Creating the audiobook for The Peppered Moth was complicated by the need for secrecy (my wife disapproves of the book) but also by the fact that it was a steep technical learning curve.
Initially I receieved a 'thumbs up' from Audible when I sent a sample of the sound quality achieved by using my fairly primitive equipment but a great deal of time passed between this 'thumbs up' and my completion of the recording. And when I delivered the four-hour long audiobook a message came back from Audible declaring that the recording had failed. By this point I had lost any record of the 'thumbs up' and have since come to think that I may have dreamed it (it does, in the light of subsequent events, seem like an unlikely thing for Audible to have sent me). The list of things that were wrong with the recording was extensive and contained entire sentences where barely a single word meant anything to me at all.
A normal person would have given up at this point - but I am on a mission to complete my targets for the year and nothing will get in my way. I decided on a two pronged attack. I wrote a message to the e-mail address given under 'help' and I also joined a message board where people struggling to complete audiobooks post requests for technical advice and other audiobook makers and technical geeks give their opinions on how to solve problems. I started several new topics on the boards.
I had assumed that the message to the help centre would be fruitless and would probably result in an incoherent reply designed to push me over the edge into abandoning the project. After all it was likely to come from an overworked geek with a fantastic knowledge of the world of recorded sound and very limited communication skills. Meanwhile over at the message boards things got off to a very bad start. People began spouting technical jargon that did not even seem to have any relevance to the questions I had posted and one highly-strung nerd seemed to take it personally that Audible had sent me a cruelly dishonest 'thumbs up' and sounded like he was getting tooled up and ready to go out and kill whoever was responsible.
Then I got an e-mail from John Grant. John Grant was replying to my e-mail request to Audible and I quickly realised that I had struck gold. It might well be that John Grant is not a real person. More likely he is a team of people with a variety of skills, who use 'John Grant' as a sort of Avatar when dealing with authors. Whatever the reality, John Grant, I quickly surmised, was an audio-recording guru who combined technical mastery with patience and clear communication skills - a previously unecncountered combination of virtues. He even possessed a level of empathy that enabled him to imagine what it must be like for me, the embattled author, faced with this sheer rock face of apparently insurmountable challenges.
John Grant was almost certainly seated at a series of control panels that looked a bit like the bridge of the Star Ship Enterprise but he understood that I was seated in a kitchen looking at a laptop. One of the things that had nearly defeated me was that I was being told that my recording was not loud enough but that I needed to reduce the levels. This objection made me wonder if I was not perhaps simply dealing with a nest of sadistic nerds who liked to torture creative types.
John could see that things were bad but he assured me that the sitution was not hopeless. The issue of the levels was explained to me in layman's terms and I made the adjustments. This gave me so much satisfaction that for the rest of the day I swaggered about and even talked of doing complex DIY jobs about the house that I had previously assumed were beyone my skills range. At each stage John Grant invited me to send in samples of my adjusted recording and even though a week often passed before I receieved my reply, he always came back eventually and confirmed that progress was being made. Needless to say the process involved re-recording large swathes of the book but I enjoyed doing this as it gave me a chance to improve the quality of the performance - although the difficulty of only being able to do these recordings in my wife's absence naturally added considerably to the slowness of progress. Eventually John Grant suggested I submit the audiobook again and while I was abroad in Malaysia I recieved an e mail confirming that the recording had been rejected again.
However I did not crumple up on my sun lounger like a relaxed oyster suddenly squirted with lemon juice. The reasons for the rejection were, for a technical wiz like me, mere child's play, and on my return I was able to make the final adjustments and submit the project again.
The final 'thumbs up' confirming that the project had been accepted and was now on sale did still come as something as a shock. Part of me had wondered if there was not still a sadist of sorts working behind the scenes, but no. John Grant and I had done it.
I am excited to say that not only is The Peppered Moth audiobook now available on Audible but it is actually selling - which means up and down the land people are listening to a truly outrageous and daring piece of satire of which I am inordinately proud. If you would like to check it out here's the button:
I've always been one of those irritating people who does not need to worry about my weight. I come from a family amongst whom you will struggle to find a single person who causes a Fiat Uno to lurch wildly to one side when they get in it. We're not rake thin, and In middle age the men of the family develop small beer paunches - you can't really call them bellies - but weight just isn't really an issue.
And of course I have always been amongst the self-satisfied who secretly believe that fat people are just people of little will power, persons with too few real interests who have, like pigs, elected to make food their god.
But recently I decided that I could do with losing half a stone. I have suffered from sciatica for more years than I want to even think about and I have inherited my father's high colesterol, which in him has led to two heart bipasses. I do not want any medical incursions being launched into my chest cavity and I also figued losing some weight might take the pressure off the oh so sensitive nerve that is constantly demanding all my attention. I read somewhere that the positive effects of weight loss on back pain can be quite startlingly positive.
I decided to cut out chocolate and tea-time cakes. I would also start making a huge effort to ensure that my meals were low in fat and I would eliminate butter from my life altogether.
At first it was easy. Life can be tedious and repetitive and it was stimulating and exciting to be living in a different way - passing, as it were, through the familiar scenes of my life but as a new sort of creature. There was a huge novelty factor at play. What is more the weight did start to drop off. Within a month I had lost the half stone - I was amazed by this and gave myself a huge pat on the back for my incredible will power.
The problems began to emerge after that first month was over. What had been a novelty now became a strain. The reason was I had discovered something that I had never been on even the most casual footing with before: Hunger.
In the cosseted West we do not really know about hunger. When someone in the West says they are 'starving' what they mean is they havent eaten anything since they had three Hobnobs an hour and a half ago. On my diet I had discovered not only hunger but the miracle of just how delicious food is. I've never been a foodie and I actually hate going to restaurants (Why are the staff called 'waiters' when it is the customers who sit about endlessly waiting?)
On my diet I became a person who really enjoyed his food. I looked forward to lunch and supper like a starving dog and felt waves of profound pleasure wash over me as I stuffed food into my mouth. At first I thought I had discovered a profound new pleasure in life but what I had really done was awaken a beast.
Inside all of us is a primitive animal, Homo Sapiens, which is, in the normal course of 21st Century events, relatively docile and content. Go on a diet, however, and you awaken it with a shake of the shoulder and whisper in the ear: "Hey, beasty, the famine times are here." The beast, now awakened, takes over our senses and starts being on the alert for food.
