Friday, 23 July 2010

Producing 'Slaughter is the Best Medicine'

(by Daniel Tee)

It all began with a dream to make a feature film. I had a pretty good idea that it would be hard work. Now, having embarked on the journey, it's clear that it's not for the faint-hearted.

When Rishi showed me the treatment for 'Slaughter is the Best Medicine' back in May, I knew immediately that it would be our next project. It being feature-length meant that we'd have to approach it differently to a short film. I guess the main differences in general have been that the script is longer, there are more actors, more crew, more locations and the casting, rehearsals, pre-production, filming and editing take longer too.

A producer finds the cast, crew and equipment, organises the schedule, finds the money (though we have no money) and maintains contact with everyone on the project so they know clearly what's going on. That's me. But I'm not alone in all this; Rishi is primarily the director, but he is also an excellent producer. We often organise things between us to share the load.

When we created our open invitation for people to audition, I had no idea that we'd get a hundred people responding. Suddenly we needed a venue for two days and a database to keep track of everyone's information. Many actors, especially ones who realised how far it would be to travel, dropped out before coming along for their audition, so that reduced the number. Then we sent out a message to everyone saying that we couldn't afford to pay them anything because we have no funding, so another load dropped out. That left thirty who turned up, which was far more managable.

Choosing an actor for each role was incredibly difficult. There were so many great actors and we spent a long time going through the audition tapes to decide who would be best. The thing about casting is that however well auditions are run and whatever the performance, it's always unfair. There will always be good actors turned away and that's a horrid fact. However, many of the actors who didn't get roles have been added to a list of potentials and we may well be calling on them for another film (or even for this one if more actors are needed).

Being at the centre of the project means a lot of phone calls. My last phone bill was shocking! Attempting to do everything over e-mail only works to a certain degree, so old-fashioned phoning is always necessary it seems. Using databases to organise the reams of information is essential, because trying to remember everything that needs doing would be impossible, for me at least. Also, a diary will save you from quadruple bookings if you write everything down. I'd say if you're lined up to go a concert or a party, write those in first before booking anything film related. I've been caught out by that one before...

Producing can be stressful when things aren't going to plan, but who ever said it would be a walk in the park? Actors can drop out; equipment can break; there's less money for things than you thought; the location gets demolished. Anything can and will go wrong at any time, however good the contingency plans. You just have to role with the punches, take a breath... and run away. I mean... get back up and continue.

It's important to take regular breaks, because producing can take over your whole life if you let it. Thinking about or doing something that's not film-related for a couple of hours is like a mini holiday. It's easy to neglect friends and family while working on an all-consuming project. Having a quiet drink sure would be hard if you also had to keep 30 plates spinning on poles in the beer garden, and that's a lot like producing.

Remembering to eat and drink can be tricky too. My metabolism is faster than a suped-up Mustang, so I usually eat throughout the day and still feel hungry. But when producing, I constantly find that I've skipped a couple of meals and haven't noticed. That's why I now have meal reminders on my phone. It's the only way!

On this kind of budget (zero), we're all multi-tasking, so I'll also be doing the camerawork and editing too. I love each of the jobs and like being a part of each stage of the process. Seeing something through is really important to me, as I know it is for Rishi. Each of us fills the gaps where something needs doing, which is what makes our team so special.

Rehearsals are underway at present and are going well. Filming begins in August. Fingers crossed for good weather!