History! Bad Lad first rough cut screening

Everyone gathered at my house. Whilst we waited for Jon and Roxanne to arrive we watched the opening scenes of my uncut DVD of Ichi the Killer. Both Joe and Birty extremely entertained by a bit of bloodletting Asia-style. Then Jon and Roxy arrived, followed by our music-man Simon Auster. And after a small amount of discussion with my Dad about playing the guitar, we were off on our way to Paul Gordons parents plush residence.

When we got there we quickly got down to watching the rough cut of our feature Diary of a Bad Lad. The opening credits started. I nervously fidgeted with my can of diet coke - given to me as a freebie by the rather charitable Paul Gordon. With regards to the screening, we laughed, we were moved, we were shocked - and after the hour and 57 minute duration everyone clapped. Birty instantly remarked that it was a "Big Confidence Booster." Joe was also very warm to it saying he couldn't find anything wrong with it and he was entertained from beginning to end. Roxanne said she felt quite proud to be involved and that it didn't feel like we'd been sat there for an hour and 57 minutes. As probably the least 'filmmaker' of our little audience, I was glad that Roxanne was there. It gave me an impression of what Joe Public might think. Then very quickly, and after a short smoke/toilet break, I was deluged with creative thoughts from almost everyone telling me where it could go next, and what the problems where. I remember thinking that I'd been a victim of the rough-cut perhaps being 'too' good, that everyone was looking at it like a finished cut! I was quite happy with this, and though a few of the comments I thought were a bit off the mark - and perhaps ideas for a different film - most of the comments put forward were very helpful.

Probably the three main comments that I have to juggle are that some of the scenes didn't feel as if they ended, making the film very pacey. I like having pacey scenes and agreed that perhaps some of the scenes were a casualty of this - BUT (and it was a big but) I feel that we can't sacrifice the nice pacing of it all. Though some scenes do need to end (they now just blend into the next one). And I really don't want to get rid of the bit with my gran though - for one she'd be really upset, and at the moment she's quite ill - and for another it adds a new dimension to what came before. It really makes it that bit more three dimensional - but I do think that the scene should come to an end, and I think I know what to do with it.

The other comment is that there's a bit of a problem with the voice-over on the 'drug smuggle' scenes. It's just not informative enough - meaning the scenes can easily be confused to a viewer who doesn't know the story. This is probably a common problem with all films, where you have been working on them for a long time - so you expect the audience to 'get it' like you do - but they don't because they haven't lived with it (or watched it) the same amount of times that you have. This is all curable with better written voice-over though. 80% of the voice-over at the moment is rough - recorded in one afternoon very quickly for editing purposes.

Then the last comment was Roxy's comment. She did say that she wasn't coming at it from any sort of filmmaking perspective and she 'really liked' the fast moving nature of it. Now earlier Joe and Jon were lobbying for the scenes to be a bit longer at the beginning and the end, so effectively being quite the opposite of Roxy's claims.

So my thoughts are that we really need to find a medium between the two. Attempt to keep the pace of it while adding a second or two onto the end of 'some' but not all the sequences - and a few also need to end.

But after the viewing I was very happy. The room was a very positive place to be in, and if there was any negativity it was just because everyone wanted it to be better than just 'brilliant'. And it certainly did generate some discussion on the feelings it evoked - which is amazing to say that everyone present has been with it for about 3 whole years! And I think it was a relief to everyone that the thing has actually come out pretty damn decent - even at the rough-cut stage. We had a couple of early screenings in Manchester early in 2002 where on the whole, people at the screenings (who we didn't know) were generally positive - but there was also those that really slated its shortcomings - it was way too long (which was the point at that stage) and it was shot very rough (which again was the point). I do think that a few of our team were more than a little disheartened by some of the flak its taken over the years - especially as it was some of the more unconstructive views on it circulating the public-domain. But now those feelings have been replaced by one that they've really taken part in something special.

Which I hope is a real two-fingers up to our detractors, and a big boost to those that have supported us (and who put there neck on the line at an early stage).

I now hope we can go on to do it justice and the project manages to find an audience.

On other things, this morning I woke up with a rather strange dark short film idea - well more than that, an entire script 'The Four Minute Itch'. I'd like to shoot this on film (it will only be about 4 minutes long, mostly silent with musical accompanyment). We can shoot non-sync and post-sync the small amount of dialogue - and get Simon to do foley work on it. We can use those recans in my parents garage at last, and either borrow my pal Dans Bolex and stick the stock on 100 foot reels or Paul can try and blag an ArriSR3 for a couple of days from one of the corporates he works on. The thing we'd need most is money for the telecine - and money for the effects. Hopefully Daz will work for expenses - and the cost of the materials for some blood and guts (yes, it's quite gorey). And it only involves 2 locations and 4 actors. Roxanne I've got in mind to play the main character (a girl who self-harms herself), I'd like James Foster (last seen in the other nights Ch4 drama Shameless - and also a star in Bad Lad) to play her boyfriend. I'd like Jonathan Williams to play the doctor, and Joe O' Byrne to play a Kilroy type character (but preferably in a grey wig!)

If anyone can help with this let us know. Four minutes - can be shot in a day or two - two locations - four actors - some gorey special effects. I can knock up a script very quickly, though at the moment I have the synopsis (which is pretty much fleshed out).
 

Comments

#2
It's Wednesday 22 January. I've just watched the first screening of the complete rough cut, and I'm suffused by the sort of warm rosy glow that usually only follows really good sex - or maybe even childbirth.

