Sometimes, the journey toward fully financing a film makes sense. It might be hard, but it at least doesn’t defy the basic rules of logic. And then, there are days when cats and dogs have tea parties on the ceiling and nothing makes any sense.
A couple of weeks ago I had one of those days. On the eve of what should have been the signing of our final contracts, we found out that we might (yet again) be faced with a seemingly insurmountable shortfall in our financing, caused by what amounted to a lack-of-paying-attention on the part of someone other than us. In brief, it was out of our hands but rather than chalking it up to an error and forgetting the whole thing, our funding partners forced us to go through an insane obstacle course of workarounds over the course of five hours worth of phone calls in order to save the project from dying on the table.
Here’s a fictionalized version of what that felt like.
INT. KAT’S APARTMENT – MORNING
KAT (five-foot-eight and fly as hell) sits at the kitchen counter finalizing some documents for a contract she’s supposed to sign the next day, when the phone RINGS.
The lukewarm voice of FAITH (a government employee with the frighteningly calm temperament of a ’50s psych-ward nurse) flows gently through the wires.
Hi Kat. I’m so sorry, I’ve just noticed something.
In the paperwork for your project. I’m afraid we’re
going to have to electrocute you.
Yes, I’m afraid there’s something in the paperwork
that just won’t quite work. You’ll have to make the
change, but it will probably result in your untimely death.
Kat takes a sip of scalding coffee from her “hang in there kitty” mug.
I’m not sure I understand.
Kat’s doorbell BUZZES. Without giving her a chance to answer, a troupe of government officials barrel in, wheeling an electric chair behind them. They grab Kat by the arms and start strapping her in.
Wait, what’s going on here? I thought that
everything was fine! We are supposed to sign
the contract tomorrow! What does this–
Let me get back to you on that.
Faith hangs up. Kat sits in the electric chair. A government official stands by the switch, hand hovering over it, and looks at the clock on the wall.
A single tear rolls down Kat’s cheek. Suddenly, the phone RINGS.
We’ve figured out a way to do this without
killing you in cold blood. Let me sort out the
Faith hangs up. The government officials nod silently to each other and start undoing the straps binding Kat to the electric chair. She gets up as they wheel the chair out. Suddenly, the phone RINGS.
I’m afraid I was wrong. That is to say
we can fix the problem but you’ll still end
up dead. I’m really sorry about this. We
have to follow the rules.
The government officials, halfway out the door, stop, spin on their heels and come back into the room. They set the chair down and drag Kat, now shrieking with anger, back into it. As they strap her back in, the phone rings again.
Good news, Kat. Looks like we’ll be able
to save you after all. You might have to change
clauses A through ZZZ in the contract, but you
The government agents start to undo the straps, whistling while they work, when the phone RINGS again.
Kat reaches past one of the agents and presses the kill switch herself.
FADE TO BLACK
That was two weeks ago, and in keeping with the “emotional roller coaster” tone of this whole adventure, last week everything went great. We met with some terrific actors, confirmed lots of details and have come extremely close to locking our start date. We decided to just jump into the deep end and start prep next week. After all, if we don’t dedicate ourselves to it full time, we’ll never be ready to shoot by mid-May, which is still our goal. Great! Full steam ahead! This ship is setting sail!
But wait, did you think things could stay stable instead of going from FANTASTIC to THE WORST to EXCELLENT AGAIN to OH GOD WHY AM I ALIVE to FUCK YEAH to I WILL SET THIS CITY ON FIRE SO HELP ME GOD to LIFE IS LIKE A BOWL OF CHERRIES every few days? No such luck, Bub.
On Friday, one of the key members of our team bailed on us during what was supposed to be the conversation where we told him to start on Monday. Now I (we) have to spend the weekend scrambling to fill that role, because really, we do need someone to start … Monday.
It feels terribly cliché to say it but … I guess I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometimes, at parties with other film types, I join in those complaint-fests that end with a half-joking “why do we even work in this horrid industry”, but honestly? Yes, it is stressful madness that pays zero dollars and demands every ounce of your time and attention. But it’s also the most fun thing I’ve ever done.