Club Le Monde
Club Le Monde was the third feature script I ever wrote, in the April of 1995. Having spent a large amount of the previous five years clubbing around London, it was something that was close to my heart and at that time I couldn't believe no-one had made a film about club culture. By that point it had been going strong for six or seven years and had undoubtedly hit the mainstream so it seemed ripe for cinematic exploitation.
The script started off like Slacker in a club - just a bunch of kids with absolutely no connection whatsoever apart from the occasional chance encounter. Over the years however, it turned more into Dazed and Confused in a club with a central love story which acts as a structural backbone. Over the years I must have refined this love story and worked on the more comic elements with about ten or more drafts but when I first wrote it, it took me a mere three days; something of a personal record. I remember writing for the first 36 hours thinking 'wow this is flowing really easily' and then having to go out for the afternoon and being really nervous the next day when I started writing again, just in case it didn't flow as well...
Over the years the script had a lot of interest and I had a series of people who were keen to produce the thing - ranging from Mike Leigh's producer downwards - but none of them really stuck. In the end, one of the few people I could rely on was myself so I ended up producing it and Piers Jackson also got a credit for coming onto the set for a couple of weeks when the other producer at the time,, Jolyon Symmonds, left the production in the lurch.
One of the key people who also, ultimately, went uncredited was Rupert Preston who was head of distribution at Metrodome. I'd know him for quite a while and had constantly harangued him about the lack of youth culture films, esp club culture ones, coming out of this country. As someone who'd distributed some of Richard Linklater's films he was in complete agreement and was always sympathetic to my script. When every other distribution company passed on Human Traffic, he was the one who picked it up, shook it around and released it to great success. So when Metrodome were finally ready to go back into production (the then boss, Alan Martin, had started off producing such fare as Leon The Pig Farmer and Beyond Bedlam in the early 90s), Club was slated as their second film. They would provide 50% and we (executive producers Doug Abbot, John Jaquiss and I) would provide the other 50%.
Throughout 2000 we'd have a meeting here, a meeting there, a quick chat at a London premiere, a longer more relaxing schmooze under the mid-day sun in Cannes and finally when we'd sourced the money Doug and I went to meet Alan Martin to sign the contracts only to be told that they'd been 'quite busy' and weren't able to come on board. By this point we'd had several meetings, each more and more serious and one with our solicitor present so this turnaround was a complete bolt out of the blue, especially as we were a good couple of weeks into pre-production! I remember Doug and I walking out of the meeting stunned by the absolute cavalier attitude and dishonesty inherent in what we'd been told but hey, welcome to the film industry motherfucker. We went to the nearby Selfridges to commiserate with a glass of alcohol and discuss our next move.
At this point Metrodome were still keen to release the film and were on board as distributors; they just weren't giving us any money up front (it soon became apparent that actually they didn't have any to give us!). Between a rock and a hard place, we concluded that it was better to have a distributor than not have one and felt that Rupert Preston would still do a good job of releasing the film so, we decided we should plough ahead anyway and try to get the film made - especially since we'd got this far. Doug persuaded one of the principal investors from The Truth Game that this would be a good investment and I worked on our original investors assuring them that the film should still be made and that it would still be just as good.
One of the few times I've felt like a wheeler dealer producer was when I had a 40minute pivotal conversation with these investors (2M Films); it was actually a monologue rather than a duologue and I was coming up with reason after reason why we should carry on with the film. At the end of the conversation 2M Films said they'd ring me back after they'd discussed the situation between themselves and for 10 nerve-wracking minutes, I sat there thinking this is it, if this film falls apart now, I don't think it'll ever happen and my film career will be over! Finally Doug called and asked whether I was sitting down? I wasn't so I sat down and he triumphantly announced that everyone had agreed to continue with the financing and although the budget dropped by about 25%, the amber light had switched to green!
Still about 4-6 weeks away from production I thought the hardest part of the film had been overcome but sadly I was mistaken. The crewing up of a film is just as important as the casting of a film; get the wrong person and they can severely damage your product. It's the director/producer's responsibility to choose who he thinks is best for each head of department job so I really had no-one to blame but myself but boy did I make some bad decisions. The camera man and I spent almost all the time arguing about what to shoot and how to shoot it; he wouldn't do handheld, he wouldn't do extreme close ups, he wouldn't do zoom shots; every shot took twice as long as it should and was tweaked after each take so that by the end of each day, having dropped a handful of set ups, the only way to cover every scene was to do wide locked-off shots, hence the film's relatively static look. I also had a line-producer who kept coming on set and making matters worse, a focus puller who was p! honing! up the editor and telling him to take shots out of the cut, one HOD who spent a large proportion of the shoot either drunk or absent, another who was accused of stealing one of the lead actors' watch and so it went on.
What happened on the first scene on the first day of the shoot sums up how the production continued. We'd scheduled to shoot the scenes between Frank Harper and Bruce Byron first. Everyone turned up on set and was ready to turn over for a 9 o'clock start. By this time however, there was still no sign of Frank Harper who lived out of London and was being picked up by one of the runners. Someone finally called the runner to ask what was going on - the runner was waiting outside Frank's house. Someone then called Frank to see where he was; he was waiting inside his house. Curious...A couple of discussions later and it turned out that the runner had got the right road but the wrong town! Frank ended up having to get a taxi to the set which he paid for out of his own money, arrived about 45 minutes late and was understandably well fucked off. So on the first day of shooting we were already about 2 hours into the day before we'd shot one frame.
By the end of the first week I'd resigned myself to the fact that if I wasn't going to enjoy making this film then that's the way it was going to be. Over the following three weeks, things improved marginally but not really and so the film that I'd spent five years of my life sweating, struggling and fighting to get off the ground, a film with a great cast and a great energy and a great soundtrack which should have been the pinnacle of my film-making career (at that point) ended up being my most miserable and least enjoyable time on a film set. Ever. Thankfully I've never had an experience like it before or since. It was a complete nightmare and there were really only two things that kept me going.
The first was the group of actors I'd chosen with casting director Kate Bryden; everyone was enthusiastic, good and enjoyable to work with. The second was editor Eddie Hamilton who was equally enthusiastic, good at what he did and great fun.
At this point Metrodome were still on board as distributors but trying to get anything out of them was like getting water out of a stone and we had one half-hearted effort of a test screening which was instrumental in helping us make some necessary cuts to the film and that was it. Around this time, Rupert Preston left and that was that.
As ever with low budget films, the post-production took a long time to complete, especially the final blow up to 35mm (which Metrodome had contracted to complete!). During the latter stages of this process my mother was diagnosed with cancer and went from being a very fit and healthy 65 year old to a cadaver in the space of 3 months. The film's charity premiere for Crusaid ended up being on the same day as my mum's funeral so I didn't even make it to the Club Le Monde premiere and after this point, if truth be told, I think I lost interest in the film (my father had also died 6 months previous to my mum).
Momentum almost came on board as distributors but didn't so in the end Screen Projex, the distribution arm of Screen Production Associates, released it on a respectable 20 odd screens in the October/November of 2002.