BAFTA-winning producer Mark Herbert, whose credits include Submarine and This Is England, offers Film4.com a peek at his diary from the Sundance Film Festival, where he’s shepherding Chris Morris’ Four Lions through its world premiere.
8.30am Sundance: At last. We’ve cut the umbilical cord on the film – it is now out there. We’ve made it and it’s up to the film now to stand for itself!
Yesterday was a very odd, nerve-jangling, exhilarating and mental day. It started off with two back-to-back breakfast meetings, one with a US distributor and one with an LA agent. To be honest, it was hard to focus because of the night ahead but they seemed to go OK. Not many people are around at that time in the morning so it’s easier to move up and down Main St.
I got back to the apartment and the nerves were showing in everyone. We have only had two screenings so far for cast, crew and friends. I attended the one in Sheffield, so I had seen it play well to a mixed audience – consisting of my 11-a-side football team, FC Casablanca, and some of the extras who’d been in the film, as well as crew. My mates are pretty honest – on a film I was involved in once, they came up to me at end of a screening and one said, “That was a bit shite, Mark. Can’t you do Dead Mans Shoes 2?” But they did not say it was shite this time, which is a very good sign.
To calm the nerves I went out onto slopes for two hours with Chris. It was just the tonic for some headspace. I bought a new balaclava that made me look a bit scary and freaked out a buyer I know whose name I shouted at a lift.
We all met at a bar outside the Egyptian Theatre and had a few beers before walking into the screening. There was a scrum for tickets outside the venue and the emails and texts were flying in from people I knew trying to get in last minute. I find it hard to enjoy festival screenings as I get so nervous and fidgety, but this one was good. The first laugh eased the nerves and then it flew by. At the end the actors, Chris and the writers took a massive round of applause. Chris said a huge thanks to me and Derrin on stage which made us both a bit emotional for about 30 seconds.
We went out for a lovely meal with everybody rather than having a party. I like parties when we are not paying but I’d rather spend money on a great poster, trailer or something for the film rather than seeing some B-list celeb or other blagger supping expensive champagne. I then got a bit tipsy and I have a hazy memory of people wandering in saying they really enjoyed the film – and some story about an ice cube from a bloke who reminded me of the Fonz. We got back and saw our first review from Empire – it was a good one so I slept really well.
Delta flight to Los Angeles: I am writing this from the plane somewhere above Salt Lake City. It will be the last entry for my Sundance blog. I am happy because, just before boarding, our US publicist sent through another two pretty good reviews.
The last 36 hours were eventful to say the least. A few more positive reviews helped kickstart the day before myself and Chris met the actors on the slopes. We had just listened to BBC’s World service report on the film in which Robert Redford was talking about our film! My mum will be pleased.
We wanted to see how the actors were – especially Arsher who had seen the film for the first time at the premiere. (And I must say a massive thanks to Arsher: he got hijacked on the way out of the cinema by the BBC and, though unprepared, he spoke really well about the film).
A couple of hours bombing around the mountain (and riding into a tree) cleared the tension. At the end of the day I managed to bump into Zak, a neighbour from Sheffield. He was on business in Salt Lake and had popped to Park City. Weirdly enough, that day I’d talked to his daughter Scarlett who was playing round at my house with my daughter Bethany when I called home. They are bestest friends.
I called Awesome Hands (AKA Shane Meadows) to give him an update on some good meetings I’d had. He’s been reading this blog and described it as “Ivy Tildsley from Coronation Street does Hollywood.” Thanks, Shane.
That afternoon there was a press and industry screening of the film. We did not go but reports were that it played well again. In fact, better than night before: apparently the sound was better in this more modern theatre. The great news was that we were getting our first offers in on the film. I can’t say too much about with whom yet, because as I am flying Wild Bunch are negotiating them. Wild Bunch have sold to a few countries already and I really like the fact that amongst the first to buy were Israel and the Middle East. Maybe we can arrange an open-air joint screening in the square at Bethlehem and invite Muslims, Jews and Christians for a good old harmonious evening of laughter. It’s a much better solution than throwing rockets at each other.
Jesse the writer had an old schoolmate of his, Andrew, stay over. (He now lives in San Francisco.) Within a few hours the Warp condo had turned into a frat house. I had to go to meeting on Main Street but we all joined up at The Killer Inside Me party. By then a lot of tequila had been drank and everyone ended up back at the condo. Riz brought back a Muslim punk band called The Taqwacores who are featured in a film here. We discussed punk and skinhead culture. It was a late one but great fun.
Our last day in Park City was really a wind-down day. Had a few meetings just to lay out next action for when I get back. Our screening for 9am on 26th (today) had sold out and we were getting requests from all over for tickets. We managed to squeeze Tilda Swinton and a few studio executives in, so I’ve come away happy knowing that there is a demand for people wanting to see the film.
Also I have to say here that Caroline, John, Trevor and their Sundance team have made us so welcome here. A special thanks has to go out to Jaime and the many volunteers, it makes a huge difference to our experience when the people behind the festival are this good. When we saw Trevor Groth yesterday he was wearing a suit so damn cool that I had to take a picture of it.
I have one meeting in LA today about Richard Ayoade’s Submarine. We wrapped the film late December 2009 and are now in the edit. We partnered with Ben Stiller’s production company Red Hour and will be discussing the post production plan with Stuart Cornfeld, who is one of our executive producers. Stuart is really pleased with the rushes and now wants to help us start planning our strategy for the US market.
I can’t wait to get home and see my family. I have missed them massively. Whilst I have been away, my team, Sheffield Wednesday, have won three on the trot with our new manager. I can’t wait to read all about it in the Green ‘Un and watch Sky Sports news for a few hours.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading ”Ivy Tildsley does Hollywood”. The film industry is not just some mysterious A-list world of $100 million budgets and red carpets. It’s mainly really hard work, punctuated by festivals like this where, providing you don’t take yourself too seriously, they be can be a right bloody laugh!