Hello. I wasn't sure what I would write about in this diary. It's been over six months now since I finished my last film, Trauma, and it screened at the Sundance Film Festival to a rather mixed response. And it will be a few weeks yet before it is released here in the UK (on 27th August - pray for rain!).
In the meantime not much has happened. I have been busying myself, more in hope than expectation, trying to set up my next film. A rather mundane process, to be honest, which can feel like wading through treacle while somebody keeps moving the goalposts! Days turn into weeks and weeks go by without much discernible treacle displacement... but then, occasionally, something actually happens to make you believe that the improbable is actually possible. And so it was this week.
"ALAN RICKMAN HAS COMMITTED TO PLAY THE LEAD"
Which means I am writing this from New York, where I am talking to some people about a wonderful script called Snow Cake. I am hoping this will be my next film, which I will make with Revolution Films in the autumn. Snow Cake (as the title suggests) requires snow, which probably means that it will be shot in Canada. But it is very much a British project, written by a first-time British screenplay writer called Angela Pell. And it is quite the most terrific thing that I have read in a very long time. So terrific, in fact, that Alan Rickman has already committed to play the male lead - a character called Alan, written with him in mind. Through him we have managed to get the script to Sigourney Weaver (they met while making Galaxy Quest), and she has responded favourably. Very favourably, we think.
To get this far is no mean feat in itself, as American actors won't normally even look at a script unless there's a financial offer attached. This situation is exacerbated by the agents, who jealously guard their clients from any direct approaches and perpetuate a fortress-like inaccessibility. For the 'indie' British producer (ie most), it is a given that the castle of dreams cannot be stormed. Therefore stealth is the only option. And so this trip to New York is part of an assault by stealth, the main purpose being to meet Sigourney Weaver in person to talk about the script.
Persistence with the agent to make this meeting happen has only been possible because the client likes the script, and we have ascertained that Sigourney is definitely "interested" in playing the female lead, Linda. But "interested" is a hard emotion to gauge from across the Atlantic and August looms. So it is with great relief and excitement that we are able to make this informal meeting with Sigourney to discuss the project, face to face, on 30th July. OK, we are cutting it fine, but suddenly, some progress on the project seems possible.
Hitting a humid New York with jet lag is a shock to the system. Especially as I am staying at the Holiday Inn, Midtown, situated in what is known as Hell's Kitchen. In mid-summer this place certainly lives up to its name, all infernal noise and heat (imagining the snowy landscape of the film is difficult!).
"MS WEAVER IS AS CHARMING AS YOU WOULD HOPE"
I arrive on Thursday evening and my lunch appointment with Sigourney is arranged for noon on Friday. Inevitably, due to my British body clock, I awaken the next morning at 6am and lie there thinking about the day ahead. I am nervous for, although I suspect that Sigourney Weaver is a thoroughly decent human being, she is, undoubtedly, also Sigourney Weaver - not only a great actor but an iconic figure to my generation. She is a seriously good actor with a seriously distinguished career. Hence the nerves.
I decide to kill time by walking through Central Park towards the restaurant on the Upper East Side. It is hot and sticky, but there are sweaty joggers and skaters out in force. By the time I reach the Upper East Side, I too am sweating and breathless and even more nervous. But the regal Ms Weaver is - of course! - as charming and as easy as you would hope, and my audience with her soon becomes a normal conversation between two adults about a script. What makes the conversation even easier is that her enthusiasm for it seems to match my own.
By the time lunch is over, I cannot imagine anybody else playing the lead role. Back on the street my head is spinning with excitement and expectation. I immediately call the producers, Gina Carter and Andrew Eaton at Revolution. Sigourney's interest has given the project terrific impetus and the various meetings that follow with prospective financiers in New York seem all the easier because I am able to talk with confidence about our lead cast. This is how films are made, through a combination of diligence and stealth. And some serendipity. In this case, Alan Rickman's ambassadorial talents have been key.
Timing, of course, is everything, but it sure helps to have a good script. By Saturday night I am in (premature) celebratory mood and meet up with a friend (Matthew Penry-Davey, the first assistant director on Trauma), who is working in New York on a big Nicolas Cage film [Lord Of War]. We go and see M Night Shyamalan's new film, The Village. Amongst its stellar cast is... Sigorney Weaver. What a strange looking glass world this can be! But I am soon absorbed in the film, which is beautifully executed, well acted and everything a Hollywood film should be. It is also a creepy parable of contemporary society.
It relies heavily on a twist so I won't discuss the plot here, but thematically it seems to me to be dealing with the idea that it is fear that keeps society together. It reminds me that genre films, at their best, can be just as effective in dealing with big ideas as documentaries or other kinds of drama.
The film stays with us as we walk back out into the heat of Hell's Kitchen and leads us inevitably to talk about Trauma and its imminent release. I guess that in my next instalment I should tell you a little more about that. By which time I should be back in London.