A couple of years back I was approached by a friend of a friend, the outrageously talented Henry Scriven. He’d written a feature film about a desperate young man who turns to crime to solve his financial problems, and he wanted a writer to pull the threads together. It sounded to me like a gritty British drama – but boy was I wrong.
How to Become a Criminal Mastermind is an outlandish farce, somewhere between an Ealing Comedy and an episode of Spaced. The script was packed with slapstick gags, surreal asides and was unlike anything I’d ever read before. So I set about shaping the material, honing the structure and characterisation, sticking in a bad-ass female mistress of disguise and adding as many additional jokes as the already heaving script could take.
Henry then went into production, shooting against the beautiful backdrop of the Malverns and assembling an array of comedy talent including a fantastic double act in Sam Massey and Philip Weddell, and the most menacing of bad guys in Joerg Stadler.
Over the last two years Henry has been as secretive as all good directors love to be, releasing the occasional photo and teaser to keep us all interested. But now he’s finally finished in the editing room – and the result look fantastic. I can’t tell you how proud I am to have my name credited as a writer on a feature film, and hopefully my input helped to contribute to what looks like something pretty special – but there’s one last hurdle to jump.
The film was made for next to nothing, but In order to launch it properly, Henry has set up a Kickstarter to try and raise the necessary funds for a Premiere, DVDs, posters and all of the associated costs. So, if you’ve always fancied going into film production, now’s your chance. In return you’ll get a copy of the DVD, a thank you in the credits or even a ticket to the first ever screening. It all depends on how much you invest.
See you on the red carpet!
I was working as a runner at Twickenham studios on an adaptation of Love in the Time of Cholera. It was a big budget Hollywood production that had been filming on location in Columbia for 60 days. For some reason they’d decided to shoot their interiors in South West London, so we mobilised all of London’s Latin American extras and set up for ten longs days of sweltering heat under studio lights.
The story covers a wide time span, and I really felt for the actors, who had to undergo four hours of make-up in preparation for the final scenes of the film. Arriving before them every day to prepare their dressing rooms and be on hand for the breakfast run, by the second day I was already feeling the strain. As the painstaking process of recreating the interior of an eighteen nineties’ steam ship began to take its toll on the schedule, the production soon ran short on time. Shoot days were extended, and I found myself falling asleep as I sat by the bell and light that indicate when the camera is rolling, turning my radio up loud so the call of cut would wake me in time to switch the light back off and readmit crew to the sound stage.
As part of my responsibilities I occasionally had to stand in for the actors during the lighting of a set-up. This was one of my least favourite jobs as lighting can sometimes take up to an hour, and trying to remain motionless whilst the frenetic electricians or ‘sparks’ carted lights and gels around me, shining megawatt lights in my eyes and waving reflective sheets under my face was not an easy task. The film also contains a lot of racy scenes, and I found myself getting intimate with strangers once again. In one particular scene the young Florentino is comforted in bed by his nursemaid. The director rehearsed the scene, and then the actor playing young Florentino leapt up for me to take his place. The nursemaid was a bit part, and so the matronly Columbian lady playing the role was not afforded the luxury of a stand in. I climbed into the creaking cot with its authentic duck-down pillows and bowed mattress, and positioned myself in the arms of the Columbian lady to match what I’d just witnessed. As I took my place, her wisened face creased into a smile and she hauled my closer into her bosom.
‘You’re a good boy,’ she said, presumably rehearsing her lines. ‘You work so hard.’ I smiled up at her and snuggled in closer, the cries of the sparks fading into the background. ‘You just rest now, okay?’ Her hand stroked the side of my head and my eyes closed.
‘Excuse me?’ A Spanish voice by my ear. It’s young Florentino. ‘You mind if I take my place now?’
This guy I was travelling with in Cambodia had a portable games console. He had just about everything actually, in a backpack that weighed twice as much as he did. Unloading off a boat in Phnom Penh, the baggage guy dropped the whole thing in the Mehkong. Fortunately the console survived.
We toured Angkor Wat together, and almost at the top of the central temple we got chatting to a group of monks. They wanted us to read to them from an English book of Buddhist teachings. I’d read that it was culturally insensitive to hand anything directly to a monk – you’re supposed to lay it on the floor for them to collect. However by the way they reached over and helped themselves to our cigarettes, I decided that the guidebook may have got that wrong.
Then my companion pulled out his console. The monks lost interest in the book as he queued up a bout on Mortal Kombat and handed it over. One of the younger monks took charge, while the others gathered round to watch.
Now if you don’t know Mortal Kombat, it’s an arcade style fighting game, known for its high levels of bloody violence. One particularly vicious feature is the ‘Fatality’ whereby the winning player gets to execute the loser in one of a number of sadistic methods. It takes a good knowledge of the game, and a complex combination of button presses to perform. I was never able to do it.
When the monk’s game finished, I heard a strange sound. The scary computer voice announced ‘Friendship’ and I was just in time to see the monk’s character handing his opponent a present. This feature requires a one in a million combination of button presses.
Or perhaps just an enlightened soul.