As you probably know – and if you don’t, just flick back a few years in this blog – I have been working on the Dark Side script for a LONG time. And what I’ve battled with most is the complexity of the plot, both in elucidating it sufficiently for an audience to follow, and in making the internal logic work (i.e. eliminating plot holes). Given that the film deals with time travel, parallel universes, mythical creatures, fictional period technology and an apocalypse, this was a tall order. And over the years it’s caused many a hair on my head to be torn out, many a strangled scream to escape my tortured lips and many a murmured prayer for the blessed release of death to be uttered as I tried desperately to make it all work.
And finally it does!
Two news readers have been over it and haven’t batted an eyelid at the temporal twists and turns. That’s music to my ears.
It doesn’t mean it’s finished. There are still tweaks to be tweaked, but the worst is over. Touch wood.
With the Dark Side Guides series complete, you may be wondering what will be next. If you visit this website with any regularity you will have realised that I’m addicted to making behind-the-scenes featurettes. It’s mainly because I love making films, and making dramas, even short ones, costs money that I don’t currently have, whereas documentaries are cheap (particularly when the footage has already been shot).
So what will be next? Well, fifteen years ago I was in the middle of making the original amateur version of The Dark Side of the Earth. This April will mark the fifteenth anniversary of the shoot wrapping, and I plan to commemorate this with a special documentary, reuniting the original cast and revisiting the Malvern Wells back garden where much of it was shot. I’ve already started trawling through the ridiculously over-long bloopers video that I made back in ’96 to accompany the film and have found plenty of humourous moments to include, from Matt’s infamous face-first fall into a fire, to a great bit of dinnertime footage where Chris’s mum walks in just as he’s viciously punching a baked potato.
Chris is currently away travelling, but I hope we can get everyone together in late March or April to shoot it. Whether you’ll get to see the full doc on this website, I’m not sure at the moment, but I promise you a clip or trailer at the very least.
Today, ladies and gentlemen, I shall discourse upon a matter I like to call “Doctor Who Science”.
I have always described The Dark Side of the Earth as a fantasy film, but technically it’s science fiction because it purports to provide scientific explanations for all the extraordinary goings-on. Some science fiction, typically “hard” sci-fi, as it’s known, is fairly realistic in this regard, basing its technology on projections by futurists. At the other end of the scale comes Doctor Who Science. Don’t get me wrong – I love Doctor Who and have done since I was eight – but the technobabble rarely stands up to any scrutiny. Commonly the Doctor uses a metaphor, ostensibly to clarify things for the companion, but the real purpose is to say, “Here is a chain of logic which you know from your everyday lives. Since it works in your everyday life, it must also work when applied to a random bunch of crazy space things.”
The Dark Side of the Earth, for better or worse, subscribes to this methodology. It’s a delicate balancing act, trying to come up with science which you know is bollocks, but has just enough truth in it to (a) suspend the viewer’s disbelief and (b) help the viewer understand the rules of the world you’re creating. You’re relying on people’s ignorance to a certain extent, which is something that can work both for and against you.
Way back in my very first posting on this blog I talked about the popular misconception that gravity is caused by the earth’s rotation. I have no doubt that, if the film does get made and widely released, many ignorant people will brand it unrealistic because gravity doesn’t disappear when the world stops spinning. (Indeed, one script report has already done exactly this.) So there it’s working against me.
But in other places it might be useful. For example, the script offers its own explanation of why the earth spins. In reality, it spins because of the way gravity drew the cosmic dust together when the solar system formed, but a lot of people don’t know that, and I think I’ve put just enough real science into my fake explanation that those people will buy it, and hopefully everyone else will suspend disbelief enough to accept it and enjoy the film.
And as for the people that think time will stop if the earth stops turning, well… you really didn’t understand Superman: The Movie at all, did you?
It’s that time of year again – Cannes is on the horizon. If I’m going to go this year, I need to do it for less money than it’s cost me in the past. If you saw my Cannes vlogs last year, you may recall I said it costs about UKP1,000 to attend the festival: UKP100 for your flight, UKP400 for your hotel, UKP250 for your Market Pass and the rest goes on food, transfers and incidentals. So how can I get these numbers down?
Well, the first thing I can do is not be an idiot and misunderstand the differences between market and festival passes, like I did last year. There are several ways to get into the Cannes Film Festival – and I mean ways that you, as a person, can get into the festival, not your film – but the main two are the Market Pass and Festival Accreditation. (I’ll try and go into the others at some point in the future.)
Before I go any further, let me remind you of a key point in understanding Cannes – it is actually two separate events that happen in the same place at the same time: the Cannes Film Festival and the Film Market, or Marche Du Film. The first is the one you will see in TV coverage – the red carpet, the stars – but it’s also a film festival like any other, to which you can submit your film and if you’re extremely lucky it will be selected and screened, and if you’re preternaturally lucky you’ll win an award. The second event, the market, is just like a trade fair or a convention for films. It’s where most of the world’s sales agents and distributors go to buy and sell movies – most of them really, really terrible, as indicated by the thousands of appalling posters which assault your eyeballs when you enter the Riveria building at the heart of the market.
So back to accreditation. I always thought that Festival Accreditation would only get you into the festival areas, not the markets areas, but I was wrong. It gets you into both, just like the Market Pass does. So what’s the difference? Well, one difference is that with the Market Pass you get the Guide – a massive and very useful book containing contact details for all the companies attending.
But the most important distinction is HOW you get these two types of accreditation. For a Market Pass, you cough up your 286 Euros and – bingo! – it’s yours. For Festival Accreditation, you fill in an on-line form, attaching evidence that you are a working filmmaker, and if the panel is convinced by this evidence, and if they have not used up the limited number of passes they are able to give each year, you get accreditation – completely FREE. This shouldn’t be a revelation to anyone who’s been to Cannes before, but somehow I’d got it into my head that it cost about 150 Euros for Festival Accreditation, plus of course the erroneous belief that it wouldn’t get me into all the necessary areas, so I was very pleased when I finally got the facts straight.
I’ve heard a lot about how picky the panel can be when deciding whether to give Festival Accreditation or not. I know that your IMDb page is quite important, and that your credits have to be recent, so I applied in the film technician category, since I have plenty of recent DOP credits. I applied on Tuesday morning – the first day registration was open – and received an email a few hours later saying I had been accepted. And there was me thinking it would be weeks before I got a decision and that they would ring up and interrogate all my referees and I would have to supply more evidence. But no, it was easy peasy. I think this was largely due to me probably being one of the first people to apply, so my advice is to get in there on the first day registration is open.
So that’s UKP250 slashed off my Cannes budget already. We’ll see what else I can squeeze as the festival approaches.