And food, in the West, is everywhere. It's in shops and petrol stations and museums and railway stations. What is more, the closer you get to a till, the more fatty and sweet the foods being offered to you get, until, as you arrive at the till at a WH Smith's on Waterloo Station, you are offered massive chocolate bars for £1 and are actually verbally encouraged to buy them.
Food is particularly available in my house where we have two small children who have no interest in food at all. I have seen houses where the children are greedy and the sweets and biscuits have to be kept hidden. In our house all these things, and much much more, are readilly to hand. What is more most meals that we cook for them are almost entirely ignored by the children. It is hard, when the beast is awake, to throw away a a crispy bacon sandwich, dripping with butter. I realised I had a problem when, one evening, we offered both the children a Cornetto ice cream. They both asked for chocolate flavour and I discovered there was only one chocolate and one strawberry. Being monstrously spoilt they both started crying their heads off and demanding that they be given the chocolate one. Like King Solomon I threatened to cleave it down the middle and give half each - a solution which, to my surprise, they accepted. By this point I had unwrapped the stawberry Cornetto - but ice cream is on my list of things I can't eat under my diet.
So what did I do? Well it wasnt me, it was the awakened beast, wasn't it? It just rammed it into my face. I felt the awful sting of shame as I gobbled it down like Anthony Hopkins pretending to eat fava beans. What a despicable creature I had become. And the awful thing is that, even though I decided then and there to stop being on this diet, I have now permanently joined the ranks of those that I used to despise: the greedy, the gluttenous, the unable-to-control-my-hand-and-mouth in the face of a cream cake.
And as you ask - no the sciatica has not improved and my cholesterol is 'above average'.
In a short while I will be a fatty - and all because of a diet. But I am a better person. When I look at a fat person now I realise that what I am looking at is a person who is at their 'food everywhere weight'. Take this person back to the lands of his or her ancestors and they would probably be a lithe, active and useful memeber of the tribe. In fact it has now been proved that many people who suffer from obesity have the genetic makeup that predisposes them to this condition. And while I accept that, starve such a person properly and the weight will fall off, you can not blame the person for their condition - it is the beast inside them that is doing most of the eating.
So if you really want to lose weight do not, under any circumstances go on a diet. The good news is that I know the secret of losing weight and I am happy to give it to you for free in return for checking out the Audiobook version of The Peppered Moth here:
Here it is: The Food Nowhere Diet
Fly to a country where there is very little food, then throw away your credit cards and passport and join the local economy.
As you probably know by now targets and plans are essential if you wish to achieve success.
So at the beginning of the year I set down a glorified 'to do' list and the two biggest items on it were 'finish second novel' and 'create audiobook for The Peppered Moth' (my first novel).
The reason I must create the audiobook is because audiobooks, apparently, are a very fast growing market. People listen to audiobooks in their cars, while jogging, while pretending to work etc. and if you have written anything even resembling a book you'd be a fool not to get in on this action.
I got off to an excellent start when I successfully downloaded a piece of software called Audacity. This means I can record my audiobook at home, on my laptop. I dont even have a special microphone but I was able to send a test of the recording quality and the word came back from somebody somewhere that it was fine. I was also advised to find a room with good sound insulation, close the curtains and, if necessary, record while sitting on the bed under a blanket.
I quite liked the idea of doing this - it would take me back to the days at boarding school when I lay under my blankets with a torch, reading after lights out, but I saw problems as well. Under a blanket I am likely to overheat and I really wasn't sure how you are meant to keep completely silent when turning the pages of a book without creating distracting rustling sounds from the blanket (and indeed the pages).
In the end I found that my wife's study was perfect as it has heavy curtains and nice non-echoing ambience. When she went off for a couple of days with the children I managed to record the entire four hour book and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, in fact by the end I was wondering why I am not regularly hired to narrate important BBC documentaries - something which I expect will start happening very soon once the world wakes up to what a wonderful reading voice I have.
However when she got back things got tricky.
Yes I had recorded the whole book but I now needed to edit it. It is extremely difficult to record flawlessly. My reading was pretty fluent, if I do say so myself, but I found it impossible not to occasionally make noises such as the aforementioned page turning sounds, knocking the coffee cup, small strange sounds emitted by my stomach etc. In some sections an infuriating clicking or rustling sound of no known origin was ruining large swathes of the recording. There were also lengths of silence where I spent too long pausing to collect my thoughts or turn a page.
I was now committed to recording in my wife's study, in order to achieve a consistency in sound quality, but now that she was back I had very few opportunities to do this. When she is working she is in there, and when she isn't working she doesn't just announce that I am free to use her study to enjoy the sound of my own mellifluous tones while she looks after the kids. Married life doesn't quite work like that - or it certainly doesn't around here. Added to that she does not really approve of The Peppered Moth which she regards as rather a disgraceful book. She accepts that it is not offensive but believes that, on balance, it would have been better if I had not written a story about a man who spontaneously changes colour, even if it does make people of all colours laugh their heads off.
For this reason the audiobook has been created in secret, and if you find this odd then rather than explain further I'd rather just say 'welcome to my world'.
So to continue with this project I have to wait for those rare instances when my wife and children are out. Since she returned there have only been three brief instances where she was out and I was able to grab the laptop, the notebook, and the novel, and rush upstairs to her study. There I had to find the point in the recording that needed replacing, make a note of the timings, delete it, record the new version, insert it, then bed it in by ensuring there were the right lengths of pause, or lack of pause, for the new bit to sound like it wasn't a new bit at all, but just me continuing to read as normal.
The first time I was able to do this for four different segments but the second time I had only just got a second segment recorded when I hear her returning. I figured I could finish up before she came upstairs.
To add to my woes my wife recently trod on my only normal pair of prescription glasses, completely destroying them. This was, of course, entirely my fault (everything is always my fault - that is rule 1 of my marriage) but that didn't make it any less inconvenient. Consequently I have been wearing some prescription sunglasses all the time which make me look like Roy Orbison. When I am recording I have to close the curtains to add to the insulation but the bulb in there is quite dark and changing the bulb each time would be too time consuming. So I strain my eyes as I read like some strange albino or vampire recluse who spontaneously combusts on contact with sunlight.
The result was that I was I trying to insert the recording into the timeline my wife burst in and saw me sitting in the gloom, in dark glasses. "What the hell are you doing and why do you have to do it in here?" She demanded. "And why are you wearing sunglasses in the dark?" She added.
