Straight 8: showing your mistakes in public

It’s done for another year. Three days of screenings. Three days of triumph, of disappointment, of joy and pain, of ecstasy and despair. There’s nothing else like Straight 8, and that’s probably a good thing. I’ve done four films under the discipline now, and I still can’t honestly say I recommend it. It’s like any addiction. You know it’s going to do you some damage, but you just can’t help going back for another hit.

This year was new for me for a few reasons. It was the first time working with my good friend and docobuddy Dom Wade. It was the first time working with a pick-up crew sourced from Shooting People.

And it was the first time that we badly screwed up.

Rewind to March. We are in London Bridge, at our first location. We’re set up in the kitchen of the flat that is our primary indoor location.

And Dom is convinced something’s gone wrong with the camera. He didn’t hear the film roll on the last two shots we ran. And that mechanical claw is loud. But we have a lot of ambient noise going on, to help our actress Kiki get into character. He can’t be sure, but he’s used the Braun Nizo on every Straight8 film he’s shot. In his bones, he knows something ain’t right. So he reseats the battery.

It’s a tense moment. We reset the shot without the noise, and are relieved to hear the clatter of the camera mechanism. Problem solved, we think, although there’s a danger that we have the same scene twice. That’s something we have no way of checking, so we carry on.

Dom was right. There had been a problem. The scene was shot as planned. But at some point, the camera triggered while left on its side, and rolled for 8 seconds. There is a shot of a corner of a kitchen counter in the film that shouldn’t be there. It was a mistake which blew our carefully timed sound effect, and the entire conceit of the film, to bits.

We found this out at the same time as everyone else, in the crowded screen two at the Curzon Mayfair.

The heightened atmosphere at a Straight8 screening is like no other. Everyone is in the same position, not knowing, hoping, dreading. The highs when your film goes well are unbelievable. The lows when it doesn’t are black dogs.

Confronted with the realisation that my carefully laid plans had gone horribly wrong, and were playing out in front of a room full of my peers was not one of the finer nights of my film-making life.

I felt sick. I needed a wee. I wanted to cry. I watched the rest of the film through my fingers.

I excused myself as soon as I could, and stood in the loos, letting the waves of nausea ebb. I felt frantic, panicky. If I’d had my jacket with me, I probably would have walked out. But no. This kind of thing is always a risk with Straight8. You can never be sure what you’re going to get. I took a deep breath, and walked back in. The place for drama was up on screen.

Afterwards, a surprise. Both Ed, who runs Straight8, and Fiona Brownlie, who made the best film of the night, mentioned how much they liked the idea. (“But Ed,” said Dom in the quote of the night, “It’s completely wrong!”) We must have been doing something right for it to get into the screening in the first place. But my disappointment was tangible. I don’t know if it was better or worse that only one member of our brilliant cast and crew, Hayley, could make it. As it was, I found it hard to look her in the face as we said goodbye. I felt like I’d let everyone down somehow.

Enough of this pitiful attempt to curry sympathy. It belittles us all. The fact is that this can be fixed, and no-one has to see Time Out in that form ever again. We have the film, and will retransfer today. Then it’s a simple matter of cut, top and tail, and we can get the film out there properly. I’m fascinated to see just how well the sound drops back into sync once we chop out the offending shot. I’d like to feel that all my hard work with stopwatches and schedules wasn’t completely in vain.

I have to remind myself that we went through exactly the same shit last year with Code Grey, where we lost the important final shot. the fix was done, and it went on to great success. Who knows where Time Out will lead us?

So, that’s it for this year, and I ask the question I always ask. Will I do it again in 2010?

Dunno. Like any addict, I have to take it one day at a time.

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Writer. Film-maker. Cartoonist. Cook. Lover.

3 thoughts on “Straight 8: showing your mistakes in public”

  1. I wish i came, but money wasn’t on my side to travel from liverpool. If i was there i would of done my best to of calm both u guys down lol. But if it wasn’t good, would they of shown it? You haven’t let anyone down, we was all pleased with the journey, not wondering where it would take us. Done a good job and looking forward to the next project.

  2. Pingback: About Time Out |

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