This Wednesday saw the second session of FilmWorks, the “networked professional development” scheme which I’m on. In the masterclass section, Chris Hainsworth (managing director of AV Pictures) and Christopher Simon (producer of The Sweeney) talked about all the things you can do when developing a film project to attract pre-sales and financing. I must confess I found this a bit depressing, because they were all things I’d done with one of my feature projects, The Dark Side of the Earth, and I still haven’t been able to get it off the ground. I had the production designer create pages of fantastic concept art and a beautiful leaflet containing images, a director’s statement and a synopsis. I attached Benedict Cumberbatch, and shot a very expensive 35mm anamorphic pilot with him. I developed the script for years and hired a well-respected script editor to fine-tune it with me. The producer and I went to Cannes two years in a row and pitched to some big companies. And still the project remains unfinanced. (Although the pilot isn’t online, there are images and loads of behind-the-scenes videos at www.darksideoftheearth.com.)
It was heartening at least to find that I hadn’t been doing it all wrong. As a new director, no matter how many hoops you jump through, you will always be a tough sell. And luck will always play a large part – having just the right project with just the right elements that the person you’re pitching to is looking for at that moment.
The second half of the evening was much more positive for me. Even though I felt my mood reel was rushed, several people had nice things to say about it and wanted to hear more about my current project, Stop/Eject. And it’s a joy to hear more about everyone else’s projects as the course progresses. Already the seeds of future collaborations are being sown, and I have no doubt that this will be the greatest legacy of the course. It’s just a shame that the sessions seem to end just as they really feel like they’re getting going. At least they end for me, as like Cinderella I have to run off at nine on the dot in order to catch my train back to deepest, darkest Hairy Ford. I think I may have to start sucking it up and getting the later train, even though it means I won’t get home until after 2am.