I tried to make a music video for Martin Carr but cocked it up.
The brilliant Martin Carr had written a barmy track for the credits of Falcon of Fury and then scored Appearance. I wanted to return the favour, so I offered him a music video. The problem was, we were just communicating by email and his perfectly good idea for the video soon became swamped by my own odd obsessions.
1. It had to be one-shot video – no cuts at all
I planned out the route for the film, then shot a dummy run so Graham would know where every effect would be placed. We shot it, very early one morning, take-after-take, exhausting DoP Carl Shanahan and actors Oli Bateman, Shane Brooks, and Penny Froggatt in the process. We continued until the increasingly nosy public kept blocking the route, with Moose Allain, Alan Craig, Jeremy Marshall, Matt Jones and Tom Stanier bravely ignoring the inquisitive onlookers.
The workload for Graham soon became overwhelming. Every email he received from me must have been greeted with a sense of foreboding – essentially, I kept asking for extra unplanned FX or changes. Admirably, he didn’t tell me to f**k off. But he had every right to.
So in the months after the shoot, Graham kept working while I failed to communicate properly with Martin. Seemingly out-of-the-blue, Martin sent an email, saying he didn’t want the music video. It was too dark and didn’t suit the track.
I was furious. It was looking amazing. Surely there was nothing wrong with it? The problem was, of course, that Martin was absolutely right.
But how would Graham react? Thankfully, Graham is a far calmer and nicer person than me. He immediately said that Martin was indeed right – after all, the video was meant for him and well, not us. So my fury was soon replaced by guilt – guilt that I’d let down both Martin and Graham. Plus, I now had a redundant music video, which I now decided I hated. Martin and me both decided that email alone is not always the best way to communicate – a chat in a pub may well have resolved differing visions and intentions before shooting started.
By now, I was fully immersed in the pre-production on Lot 13. After the shoot finished, I despondently explained the situation to David Quantick, worrying that all the work on the music video was wasted. I could have (and should have) hugged David at this point. He’s got an objective brain, and created a structured and surreal solution: turn it into a short film – he would record a voice over and Graham could add some text, creating a bizarre guide to a fictional town. Jeremy Marshall would create a logo for ‘Oxmouth Town Council’. Welcome to Oxmouth was born.
So, in the months that followed, David wrote and recorded a voice over in a cupboard in Baltimore (in between filming Veep) and Graham added flashing text boxes and still graciously responded to my frequent requests for ‘really quite complicated stuff’. My obsession with a single shot meant that the workload for Graham was exponentially more difficult, as everything needed tracking and stabilising before the effects could even be applied.
Martin, being the lovely chap he is, offered to score the film and created a perfect fit – weirdly skewed and contemplative. The themes of corporate power and the banking crisis came to the fore. I ended up loving the film, and unusually, not actually caring what anyone else thought of it. It felt unique, dark and surreal. I chose a date to release it on the internet, intrigued by the reaction it would get, but by no means thinking it would be popular or appropriate for festivals.
Film festivals are funny things. Most of the important ones cost to enter, and it’s still a gamble as to whether or not you will be accepted. They are time consuming too, often utilising horrendously unintuitive websites to add masses of information, photos and various versions of your films. However, scrolling through Twitter one evening, I saw a ‘last call’ for a festival entry called Radical Democracy, part of the Planete+ Doc festival. Never heard of it. Supported by the BFI, something to do with European identity.
I read on. The ‘Failection’ category seemed right for Oxmouth, but would probably incur a cost and be generally quite boring to fill out the details. I had a quick peek at the online submission form and changed my mind. No charge. Paste in the video URL. Email address. That was about it. Took two minutes. And I forgot I entered…..
….until I had an email, stating Oxmouth was one of thirty finalists in the competition and a week later, another one confirming I had won a ‘Challenge Award‘. An actual cash prize as well, meaning that ironically, I can now afford to submit Oxmouth and Lot 13 into a few more festivals. Lessons learned:
- If you’re making a film for someone else, meet them in person and listen to them properly
- If everything goes wrong with a project, get someone else to assess it, don’t be precious about it and find a way through
- Submit films to festivals that don’t charge – they may be as equally valid as the traditional ‘prestige’ ones
NB. Rather fittingly for this devilishly difficult film, my passport had expired – I didn’t have the time to get a renewal and attend the expenses paid trip to Poland to accept the award. My two friends and fellow Meat Bingoers Alan Craig and Matt Jones stepped in and attended for me, made some great contacts and drank vodka on my behalf. Here they are, kneeling somewhat awkwardly after accepting the award.