Flinging Spaghetti at a Wall – Long Arm’s second feature film commences (and is then stopped)

And so the High Tide shoot slips into memory and has assumed the tinted hues of an old photograph (or other equally cliched image of your choice). Those three weeks buried in the wilds of South Wales finally making the film we’d spent a year developing now seem as unreal as the hot sunshine that blasted us upon the dunes that fringe Port Eynon beach. Were we actually there? Did we eat steak upon the veranda of our beautiful house the night before filming commenced? Did Jimmy really spend considerable amounts of time spreading suncream over the face of television’s Melanie Walters? Did the magnificent Sam Green and the Midnight Heist pitch up in the garden and play a wonderful, joy-fostering set as the cameras rolled?

It is a marvellous thing to be able to answer yes to all of these questions. It did happen. We were there. We have the photos to prove it. And more than this, we have nearly a terabyte of high-definition footage stored on various hard-disks around the country and from which Dan the Editor has begun the process of carving out the film that you will hopefully see some time next year with all the dexterity of a chipper Michelangelo chiseling away at a block of marble until the figure of David is revealed. Except that our film is made of zeros and ones. And has a smaller willy. Actually, that is a terrible analogy. Apologies.

So yes, the edit is underway in a top secret location somewhere at the smart end of Swansea. (And before you ask, Swansea does have a smart end. It even has a Vietnamese takeaway – I recommend the Phan Thiet; it tastes like the best cuddle you ever had with your sauciest lover). Dan and Jimmy reported in a couple of days ago and apparently all is going well. Plus, our composer Matt Harding has been hard at work and his music is going to make you very pleased with our decision to hire him.

However, tales of progress in an edit suite do not make for the raciest of blog entries, particularly when I can’t actually show you anything to prove that I am not fostering an elaborate deception to cover for the fact that I dropped down the Canon C300 down the loo midway through the shoot and we are having to painstakingly DRAW ten hours of lost footage and then animate it by binding each shaky frame into a flick-book like the one you made at school of a man showing his bum sketched along the bottom (pun alarm activated) edge of Physics textbook (called Show us your Particles – GCSE intermediate edition) and then film it all with my iphone and  hope nobody notices when we project it onto a MASSIVE screen next year whilst dressed in dinner suits (Jimmy) and a rather nice dress from Monsoon (me).

And so let me change tack somewhat (to use an unexpected sailing metaphor). One of the lessons that we learnt during the High Tide shoot is that being a filmmaker is a lot more fun that not being a filmmaker. And so it is time to think about making more films in the hope that we can avoid not being filmmakers for as long as possible. It has been over a year since we decided that the High Tide script was finished and now my fingers are getting itchy. I want to write something new. I hanker for that devilish mix of excitement and fear that comes with committing something fresh to paper. It’s like popping the foil on a new jar of instant coffee, or running like a wonky yeti into a skein of virgin snow (which may be the most absurd sentence I have written for some considerable time). I want to write “1. Int. Sally’s Haberdashery. Night” and thusly begin the screenplay for Long Arm’s second feature film which, it would seem, opens with a wild and somewhat dangerous sex scene amongst the reels, patches and thimbles of Sally’s Haberdashery (which is probably in Swansea, next to the Vietnamese). And herein lies the problem.

There is an inherent joy in writing something, anything, and as such it is a far more compelling prospect that wrangling with the twin bastards of plot and character. Can’t I just start typing and see what happens? I love dialogue. I love the sound of it. I love the metre, the timbre, the satisfying pop as words are hit back and forth over the verbal net. I love stichomythia and not just because I am unpleasantly smug that I know what it means, but I love it in practice. I could go on. And I do. I do go on, as regular readers of this blog are all too aware. But, thankfully, Long Arm Films is a partnership and I have James Michael Hay to punish me for indulgence and for using words like stichomythia. In fact, here is a text that he sent me this morning (and of course I would not normally share his private words to me – they are usually too full of filth for a family audience but I think this one time he will forgive me). We were discussing the relative merits of scripts dominated by dialogue and I’d made a tiresome and entirely predictable point about Aaron Sorkin. Jimmy riposted:

But even Sorkin gets it wrong. The Newsroom is, by all accounts, flabby and self-indulgent. And you can only have a dialogue-heavy script if the actors are good enough, and if the tone of the film requires it. She’s right when she says that film is a visual medium first and foremost. Writing the dialogue afterwords seems like quite a practical way of approaching a script as a rule of thumb, because dialogue is hard to get right for many writers. Long Arm Films is lucky we have you, who can write dialogue. But that doesn’t mean that our films should always be filled with it.

The “she” he refers to is Lucy V Hay (no relation, I assume) who runs the essential Bang2Write website and script-reading service and is in the habit of being frequently CORRECT about this often-ridiculous business of writing for a living. (She’s also a bit rude and occasionally somewhat smutty which only makes her yet more endearing). In this article published on the website of the upcoming London Screenwriters Festival Lucy V makes the case for leaving the writing of dialogue to last phases of the drafting process (although she does so without the clumsy syntax of that last sentence). This makes a massive amount of sense; without structure, without defined and evolving characters, a screenplay is just a big bag of words, rattling around like farts in a sleeping bag; it is the equivalent of our wonderful friend Mark drunkenly throwing spaghetti at the kitchen wall of our house in Shepherd’s Bush all of those years ago: a mess, perhaps a beautiful mess, eccentric and beguiling, but still a mess and one that you have to clear up the next morning. With a skull-cleaving headache.

And what’s more, Jimmy agrees. And thus the lyrical to-and-fro of sexy-cotton-talk beneath the counter of Sally’s Haberdashery that was to be the first scene of our almost-certainly Oscar-troubling second feature film will have to be locked in a drawer whilst we get on with working out our plot, which will be a challenging, fraught and often depressingly tricky process.

But one that is absolutely essential.

By happy coindence it is Mark’s birthday tomorrow. He’s going for a drink in town. I can’t make it sadly. But you should go along. Tell him you’re with Jim and give him a kiss from me.

And on the Long Arm jukebox this week, the return of the sublime Arcade Fire. I love them. I love them so very much. This is immense:


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