OK to recap…
I got a call about a movie that needed a director, a big budget Hollywood studio picture… I dashed into central London to collect a hard copy of the script, read it, arranged a meeting the next day with the producers… which I rehearsed and role played for hours to nail GREAT answers to TOUGH questions…
And it really was a tough interview… But I survived it… Returned to the office and waited… and then the phone rang…
I answered… ‘Hello?’
‘Is that Chris?’
‘Yes’ I replied…
There was a very long pause. The kind you get when the news is either VERY good or VERY bad…
‘OK the guys all liked you. But, one of the executives who did not meet you, he wants someone with a steady and experienced hand, someone who can be trusted to deliver on time and on schedule… and the feeling is you would be a risk to hire as director’
Gutted, I hung up.
I immediately followed up the call with a very positive email to the producers. The fat lady had not yet sung… How could I get to that producer? There must be a way…
But I heard the following day that they were interviewing very experienced directors. And on Friday night, I received absolute conformation that they had indeed hired a guy with many features under his belt. Apparently the studio guys were very comfortable with him.
As upset as I was, I could also see their position quite clearly. It made a lot of sense for a bunch of guys who never met me.
The following 24 hours I pretty much slept through without waking, I had burned so much energy in pursuit of this film.
So now the dust has settled, I have had chance to analyse the events in order that I can learn from it, so that next time, I am even better prepared… As far as I can see, even though I did not get the job, I did have an extraordinary learning experience and I pushed myself very hard to be the best I could possibly be.
I am also grateful that I was taken seriously - I was actually into the room with a fighting chance, and I came out slugging hard. In this industry, certainly in the UK, it’s not often I get invited into the room at all.
So there are two aspects to consider under analysis…
First is how you come across in the room. Second is how you look on paper. And I believe it’s the combination of those two that seals the deal, either way.
On paper I am pretty weak. I have some books that are fascinating for sure, but valueless in these circumstances. I have made some low budget features way back when. Again, largely valueless. I have a short film that has won a load of awards, but remember, I was warned that these producers were not interested in hearing about awards, so that was irrelevant too. In short, all I had going for me was that someone had seen ‘Gone Fishing’ and liked it enough to call me in. It’s a testament to how good ‘Gone Fishing’ actually is that I was seen at all.
In the room, I felt I was quite strong and held my own. Hindsight is amazing, and for sure, there are things I would have phrased differently if I had the chance. I would have really liked to have read the script a second time too, but there just wasn’t time.
So in short, I was good enough in the room to get recommended by the producers who met me, but weak enough on paper for me to be passed over by those who didn’t meet me and wanted to sleep soundly at night.
And the budget was just too big for them to take a risk on me. Had the budget been say, £1m, I think I would have got the gig. But it was much, much more than £1m.
For me, it’s clear. I need to meet all the people to close the deal. I also need to look much better on paper. Two big things that need addressing.
Ironically, just today I discovered that my third feature film, ‘Urban Ghost Story’ is screening on BBC1 next week – yes, BBC1! More on that in the coming days.
So all in all a wonderful and educational adventure. Exhausting, disappointing, exhilarating, fascinating, nerve wracking… I can tell you one thing for sure. I came so very close. And if I can do it once, I can do it again, and as many times as I need to get the result…
Much of this adventure is reflected in aspects of the 2 day workshops I run for film makers where we discuss a brutal fact - film making is a marathon, with many set backs… but it’s how we deal with those setbacks, how we recommit to the marathon, that defines the artist, the film maker, the human beings we are…
It’s also part of the Hero’s Journey we all undertake in life – the stage I just personally undertook would be ‘Tests, Allies and Enemies’. And again, as I teach in my workshops, unless there is a genuine threat that you could fail on your quest, then you are simply not playing the game to a high enough level.
And so In life we often fail. It’s part of being human. It's a stage in our own hero's journey.
But in the movies, the hero often succeeds. It’s part of the imaginary reflection of being human. And these fictional characters on their hero's journey too.
This is why movies (and more simply expressed, stories) speak so deeply to our psyche.
We need stories to reflect us, we litteraly see ourselves in these 'adventurs', in order that we can have the courage to do what we need to do in our own daily lives. And I know that by blogging about my adventure this week, others have been inspired and HAVE TAKEN THEIR OWN ACTION!
And what a wonderful gift to receive – the knowledge that by sharing, others have seen themselves in my own story, and created and comitted to their own adventures - who knows where their stories will lead?
Truly, no matter the outcome of these days past, I could not lose in the bigger picture. I have learned about the process, made powerful contacts and relationships and others have learned vicariously.
And so I now recommit to my own adventure. I may be battle weary. I may be exhausted. But my teeth are gritted, and I am stronger and wiser… and that bit closer to my goal…
I can’t wait for the next crack of the whip…!
Onwards and upwards!
Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author