In 2009 I was writing several spec features. Suddenly, I stopped. It hit me like an anvil – I was wasting my time. Although my ideas were great and my writing accomplished, I realised that my tastes were very much ‘niche’. Contemporary films that many tastemakers considered great, I often thought tedious, average or worse. I was out of step.
It was March and I decided I wanted to make a microbudget feature in the summer; what was the point of polishing scripts that I thought were strong, only to have them overlooked by some gatekeeper who’s tastes I didn’t share? So began a series of naïve and reckless decisions and actions that resulted in me giving birth to Small Creatures.
A few years before, I’d been gob-smacked by an amazing film called Rosetta by the Dardenne Brothers. That was the kind of film I wanted to make. My plan was to have the film finished by Spring 2010. It was going to be a spartan production, turned around quickly, with the minimum of fuss. I figured £25k would be enough for a miniscule crew and cast, shooting documentary style.
I made a handwritten note in the front of my preproduction file – Be Bold.
We were in the middle of a global financial crisis and interest rates were rock bottom. I found some wealthy people and promised them a 10% return in three years. Of course, they gave me money, no problemo. So far, so good.
I’m in Liverpool (in the Northwest of England 220 miles from London) and although plenty of films get shot here because it has centuries of great architecture, there’s no filmmaking infrastructure to speak of. I used my documentary and music video pedigree to put a call out and assemble a great team. Looking back, I now realise I didn’t know ANY of them beforehand. This was massive mistake.
I knew from the start that I wanted to pay people rather than go down the deferrals route. I was serious about making a good film and determined to sell it. I didn’t want the hassle of managing the whole deferral thing. As the team grew, so did the technical possibilities and creative ambitions. So the film began to creep imperceptibly from my original, spartan model, into something semi-industrial. I realised £25k wasn’t going to be enough.
But things were going well. I couldn’t stop now…