only czech I really know, and I guess this place still feels foreign enough that the czech impulses reign. Approaching the bar: Don’t be stupid. Speak English. “Another four X’s?” “Ano, děkuju.” D’oh!

Now, I’m very tired. It’s early here, and it’s early afternoon in New Mexico. I should stay up late tonight, to start adjusting. Yeah, right.

Tomorrow I hit the ground in Albuquerque. I need to find some Internet tonight to coordinate just who is meeting me and where I’m sleeping tomorrow night. Everybody is jumping to help. Rudolph sent a picture and said I could stay with him, which is probably the best idea, as long as he is a better conversationalist than I am.

First, some background

All right, you’ve heard (figuratively speaking) me going on about this whole Pirates thing. But what the heck is that all about?

Well, the Duke City Shootout is an unusual sort of film festival – making the film is actually a part of the festival itself. Out of hundreds of script entries, the best is picked in each of seven different categories. And here’s the cool part of the festival – the prize for writing a winning script is a movie cast, crew and equipment for one smack-down week of intensive film-making. All the shooting must be completed in three days, then there there are a few more days for editing, then the resulting films are judged and awards are given.

It’s not every day you get enthusiastic help to make your vision real, and in this case it gets even better. Some of the help and many of the judges are people even I have heard of. These are people that it’s worth having see your stuff even if you don’t win. So it’s exciting. As a career event, it’s probably more significant for fuego than for me, as he will get a directing credit on this masterpiece. Still, my resume will now include something called the “Federico Fellini Award”.

Best of all, we’re making a movie. Twelve minutes of cinematic magic from our heads made real with the efforts of a large number of dedicated and hard-working people. In the tradition of this blog I won’t be calling them by their real names unless they ask me to (you know, it’s always good to have a Media Empire as part of your PR machine), but I will be chronicling here the efforts of a crew of people with more dedication than brains as we try to create something we can all use as a calling card.

It looks like no one has ever tried anything quite this ambitious at the shootout. We come in with a couple of advantages – our director really knows how to direct (many of the other winners are more like me, I think), and fuego has connections in the biz, skilled people eager to help us out. Three days of shooting means that everything has to be ironclad ready-to-go when the shotgun sounds. Yes, a shotgun will sound. Our success will already be decided to a large degree before that. The right people, knowing what they need to do and when, and all the tools they need ready to go. Then, no doubt, there will be the times when something isn’t going right and we need to blast through it and just keep shooting.

So now I am sitting in a London hotel, on an overnight layover on my way to Albuquerque, to do anything I can to have us ready at the starting gun. Too bad I don’t know what I’m doing. fuego has given me some location scouting pointers, and I think I can provide a valuable opinion during casting, but other than that I’m probably the guy who drives to the White Sands gift shop. I hope they have snow globes.

Well, here I go…

Welcome to the new blog category, Pirates!

For the next month I will be dedicating myself to two things: Making a short film, Pirates of the White Sand, and documenting the whole adventure on this blog. Updates will probably come in bursts as I pass in and out of Internet shadow. But fear not, me hearties! I shall be jotting down my impressions as I go.

It is 5:30 am Prague time as I write this, and I will be starting my travels soon. On the way over the ocean I will be finishing getting the storyboards into final format and working out a more specific music plan. We have some talented people on board for the music, but I haven’t heard any of it yet. We’ve lined up our B-cam operator, 2nd Nick, and our editor, 1st Nick. (It’s good to know Nicks in the business).

Much to do today before I take off, but there should be plenty more to add while I’m cooling my heels in the English countryside (Gatwick airport, specifically.) I will have a lot of time there.

Dang. I’m already tired.