As for most things in life, in filmmaking it’s really the making part that is the most fun. Whatever it is that you do, you may spend days, weeks, months or even years grafting to get your work to your standard of perfection until you are satisfied. And then, if you depend on this work to put food on the table or even if it’s a simple step in the direction you’d like your life to take, well you’ve got sell it and that’s when fun, for the most part, goes out of the window.
Though I too love to sail forbidden seas, I have not travelled half as far as my heart wishes. A few years back, I did find my way to New York City, as far from home as I’d ever been. It was a spur of the moment sort of affair but one that had been coming for some time, for I had long felt the pull of the great white whale living far across the sea.
I was back at the airport. I don’t like those places at the best of times, too sterile, too organised; give me a train station or a harbour any day for a real sense of adventure. The state I was in didn’t make things any better. I needed help and I needed it fast, knowing full well that the kind of help I was after might quite possibly make things worse. It might mean that I’d be turned away at the boarding gate but I had to chance it. Needs must and all that.
I was in the taxi taking me back to Boryspil, sweating beads of booze and my hands shaking violently, when the events of the past 24 hours or so, brutally came back to me. Luckily the driver was a man of few words, giving me ample time to ponder the previous day and its significance.
It had started like a perfectly regular day, slightly hungover but happy with ourselves. In five days, we’d filmed four great characters who’d all swanned through the interviews like real pros. They all had different life experiences but signs of a common thread had started to appear and a narrative was slowly emerging. Our film was taking shape and we all thought it had legs.
Odessa is a five hour drive from Kiev, a straight line stretching south for 475km on a desolate highway, with nothing but the Ukrainian outback on both sides. Pushing 200km/h, we were making good progress, on every level. We had clocked up two interviews the previous day and were on our way to film another, our fourth. We’d set off early which hadn’t been easy, seeing at how intense yesterday had been.
I am not what you might call a risk-taker. Yes, I did a buy a company in the throes of death, in an industry that more and more resembles the sun deck on the titanic and yes, when most tend to treat their bodies as temples, I mostly manage mine as a casino but my tendency to imagine the worst possible outcome, usually prevents me from being a daredevil. Occasionally though, often helped by some lubricant or other, I can conjure up some bravado and accomplish feats that with hindsight, always make me say “what was I thinking”, on condition that those “feats” fulfil either one of two criteria: they have to be productive or they have to be fun.