July 11, 2017 at 12:57AM, Edited July 11, 1:11AM
Experience of working on a dubious production
This is a story about me working on a dubious production. The definition of "dubious" will be explained by the following.
After I quit my job I was working as a freelance screenwriter and production assistant. One day I applied to a production that was looking for assistant to director, but that was the point when I went through some scary moment.
I met the assistant director and a guy whom I assumed to be PA one week before the shooting, which was schedule tight. The meeting was fine, I got the script and shooting schedule, but quickly realised that there wasn't much money. The guy I assumed to be PA was actually the sound guy, and I knew that everyone had to take on more than one role: because we didn't have money.
Dubious #1: So where is the money?
I kept telling you that there wasn't enough money, so you must wonder how much the budget was. The next day of the meeting I finally met the director, who was a dermatology doctor and wrote and financed the script. Okay. I asked how long the film was gonna last, he told me 20-30 minutes. "How much money would you spend then?" I asked. "3200 dollars (100,000 NTD)."
The production included 4 different scenes; one of them wasn't even in the city and the crew had to take an one-hour bus to arrive. There were about 23 people on set. And this doctor told me he would only spend 3200 dollars in sum. "And the crew had maximized the budget, we can't spend more." He said.
I asked what about food catering, water, some basic tools (tape, battery, clean cloth, etc.), and more, like garbage cleaning and post-production. The director could answer NONE of these questions. He simply said, "let's just get through the shooting first!"
Ever heard about crowd-funding?
I remember it was two days after my first meeting when the director called me on my mobile and asked me to handle the finance. In short, he wanted me to ask money from companies and foundations and funded us. His reason was simple: the screenplay was heavily related to social issues and these foundations, so they should pluck out their money and fund us.
By far that was the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard. I'm not opposed to crowd-funding, but that would require a complete and thorough plan, not simply a phone call. Crowd-funding is definitely nothing like sitting aside the street and begged for money. It's just sad and unbelievable that someone thinks just because it's indie film then it deserves the world to give him/her money. Besides, if the director couldn't even answer my questions such as "why should they pluck out their money" or "what kind of feedback could this film give them", I didn't think it is worth the effort.
One more thing: though I was astounded to hear about the director's stupid idea, I politely asked the targeted amount of money. He told me
5000 dollars (150,000 NTD) would be ideal. Again, he didn't specify when he wanted the money arrive, but simply "let's get through the shooting first" and "I'll discuss this with you after the shooting."
Hell, I ain't stayin' for post-production! That wasn't the deal!
The shock of crowd-funding, or a.k.a beg for money, did not end. The director hit me with another surprising question, "did you find anything dubious when reading the script?"
"You. You are dubious." I was thinking. But instead I got to ask him if anybody aside from the crew had ever read the script, or helped to edit, or given any advice.
No. The script stayed virgin ever since it was finished. No pro or amateur has tainted the sacred script.
"Why?" I asked.
"It was to protect my privacy and intellectual property. This film is going to a film contest and I don't want someone leak it."
Even the great Ang Lee or Steven Spielberg wouldn't say nor do this. A script requires careful and time-consuming edit. It's a craft that asks for hard-work, not privacy or intellectual beauty. Sure, I understand his concern, but this script was demanding his 3200 dollars and a bunch of low-paid crew, shouldn't he respect the craft a bit more?
The shooting is about to begin. I look forward to the production and hope for the best.