I'm dropping some new work, so get ready for another one my lengthy diatribes.
Let the games begin!
Every so often I get a loosely translated script or a board for a job in the Ukraine via my Eastern EU Rep. To be honest, most of them are usually very much in line with my so-called 'odd' sense of humour. So, when I open up the PDF and find myself reading a story about a Police chase with one officer refusing to let go of his wife's cherished wardrobe, which, in-turn, causes the robber to get away and reveal his wife's lover who ends up buying the damn thing ... I think one is compelled to say 'yes'. Right?
Welcome to the insanity that is: Market.kz - 'Chase!'
My gut reaction was many things ... night shoot, helicopter, 60 sec, but my biggest ache was how the hell was I going to do this board with only one shoot day? Everyone in the UK I showed the boards to thought I was nuts, and I honestly agreed with them. Clearly, you have to be a sucker for punishment if you want the impossible to be possible.
Sidebar: We wrapped as the final filter was pulled. Apparently, production had scheduled us for 3hrs after the fact, I'm still not entirely sure how that would've worked.
All of this reminds me of the balance of 'art and business' Charlie at Indy8 keeps talking about ... for some reason, I expect champagne, but at this moment have to make do with beer - watch out cause the scales are set to tip soon.
Back to the task at hand. It was going to be my the fourth treatment for this agency/client, I'd already won one and lost two ... so, I was pretty keen to translate this enthusiasm into a win. After a short, but fruitful conference call in Russian I was writing a treatment, but still confused by the agencies description of the 'Pom Trotter' character in the wardrobe - so, I used my best judgement.
A partial version of the 30-page treatment is below ... I've let you have some of the words this time. Click the image below to walk through the pages.
Even if the client and the agency made some changes to my direction [the things you agree to when you're moments away from confirming the job], I still had a lot of fun doing this document. In fact, I love doing treatments and want to keep getting better with them ... it's an evolution each and every time.
Anyway, long story short I got the gig The schedule was tight as I was finishing another project here in the UK and my time on the ground was limited. So, it was a pre-production of hundreds of emails and Skype calls - plenty gets lost in translation. I imagine it's a tough position, they want to do right by their director and, probably, more importantly, to their client ... regardless, the lovely ladies [Nataliya and Anastasia] at Toy Pictures fought the good fight.
Again with that balance mumbo jumbo.
Not sure how it's come about, but it's becoming more and more common to do storyboards before finding locations - it has to do with how quickly we're turning projects around these days. This, as you can imagine, is a double-edged sword ... on one side you get to draw your perfect ideal and let the location scout find it, on the other side they have to find it before there's any chance your happy. It get's stuck in your head and there's no looking back. I'd wager that I saw 75+ alley locations and amongst all that I needed to appease a client who had something different in their head - in the end, we nailed it.
If you're a regular reader [you two know who you are] then your probably pretty familiar with me flashing my perfectly executed storyboards. This is a dramatically reduced version - my original boards would've made a tidy 60sec.
Sidebar: I pre-sketch every frame for every job and these ones, in particular, were done the morning of a shoot at 3 am. Remember: Punishment + Sucker = Moi.
Anyway, I think it's a fascinating insight into, how not only I work, but also how closely it represents the final edit. Hitchcock was, and apparently, Spielberg is a madman when it comes to storyboarding ... I like to think I'm a little more open-minded, but with less than 12hrs of daylight, I needed to be specific.
With picture locked on my other job I jumped on a red-eye flight from London to Kiev and landed after a Rosh Hashana fuelled party at 36,000ft. Let's just say I wasn't the happiest of chaps as I tried to sleep on the plane. Oh and some girl vomited everywhere ... must've been that bottle of white wine I saw her swigging in the queue to board the plane.
The things you see while being severely sleep deprived at Boryspil International Airport. There was a brief moment when I thought it was 'Vandelay Industries' à la Seinfeld ... oh so close.
The following days were literally a whirlwind of 'on the ground' Pre-Production. It was moving fast, but as always we got it done ... we always do. I think that's one thing I love about the industry. The speed and last-minute way we work begs for decisions to be made and, most importantly, you need to own them whether they're right or wrong. Plus, Director's can always change their mind.
Sidebar: the location was agreed without question, noyce ... oddly it was behind the old Soviet-era Cinema Building. No one could explain more than that, but like most trivial things I found it interesting ... the mystery will live on.
After getting lost, walking down some laneway to an unmarked door [seems many of the good things are hidden in Kiev] we found ourselves eating some incredible Ramen [see photos] ... Grits, the 1st AD, downed a Carolina Reaper Hot Shot. He looked as white as a ghost for a brief moment; until the sweats kicked in. WTF?
With Ramen swashing in our bellies were finished and ready for shooting the next day ... well, at least I was after a massage in the hotel spa.
Enough with the words, take a moment to check out the iPhone photos below. These are the highlights, but they wouldn't be complete without a few extra location pics, my Borjomi sparkling water from Georgia, Kocatka [my favourite watering hole/casual dining location with the DP] and of course my mind-blowing green beer, green borscht and cabbage rolls courtesy of Kanapa. Mom, you need to lift your game.
P.S. I snapped several rolls of Fuji 250D 35mm film on my Nikon and will be uploading them once I get them back from the lab!
... AND CUT!
So, what's all the fuss about? The Borjomi? Yes, but more importantly this 30 secs of love.
Director's cut in Cinemascope and subtitled for your viewing pleasure.
With 6,484,550 views on YouTube and counting, my best guess is it's quite funny in Russian or at least someone in a click farm thinks it is. Maybe my joke of doing a rip-off of 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' isn't such a bad idea after all ... 'KZ Nine-Nine' does have a nice to ring to it.
Two final points before I do the 'thank yous'.
Cast - this is a serious sticking point it seems in Kazakhstan. Whatever the politics are the choices for all the cast that was eventually agreed upon were fantastic. I'm going to fly my own flag for a second and say from the moment I saw each of their casting pics, even though the briefs swung dramatically throughout pre-prod, I knew there was something to each of them - I could feel it my loins. Big kudos to the boys who stepped up as Dimitry and Rival ... you guys were a blast.
Edit. In my two experiences in Kiev, it seems commonplace to edit the day immediately after the shoot regardless of what time you wrapped, and generally, you have hours, not days. You do manage a rough assemble on set in FCP 7 [the dream of the early 2000's is alive]. But, the next afternoon I had about 4 hrs with the speed machine known as Euri [see the back of his head in the photos above]. He had the latest MBP laptop a massive TV and FCPx. I've never had anyone cut for me in FCPx and let's just say I was seriously impressed. Euri knew his shit, and knew how to use FCPx to smoke through an edit while still giving it the time it needed. I was left speechless and ask him to come over to the UK.
Anyway, as always it was a blast - great crew, great cast and unbelievably good food. Thanks again Market, Shots and Toy Pictures - see you on the next one I imagine.