Chapter 14: Rescued
Although my local phone had also gone during the border exchange, Amuda had just enough credit to text someone back home to call us back. That someone was Barbara who was back in Accra. We calculated that we could only make it as far as a particular town 40 miles ahead of us, hundreds of miles short of our destination but Barbara called around her address book of clients to find someone who might live near that town who could help us.
Within an hour, and many calls later she had located an ex-pat client from one of the many companies she had dealt with who was not only prepared to drive quite some distance to the obscure town, but he would meet us on a dusty road where we had run out of fuel and bring $500 dollars in local equivalent. 
He was given a description of our van with red generator attached and we waited. By this time we had long since run out of food, water, fuel, we quite literally had nothing except the shirt on our backs and they were pretty torn. Then at about 10.15pm, a plush looking car flashed its lights behind us and I excitedly jumped out to meet this stranger who had come to save us.
I will never forget the look on this man’s face as he got out of his air conditioned car in his smart, perfectly ironed attire to meet us. This was a corporate client of Barbara’s and perhaps he had expected the English film director she had described to look somewhat different.  I walked around the back of the van with a smile on my face and an outstretched hand in which to greet him but he had stopped transfixed at the sight of me.
It hadn’t occurred to me how strange I might have looked until that moment but I suddenly became acutely aware due to his horrified expression, that not only had I not been able to wash, shave or been able to take any personal care of myself for several days but I was standing there completely covered head to toe in reddish African dust, except for a small patch around my eyes where my sunglasses had been earlier in the day. I was scratched with a torn, ill-fitting shirt, trousers with unmentionable stains down them and sunken features from what had amounted to nearly 3 months of food poisoning. I can’t vouch for the smell that might also have emanated from me as I had probably gotten used to it.
‘What the hell has happened to you?’ he said, with his hand poised over his phone like he was about to call an ambulance.
My reply was also an acute moment of personal realisation;
‘I… I made a film’..
No matter what I would have said to him, it would never had made sense. I was just so grateful for this stranger coming to save us like this that I think my beaming smile just didn’t fit with the rest of my bedraggled body.
I can’t possibly do justice to how it truly felt to go through what we did on this film over the three months we ended up out in Africa. I cannot get across with words the heat, the smells, the feeling of the dust in your lungs day after day, the stickiness, the unrelenting flies in your face.  How it felt to endure the stresses and at the same time feeling ill or weak from having been ill. Like anything, you simply had to be there, but I’m very relieved you were not. As you would not have liked it much and there would have only been one person you could have complained to.
For the record, one other policeman between Paga and Accra stopped me. A bright eyed young officer who asked me what I was doing. I told him with a smile ‘We’ve just made the first Zombie movie in Africa called The Dead, we had a nightmare trying to get the film made but I hope you enjoy it when it comes out’ ‘That sounds really nice’ He said, returning the smile ‘I will see it and I will remember you, good luck’. He put up both thumbs enthusiastically. ‘I will remember you too’ I said. No money exchanged hands, just a human moment that I really won’t forget. I almost took his name and number to report him for being honest.
For all my own complaining that I have now got off my chest, one very important thing has to be said. It was entirely self-inflicted. I chose to take this on and therefore I only have myself to blame. Everyone worked incredibly hard on this film under difficult conditions and I wished I could have provided the cast and crew with a much smoother ride.
All of my personal stresses, however infuriating they were, are pathetic when compared to the hundreds of people we encountered in Africa who had not even enough food or water on a daily basis and certainly not the ‘luxury’ of indulging in a creative desire. And although we were able to help out a little as we passed by, we were about to leave their country with our film and many of them would still be starving. I don’t believe that means we should not have made the film, but it certainly puts it all in perspective.
 
THE COST
So, how much money had we actually spent getting this film in the can:
It's funny thinking back on this as, now the film has finally been released and I have read online different budgets being bandied around – I read somewhere that we had $5 million dollars to make ‘The Dead’, which would have been entirely reasonable and somewhere else I read it at $2million, which for a movie shot in 3 countries on 35mm with an international crew and hundreds of extras is still pretty tight. Frustratingly, we only had just under $150 thousand dollars to get this film in the can, $30 thousand of which went on corruption & bribery just to keep us moving!
The crazy thing about this is that the last soap powder commercial I directed that runs for only 30 seconds and was shot in 2 days had a much larger budget than the entire 100 minutes that is ‘The Dead’. Now I hear stories of a new Zombie epic starring Brad Pitt ‘World War Z’ reportedly spending $100 million dollars bringing their Zombie flick to the screen. If that’s true, embarrassingly we had less than a quarter of a percent of their budget.
Of course the real cost of ‘The Dead’ given all that went on cannot be measured in monetary terms.
 
Whatever you think of the film and our experiences, Burkina Faso and Ghana are beautiful and fascinating countries full of genuinely lovely people and I urge you not to let your life go by without seeing them for yourself.
Ultimately a foreign land allowed us in to its borders to come and make our film. Many of its people helped play a part in our endeavour even though they perhaps did not fully understand what it was and at the end of it, they allowed us to leave again in one piece. Often with a smile and a wave. I will always remain grateful for that.
We never had the usual ‘wrap party’ for the film. No one was in the mood. However, my now very pregnant girlfriend Alicia had arranged a get together a couple of days after our return and everyone piled over to my place for an evening of extremely pleasant merriment. Even Jon was smiling again. For a moment it was like the tensions of the shoot had never happened…
Later, whilst back in England trying to get my strength back, I went for Reiki healing. Something I had never done before but it was strongly recommended by an actress friend Julia, who had turned in a fantastic performance as the woman on the plane upset at her dying husband. During this Reiki healing, the lady performing it became really concerned. Afterwards, she told me I must have been on sacred ground and I had absorbed some kind of energies from an ancient past that she had now got rid of.
Now I don’t know about any of this and I was sceptical that this Reiki session would do anything other than explain to me what Reiki was all about, but I have to admit I felt like a cloud had been lifted.
In any case, I needed a little strength as there was another very real journey immediately ahead of me that definitely required my attention:

Howard and Rory Ford

As I sit here and write, I don’t know who, if anyone will read this book, I don’t even know if it will become a book.
But assuming you are a reader, firstly, I thank you, especially if you actually parted with money to read it. That really would be very cool. 
Secondly, if you only take one thing from this it’s just to go out there and do whatever it is you want to do. However tough it is, keep going and you will get out the other side eventually and, when you do, you will feel a great sense of achievement.
I wasn’t any more a writer of books before I started writing this book, as I was a filmmaker when I first picked up a camera aged 13, but I went for it, worked bloody hard, treated those around me with a degree of respect and somehow it’s working out quite well.
Whatever you do, good luck out there, and thanks for coming on the journey.
I asked Jon & Rob if they wanted to put their thoughts about their take on the experience of making ‘The Dead’. The final 2 chapters are what I got and I hope you are as moved as I was when I read them.

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