I am writing this with a pounding head from the workload, the stress and the queasy feeling of being pulled backwards, forwards, up and down…
There were so many times when I paused and turned to Judy Goldberg and would say… ‘this is it, this is what we have been in training for, for so many years now…’
And I have been screaming to write about these last few days on the blog too, but for reasons that will become apparent, I could not. Even now, I am having to be a vague by omitting names and details in order that I do not breach my Non Disclosure Agreement.
But I can share the big sweeps of the last 100 hours…
Last Wednesday, just as I was sitting down to write my action list for the next week, I got a call. It was from the production office of a major British film company. Someone had seen ‘Gone Fishing’, liked it, and wanted me to read a script. The thing was, I needed to read it there and then, and if I liked it, take a meeting with the producers the following day. Nor could it be emailed, it was too dangerous to send a PDF over email - I needed to collect a printed script from central London. And read it immediately.
I had NO idea what kind of film it would be, what scale of production, what the casting might be… But I knew this was that rarest of things in the British film business… A REAL OPPORTUNITY, not a meeting to discuss other meetings or generally talk in hyperbolae and get nothing done at all… Aside eat expensive food on someone else’s lunch account.
And I felt 101% ready for the challenge and all that it would demand of me.
I dropped everything, headed into Soho and met a member of team in a Soho back alley, who handed me a 107 page screenplay and said, ‘get back to us as soon as you can…’
The first thing I noticed about the script is that it had the name of a major Hollywood Studio on the cover. A MAJOR STUDIO!
This was a studio film, with all the bells and whistles that are attached, such as nationwide theatrical release, a real budget for real cast and crew, and a writer who had previously written Hollywood features, PR and a support system.
My palms were sweating.
Judy and I headed back to the Ealing office and sat in silence for two hours as we read avidly.
I can’t say anything about the script – genre, content, style – but I can tell you it was a professional piece of work and a real page turner. I knew this was a BIG opportunity.
I IMDB’d the project and discovered there were also some US based producers (of course there were, this was a studio film!). I emailed my LA manager, Andy, who shared with me that he knew of the project, he even knew the producers in LA. He promised to get on the phone and work his magic – and an hour later, he emailed back to say that he had a good chat with one of the producers who had a significant interest in the film going into production… A SIGNIFICANT INTEREST. Basically, as is the case with most studio pictures, all the big players hit payday on the first day of principal photography. In short, if the movie gets to set, they get millions. Literally millions. This is the studio way and how films get made in Hollywood.
I got in touch with my contact and said… ‘I love it, I want in…’ and they said, ‘Be in Soho tomorrow from 10am and wait for a call… then you can meet with the producers to see if they like you…’
I hung up and looked at Judy… We both knew that this could lead to being in production on a multi million dollar studio picture… and very soon too.
I knew I was going to be in for an ‘Apprentice’ style grilling, and so we started a protracted and grueling process of rehearsing and role playing all the questions we thought could be asked. I can’t stress how valuable this process is – in the room I knew that I had to be on form, with a great answer to every single question - confident, succinct, cool and visionary…
And so, into the wee hours, Judy grilled me hard – and it was tough, really tough, to be asked those awkward questions you hope no-one will ever ask. But I also knew, better Judy ask now, we work on an answer and nail it, rather than I fumble the ball the next day.
I also called Andy in LA who reassured me that I would be great – he reminded me that both of us had sat in several meetings in LA and I never missed a beat.
Andy also gave me two very good pieces of advice. First, talk about how you would handle some set pieces in the script… And second, reassure the producers that you would make them look good by not screwing up (that is delivering a great film, on budget and on schedule). It’s clear that their ass is on the line as much as is mine, and when multi-millions are involved, everyone wants some security that it won’t blow up in their face. This is one reason why it appears that producers rarely take risks on new talent.
And so I went to bed.
And didn’t sleep a wink…
The following day, bright and early, I found myself sat in Starbucks in Soho with Judy. And once more, I was being grilled at length… ‘What would you say if they ask…’
Ten o’clock passed, eleven o’clock passed, twelve o’clock passed… and then at 12.15 my phone rang…
My heart missed a beat (maybe because I had already drunk three cappuccinos!)
‘Be in the production office in ten minutes and you will be seen by the producers…’
I hung up. And I knew that the outcome of the next hour of my life could, forever, change EVERYTHING in my future.
To Be Continued…
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Onwards and upwards!
Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author