Throughout the whole process Bad Lad, and the experience of making it, has just got better and better. When we first started we had no money, but digital video was just looming over the horizon, and we thought that it would be the right blend of form and content to make something in the style of a video diary, so we started by shooting some diary-type scenes involving Barry and the crew. After that we shot some interviews in which we got various friends to role-play characters who were similar to themselves, but who had known our fictional bent businessman, Ray Topham. The results wildly exceeded our expectations. People who saw the interviews were convinced that they were real, and hence, by definition, the rest of it had to be as well. Many people thought we were mad and would probably end up in hospital - or worse.

But these 'interviews' set a standard that the principal cast were going to have to match. Suddenly it had all become much more serious; we found ourselves talking about it as a mock-documentary, and very soon the video diary scenes ended up on the cutting room floor (I am pretty sure though that some of them will still make it onto the DVD, but as 'extras', or 'deleted scenes'). However we still had people who, on watching bits of work-in-progress, and who were still probably swept along by the Blair Witch, believed that at least some of it had to be real. Sometimes this would get on my nerves. I'd be polite, even down to showing people that it was all in the script, but inside I'd be thinking, "It's a film for f*ck's sake! Why don't you appreciate it for what it is!" (whilst being secretly pleased that it already was that convincing). But the key is in that expression, "It's a film". And, 'inch by fucking inch' (to quote Oliver Stone) we've finally made it. All that's left is to give it a final polish and then to send our baby off out into the outside world and allow it to entertain as many people as possible.

Writers usually moan about what gets done to their work - and it is true that, in mainstream production, the writer ends up pretty low down the pecking order, whilst others are forever saying, "we can cut that", "that needs changing", or even worse, "we should get someone else in to re-write a lot of this". And there's nothing that the poor old writer can do about it as they've sold the script and it's the buyer's to do with what they like - which, in may cases may actually be a bloody good thing as far as entertaining audiences is concerned.

But if you're the writer and producer there's a very real possibility of serious conflict between yourself and the director. However this has never happened on Bad Lad. I think that there are two reasons for this. Firstly we were setting out to do something so new that I found out that I had to write it as a novel first - and that came out at eighty thousand words, which is far too long for a film. But it's the novel, and not the film, that's my own personal baby - and I'd sue anyone who tried to change a word of it without my permission! The script was a case of adaptation. Masses of back story had to be cut. But what was left was deliberately left long - the script being over 180 pages - with the aim of it being, as with a documentary, cut down to size in editing (now that's an idea, maybe we should ultimately post the novel and the original script on the website?).

But secondly, from the start, I had absolute total confidence in Michael's ability, as director and editor, to dig the film out of the story (gosh, this production really has been so free of ego problems) and I was right - but then again, I usually am.
 
#3
OK, first the bad news...THERE ISN'T ANY.

So let's get on with the good news then. What a film - it works on so many levels.

I read the script for this three years ago - I was hooked from the first page and plunged myself wholeheartedly into the project, it's been the most enjoyable shoot I've been on - and I've done a few - it's also the longest but there have been many (good) reasons for that.

It's a wild ride of a film into the heart of darkness of documentary film making, asking serious questions about sex, drugs, violence, the criminal underworld, censorship - and - most of all it asks the film makers within the film - HOW FAR ARE YOU PREPARED TO GO TO GET YOUR FILM FINISHED? You watch their journey from likeable naive crew to a bunch of individuals whose values and morals get dumped like so many empty film cans the more the film progresses - indeed do they become worse than the people they are filming? They certainly pay a price for the finished product.

It's a roller coaster ride. They encounter so many living vivid characters on their journey, characters that you actually start to like (all the while asking yourself - why? The answer bein a simple - they are real people - but wait a minute - who is real and who isn't?). There are scenes of violence, sex, drugs - yeah, but there are also some incredibly poingnant moments within it. It's at once hilarious and heart rending, you really feel for the victims within it - almost all the main characters are some kind of victim throughout, whether that's a victim of circumstances within the film or a victim of their own twisted take on the twisted world out there in every town.

From the moment the film starts you are grabbed, compelled to watch the slide toward the pit and the final inevitable fall into it - but at the end it dosn't let you go, it stays with you, and I guarantee it will demand repeated viewings - it will certainly give the critics plenty to write about and there's enough going on here to fill many Film School/University modules - it will be talked about for years - and it was made for next to nothing, the only cost being, talent, hardwork, diligence, creative team effort and a tank full of enthusiasm and belief in the project.

It's only a rough cut - theres a little work left to do (and I do mean a little), it's 97% there, just a little tinkering to do - well done to Michael Booth for his many sleepless nights assembling it.

I'll be making more comments on the edit and the film over the next few days - it's still sinking in, but WE HAVE GOT SOMETHING HERE - there is really nothing quite like it out there. It's been a fantastic time for me - thank you JON/MICHAEL for asking me and to everyone else involved, you are a great bunch and I'm sure I've made all you guys friends for life.

In China it's the year of the monkey - well in BLACKBURN and indie film making land 2004 is going to be the year of the BAD LAD.

Joe O'Byrne
 
#4
Well, it has been a long time in the making but it looks like we are finally done. I think we have come up with something splendid. Certainly better than any of the shit disguising itself as film on the domestic front at the moment. I'm not going to go over any of the ground that messers O'Byrne and Williams have, and whose beliefs I share, suffice to say that I think it's pretty fuckin good and I hope you all agree. Well, I'm not arsed actually about anyone elses opinions on it really, couldn't care less, but it does rock like the proverbial bastard.

Everybody did great, Birty
 

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