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By Dwight Gabbert.
Sometimes you just get lucky and meet the right people.
When you’ve got little to no money to shoot a feature film on the streets and in the hotels of Amsterdam, you’re going to need an amazing cast and crew who have your back. And, of course, you’re gonna need to get lucky.
It’s the great thing about being in a situation like this. You really get to see what people are made of. It brings you closer to them, and it brings you closer to yourself. Everybody having each others back on the set, willing to go the long hours, knowing it’s going to be tough….. knowing it’s going to be brutal…… like Matt Price, our sound guy who actually came to me at the beginning of the shoot, while the cast and crew were having drinks at the Doors cafe, and said, ’Dude, I’m kinda worried about you, I’m worried your gonna’ burn out’. And he was genuinely concerned, with enough experience under his belt to realise we had bitten off way more than we could chew.
He was unbelievable on set, he was like a ninja warrior slipping in and out of the chaotic sounds of the city; the bells, the traffic, the crowds, construction going on down every street. And still, with all that, he managed to record great sound…….. And Boyd, with the focus pulling, jumpin’ around with that claw hand of his like a praying mantis jacked up on caffeine, pulling focus in the most impossible situations…….. Diederik, our DOP, carrying that boulder of a sony SF7 on his shoulder twenty hours straight, everyday, just getting the shot, getting the shot, just fucking doing it……… Zeb, our lighting guru who knew exactly what light to use every step of the way; simple three point lighting….. I mean, he was all on his own, except for the Best Girl Anja, but this was her first show. She didn’t even know the names of the equipment before she started. But, she stuck it out. All those long gruelling hours of holding a light, and hauling equipment. Man, she stuck it out…… Melanie, our Make-Up Artist, who had to work the craziest hours, getting up two hours before everyone else, a ‘Mother’ figure to the cast, a proper cockney lass with three kids of her own; the way she looked after the cast was amazing…… Zala Opara our Line Producer/everything else.
She should have bailed a thousand times; the way she put up with Tish badgering her constantly and me yelling at her on set. Man, she’s a tough street smart Slovenian girl who knows how to get shit done……. And, Sam White, who Zala brought out to be our 1st AD. We knew straight away he was way in over his head, but he worked relentlessly to make up for his inexperience, helping out wherever he could in pre-production, and helping us to construct a shooting schedule that would have been impossible for the most experienced 1st ADs in the world to figure out, even though none of us had a fucking clue what we were doing or what a ‘shooting schedule’ even was. And when one of the main actors quit, on the night before our first shooting day, Sam stepped in and took on the huge responsibility of playing the lead role, ‘Rey’, when he didn’t even know a fucking line of the script……And he did it.
He memorised and rehearsed those lines, and ironically enough, was better than any of the actors that had sent in a tape…….. And Tish, organising locations, the call sheets, cast, extras, props… basically, wearing five other pairs of shoes besides being the ‘Producer’, all while holding off a sea of cyclists and pedestrians at the end of the street to keep them from fucking up our shot; not giving a fuck what anybody thought; that wild, manic, crazy determination in her eyes. I mean, she just wouldn’t stop working; the driving force behind of the film. She cracked the whip and everyone fell in line……. And, while we were battling the elements on set, our mad scientist Gregor was battling carpel tunnel in his wrist, locked away in the basement feverishly trying to keep up with the footage we were bringing him everyday, and even with all that, with only ten days worth of footage, was able to put together the most bad ass teaser trailer which came as the perfect moral booster, at the most perfect time……
Once we saw that first teaser trailer, everyone knew, without a doubt, we had something worth fighting for. If we didn’t have a driver who was willing to break every single traffic law in Amsterdam to keep us on schedule and get us to location, we would have been fucked. The traffic citations are still coming in the post, which fucking pisses me off….. but, if Joppe had not been our driver/production assistant, driving with the rebellious tenacity of someone on the run from the law, who doesn’t care about the rules….. Yeah, if we didn’t have him…. no fuckin’ movie………. And the cast, every-single-one of them, so fucking committed, and brilliant; there just wasn’t a weak link in the bunch. And that’s what you need…… you need an army of misfits, degenerates; people crazy enough to work these hours for little to no pay and talented enough to make your film shine through. You can have one or two people moaning, there’s always going to be dissension in the ranks, that’s normal.
If you expect to have talented hard working people follow you into the depths of hell, then you better give them a damn good reason to follow you. Every pirate needs their piece of gold in one form or another. When there’s hardly any money involved, pirates need inspiration as payment. And even with the the crew and actors who have your back, even with all that on your side….. you’re still gonna need to get lucky.
Then again, sometimes you just get lucky and meet the right people.
This film, The Victorians, follows the fatal attractions of a pair of thieving brothers. One is fighting his homosexuality and love for a sadist, the other succumbing to his love for a prostitute. Their moral battle, the fuel for their thievery, leaves the tourists of Amsterdam high and dry.