accept no substitutes.
35 months ago Pob and James went for a pint to The Cluny, there's nothing in that - at the time we were talking about working together on some comedy sketches. Anyway, when I when to pick them up, they were like a couple of kids on Christmas Eve.
"We've come up with an outline for a feature film - something we can do on NO money" they babbled. "It's Pissheads Go Camping - but it's not just a camping trip, it's a stag do. We've even got a title The Stagg Do." You see one of our characters in Pissheads is called Staggy… he'll be the one getting married in the film!
I was instantly on the hook - "yeah this is possible" I thought - it was finally an opportunity to take what we had around us and craft a story and film from that - we already had the characters, they had the plot - we had the kit… what were we waiting for?
Fastforward 3 months, and 6 drafts later, we entered principle photography… which was HELL. Proper old fashioned hell, I could go into detail - but what's the point in raking over old ground? If you're really interested, read the archives from July and August 2011 as it was all blogged about at the time.
Anyway we got through it and then some. I had my right knee reconstructed - we shot new scenes, scenes we dropped and scenes we fucked up the first time around. David (our editor) busted his balls to get us a decent cut, James and I spent hours and days shooting extra footage. Richy corralled some mates to help with a big reshoot/ shoot night and on we went. Ashleigh and The Kid (Chris) slogged their guts out on animations and visual effects, music was found and replaced, musicians were contacted.
We edited, reedited, experimented - laughed, cried, pulled our hair out and generally got stuck in… And finally in December 2012, we had "picture lock". Then we ran out of money. Literally. James and I were flat broke and everything in the house decided to die at the same time.
We had had so much momentum and then we stopped - dead.
We didn't give up though, determined to get it finished and get it out there. As much for our own sanity as anything else. Stephen at Fantomeline kept grading - we kept praying for a lottery win and then came another kick in the teeth. An Irish film - The Stag was premiering in Toronto and it sounded remarkably like our film. How was that possible? What could we do? Without money not a lot… So we cried to ourselves (swore a lot) gritted our teeth and went on with our lives. In January though we learned that The Stag was getting a UK release in March… And we decided - let's beat them. Get out before them.
But there was still too much to do. I reckoned we had 5 weeks, Aris (our sound god) said we needed 6 to sort out the sound - which of course was recorded by 3 different people! He wanted to ADR - I didn't think the lads (Pob and Staggy - non-actors) would ever be able to do it… We STILL had no money.
Anyway a load more favours were pulled in, Richy agreed to finesse Chris' VFX (he'd now moved to Leeds), Aris persuaded Rich to help us with the ADR sessions and to let us use his studio for the mix - and so the madness resumed…
We're going into the mix next month, and we'll be going for our BBFC soon after and then finally we will be ready to release the film. It's rude, it's crude, it's insanity to the max. It's experimental both in storytelling and in filmmaking - if it were a drama we wouldn't need to explain ourselves - but apparently you can't make experimental (almost arthouse) comedies if they are chockful of low brow nob gags! Who knew?
Every now and then in my life I read about something and go - what an absolutely great idea... damn I wish I had it first!
When I first heard of A Year Without Rent, in January 2011, I immediately thought: This could be a superb project, what a great idea, stupid head why didn't you come up with this idea? In truth the current me would never have thought of this and even if I had, I could never have done it (two kids and a mortgage are kind of binding).
I know I was one of the early contributors - was trying for 13th and ended up being 12th! From that moment on, I thought well I might not be doing the whole "AYWR" thing - but it would be great to get Lucas here - let's hope we get Pissheads off the ground in time.
Fast forward to late April and Pob and James telling me they'd come up with an idea that we could film this Summer... They were pissed, as they often are after these meetings, and I immediately thought - yeah right, I'll humour them... "No, no - you don't get it - we've come up with the whole idea and we can film it for just about nothing." "Okay then" I said - "what's the 25 words or less pitch?" Pob raised his eyebrow as only he can and said "Pissheads go camping." That was it, three words that would change everything. Plans for the summer needed to be made - I KNEW we could do this.