Now of course my default setting in this kind of situation is to come up with some sort of bullshit but I hesitated because nothing plausible came to mind. Then I was rescued by my wife who said, as though I am always doing inexplicable things and am just so weird that she long ago decided that life was too short to listen to the explanations for my lunacy:
"Never mind - just get out."
So for now, at least, I am safe - and the audiobook version of The Peppered Moth is very much in the pipeline, even if it has encountered a bit of a blockage.
On various platforms, such as Facebook writer's support groups, I occasionally see posts from people who dream of writing a full length piece of fiction but seem to be having trouble getting started. Here are some of the more common cries and my own very subjective ideas and suggestions offered in the spirit of writerly cameraderie..
I want to write a novel but when I try nothing happens!
Anyone who has written a lot is likely to look askance at this cry for help. It can seem a bit like someone saying that they want to play the guitar but can't quite bring themselves to pick one up and start practicing. It probably stems from the idea that writing is something that everyone can do, which in itself stems from the idea that writing is just 'putting your thoughts down':
I think therefore I am a writer.
Now there is the possibility that you are going to shape up into a good writer - hell maybe even a great writer, a bit further down the road. But for now your problem is that you want to write a novel and you're struggling to write a single sentence.
My advice for anyone in this situation is - stop trying to write a novel and just write something - anything. A novel is a very substantial undertaking and to write a good one will take a range of skills which you have not yet mastered. This would be like climbing Mount Everest, or at least a substantial mountain, as your very first climbing challenge.
A diary is a really good place to start because you always know what to write about - your day - and it will get you used to expressing yourself with the written word. What is more you will be writing about a subject on which you are the world's number one expert, which is always a good start. I have written a diary since I was fifteen and although I don't think anybody will be publishing it soon, I regard the writing in those diaries as being a significant part of my 'ten thousand hours of practice'. If you don't want to write a diary maybe go for a short story. This will seem less daunting and might stop you from being blocked by the scale of the challenge.
Another possible misconception about writers and how they work is that they sometimes sit down with nothing particular in their head. They fire up the laptop and then, miraculously, as their fingers begin to move acorss the keyboard - a story starts to come pouring out of them.
Now I have to be careful here because actually there really are some writers who work like that. Certainly you often hear writers talk about books that seemed to write themselves and a mysterious source, sometimes referred to as 'the muse', providing the story in detail in real time, with no requirements for planning. The dramatist John Osborne worked a bit like this with some of his plays - he would say that he laid them like an egg. He also did very little rewriting. However I am certain he never sat down to write something new without a single idea in his head.
That said I have experienced a version of 'the muse' myself when I wrote The Peppered Moth. While writing the book I became extremely inspired and felt like I was riding a wave - but this did not mean that I did not have to plan out what was going to be happening in the coming chapters in considerable detail, and of course, as most writers do, I did a lot of rewriting.
If you are one of those rare writers who does not need to plan and is visited by a mysterious muse, then clearly you are not going to be one of these writers crying for help in a Facebook group. But if you are not please don't be disappointed when you find your fingers moving over the keyboard and no thoughts coming except maybe 'shall I put the kettle on?" The muse is fickle and cannot be summonsed at will. Most of us have to work hard at writing.
Some writers will talk about 'writers block' - the inability to come up with a new story or proceed with one that they have already started. I have experienced a block of sorts but at a very young age. I think I was about nine or ten when I remember first thinking 'I want to be a writer - let's have a go at writing a real proper grown up novel."
I managed to get started with a few rather cliched sentences and then I really hit a wall - I had nothing. The reason? I just did not have the life experiences or knowledge to flesh out the characters and come up with a compelling and plausible narrative. In fact another great piece of advice for anyone who is having trouble getting started on a novel is - get out there and live a little. And if living a little is impractical or difficult for you - then read. Read like crazy. Read everything. Reading is like loading up the imagination. Everything gets fed into that amazing brain we all have - the single most incredible object in the universe. It all gets sent down into the subconscious and stirred up and seasoned until it is squirted out as a completely original, and hopefully delicious, literary soup.
So feed the imagination, live, think, plan. If you really are a writer-in-waiting then ideas for your novel will start to pop into your head. And by the way the least likely place that you'll be when this happens is sitting in front of a computer.
I want to write a novel but it is going to include friends/family and I am worried that they are going to be offended by the way I portray them.
It is a rare novelist who does not draw on real people to give depth to the characters they portray in their fiction, depite the usual legal disclaimer that kicks off pretty much all novels.
A good rule is of course to use a made up name and to change a few details about a person - such as hair colour, profession etc. A wonderful piece advice given by the author Hanif Kureshi at the Port Elliot Literary Festival a few years ago was that if you are including a not altogether sympathetic portrait of someone you know into a novel then make sure you portray them as being "attractive to the opposite sex." He said that people will put up with any amount of negative portrayal if you do this, and he admitted to doing it in a written portrayal of his own father in The Buddha of Suburbia. Great advice which I followed in my own novel The Peppered Moth. The novel describes the grotesque ordeal suffered by Michael Peel (a character based on my father) when he undergoes a mysterious metamorphosis. It is, in many respects, downright impudent in its portrayal of my old dad. But I included a brief scene in which an attractive woman admits to finding him 'a bit tasty'.
He has never uttered a single word of complaint.
But this point about offending people you know is tied up with another commonly expressed fear which I am going to deal with next.
I want to write a novel but I am worried about what my friends and family are going to think of it.
Would-be novelists have this idea that on the day they finish their book everyone they know is going to be begging for a sneak preview so that they can at last plunge into this great and entertaining work of fiction that you have conjured up over months and months of intense effort.
In fact first time novelists are often horrified to discover that friends and family are reluctant to read their book at all. This is sometimes believed to be because of a fear that they will be expected to praise the book to the heavens, and there may be an element of this - but actually it is probably even more prosaic. The truth is that most people have little time and, those who do read for pleasure are pretty much always very selective about what they read. Reading a book that you are being forced to read is not a pleasure - it is work - and if it is a full length novel that is a lot of work. What is more, as a first time novelist, there is every chance that your work might not only be not in their favoured genre, it may not actually be well written at all - and therefore reading it will be a veritable ordeal. And that does not even cover the many people who read very little in the way of fiction and those who read none at all. Asking them to read your book is like asking someone who doesn't eat seafood to join you in downing a dozen oysters.
The people who read your first draft of your novel need to be selected carefully. You need people who enjoy reading literature, and ideally enjoy the genre you are writing in. It took me a while but I have found a circle of people who are not only readers of literary fiction but are themselves writers - which means that they are also interested in the process of writing and understand that there is such a thing as constructive criticism.
