I’ve worked with Danny Boyle twice now and one of the first and most useful things he does when he sets up a production office is set up a knd of Library Corner, full of pictures, books and films that have inspired him. He also invites people from the Art Department, the Camera Department etc. to do the same. The Library Corner for Millions was plastered with El Greco reproductions and the films of Satajit Ray, and the short stories of Frank O’Connor.
I’ve been thinking about what I would put in the Library Corner of Triple Word Score.
First of all would be Life is A Long Slow River and Tatie Danielle by Etienne Chatillez. These are two French films about working people in unglamorous locations (Roubaix, on the Belgium border, North of Lille) but which are bursting with fun, colour and odd moments of beauty and poetry. They’re a World away from the formulaic miserabilism of Mike Leigh and Co.
One of the things I’m hoping to nick from Chatillez is his gift for writing really extreme - appalling - characters who you somehow like to watch. Human monsters like Tatie Danielle are as compelling in their way as real monsters like Godzilla or Kong. But you don’t need a special effects budget to get them onto the screen.
Frank O’Connor - swaggering, hilarious, wise, and fearless - is still on my mental shelves and probably always will be.
Danny Boyle introduced me to this terrific poem by Paul Farley which also makes it to the Mental Shelves:
There’s also this terrific story written (worryingly) by my son Joe about the fallibility of fathers, which is sort of the theme of the film. So this story gets in there next to O’Connor:
Because we want to have fun with Scrabble tiles during the film, we’re also looking at brilliant title sequences, such as those from the Pink Panther films.
So we’re planning to make this film cheaply and quickly. The thing is, I don’t know how often I’ve said that.
The first film I made was set in and out of Happy Eaters and A-Road diners. We thought that because they were cheap to eat in they would be cheap to film in. In fact of course they take thousands of pounds every hour of the day and into the night and it would be cheaper to close the Ritz than to close an A-6 OK Diner.
In Grow Your Own we were convinced that an allotment would give us “free beauty on screen”. Of course a few days prep was enough to show both us and the allotment holders that no working garden could survive a lengthy visit from a film crew so we ended up having to build (and secure) allotments from scratch.
There’s also the whole problem of communication and understanding. I can remember watching a whole crew decamp and make a full day move to shoot one of my characters walking uphill. I thought afterwards - well he doesn’t really need to be walking uphill. Up stairs would do. I just want him to look quiet. If we’d had that conversation before scheduling, we could’ve saved a day. Especially as it ended up on the cutting room for.
So this time we have a producer - Sarada McDermott - in the team from Day One. She’s going to look at the treatment and tell us what looks difficult or pricey and I’m going to try and address things at the script stage rather than later.
What else are we doing to keep the price down? Well it’s going to be written for specific actors who we know want to do it. So that should save months of casting.
And I’m trying to come up with story that involves a lot of repetition and variation so that should mean we can use the same locations a lot but in an interesting way - a way that looks formal and a bit hypnotic, rather than just ... well a bit rubbish.
And we’re keeping away from Happy Eaters.
Frank Cottrell Boyce: Millions One bag of stolen cash, two brothers and a cloud of saints. Winner of the Carnegie Medal and the Luchs das Jahr among others. Filmed by Danny Boyle.
Frank Cottrell Boyce: Framed As a result of flooding in London, the entire contents of the National Gallery are hidden away in a cave under a small Welsh village. The inhabitants discover what's going on and get itchy fingers.
Currently being filmed by the BBC. Shortlisted for the Carnegie, the Whitbread, the Tir na nOg and the Jugendliteraturpreis (2007) among others.
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