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2 Imagine surviving the nuclear holocaust. Locked in a fallout shelter with your worst enemy: your ex.
It is the end of civilisation…
Fall-Out is a unique story penned by script editor Guido Lippe. Together with upcoming producer Dinkesh Miesuria they have formed Crowded Pictures and are currently crowd funding to finance the production. I got chatting to Guido about the whole process. Here’s what he has to say…
- What gave you the idea to write a post-apocalyptic RomCom?
For this short film, I tried to write something compact and confined, two characters in a situation where they can’t escape each other. Obviously, that only works when there is an in-story reason for it. After some pondering, I came up with a bunker as the setting and being a kid of the Cold War (yes, I’m THAT old) [Don’t look it!], a nuclear holocaust seemed like something apt. But obviously, they need to still be alive, hence the post-apocalyptic. Then, when I sat down writing it, the first line of dialogue was sarcasm, setting the tone for comedy. Then the characters took over and they became ex-lovers. Thus, the first Post-Apocalyptic RomCom was born.
- You’re hoping that producing your own short scripts will lead to more TV-writing gigs, having already worked as a successful script editor for many Dutch adaptations of UK classics. Did you start out your media career aiming to be a script editor/consultant or is writing where it all began?
I’d been writing off and on for years, but never anything seriously. But stories were always in the back of my mind. I voraciously went through books, TV shows, comics, etc. Ironically, much less nowadays, due to lack of time. Or maybe it just seems less. Anyway, digressing. I did a writing course at uni, which I thoroughly enjoyed and proved quite good at, and then when it came to finding an internship (required to graduate), I was lucky enough to land one of the rare script editing internships. I stuck around with that company for half a year after graduating and was then asked to be a script editor for different company. And I’ve been with them ever since.
I kept wanting to write on the side, but time was always a factor, so I never got much done. It’s only been in the last few years, with becoming more comfortable and proficient as a script editor that I found the confidence to really start working at it. Still with only limited time, but with much more results. I’ve now got one spec feature written, three shorts in (pre)production and a few more scripts on the boil. Now all I need is an agent and a big break. Ideally, I’d keep on combining script editing and writing, but maybe with a slightly more manageable balance.
- Did you approach upcoming young director Dinkesh Miesuria? What did he think of the script? Have you both collaborated on the shooting script since joining forces?
Meeting Dinkesh, who’s done some great stuff, but mainly in the non-fiction/reality arena, was basically quite serendipitous. We met through a mutual friend, got talking and he told me he wanted to make short films. I had a couple of ideas mulling around, quickly wrote something presentable. He fell in love with the script and things took off from there. Suddenly, one year on, we’re getting ready to film with a professional crew and proper famous actors. It’s quite surreal and quite scary.
- Has the script changed much since its first draft? What have you learned throughout the process?
I initially wrote it in Dutch, so that’s a big change, with it now being all in English. Makes it much easier for the actors, apparently. Kidding aside, when I rewrote the script last June, that was the major rewrite. Characters changed and fell into place, I added Family Guy/Scrubs-esque fantasy sequences after a flash of inspiration (probably fuelled by the BBC3 Family Guy marathon the night before) and in about a day, I had a script I was satisfied with.
Dinkesh loved it, a couple of other people I showed it to loved it and I can’t tell you how good it feels to have people like Dinkesh and Andrew (Hayden-Smith) and Daniel (Boys) believe in your work and writing. Over the last year, I’ve tinkered around with it a lot, tailoring it to possible guest actors in the fantasy sequences, with those changes then boiling over to the other scenes. The fantasies were part of the characters after all, so a change there meant a change in character.
Major learning curve – and I’m still learning it – is that it’s easy to write and much harder to produce. I’ve written some very funny things which we ultimately can’t afford. So back to the writing desk and changing the script to make sure the same point gets made, but affordably. Rewriting as a producer is a weird experience, because you’re much more willing to kill your darlings. Jack the Ripper has nothing on me…
- In what way has your personal experience of the industry influenced the script?
Not that much, really. I just sat down and developed an idea. Although, maybe it did shape it, in that I consciously did try to avoid what’s been done before and to do something new. I wanted to add to the industry, rather than copy it.
- As a script editor and consultant, do you find yourself being very critical of your own work and self-editing as you write, or do you let it all pour onto the page and then source external feedback?
I’m pretty good at self-editing. In that respect, being a script editor was a major plus. It means I’m much more conscious of pitfalls, or scene and act construction. I can spot subtextless dialogue much more readily, though I still write the occasional clunker. But I then reread and re-edit and things sort of work out. There is a danger of becoming too self-critical and limiting or self-censoring, but so far I’ve managed to avoid the worst of that.
Once I’m happy with it, I’m also quite happy for people to comment upon it. Unless they think it’s crap, obviously. I’ve been a script editor long enough to believe that if you can dish it out, you need to take it. And good script feedback is never personal. It’s about the script and however much it’s your baby, it’s not about you as a person – or even as a writer. And if it’s feedback I can’t do anything with, well, the rubbish bin is just a ball of paper’s throw away.
- You’ve got some great actors lined up, including Andrew Hayden-Smith who started out on iconic UK children’s TV show Byker Grove. Did you have certain actors in mind when you wrote the script or were the castings chosen as part of an official casting call?