The only adendum I would add is that people will read your book - or at least attempt to - if you tell them that they feature in it, which takes you back to my previous point.. Also the more the book is autobiographical the more likely are you going to find willing readers amongst your friends and family - particularly if they make a personal appearance.
And if it is a straight all out autobiography then you can expect your immediate family and close friends to read it - if they are readers.
I want to write a novel but the subject is controversial.
There is no easy answer to this one because of course there are lots of reasons why a novel can be controversial, and nowadays the range of untouchable subjects has broadened considerably. Some people see this as a good thing, because less feelings are hurt, others see it as the death of free speech.
Controversy has always been a double edged sword. A great many works of fiction that have been either critical or commercially succesful have had some form of controversy attached to them - most obviously Lady Chatterlie's Lover by DH Lawrence which found itself the subject of a famous trial for obscenity and ended up changing the law and ushering in what became known as the permissive society. Sales of the book went through the roof.
There is a distinct difference between controversy that wins you free PR in the form of newspaper inches and controversy that frightens publishers off altogether. My novel The Peppered Moth was deemed 'untouchable' by two literary agents because it deals with the subject of race in a comical way. They did not find the book offensive but were frightened that someone else might claim it was offensive just on the grounds of its subject matter, rather than its actual content. They did not want to risk drawing any criticism on themselves. I decided that their attitude was likely to be shared by publishers so I did not submit the book for publication at all. Race is such a thorny issue and almost any controversy related to it is absolute poison. I chose to publish it myself because I know that the book is very much a book about acceptance and tolerance, and I knew that I was the best person to get that across in selling it directly to the public.
So although this is a time when there is a lot of fear and a lot of informal, behind-the-scenes censorship, this is also a time when you have the freedom to publish anything you want. In fact it is extremely easy to produce a very professional printed paperback or hard back book entirely on your own and of course many thousands of people are doing just that. The real challenge then becomes drawing attention to the book and making it stand out from everyone elses!
You can purchase The Peppered Moth in the U.S. here:
And in the UK here:
My favourite cartoon of all time appeared in Private Eye many years ago and featured two people at a cocktail party. One is saying 'I'm writing a novel" and the other replies "Neither am I" (I have only been able to find the 'diary' version below).
The cartoon hits on a truth about the frailty and vanity of human nature - many of us feel we have a novel in us but happen to find it inconvenient to actually sit down and put anything down on paper just at the moment. That was certainly my situation for many years - I recall feeling pretty confident that I would write my first novel 'one day when I have the time.'
When it came to it I wrote The Peppered Moth not so much because I had the time (I was working as the assistant to the General Secretary of the Franco British Council at the time) but because I was extremely inspired. Consequently I found myself writing at all sorts of odd hours and even used to get up an hour early so I could get in a bit of writing before I went to work (anyone who knows me will tell you that I am usually extremely reluctant to get out of bed at all).
One feature of that project was that I kept absolutely silent about it. I felt that talking would kill the energy and might result in me being one of those poor benighted creatures who tells everyone they are writing a novel and then never finishes it. I actually had a friend who told anyone who would listen that he was writing a book. After a couple of years of people asking him, at every social gathering, "How's the novel going?" he did the only decent thing and emigrated to Australia. He hasn't been seen or heard of since.
Nowadays my circumstances have changed. I am the father of two small children and my wife works full time. Between the hours of about 9.00am and 3.30pm I have to try and earn a living doing such things as consulting for The Trafalgar Way, a job that utilises my knowledge of Nelson and The Napoleonic Wars. If I want to write a novel, and believe me I always want to be writing a novel, I have to steal a few hours here and there.
Inspiration is never a problem - it is time that is always against me, but now I am less concerned about keeping silent. Yes there is the danger that some of the energy goes but in the modern world you must, apparently, blog about your novel while you are writing it. As far as I can see this is written in stone because it is the only way to build interest and wet appetites. Loth as I am to give away the farm I must must must share my journey so that when I finally announce, after however long it takes (and yes it is going to take a while) that I am launching my new work of fiction I have to have some chance that I am not announcing it to an empty room.
The American Film Institute rates the 1959 film "Some Like It Hot" as the funniest movie of all time - it also gets number 14 on its list of 100 greatest movies. So what went right with this black and white farce about two musicians forced to dress up as women to avoid being snuffed out by mobsters? The answer is clearly 'Billy Wilder' all the way - one of the deftest, wittiest and most accomplished directors in history - and his brilliant writing partner Izzy Diamond - but below, in no particular order, I try and break it down into what I believe are 10 crucial elements. This is not a 'how to write the perfect comedy' list - it is pure appreciation, and I sneak in the odd favourite fact and anecdote too.
1. A great story
Cross-dressing has been a staple of comedy down the ages, stretching back into theatre's distant past, but it is a device that is tricky to utilise tastefully. The director Billy Wilder was intrigued by the comic potential in the idea of a pair of male musicians being forced to dress as women in order to get a job - a comic conceit that he knew featured in the 1935 French film Fanfares D'Amour. Unable to get hold of a copy he ordered a screening of the 1951 German remake Fanfaren De Liebe. The film told of two musicians who disguise themselves to get work with various bands - including a Gypsy band, an all-black jazz band and an all-female band. The film was episodic and somewhat laboured in its insistence on showing the men donning their disguises, but Wilder's instincts told him that there was something in the cross dressing sequence that he could build on and he duly bought the rights to the German film. He then set to work with his writing partner I.A.L. (Izzy) Diamond. What they came up with was a tale of joblessness made worse by the fear of death - which drives two musicians (Joe and Jerry) into joining an all female band. Joe falls in love with one of the musicians (Sugar Kane) - and they contrive to stick with the disguises on arrival in sunny Miami. To complicate matters Joe then takes on a second disguise as an impotent millionaire in order to woo Sugar, and Jerry has to bat off advances from a genuine millionaire who is staying in the same hotel. When the death threat catches up with them Joe and Jerry escape with their paramours and reveal their true identities.
