Paul Hills’ weekly post production blog
Weekly Blog 27 (Friday May 9th)
Straight after the screening last week, Jonnie left for France. We have been communicating every day since and he is still working hard on the film.
At the end of last week, during our fourth thorough pass on the film together (Caroline has done 3 on her own), we reduced it over three days to 109 minutes, then 106 then finally 105 minutes without titles. We concentrated on the beginning taking 4 minutes alone out of the first 25. We also reduced the wine scene, my favourite scene, which hurt but was an unfortunately necessity. The scene is a wonderful but needed to be reduced for overall pace.
This week we did three mini test screenings to people whose opinion I trust. A memorable one was for Oscar Salgado, a Spanish poet and cineaste. He really loved the film, laughed and cried in succession and understood it completely! He absolutely adored the tripping scene as well as the first meeting between Malika and Callum like many others have this week. Similar to David Gamble, his comments were small but incredibly astute. We implemented them immediately. After getting home he texted me to say “On the bicycle the full blow hit me; you’ve made a spiritual film and not only that, I believe it is a profoundly Buddhist film. Its title is a manifestation of a beautiful koan. Jodorowsky and Tarkovsky would be proud of you!” Later he texted again to praise the shot that had made Grace gasp, which he loved. the zoom into the wood as Callum and Malika approach it and the Sark phone improvisations. What a great response? You couldn’t hope for better! Tarkovsky being proud, of course, I can only dream of!!!!!!!!!
A koan, I learnt later, is a phase passed from master to teacher to short-circuit rational thought. For instance “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” The fact Oscar understood the spiritual dimension in the film is very affirming. I’ve always wanted to make a film with that vein but to find the subject matter to do it has been hard. Not that my previous films have been totally devoid of spirituality! Apart from endless water imagery, it’s no coincidence that in “The Poet”, Andrey hears the church bells before he dies, that Phil sits by a lake with a dead fish in “Boston Kickout” or that when James in “The Frontline” is at his lowest ebb he meets the old woman, a voice of cynicism, framed in huge wide shot under an enormous neon cross.
Later I thought of the demographic that liked the film and indeed of the 5 out of the 36 people so far who didn’t care for it much. All were men but of vastly differing ages and tastes. I do not really know what commonality they shared that informed their opinion. We tried to make the questionnaire tell us about the people as well as the film but did we miss out the questions “Do you believe in God?” or “Do you think of about the purpose of Life?”
Along with the other mini-screenings we amassed an 80% like rating, up from last week. A substantial majority also thought the length perfect now also. The guinea pigs were all male, that was who I wanted to target. 60% loved it and no-one disliked it, although Chris Auty, a dear friend, loved Malika at the beginning but hated her by the end. Apparently she reminded him of a French girlfriend he’d had, who had consumed too many philosophical or esoteric tracts and never wanted to sleep with him!
Now we have started fine cutting the film. I hope for picture lock on Monday as the time I am away will be much needed by Axle, who I met on Thursday. This week, thus, may have been my final full week going to Elephant and Castle. The only thing I won’t miss is the dippers! So far on the bus trip to the tube station, I have now been pick-pocketed three times. It takes a usual form; the bus is packed, some black guy lurches into me and slips his hand in my pocket or unzips my bag. I have lost in past months, a wallet, a phone, an oyster card and many receipts (what they do with those I don’t know). Last week I caught a guy brazenly with his hand deep in my pocket. I looked straight into his misty crack filled gaze and said “Not this time!” He winked at me, left the bus and crossed to the other side of the street’s bus stop so he could get the same bus straight back down the other side of the New Kent Road, his zone of operation.
I have so many things that have been piling up over the last few months that need to be addressed before Cannes but I barely have the time to do them. I need to clone myself into four. On top of that, HM customs and thieves still haven’t given us a registration number after me providing yet more information!
One worry that may be solved tomorrow is music licenses. Hopefully Samantha Crompton, the music supervisor, will turn up in the cutting room. I have been waiting for her for two months now and thus I don’t even know who has written the songs I am using!