Burn, baby, burn. Wah wa-waaaaaah! No, it’s not an Apple ad, it’s the sound of The Beacon making its triumphant debut on DVD. Okay, so there are a couple of things which need changing, but nothing terrible. My VHS deck’s box has “JVC – the inventors of VHS!” plastered across it. Proud of yourselves, huh? You poor, poor fools.
The story of Soul Searcher begins in August 2000, when I made the original 15 minute fantasy-action-comedy about an ordinary guy who is trained to be the new Grim Reaper, which got into a couple of festivals around the country and was generally enjoyed by most people who saw it, despite none of them having a clue what was going on in it. About a year later, whilst filming crazy low-budget action feature The Beacon, people start asking me what my next project is going to be, and I start thinking that a feature-length version of Soul Searcher might be kind of cool. I originally envisaged it as much darker than the original, and it was temporarily entitled The Soul Taker.
At some point during these proceedings, my good friend, talented author, Bafta almost-nominee and experienced film producer James Clarke announced that he was interested in getting involved. I initially asked him to write and produce the movie, two tasks which I (a) hate and (b) am no good at. With the mammoth project that was The Beacon lumbering on until February 2002, I had little time or headspace to work on anything else. Nonetheless, James and I had a couple of meetings, and by the time I had finished The Beacon, James had written an outline and 30 pages of a screenplay. With The Beacon taking its leave of my frazzled noggin, I was struck by sudden inspiration and churned out a new seven page outline which concentrated on an unrequited love story which would form the heart of the new Soul Searcher.
Today: Ate pizza. James asked a random waitress for romantic advice concerning an ex. A fairly ordinary day, save for the unusual flatness of my hair. James skimmed through my outline, making assorted positive comments, and we started sketching ideas of what some of the creatures in the film might look like. Our stomachs filled, we proceeded to the Courtyard, where all the cool people in Hereford hang out. No, really. Therein we scribbled out a budget, and lo, it came to UKP60,000. Wow, paying your crew is pretty darned expensive. Especially when you’re planning to shoot for 50 nights, yes, that’s nights. (Having been frustrated throughout production of The Beacon by the ever-changing and rarely-nice light that God had seen fit to provide, I decided to make by own illumination destiny this time.)
An historic day, marking as it did the first meeting of myself and Oscar short-listed producer James Clarke over our next film, Soul Taker. But that’s another story, and one which will surely have its own website before too long. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. On the DVD front, I ran out of space on the disc, meaning I had to choose between slightly dodgy picture quality for the film and loads of extras, or good picture quality on the film and less extras. Of course I chose the latter, so I’m afraid there will be no trailers, multi-angle scenes, sound mix deconstruction or Cutting Room feature. Apologies, apologies.
I sit hear between my lovely titanium speakers, pummelled by track seven from The Rock soundtrack CD, “Fort Walton, Kansas”. Mmmm, feel-good ending. But what is this? Hoof beats approach… “I bring news of screenings, sire.” “Excellent, boy – what news haveth you?” “Lady Farrington of Hereford Art College has declared a screening for students on Monday April 15th at 2pm at the Folly Arts Theatre, sire.” “Most triumphant, Ted, I mean, boy.” “But sire, there is more, for this very hour I have conversed with Jonathon Stone, Duke of The Courtyard, who has displayed great enthusiasm for the film. He requests your presence in due course to discuss matters of projection, promotion and the like. It is his dukely wish that it be screened on his very premises.” “Sweet.” “Super sweet, sire.” “And stop bashing those coconuts together.”
I’m sad to announce that, in spite of the appropriately seasonal release date, there will be no Easter Eggs on the DVD. There simply ain’t enough space. Rest assured that they weren’t very good, or I wouldn’t have felt the need to hide them in the first place. (Sorry, Dave and Gert, I guess this renders your bet on who will find them first completely void. Maybe you can use the money you saved to go out and meet girls. And yes, the pot accepts it is just as noir as the kettle.) I’ve had to trim the “In-Flight Movie” down a bit too, but I think it’s better for it. You might all be asking, quite legitimately, why I’m spending so much time and effort on a DVD which will probably only sell about 20 copies, with most of the sale price going on the cost of the blank media. Refer to earlier culinary recepticle observations for clues to the answer. But seriously, I have to do something while I’m putting off starting the next film, don’t I? And I didn’t spend a year of my life making a movie so that everyone would have to watch it off [projects well-aimed phlegm globule at much-used spittoon, crosses heart, apologises to God for blasphemous attitudes towards moving image media] VHS.