2. The perfect setting
Izzy Diamond and Billy Wilder were writing their screenplay in the 1950's, a deeply conservative era in America, and they were concerned that people would find the idea of men dressing as women uncomfortable (in fact the finished film was banned in Kansas and the producers had to cite cross-dressing in Shakespeare to stop it being banned across the country). It was Izzy Diamond who suggested that they set the film in the 1920's - the age of prohibition and wall-to-wall mobsters but, more importantly, a time when, to a contemporary eye, it would appear that everyone was in costume, thus softening the effect of seeing male actors in women's clothing. The choice of the 1920's works perfectly because it was a time of economic depression (making the musician's plight seem natural) but also of frenetic change, budding liberation for women, jazz, great fashion and of course the insanity of prohibition. The ubiquity of gangsters solved a problem that Wilder and Diamond had agonized over: what would make two lusty heterosexual musicians decide to dress as women? Just being hungry and needing a job was not a strong enough motivation for a movie plot. It was Billy Wilder who came up with the idea that Joe and Jerry accidentally witness the St. Valentine's Day Massacre and have to go into hiding to avoid being snuffed out.
3. Dizzying Pace.
From the explosive opening which sees a car chase gun battle between cops and mobsters Some Like it Hot has a frenetic pace which never lets up. The Chicago scenes are driven by the insane cat and mouse chase of bootleggers and cops and the desperate plight of our two heroes, a saxophonist and double bass player, who are so hard up they are soon hocking their overcoats to put money down on a 'sure thing' at the race track. This leaves them coatless and at the mercy of Chicago's pitiless winter wind which whips them back into the offices of the musical agents where they beg for work. Once we get to the scenes on the train the frenetic insanely brilliant comic sequence in which 'Daphne' throws a cocktail party in her bunk seems to take its pace from the metronome of the steam engine's relentless chug chug, which eventually segues directly into the jazz-age soundtrack. Not a microsecond is wasted in this film which successfully delivers a perfect movie example of that most difficult of genres - farce - where the pace has to speed up continually. As Wilder commented when he started work with his actors "Its going to be like juggling eleven meringue pies at once."
3. Billy Wilder had the perfect vehicle to explore his favourite theme
Billy Wilder was on a winning streak when he made Some Like It Hot. Films like Five Graves to Cairo, The Lost Weekend and the masterful Sunset Boulevard exuded class, scooped awards and made money for the studios he worked for. Quite simply Wilder had impeccable taste and instincts.
Like a lot of geniuses he was endlessly circling around one theme. In his case it was the idea of people forced to compromise their principals or self respect in order to survive or thrive - or to be less polite - the theme of prostitution. It is most visible in his much loved 1960's film The Apartment in which Shirley Maclean's character sleeps with the boss in the insurance company while the poor sap played by Jack Lemmon whores out his Manhattan pad for seedy asssignations. But it is also there in Sunset Boulevard where William Holden, his career as a screenwriter in Hollywood having come to nothing, starts sleeping with a faded movie star and working on her hopeless film project to bring in the greenbacks, thus prostituting himself both literally and metaphorically.
In Some Like It Hot the theme is there again. Joe and Jerry, two horny heterosexual males, throw their dignity out the window and don female clobber in order to survive - and Daphne (Jerry's female alter ego played by Jack Lemmon) actually goes on dates with a man and (in the famous last moment of the film) finds that he has no choice but to marry him. Meanwhile Sugar Kane, played by Marylin Monroe, has given up on feckless saxophonists and has decided to go down to Florida and offer herself up as marriage material to old millionaires. But whereas the theme could lead to an air of caustic cynicism in some of Wilder's films - most n0tably in Ace in the Hole where Kirk Douglas's hungry newspaper man sells his soul for a story, in Some Like It Hot there is an incorrigible air of joie de vivre.
Interestingly the accusation that Billy Wilder had himself once worked as a gigolo dogged him throughout his career. This was because he had worked as a tea dancer in the Hotel Eden in Berlin - a dancer for money - and a journalist had once interpreted this to mean that he had actually slept with some of the women.
4.Wilder had found his ideal writing partner in I.A.L.Diamond
Some Like It Hot was only the second feature that Billy Wilder wrote with Izzy Diamond. The first had been Love in the Afternoon starring Gary Cooper and Audrey Hepburn of which Wilder later commented "The day I hired Gary Cooper he got too old for the part". Prior to this Wilder had endured a long writing partnership with Charles Brackett. It was a stormy working relationship and they were not friends outside of the office (Billy Wilder was a self-made Polish-born Jewish immigrant , Brackett urbane old-money American). But it had been remarkably fruitful, culminating in Sunset Boulevard. After this Wilder dropped Brackett - stating later that "The match no longer struck sparks on the matchpaper".
Wilder discovered Diamond when he saw a comic skit he had written performed at a Writers Guild dinner and hired him for Love in the Afternoon. Thus began a happy and long-lasting partnership that would produce the much-loved The Apartment immediately after Some Like It Hot. I would posit that some of the atmosphere of bravura joy that suffuses Some Like it Hot emanates not only from Diamond's skill as a writer but also from the unleashing of energy associated with a new writing partnership finding its feet and Wilder's delight at having a workmate whose company he enjoyed.
The script is peppered with witty quick-fire dialogue and replete with the comedy of absurd repetition, of which the blood 'type O' nonsense is the most obvious example. The brevity of the script is legendary with the bold decision not to show Joe and Jerry getting into their women's clobber often cited as an example of how audiences don't need to be spoon fed. The decision to then introduce them at the train station by showing their feet only from behind was probably Wilder's - but you have to give a lot of credit to Izzy Diamond for the greatest comedy screenplay of all time.
5. Tony Curtis was ready to show the world what he could do as an actor
Tony Curtis was already a star by the time Billy Wilder offered him the part of Joe in Some Like it Hot but he regarded Wilder as being in a league above even himself, a director of such shimmering quality that he could only dream of being cast in one of his movies. Wilder offered him the part of Jerry the goofball double-bass player, at a party given by producer Harold Mirisch. Curtis nearly wept with joy and agreed on the spot. At that point Wilder was seriously considering giving Frank Sinatra the part of Joe, the sax player (the part Curtis would eventually play). In fact Wilder decided that Sinatra would have been too difficult to work with but he nearly had to cast him. He had arranged a lunch to discuss the part but Sinatra failed to appear. Both Bob Hope and Danny Kaye had also been in the running but Wilder wisely recognized that the sight of these older men in drag would have been too grotesque. He regarded Curtis as the best looking boy in town - and they shared Austro-Hungarian Empire origins.
