Archive for May, 2009

One hour of presentation; $500k to raise – simple. Yes, tonight we go to the private equity investors, for a night of razzle-dazzle and entertainment. The champenoise is chilled, the artwork done, the venue sorted, the powerpoint prepared, the invites issued.

It’s not the most auspicious time to be raising money, as many people have told us. But why do things the easy way? Nothing about this project has been easy, but it’s still alive after seven years. I’m a great believer in pursuing the impossible. It’s worked for me in the past.
And this is a film about madness – what could be more mad than wanting to make an international feature about a Ponsonby psych patient?
In case anyone missed it, 6.00pm tonight (Thursday 14th) at Ponsonby Baptist Church Hall, 43 Jervois Rd, Ponsonby. All welcome.

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By all accounts the meeting between Gillies and the NZ Film Commission went well last night. There are no reports of fisticuffs or injuries. This is a positive step toward the relationship building and mutual trust necessary to working together. One more small but significant step in the long march.

And the other bit of good news is that we now have confirmation from our four lead cast of their availability for a November shoot. It’s always a bit of a lottery as to whether their schedules will fit with our dates, so this is a bit of a boost. Of course it only applies right now, and everything subject to the wheeling-dealing which is yet to come. But you have to celebrate each little bit of progress.
Meanwhile, it’s head down bum up for me getting ready for the public meeting about the film which will take place on Thursday. We’re looking for two things from this – some people to come on as equity investors, but also building a sense of community support for the project.

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Spare a thought for the upcoming meeting between director Gillies Mackinnon and CEO of the NZ Film Commission in London. The main agenda is for Graeme Mason (NZFC) to get some idea of Gillies’ commitment to the project and take on the material – how he plans to work with it.

Gillies, being Glaswegian, is not a man to mince words. I suspect he’ll have his own agenda, which will be to ask why a NZ film is not getting more support from NZ! And it is true that most of the action and commitment has come from people in the UK.
So the potential for meeting to become ‘interesting’ shall we say, is strong. And yet it represents that difficult interface which is a part of most indie films – the encounter between the artistic and the commercial. It’s an uneasy alliance, and yet both parties are necessary to the success of a film.
Just one more set of rocks to be avoided as we navigate our way into the harbour… The meeting BTW, is for 9.30am Monday UK time (8.30pm NZ).

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Plenty of back and forth at the moment as the pre-Cannes period hots up. More of the good old chicken and egg stuff, with all parties wanting to know what everyone else is doing before they commit.

We’re busy checking availability of principal cast. We have letters of intent from them all, subject to the usual budget and schedule considerations. Funders want us to lock the cast before they go further. But of course we can’t lock the cast until we’re sure what our budget is going to be.
And every time someone else reads the script, they have another set of ideas. As a writer as well as a producer, I end up in my besetting bad habit of seeing the merit of these entirely contradictory notes. The story is either too big or too small, too spiritual or not magic enough, too tragic or too humorous. And yet the writer (in conjunction with the creative team) holds responsibility for hanging on to the vision which inspired it all.
Kind of like trying to keep clean in a sewage pond. Not that I’m complaining. It’s just the real life nitty-gritty of getting a film up. Bring it on.

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Mad As

Currently completing an application form for a small amount of funding from a trust which dispenses money for mental health projects. And yesterday I began discussions with a national organisation which helps to destigmatise mental illness.

The Insatiable Moon is a story, not a ‘message’ film, thank God. But it is set in the context of the attempt to integrate psychiatric patients into the community – a situation which is common to the whole of the Western world. The hero of our story is, after all, classified as a psychiatric patient.
I’ve been fascinated by ‘madness’ ever since I worked among the psychiatric community back in the 80s. I was intrigued by the spirituality of the people, the directness of conversation which transgressed notions of ‘politeness’, and the mutual nurturing that went on among survivors. To be honest, I also enjoyed what is commonly labelled as madness. It has a fascination and aliveness about it.
Director Akira Kurosawa has said “In a mad world, only the mad are sane”. If ever there was a mad world, it is the one we have inherited. Moon explores this territory where notions of sanity are inverted.

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We’re hovering on the edge of a breakthrough in getting the film financed. Last week Screen West Midlands firmed up their commitment and increased it significantly – of course conditional on the rest of the finance coming together. And they’re helping to secure a sales agent, who will not only represent the film but give us sales estimates which are required by our potential finance partners.

Meanwhile the NZ Film Commission is considering whether their sales arm might wish to represent the film – should hear back about this today. Of course things get busy around this time of the year, with Cannes about to start in little less than a week.
One of the UK producers will be heading over to Cannes to represent the film there. I’ll be in Europe during the festival, but after last year’s time in Cannes, couldn’t face it again this year. Meanwhile, the paper war continues…

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The tasks of a writer/producer are many and varied. I started the week doing some rewrites on one character in Moon. Then moved on to discussions over another (UK) project called American Direct which I am co-writing. In the process helped to prepare a two-page pitch for it.

Meanwhile preparation for the public meeting about Moon (14 May) continues. I’ve been designing artwork and getting it off to the printer in readiness for the night. I’ve also been editing up a showreel of director Gillies Mackinnon’s work to show to the punters.
In the midst of all that there have been continuing negotiations with the NZ Film Commission on various aspects of the project – I managed to tee up a meeting between the new CEO Graeme Mason and our director when Graeme is in London in the next week. And then there’s the massive task of assembling documentation. This week it has been doing chain of title and assembling letters of intent from key cast.
No time for slacking off as the push towards November continues…

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