We had cameras and some film stock in hand (We could
not carry all the film stock at one time, so had booked another 3 flights, just
for the rest of the stock to be carried by Marie’s sister Vanessa and Anne who
happened to be Jon’s girlfriend and would also play a doctor in the film). We
had completed our script and I had locked down a pretty decent looking
schedule. We were moments away from all descending on our location to kick
Within my mass of paperwork
that had now accumulated, just one document seemed to be missing. We still
didn’t have our ‘bill of laden’ for the van and equipment, which I understood
we would need in order to collect the vehicles at the other end. I had thought
this would have arrived by now.
So I call the shipping
company and the lady agreed that we should have had it by now. Perhaps it was
missing in the post. Either way she would call me back and if necessary get a
duplicate couriered out to me in Africa.
Then the call came. ‘You’re
not going to like this’ she said. ‘They didn’t ship the van, in fact it’s still
sitting at the port in Tilbury with the generator attached’. I nearly threw up.
My brain spiralled as it looked for a solution to the enormity of the problem,
but nothing came back. ‘Not only that, but the next ship doesn’t leave for 10
days and then it will take a further three weeks to get there at best’ she
said. Suddenly I calculated that we were not going to have any equipment for
nearly 70% of our production period. Using very technical terms, we were
They had cited ‘mechanical
failure’ on the van but we know this was impossible as part of our rigorous
preparation process was to insure the vehicles were mechanically perfect. It
started first time every time. It was something else Jon had worked on in great
detail, everything from new filters, spark plugs to filling the tyres with
stuff so we did not get punctures on the tough African terrain.
It may not have looked
perfect from the outside (this was a strategic plan so our van did not look
like it was holding valuable merchandise), but inside it was a finely tuned
machine. We had also decided to keep the previous owners fading company logo on
We went straight to the port
and found the van and generator dumped there with the padlock removed and no
explanation as to why. We put the key in and it started first time, as we knew
it would. I couldn’t believe that they could do this to us. Not only that but
Grimaldi had never even called or written to us to tell us it hadn’t got on the
It was truly devastating.
What the hell would I tell my once merry band of cast and crew, whom I’d just
managed to drum up the required amount of enthusiasm necessary to sustain them
through the production period? Now we would have no equipment, props,
electricity or supplies for the first month. Not only that, it would then turn
up in Ghana and we would be 25 hours drive away in Burkina Faso by then. Who
would collect it and drive it all that way in a foreign country? It was a
There was only one thing for
it. Call the insurance. Which Amir did straight away. I personally hate claiming
on insurance but, on this occasion, I agreed we were the victims of something
outside of our control and it seemed justified. But very quickly the response
came back drawing our attention to some clause or other that stated we were not
covered for third party causing delay. We would not receive a penny.
We couldn’t cancel our
flights as we could not have afforded to re book and, in any case, everyone
involved had put aside the time (we had confirmed them) and, therefore, we
would have been liable to pay their fees anyway.
Not getting on board those
flights would have been the end of the film for sure. We had spent a lot of
money by then and we would have lost everything, so the damage limitation plan
was that we would fly out as planned, hand carrying the cameras, and shoot what
we could without lights, props, generator or grip equipment of any kind.
Having run my own production
company, albeit a small one, I had always taken pride in delivering on time
every time. That’s why we often had repeat clients. I would always stay on
schedule and on budget and, if I said I would have a commercial ready by a
certain date, that’s exactly what I would do. Whatever it took. But on this
film, I would have to learn the hard way that I was not going to be able to
control the beast.
Jon never really recovered
from the blow. From this moment on, he operated only on two levels, pissed off,
or very pissed off. All of our pre-planning and intentions for how we were
going to shoot the film would have to be scrapped. We would simply have to make
it up as we went along.
On top of this, we had
already turned down a couple of decent TV commercial jobs for this production.
One for an overseas bank and the other for a client in London we were starting
to build a good relationship with. Not only that but it was a nice script. A
glamorous, ‘Sex and the city’, style ad around London. A good one ‘for the
reel’ as they say.
Little did we know things
where about to get much worse.