For Curtis this was a breakthrough role, a chance to show that he was versatile and he played it with immense gusto and relish. He in effect plays three parts in the film - Joe, Josephine (Joe's female alter-ego) and the bogus millionaire with whom Sugar Kane falls in love. Curtis made the decision to do a Cary Grant impersonation for the millionaire which works a treat (Billy Wilder was delighted with the impersonation and commented that he had never managed to get Cary Grant into one of his films so would have to be content with Curtis' impersonation). However his voice work for Josephine proved too deep and had to be largely dubbed by an actor called Paul Frees. But Curtis' characterisation as Josephine is brilliant - there is a sense that Joe is suddenly conscious of what life must be like for a woman with guys like him around - and he plays her demure and wary of men. There is even a sort of Joe-in-miniature to harass him; a priapic little bell-boy in the Miami Hotel, a little devil sent to punish him for all the times he has hit on women in a similar way.
Initially Curtis was told that Sugar Kane would be played by Mitzi Gaynor (known for South Pacific) and Elizabeth Taylor was also in consideration. When Curtis heard that Marylin Monroe had bagged the part he had mixed feelings. He had an affair with Marylin when she was an unknown in Hollywood and he wasn't sure how she would react to working with him. When they met again her first words to him were "Have you still got it Tony?" She was referring to the green Buick convertible they used to make out in.
6. Jack Lemmon got to act his socks off
Tony Curtis recalled the first day that he and Jack Lemmon got into their female costumes for Some Like it Hot: "I didn't want to come out first. I wanted him out first, to see what Jack would be like...then I see Jack come dancing out of his dressing room, and he looked like a three-dollar trollop. You know, skipping along, talking in a high voice. I said 'Oh shit, I can't do that'."
Like Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon was delighted to be cast in a Billy Wilder film. Wilder had encountered him in a Beverly Boulevard eatery called Dominick's and pitched him the story. Lemmon later said he would not have considered the project if it had not been Billy Wilder directing - he knew that Wilder's approach to the material would be tasteful. In fact both he and Curtis had to go on a steep learning curve for the movie. Wilder hired a female impersonator called Barbette to teach them how to move and speak like women. Curtis enjoyed the sessions more than Lemmon who rebelled - saying that his character needed to be seen to be uncomfortable and struggling with the unfamiliar shoes and clothes - something he does indeed convey brilliantly. There was more trouble when the two actors were shown their wardrobe - a rack of off-the-peg costume rentals. They went to Billy Wilder and insisted that their dresses should be designed by Orry-Kelly (who would scoop the Oscar for his work on the film - the only Oscar the film garnered despite a string of nominations). Wilder agreed but when the new dresses arrived Marylin Monroe immediately inspected them and stole a black dress that had been designed for Lemmon - much to his annoyance.
Lemmon's performance is more broadly comic than Curtis's and it was he who was nominated for the Oscar and scooped the BAFTA and the Golden Globe. Lemmon, it has often been commented, could be a touch hammy as an actor but this was the perfect part for him - he gets to chew up the scenery without ever appearing to be over acting for a moment. I can still remember the first time I saw the film and it was definitely Lemmon who got the big laughs from me - and still does now. In fact Wilder described the scene where Lemmon, as Jerry pretending to be Daphne, appears to have forgotten that he is a man and talks ecstatically of marrying his love-struck zillionaire Osgood, as getting 'the longest sustained laugh of all my movies'.
7. Marilyn Monroe is Marilyn Monroe..
Billy Wilder and Izzy Diamond admitted that the part of Sugar Kane was the weakest in terms of the writing - which meant it needed someone remarkable to play it. Wilder's view of Marilyn Monroe was that she was nearly impossible to work with but that she possessed near-magical qualities; "She looked on screen as if you could reach out and touch her" he said. In the story Joe and Jerry initially disguise themselves as women merely to escape from Chicago. But on the train Joe falls in love with Sugar and persuades Jerry that they need to maintain the disguise so he can spend time with her. Sugar Cane needed to be supernaturally attractive if the audience were to believe that the two men would continue the subterfuge. In fact Marilyn shows herself to be more than just a sexpot in the film - she is also a very accomplished comedian. As Curtis put it "her timing was excellent - but not her timekeeping".
Billy Wilder had worked with Marilyn on The Seven Year Itch and had sworn not to work with her again due to the endless delays and difficulties. Their relationship had been so fractious that he was astonished when he received a letter from her asking to be in Some Like it Hot. Wilder knew what he was letting himself in for, but calculated that she was worth the trouble. In fact her behaviour was so erratic and unpredictable that Wilder suffered serious back and stomach troubles due to the stress - to the point where (according to his wife Audrey) they had to hire a psychologist to persuade him to get out of bed in the morning. He even started walking with a cane - but what he saw on screen always justified the hell he was going through.
Hours were lost as cast and crew waited for Marilyn to come on set and Wilder later joked "I didn't waste those hours, I read War and Peace Les Miserables and Hawaii". Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon were told by Wilder that they had to be perfect in every take when they were acting with Marilyn - because whatever take she delivered in would be the one that was used in the film. Famously it took 80 takes to get a shot of her saying 4 words "Where is the Bourbon?" in a scene shot in Josephine and Daphne's hotel room. But Marilyn understood her role in the film absolutely and when she made her first appearance at the train station (in fact the first day's filming on the picture) she pointed out that it wasn't enough for her to just stride along the platform - she needed a piece of business to pep up her impact. They came up with the idea of the train blasting a bit of steam just behind her rear end - as if the train itself was reacting to her.
On Marilyn's contribution perhaps Billy Wilder should have the last word: "Some Like it Hot will be a picture of mine people will see for as long as prints last, not because of me, but because of Miss Monroe."
8. The film is a love letter to American music of the jazz age
Some Like It Hot is a story about musicians and it is infused with the delirious music of the Jazz Age.
Billy Wilder's love affair with America - and more specifically American music, began when he saw American troops enter Vienna in 1918. The city was starving and with the troops came food - and the sound of American dance bands. He particularly loved Paul Whiteman's band and he learned to sing the lyrics of some of their songs before he even understood the words. In May of 1926 Wilder, then a journalist, got to interview Whiteman when he was on a European tour and it was a key moment in the director's life story. Whiteman was impressed by Wilder's knowledge of his music and Wilder introduced him to a song which Whiteman re-recorded (and had a massive hit with under the title "When Day is Done"). When Whiteman moved on to Berlin he invited Wilder to join him and act as a sort of guide. Wilder never went back to Vienna and this was the beginning of Wilder's escape from the approaching maelstrom of the Second World War. In Whiteman's band at that time was a brilliant Jazz violinist, Matty Malneck, who would later move to Hollywood and provide music for several of Wilder's films - including Some Like it Hot . Wilder lost his mother and other family members in Auschwitz - but he made it to America. The film is a sophisticated comedy full of caustic wit and lively cynicism - but the music is a celebration of the great American art - Jazz - and I also detect an exhilarating woop of joy by European émigré artists who escaped the Holocaust and found a home in the land of the free.
