Four Weeks in the Can

Four Weeks in the Can was written very quickly in a very intense burst of inspiration. A comedy. A short film screenplay, which would be the most complicated story of mine to film, as it incorporates live action, cartoon, claymation and puppet versions.... ....of the same characters. All interacting. There is also the obligatory synopsis. You may be surprised to see Julie Walters in the script. She doesn't yet know that she is in it, but I'll have to send a copy to her agent.

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I wrote it in 2007, but it is based around a real incident that happened in 2000. If you have visited the Film Shoots section of my Photos Galleries, you'll see a few photos from a film I worked on in Spain, The House of the Sleeping Beauties. I'm so pleased that I took photos during the shoot, because it means I can show you some of the faces behind the characters in this story. They are Tomás the DOP, Miguel the Sound, Eloy the director, David the Best Boy and Eusebio the Grip.

Several weeks into the shoot, first thing on Monday morning, the writer director Eloy lozano & his brother Ángel -also the co-producers- called the crew together to give us bad news. The money had run out. They were very sorry, Eloy was heart-broken, they didn't know how it had happened, but that was that. There would be money to pay that day's expenses, we wouldn't be thrown out of our hotel just yet. But there was no more money. Eloy wanted to continue filming, but understood that we would be very angry, and he thoroughly expected us to walk out. So we gathered ourselves around in a circle for a pow-wow. Mainly it was Tomás & Miguel who spoke. They were the most experienced amongst the crew, and the rest of us simply agreed with them, too dumb-struck to have opinions of our own. What sentiments? You'll have to read the screenplay, it's all in there. But it can be guessed from the title.

We had four weeks' worth of filming in the can. That surely was a copper-bottomed guarantee for prospective backers. Proof that we were working on something solid. It wasn't as if we wanted money for a project we were planning. This project was going full steam ahead. The engines merely need stoking. The producers had failed in their jobs, but we were fulfilling our side of the bargain. So, we agreed we would carry on working, mainly because we had each committed ourselves to this film and had no other work we could fall back on. Maybe in the meantime more money could be raised.

And that very simply is what happened. In real life, I think the producers came up with a solution that very same day. The shoot carried on and was finished on schedule. But it took me seven years to realise that there was story potential in my experience. And I have just this second remembered what sparked the inspiration.

In the summer of 2006, just after my aborted Liverpool exhibition, I worked in Barcelona for a production company, Mortimer, translating scripts for their projects. I had certain criticisms. Content & material that I thought shouldn't be in a script: descriptions of psychological states, characters' thoughts, descriptions of events that had happened in the past. Put simply, things that you don't see on screen. What is in a screenplay, I argued, should be the visuals. If you need to describe actions, describe them by all means. succinctly and tightly. But screenplays aren't places for descriptive padding. Anyway, I must have stored these arguments away. A year later I was translating another screenplay, and reading William Goldman's Which Lie Did I Tell?. I imagined a scriptwriter pro giving a lecture to a class of wannabe scriptwriters, ripping into the plot exercises he had set them for homework. But it was all one-sided. The know-all lecturer had all the gab and all the put-downs. I couldn't come up with dialogue for the students. Plus the pompous lecturer was getting a little heavy. Was this a comedy or a melodrama or what? The situation needed lightening up. Wait! If the students were cartoon characters, they needn't talk at all. Their dialogue could all be musical sound effects. And they could react cartoonly behind his back, like naughty schoolkids. That would subvert him and endear them to the viewer. Next I remembered my "4-weeks-in-the-can" experience. Everything fell into place.

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Copyright © 2005/6/7/8/9 by Denis Murphy. All rights reserved. Revised: 04 Oct 2012 04:09 .