I actually did write with Andrew in mind, but ironically for the part that we didn’t offer him. Again, that’s to do with not wanting to do what’s been done before. I wanted to stretch myself as a writer, but I also wanted to stretch the actors, to take them out of their comfort zone. Just as the producing side is outside of my comfort zone, but so very worthwhile.
I do like writing with an actor in mind, because it gives you a voice. But that voice can change, sometimes even mid-sentence. And writing with an actor in mind is different from actually casting them, because though their voice helped you write, they may not necessarily be the right actor for the part. In our case, Dinkesh and I were always convinced that the actor we were approaching could handle the part. And I think that with Andrew and Daniel, and with Chris Ashby as well, we’re very blessed. Oh and, once you’ve cast an actor, it does help to go through the script to see what more you can think of that suits their talents. It makes it more fun for them and you usually end up with a stronger script and film.
- Fall-Out is about hidden issues; fantasies, prejudices, grudges and emotions, and how we can all overcome them. It has been expressed through the use of comedy, but did you find that – with such deep thoughts at its core – it was difficult to do so?
When I started writing it, I never worried about the message. I tried to write interesting, funny and three-dimensional characters. Well-written characters can’t help but have multiple layers, and hidden depths and secrets. But then, once you’ve written it, you begin to see the patterns your subconscious has laid out. Then you see the themes emerge and the hidden secrets come out. Suddenly you get all the nuances you were only half-aware of and then polish things up to make sure that bit of synergy is working at maximum power.
When writing about gay characters, it’s easy to make it about “issues”. EastEnders have got pretty good mileage out of that, but it’s the easy way out and can become trite and clichéd in a heartbeat. The issues will come out of the characters and shouldn’t be forced onto them, which I think a lot of writers, but also script editors and script producers, are prone to default to.
- With such a unique premise, Fall-Out is sure to attract attention. How will you be releasing/marketing the film and are film festivals on the cards?
It’s tough marketing a short film, but the response so far has been really good. Everyone I’ve given the logline to has laughed out loud when they get to the twist. So that should make things easier. A lot will depend on word-of-mouth. Or word-of-twitter.
We’re definitely looking into festivals. We’ll probably start with a few high profile LGBT festivals and move to more mainstream short film festivals from there. And then on to Cannes, the BAFTAS and the Oscars.
Beyond that, we just want as many people to see this short, funny, poignant story, so we’re looking into dvd distribution, VoD stuff like itunes, etc. We’ve already had a few nibbles from distributors but our focus now is on getting the film made.
- When will the short be filmed and when can we expect to see it? Do you have a blog/website for it, or will all updates come via Indiegogo?
We’re still working out the schedule. We have some great cast and crew involved, which unfortunately also means they’re in high demand. We’ll keep everyone in the loop, don’t worry.
- Indiegogo has become a massively popular way to crowd-source funding for films. How have you found the platform? Will you fund future films in the same way? What happens if you don’t raise enough?
It’s been a proper education. It’s hard work, which I’ll be honest about, we underestimated. With both me and Dinkesh working fulltime, it’s been tough running the campaign as well. So we had a few stumbles, but we’re learning and on the right track. Other films might also go through the crowd funding route, but that’ll be on a case-by-case basis. I don’t think every project is suited for the crowd funding approach.
If we don’t raise enough, we’ll obviously have a big problem, but we’ll deal with it. It’ll mean having another look at the script and see if there’s anything we can change to make it more manageable on an even lower micro-budget. It will get made, let me stress that, but it might mean putting a lot more pressure on our cast and crew and we really want to avoid that.
We could have gone the free labour route, but we consciously decided to pay our cast and crew for their hard work. Only Dinkesh and I don’t get paid, but we’re doing this because we believe in the film.
- What’s next on the cards for Guido Lippe as the editor and Guido Lippe the writer? Are there any other media/creative roles or projects you’d love to try?
Well, I’ve just applied for the script editor’s role on Doctor Who, so that’s the dream. Let’s hope Steven Moffat reads this 😉 [That would be incredible if he read my blog!] But in the meantime, I’m working on quite a few very exciting projects.
A kids’ feature I worked on will be in cinemas from October, I’m working on miniseries about a Dutch real estate fraud scandal; a miniseries about Johan Cruijff, the legendary footballer; a feature film about William of Orange, founding father of the Netherlands as we know it today; a feature film and miniseries about the Dutch slavery past in Surinam and I’m exhausting myself just making the list, which goes on a bit longer, but I won’t bore you too much.
As for the writing side, I’ve got two more shorts on the way, with some very nice actors attached, whom I cannot reveal just yet. I’m also working on another feature script (a psychological drama this time), a novella and I have some sitcom/comedy feature ideas floating around that I need to nail down.
I was a bit critical about EastEnders earlier, but I really do love that show. I got quite close to becoming a script editor for them, but alas. Maybe some day. And the same with Holby City, really. It’s easy to look down on continuing drama series, which are seen as y’know a bit soapy and corny. But working with such long-established characters and such an enormous output of stories… That’s so incredibly challenging. I really would love to work in their story departments, either as script editor, or storyliner, or writer. Call me! [Guido, if you get any gigs through my blog, I shall be expecting a leg-up into the industry by way of thanks! 😉 ]
Thanks very much, Guido, for such a fascinating interview! Wishing you and Dinkesh all the best with Fall-Out!
Want to help Crowded Pictures to get this unique script produced? Then head on over to the Indiegogo page where you can donate in exchange for some awesome goodies!
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