9. There are actors like George Raft in the supporting cast
Such was Billy Wilder's reputation that he was able to call on almost any actor to play even quite small supporting roles. As the film features Chicago gangsters it was natural that he would want to get some of the stars of the great gangster movies to play mob bosses - people like Edward G Robinson and George Raft. Unfortunately the two men had history - during the making of Manpower, Raft and Robinson had both fallen for their co-star Marlene Dietrich. The rivalry had blown up into an actual fistfight, caught on camera by a stills photographer from Life magazine. Still sore from this they had refused to ever appear in the same picture again. But Raft was keen to work with Wilder. He had turned down a part in Wilder's brilliant Double Indemnity and was not going to miss out on the chance to work on a masterpiece again. Interestingly Edward G Robinson Junior does appear in the film - also as a gangster.
Another terrific 'bit player' is Joe E Brown - who plays Osgood - the millionaire so madly in love with Daphne (Jack Lemmon) that he doesn't even mind that she turns out to be a he. Brown was a once-familiar face from countless film comedies. He had fallen out of favour and was reduced to television work (then regarded as film's very poor relation) when Billy Wilder saw him at a Dodgers game (Brown was a baseball fanatic and part owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates). The film briefly resurrected Joe E Brown's career and he appears in the wonderful Its a Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963).
10. A great title and a great last line
Izzy Diamond, the screenwriter, apparently plucked the title Some Like It Hot from the nursery rhythm that goes "Some like it in the pot, nine days old" which ends, ..."some like it hot" - and Billy Wilder was keen on the title from the off - but there was a problem. There was already a 1939 Bob Hope vehicle that used the title - and there was (and still is) an industry rule that prevented people re-using the title of a copyrighted film.
Producer Walter Mirsch discovered that MCA, the mini studio that made Wilder's film, was buying all of Paramount's films made before 1950 - which included the Bob Hope flick. There was an agonising wait for this complicated deal to go through and Wilder very nearly had to settle for his second choice title 'Not Tonight Josephine'. But luck was on his side, the deal went through in time.
The last line of Some Like it Hot is "Well, nobody's perfect" and is delivered by actor Joe E Brown (as gazillionaire Osgood) on being told by what he thought was 'Daphne' - the woman he adores - "I'm a man". "Nobody's Perfect" is not a funny line on its own but is so perfect in its context that it has been voted the best comedy line of all time more than once. I think the joy of it lies in the unexpectedness of it - a good part of the film seems to have been leading up to this moment of revelation and it completely confounds your expectations - pulling the rug from under you. There have also been claims that this moment in movie history presages gay marriage by half a century - it is certainly true that you can smuggle controversial ideas more easily when you loosen audiences up with laughter - but this may be a claim too far for the film.
In fact the little scene between Osgood and Daphne/Jerry wasn't intended to be the last moment in the film (a clinch between Sugar and Joe was envisaged) but Marilyn was not available on the last day's shooting and they had to stick with Osgood and his sex change lover. The line "Well, nobody's perfect" had been written months before - thought up by Izzy Diamond, but neither he nor Wilder were happy with it and regarded it as a temporary line until they could think of something better. Luckily they didn't think of anything.
After a bit of a binge on biographies and autobiographies of the film directors that I admire I thought I'd offer up some thoughts and recommendations.
Top of the league so far, in terms of directors who throw out great advice, is Billy Wilder who luckily was still alive when Charlotte Chandler wrote Nobody's Perfect - Billy Wilder, a Personal Biography. The book tells his life story which she gathered during a series of conversations with the director during which he threw out pearls of wisdom on the craft in which he was surely one of the 20th Century's chief masters. It's one of those books that I started again from the beginning as soon as I finished it.
If you want a blistering good read however I would recommend Preston Sturges on Preston Sturges, which was adapted and edited by his last wife Sandy. what is staggering about Sturges is that his life up until the age of about 22 was so packed with adventure and frenetic activity that this period constitutes the majority of the text. In fact his film making period, when he churned out brilliant movies like Sullivan's Travels (1941) and The Palm Beach Story (1942), is squeezed into the last quarter of the short book.
The reason Sturges early life was so extraordinary was that he had a very Bohemian mother - and she in turn was heavily influenced in her choice of lifestyle by the then world-famous dancer Isadora Duncan, who was her best friend. To give just one example of how insane Preston's life was, at one point, when still a child, his mother had an affair with the notorious satanist Aleister Crowley. Preston witnessed the hideous spectacle of the bonkers Crowley mutilatibg his own arm with a small knife every time his mother used the word "I" which Crowley had banned.
A real discovery for me has been Puffin Asquith by R.J.Minney. Anthony Asquith has fallen utterly out of fashion as a director, but I believe his Importance of Being Earnest (1951) will never be bettered as a film version of Oscar Wilde's best play and I remember being utterly riveted by The Winslow Boy (1948) when it came on TV once when I was about the same age as the eponymous hero. I always knew that Asquith was the son of the Liberal Prime Minister and therefore I had assumed him to be a patrician son of privilege sailing into his chosen profession and rather lording it up. He was indeed the son of dizzying privilege (the family nickname for the King, who used to pop by, was 'Kingy'), but Asquith turns out to have been one of the sweetest and most humble people I have ever read about.
He wore worker's overalls while directing and was often mistaken for a gaffer or spark. When not directing he used to go and help out at a roadside cafe where he would rise at dawn and deliver papers. He was one of those rare people who actually managed to beat alcoholism but like a lot of people of that era he smoked incessantly which almost certainly killed him.
In fact cigarettes cut a swathe through 20th Century film makers - possibly because there is so much waiting around on a film set and having a smoke is a great way to kill time and an aid to thinking. A truly fascinating fact about Asquith is that his father was Home Secretary when Oscar Wilde was effectively hounded to death by the establishment because of his sexuality. Anthony may have been homosexual although the book leaves the question unresolved. He certainly had no sexual relations with women. It is tantalising to think that a man who drove homosexuality underground for half a century may have had a gay son. It is also extraordinary to think that the son produced the perfect film version of Oscars most famous play.
