All About Alice

So…. About his whole Alice thing….

I’ve been asked what’s going on, and I need to explain so the people who put their time into it understand. There’s at least two sides to every story, and I don’t want to come across poorly here. I’m simply putting forward my point of view of the situation. I actually don’t like writing about this, it feels like washing your dirty laundry in public – but then again only around three of you read this, so that’s OK 

Alice was going to be film made by various directors from the Brighton Film Coalition. I’m not sure of numbers, I think the plan was somewhere around 8 directors, each making our own section. A nice little experiment. Now I was never holding out hope that the film would be any good, and I say that as an optimist, but at that moment in my life I wanted a quick, month long project (hahaha!) to tide me over while Genesis was still being developed. Things didn’t start well when shooting begun without a full script, but hey, I was given my half a page of dialogue, so I was away.

Yes, I dropped half the dialogue. And yes, I turned what was now a quarter of a page into a 15 minute skit. That was my plan from the start. A song and dance number, a cartoon style fight, all that nonsense we added. Everyone knew what Phil and I were doing with our scene, keeping the producer updated and involved. So we filmed it, spent 6 months in post production, added loads of comedy dialogue, and then it was done (I do have a day job so can’t work on it all the time!). The actors put in the time, and despite one or two issues along the way, common when you’re not paying people, we got there with a sequence I’m actually rather proud of.

All set to go, and I was informed there would be a screening of the film end of November. Brilliant, I wanted to see the rest of the film, see what others had done, and get some reaction to the little bit we’d done. So far, so good.

Yet behind the scenes, things weren’t so good. The list of contributing directors had been cut to only 3. I wasn’t happy about that, I liked the idea of it being a Coalition film. To me it was looking more and more like a vanity project, not a collective film. The producer had his work cut out, as you would on zero budget filmmaking, so I understand he had to step in when people would drop out. Make no mistake, the main issue with people dropping out was caused by the poor planning, itself a direct result of having no complete script when shooting started. Still, it was becoming less and less a group film, and when you hear other director's sequences are being re-shot, it's not good.

Still, not really my concern. We had our skit, it was going in. Or was it? My cheesy little musical number, which was written to cover a variety of musical genres, wasn’t in keeping with the other “music” in the film. It was going to be turned in a DubStep song. Now I don’t even know what the fuck DubStep is, but it doesn’t sound good. I can’t imagine a mega drum track would fit over my song. It's OK though, I’m just a contributing director, I’m not producing, it’s not my call. Bigger picture and all that.

So what finally made me tell them to go fuck themselves? Well it turns out the “producer” and one of the “writers” thought it would be a good idea to have a comedy character in the film with a stammer. Hmmmm….. in the current trailer (which if you’ve seen it, you’ll know is about the biggest piece of shit trailer ever committed to the internet – and that is truly saying something) cuts from this stammerer wildly gesticulating to a group of people wildly laughing. Now as someone who suffers from a stammer, my thoughts on this may not be particularly reasoned.... basically I could only see red.

Let's be clear here, I don't think you should ever have a disabled character in a film for purely comedy effect. It's not big, it's not clever. It's fucking pathetic and shows a monumental lack of maturity.

I wrote to both the director of that sequence (also the film's producer), and the actor - both of them being the writers as well.

"Er.... does that / your character in the trailer have a stammer?"

"Yes he does!" was the actors response. The other response was a "Among other issues yes."

"How am I meant to take that? Have you any idea how pissed off I am?"

Then a few emails basically saying don't be so sensitive! Come on, I'm the one living with this disability.

"You're really leaving me no choice but to withdraw my segment of the film."

"If that's how you feel." And that was the end of the conversation.

Here was a film I was involved in, spent a huge amount of time working on, that I'd not be able to ever watch. They didn't appear to care. 

How was I meant to take this? There are either two scenarios. The first is that they didn’t realise I’d find it insulting and it never crossed their minds. In which case they’re idiots, so fuck ‘em, frankly I have no time for idiots in my life. The second is it’s malicious and was meant to offend me. In which case fuck ‘em, I have no time for idiots in my life.

And that’s where we are. I’ve withdrawn my sequence from the film. I guess they’ll go and shoot a new fight sequence. Probably something involving a girl running around a forest with a sword. Because, you know, that’s Geek Good. I'm sorry for the people involved in my bit who wanted their name in the credits. For what it's worth, you'll probably end up thanking me. From what I've seen of the other work in it, I was going to insist on being listed as Alan Smithee anyway Hopefully everyone involved will still be proud of their work and have something to stick on their showreel.

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