You see, I had first come across Lucas on Twitter - he's one of the first people I followed and definitely the first "stranger filmmaker" with whom I connected. That was more about his love of the Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots than anything to do with filmmaking. Generally I find filmmakers to be very solipsistic and self obsessed - here was a filmmaker, who like me, had interests beyond film! Anyway, I digress, Lucas was making a film called Up Country, set in rural Maine about a fishing trip that goes wrong, it was one of the first projects I backed on Kickstarter - so I knew someone had done it - ie made a film in a remote location that involves camping and fishing in under 10 days.
And that really was the most important consideration in deciding whether or not we should make The Stagg Do - could we shoot it in less than two weeks. You see trying to get people to give up their time for nothing is always difficult, and it's getting more and more difficult as everyone's cost of living is rocketing at the minute. People have mortgages or rent to pay, they have kids and pets to feed and all that real life stuff that has a great way of interrupting the important things - like making a film LOL. So once I'd had a brief Twitter chat with Lucas I felt confident that we could shoot the bulk of the film in that sort of window. Then I had to speak to Staggy to find out his availability so that I could block in the time and start fitting the pieces together. Once these bits of information had been looked at, we chose the prospective shooting dates which were 30.07.2011 - 7.08.2011 - this meant people with other jobs would only have to give up 5 weekdays of work. That's the problem with Pissheads - we need at least 18 days to shoot that film, which means people need to be paid for their time... I mean who can work for three weeks for no money in this day and age?
So the dates had been set and loose plans were beginning to formulate in my head - could I persuade my friends Chris and Deanna to let us film on their farm in Northumberland? That would give us two advantages over filming in the middle of nowhere: electricity and a toilet! Would I be able to get a decent crew together? There is so much filming happening in the North East at the moment that this proved easier said than done. This is where Jennifer our Assistant Director came into her own. I had met Jennifer the previous year at a seminar in London. I felt we got on really well and that she'd be a really good AD for The Stagg Do. AD has been a position we have struggled with since the start of FNA way back in 2002, so it was great to have someone onboard in whom I had complete confidence. On top of this Jennifer was going to bring with her a grip, a sound recordist and boom operator and a production designer. In many ways Jennifer's enthusiasm was instrumental in giving me the confidence to move the film forward. Which brings us back to Lucas and A Year Without Rent.
As soon as we decided that we could and would film The Stagg Do, I set about trying to work out how I could bring Lucas and AYWR to the UK to work on the film. His experience would be invaluable, the press would be useful and most importantly I wanted to meet the guy!
To give him his due, Lucas was up for it immediately, I didn't want to commit too soon as so much of the film was still up in the air, I knew once we had bought his ticket then that would be the point of no return!
I spent a lot of time discussing with James and Jennifer the best way to deploy Lucas's talents to help the production and after much deliberation we went with Jennifer's idea of having him gaffer. This proved a masterstroke - even though we had an American who was completely unfamiliar with British electricity in charge of the lighting department!
I'm sure Lucas brings a lot to any production he is involved in - he certainly proved a very valuable, knowledgeable and capable crew member for us. Some people may be reticent to have Lucas on their film because, as well as his talents, he also brings a fucking big spotlight to a film - as he covers A Year Without Rent and the productions he is involved with for Filmmaker Magazine, Film Threat and Film Courage as well as a number of other high profile filmy publications. Now after the shit he witnessed on our film (and believe me we had more than our fair share of crises) I could try and cover my ass and ask him to censor what he writes, I could pray to some deity that I don't believe in that he isn't too critical - but you know what, I won't. In the words of the inimitable Bill Belichick (whom I know we both admire) -- "It is what it is".
I would love our production to have been problem free, mainly because it would have cost less money and I wouldn't have quite so many grey hairs, but it wasn't and in many ways c'est la vie or it is what it is. You know, life is all about how we deal with problems. We can cry and get upset or moan about problems or we can confront them head on and try to solve them. I very much fall into the second camp. At the end of the day the important thing is ending up with a film that meets your expectations and at the minute - The Stagg Do does just that.
Onwards and upwards - oh and BOOK LUCAS on your film - you won't regret it - believe me and whether you book him or not, support A YEAR WITHOUT RENT, it's a great project that shows there is a decent side to the indie filmmaking community.
Will try our best to keep this busy during the shoot and post-production.