David Lean was also probably killed by tobacco and I suspect we would have had one or two more of his elegant masterpieces left in him had he managed to kick the habit. His life is described in great detail by the film historian Kevin Brownlow in his magisterial biography David Lean. Brownlow was lucky enough to be able to spend some time with the director but his knowledge of British film history serves him well in a book that gives a wonderful portrait of the early years of the industry in England. David Lean comes over as a pure filmmaker with a genius for telling stories with the lense of a camera that clearly derived partly from his years working as Britains foremost film editor. If you ever doubt Lean's genius I recommend going to see Lawrence of Arabia (which Kevin Brownlow was responsible for restoring beautifully) if it ever gets a cinema showing near you. I went when the restoration was brand new and it blew my socks off.
What I did not know about Lean was that he was not a particularly intellectual man and he could show astonishing ignorance about something as fundamental as the nature of gravity. The reason was his interest was entirely driven by his instinct to tell stories. If a story had come up that required him to understand gravity he would probably have mastered it.
Finally I have recently started reading Carol Read, A Biography, by Nicholas Wapshott. Reed easily earns his place as one of the immortals of the cinema on the strength of The Third Man (1949) alone (I urge you to catch the new print) but I am also a huge fan of his musical Oliver! (1968) which, with each passing year, is looking increasingly like a beautiful capturing of a certain spirit of old London - exemplified by the glorious 'Who Will Buy" sequence. I performed in this as a milkmaid as a prep-school boy in the 1970's - an experience that has never quite left me!
I had no idea that Reed was the illegitimate son of the Victorian actor/manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree, a now obscure figure who once bestrode London's theatre land like a colossus. Wapshott usefully provides a 'biography within a biography' of Beerbohm Tree, supplying a fascinating glimpse into a lost world. To give an idea of how successful Beerbohm Tree was he was able to build Her Majesty's theatre in the Haymarket in Central London and created a private apartment for himself inside the dome at the top. A compulsive philanderer he ran two family homes, one his wife's and one his mistess's. Carol Reed was the son of his mistress and was inordinately proud of his father's renown until his mother was called down to King's School Canterbury to order his son not to talk about his father because of the shame of illegitimacy in Edwardian England. The impact of this conversation changed him forever.
My short film The Last Post has been accepted for three film festivals so far. They are The Madrid Internatiobal Film Festival where it has been nominated for Best Short Film 2015, Best Producer, and the Jury Award, The Austin Comedy Short Film Festival in Texas where it has been nominated for Best Writing (Original Screenplay) and Best Ensemble Cast, and the Loch Ness Film Festival in (you guessed it) Scotland which is a non-competitive festival.
The Last Post is finished!
In his wonderful book 'Making Movies' Sydney Lumet talk about the sound mix as being 'where you pay for all the fun you had making the film'. It is a time of endlessly seeing and hearing small segments of the film (which you are already fed up with!) repeated hundreds of time as you smooth out imbalances and agonise over whether the tiny sound of a tea spoon tinkling in a cup is ruining the film. But as soon as I met Andy I knew that it was actually going to be quite a pleasant 2 days. He had the manner of someone who knew what he was doing, enjoyed his work, and was easy going. What is more he was genuinely enthusiastic about the film - it was clearly a little project that he was relishing being involved in. What is actually rather wonderful about the mix is that it is another chance to raise the quality of the project and there are a myriad of ways in which sound can be used creatively to enhance the ideas you are trying to get across - and in a comedy to get more laughs.
My composer Martin Thornton has been working feverishly away on the music for the film and like so many others he has risen magnificently to the challenge. He applied for the post through Shootingpeople.com (as did a very large number of other composers) and the sample he sent was the only one that made the hair stand up on the back of my neck - so it was a fairly easy decision. As well as being a good composer Martin is also a very talented musician and arranger, works as assistant to a busy composer of music for TV dramas (such as Ripper Street), is a consummate professional, passionate about making music for movies and knows many musicians that he can call upon at short notice. Consequently he was able to get a cornet player to record his wonderful pastiche of The Last Post tune that is heard every remembrance Sunday. Martin has created several original pieces of music for The Last Post and has come up with some startling and imaginative ways to heighten the intensity of certain key moments, convey the personality of the characters and to draw together the different elements of the film into a coherent smoothly unfolding whole.
One pleasant task that had to be undertaken during the mix was to get the actor Mark Heap to re-record a single line of dialogue . Mark was fresh from his holiday in the Lake District and was such a joy to have in the sound booth that we got him to do a few more little things as well - all of which we were able to use. I have been so lucky to have this wonderful actor in my film.
With the film now completed the task is now to manage the release. Samantha Waite, the producer, had great success with her last film - which went all the way to the Oscars - so I will be largely guided by her advice. If you are wondering if the film is any good I am too close to tell you but I can say this: I am very excited about showing this film to an audience and there is a bit of a buzz about it.. I think the film is a timely little satire about the effect of social media and the Internet on emotional development and I think we have a real chance of getting in to some of the big festivals. The cast and crew screening is taking place this Saturday at the Electric Cinema on Portobello Road but the 80 or so invited guests probably know the project too well for it to be a 'pure' screening (and incidentally it is NOT the premiere - calling it that would ruin our chances of getting in to some big festivals..)
I'm delighted to say that my project 'Facebook Funeral' has achieved full funding but the time for celebrations will be after the film is completed. I am now in pre-pre-production and the aim is to have the film substantially completed by January 2015 in time to submit the film to 2015 film festivals. I have made several short films over the years and some of them have survived and can be viewed elsewhere on this site. What is different about this one is that I am going to be able to collaborate entirely with professionals - and have a shot at making something really special. I believe absolutely that this has the potential to be very funny and to find a very big audience because the subject matter is very timely - the shallowness of social media and its retarding effect on emotional development.
I have already started work on the story boards for the film and have written out instructions for all the heads of department which are designed to help in the recruitment process and as a starting point for discussions once the work begins. Casting has also begun with an approach having been made to a well known male actor by the casting agent Sophie North.
The most important things for me are that the people I work with are passionate about what they do, that they agree with me on the basic themes of the film (so that we are in effect making the same film not struggling to make two different films), that they respond positively to the material and that for them the film is important in terms of their career development - I don't want people for whom this is 'just another job'. I am going to try and make a film, every frame of which looks like a feature film and to achieve that we are going to have to squeeze this budget very hard. That means that I will be asking people to go the extra mile so that we can really knock people's socks off.
Everyone who supported the project will be receiving a more detailed report on progress in the coming days.