A year has flown by so fast since I was last in Vietnam and conducted research including shooting the concept film for the film I want to make called From Me To You.
So far, the journey has been tough, fraught with gargantuan challenges, drastic changes and a lot of adapting to those pitfalls which in turn have provided positive aspects to the project although it never felt it would be this way at times.
After returning from Vietnam my sole plan was to prepare a crowd source campaign using the concept film. I felt I needed to explore similar themes in the story, and experiment with the pacing and the tone in which I want my main film to be like.
A few months were spent sending and receiving files internationally, and boy is that tricky along with shooting pick ups after I returned from Ho Chi Minh City. The concept film was completed by October. During this time my friend and fellow Campaign Writer Gareth Beverstock wrote up a crowd source strategy, with some really cool initiatives we had put together along with support and help from friends in the UK horror film industry…those perks will still go ahead at some point!
I was pretty sure that I’d be able to raise at least some of the funds and I had some money set aside which I could contribute, but at the same time I knew that I needed to build up my audience and following on social media. This is something I’m still trying to do and intend to go full throttle again very soon. That’s where my interview about crowd source funding Nelson Nutmeg will come in handy – you can read more here.
In between all of this, I was also trying to sort through shot lists and really devise the style and feel for the main movie I was going to shoot with Louis who was also my storyboard artist at the time. It was crazy working in different time zones, as Louis is based in Vietnam and I was back in the United Kingdom. However, there were also other things at play, things that I didn’t expect would happen at such a crucial and important time in the production.
The curse of the DOP
It became clear to me as the months went by that it was becoming increasingly difficult working with Louis, as his direction in life had suddenly changed. Louis decided that he wanted to become a Director and instead of spending time speaking with me about my project, I became overwhelmed with his desire to direct his own production. It’s to be expected. It’s amazing how our skills are transferrable in the film industry, but I had to take initiative and let Louis move on so that he could pursue his passions.
Although through the sadness of loosing the closeness of a friend and DOP (and resulting in mammoth delays to the project), I picked myself up again and started the search for another DOP and storyboard artist. It was then I was introduced to Rik Green, a crazy funk star, performer, film fanatic and artist to finish the job off. We had to work around his incredible funk n roll lifestyle, but it was worth it and his weekend stories were the greatest. The funny thing is, I have one scene by Louis and the rest by Rik, so the film is already looking nicely eclectic.
I was also conversing with Cory Jackson, one of the actors who starred in my concept film and learned that he had his own company Clockwork Media Group, where he provides actors/supporting artistes and crew for films and commercials. The company was still new at the time, but hearing more about Cory’s work and after he said ‘Simi I would vomit for you any day,’ in reference to the grossly infected character he played in my concept film, inspired a brainsplosion!
I approached Cory and asked him whether he’d be my fixer and act as a Producer for the Vietnam side of film. He was up for the challenge and we established an enthusiastic working relationship. So now Cory, along with his partner Han, a Production and Events Coordinator, have been piecing together our production bit by bit and we speak every single day, that’s teamwork for you. There’s always new things we’re learning especially with the cultural differences, but we’re cracking on with this international alien affair.
At the end of the 2016, a private investor who I had done a project with, invested in my project. This meant that that Vietnam leg of the project was pretty much covered. It also made me realise that with not enough followers on social media, it might be best to spend time developing our social media presence and shoot what I can in the hope that I can raise money to finish the film off. I still plan to do this. We have a rather innovative scene to shoot in London with most of the cast and crew pretty much secured for this, but I’ll need to crowd source the remaining portion of the budget off the back of the Vietnam shoot to complete the film.
Whilst making these important decisions, I had also found another DOP who I wanted to work with, however the day before booking tickets, my new DOP had to cancel due to personal affairs. So the curse of the DOP strikes again!
The day after the news I called a meeting and created a Plan B, moving my much desired April shoot to the middle of June which is monsoon season in Vietnam, something I was previously worried about, but now it could be a blessing. I spent the two solid weeks advertising, liaising and sifting through hundreds of some incredible DOP’s showreels.
Soon I was put in touch with an interesting Polish-Canadian DOP called Jan Belina Brzozowski through a former editor friend Carlos Boelinger, who recently made a Star Wars fan movie which has won awards. Jan and I established contact rapidly. He believed in the project, he understood things that many people hadn’t picked up on in the script and he believed in my ability to deliver the story and vision.
Finally, there was hope and after negotiations with Jan and his lovely agency which is run by a small team of women residing in Warsaw who I had the pleasure to meet in Poland a couple of weeks ago, we powered on through our film. But there was more as ironically, Jan’s partner Alice Tran is a Canadian Vietnamese actress working in Montreal and offered to be our translator! Her mum even translated some of the script for the Supporting Artistes. Our team is well and truly international, we even have Artistic Directors/Set Designers from Paris, contacts of Jan who have recently jumped on board. So far we have British, Pakistani, Canadian, Australian, French, Taiwanese, South African and Vietnamese cast and crew working on our production. And I’m British born Punjabi Indian and Jamaican!
I’m also super excited to have actor Adam Lannon on board; more about the casting experience coming up soon and about our working relationship which I’m super excited to share.
The journey continues and I’ve never been so nervous in my life, we’re working with VFX, SFX and even projection mapping, something I haven’t done combined together and at a larger scale, but luckily I have VFX Supervisor Mark Spevick on board to both humour and guide me along the way, my SFX/Prosthetics/MUA Designer Sammm Agnew and Iris Musel as our Visual Concept Artist.
My friend Gareth has tripled up as Games Writer, redesigning the rules for a well-known Vietnamese game and is even a Hologram Concept Writer along with myself.
I’ve just arrived in Vietnam this evening, I’ve spent months hardly sleeping waking up at 4AM most mornings to respond to mail and speak with my team in Vietnam. I work a 9-5 job in an office whilst trying to pull this shebang off, used what I could save borrowing more money along with the money already invested and pulled in favours from family and friends who believe in the project.
I’ve essentially invested in myself and thrown myself into the next challenge in my life because sometimes you just have to give yourself a chance before anyone else will.
Here we go.