I’ve just noticed this journal has now been running for over a year, the very first entry having been made on March 4th 2001. Tempus fugit, the flying Stingray character. Stingray’s theme tune, of course, had bongo-based percussion, as does some of the music from The Beacon, which segways perfectly and without uncomfortable force into my revelation that today I filmed the last in a long line of cringe-makingly titled featurettes, “The Hills Are Alive…” Stop throwing that fruit – at least I don’t get paid to come up with headlines like that (Sun journalists, meet my subtle glare immediately). I’ve decided that viewers of the DVD will have the option to branch out to the featurettes as each topic is mentioned in Behind The Beacon, the making-of documentary, in The Matrix White Rabbit stylee. Not waffly versatile, but getting there.
Well, a childhood spent alone in my bedroom writing computer games on my Amstrad CPC instead of drinking beer with alcohol in the Winter Gardens, has finally paid off. Having nothing better to do with my time at the moment, I decided to see just how much versatility I could get out of a Digital Versatile Disc, by coding an interactive editing feature which would allow the viewer to recut a scene from The Beacon in whatever way they saw fit. By a staggering stroke of luck, the likes of which are rarely seen outside of a Douglas Adams novel, it worked first time. Okay, so the limitations of the DVD scripting language mean that essentially all you are doing is compiling an eight item playlist from a choice of 20 clips, but it does mean that you can make one of the SAS soldiers apparently shoot a fellow trooper, from the comfort of your home cinema system. And, the scene in question being the infamous Fields vs. Harrison fight, maybe even Simon can cut a version which satisfies him. (But I doubt it.) In other news, I’ve been coerced into placing an advert in Hereford Admag, which will obviously fail to recoup even the slightest percentage of its UKP50 cost. I’m sorry. The Prime Minister made me do it. Also, I’ve today sent a copy of the film States-ward (always an amusing situation at the post office – “Can I ask what the contents of the parcel are, sir?” “It’s a videotape.” “Right, sir. Is it porn?”), to the New York-based straight-to-video distributor www.b-movie.com (go on, check it out – you’ll wish you hadn’t) in the hope that they might buy it, thus relieving me of the annoying, and insurmountably difficult, obligation of trying to sell it to punters.
Mike and Dave took their turn at my newly constructed, state-of-the-art DVD commentary recording suite – a breath-taking compendium of VCR, minidisc recorder and old-but-comfy sofa. I can now sleep soundly in the knowledge that The BeaconDVD covers both bases on the commentary pitch, sewing up as it does the divergent approaches of Info-Packed Trivia Fest [(C) Rodriguez] and Two Blokes Having a Chat [(C) Carpenter/Russell]. The animated menus are mostly complete, and look great, and there have been a couple of changes to the extras line-up for the disc. The screen tests, which turned out to be deathly dull on viewing this afternoon, will be dropped in favour of an interactive feature on the sound mixing, and the defunct Stunts featurette will be replaced by the hilariously titled “Location, Location, Location”, featuring recce footage from last May.
Simon Wyndham came round yesterday to record his portion of the crew commentary, and I did Dave’s dirty work and interviewed him for the documentary. Simon also delivered his funky finished featurette, The Tao of Choreography (eh? Is that some kind of foreign speak?), which, no disrespect, is cheesy beyond belief, although I have yet to see Dave’s doc to assess its fromage factor, so Simon can’t claim the gold yet.
I started work on the DVD’s structure yesterday, and now it’s virtually complete. The second commentary – featuring Simon Wyndham (fight arranger), David Abbott (practical FX) and Mike Hodges (3D FX) – will be recorded in the next week, but for Dave’s documentary and animated menus, I’m going to have to wait until the last week of March, due to his unfortunate discovery of the effects of VCR’s magnetic fields on neighbouring hard drives. Anyway, I’ve set a release date for the DVD, which is April 2nd, the day after Easter Monday. Due to poor sales of the VHS, I can’t afford to get the DVD professionally duplicated. This means it will only be available on DVD-R, which works in most stand-alone DVD players and all DVD-ROM drives. Visit the order page for more information.