The phone rang, and from that moment, everything changed… PART 3… The conclusion…


OK to recap…

I got a call about a movie that needed a director, a big budget Hollywood studio picture… I dashed into central London to collect a hard copy of the script, read it, arranged a meeting the next day with the producers… which I rehearsed and role played for hours to nail GREAT answers to TOUGH questions…

And it really was a tough interview… But I survived it… Returned to the office and waited… and then the phone rang…

I answered… ‘Hello?’

‘Is that Chris?’

‘Yes’ I replied…

There was a very long pause. The kind you get when the news is either VERY good or VERY bad…

‘OK the guys all liked you. But, one of the executives who did not meet you, he wants someone with a steady and experienced hand, someone who can be trusted to deliver on time and on schedule… and the feeling is you would be a risk to hire as director’

Gutted, I hung up.

I immediately followed up the call with a very positive email to the producers. The fat lady had not yet sung… How could I get to that producer? There must be a way…

But I heard the following day that they were interviewing very experienced directors. And on Friday night, I received absolute conformation that they had indeed hired a guy with many features under his belt.  Apparently the studio guys were very comfortable with him.

As upset as I was, I could also see their position quite clearly.  It made a lot of sense for a bunch of guys who never met me.

The following 24 hours I pretty much slept through without waking, I had burned so much energy in pursuit of this film.

So now the dust has settled, I have had chance to analyse the events in order that I can learn from it, so that next time, I am even better prepared… As far as I can see, even though I did not get the job, I did have an extraordinary learning experience and I pushed myself very hard to be the best I could possibly be. 

I am also grateful that I was taken seriously – I was actually into the room with a fighting chance, and I came out slugging hard. In this industry, certainly in the UK, it’s not often I get invited into the room at all.

So there are two aspects to consider under analysis…

First is how you come across in the room. Second is how you look on paper. And I believe it’s the combination of those two that seals the deal, either way.

On paper I am pretty weak. I have some books that are fascinating for sure, but valueless in these circumstances. I have made some low budget features way back when. Again, largely valueless. I have a short film that has won a load of awards, but remember, I was warned that these producers were not interested in hearing about awards, so that was irrelevant too. In short, all I had going for me was that someone had seen ‘Gone Fishing’ and liked it enough to call me in. It’s a testament to how good ‘Gone Fishing’ actually is that I was seen at all.

In the room, I felt I was quite strong and held my own. Hindsight is amazing, and for sure, there are things I would have phrased differently if I had the chance. I would have really liked to have read the script a second time too, but there just wasn’t time.

So in short, I was good enough in the room to get recommended by the producers who met me, but weak enough on paper for me to be passed over by those who didn’t meet me and wanted to sleep soundly at night.

And the budget was just too big for them to take a risk on me. Had the budget been say, £1m, I think I would have got the gig. But it was much, much more than £1m.

For me, it’s clear. I need to meet all the people to close the deal. I also need to look much better on paper. Two big things that need addressing.

Ironically, just today I discovered that my third feature film, ‘Urban Ghost Story’ is screening on BBC1 next week – yes, BBC1! More on that in the coming days.

So all in all a wonderful and educational adventure. Exhausting, disappointing, exhilarating, fascinating, nerve wracking… I can tell you one thing for sure.  I came so very close. And if I can do it once, I can do it again, and as many times as I need to get the result…

HeroMuch of this adventure is reflected in aspects of the 2 day workshops I run for film makers where we discuss a brutal fact – film making is a marathon, with many set backs… but it’s how we deal with those setbacks, how we recommit to the marathon, that defines the artist, the film maker, the human beings we are… 

It’s also part of the Hero’s Journey we all undertake in life – the stage I just personally undertook would be ‘Tests, Allies and Enemies’. And again, as I teach in my workshops, unless there is a genuine threat that you could fail on your quest, then you are simply not playing the game to a high enough level.

And so In life we often fail. It’s part of being human. It’s a stage in our own hero’s journey.

But in the movies, the hero often succeeds. It’s part of the imaginary reflection of being human. And these fictional characters on their hero’s journey too.

This is why movies (and more simply expressed, stories) speak so deeply to our psyche.

We need stories to reflect us, we litteraly see ourselves in these ‘adventurs’, in order that we can have the courage to do what we need to do in our own daily lives.  And I know that by blogging about my adventure this week, others have been inspired and HAVE TAKEN THEIR OWN ACTION!

How extraordinary!

And what a wonderful gift to receive – the knowledge that by sharing, others have seen themselves in my own story, and created and comitted to their own adventures – who knows where their stories will lead?

Truly, no matter the outcome of these days past, I could not lose in the bigger picture. I have learned about the process, made powerful contacts and relationships and others have learned vicariously.

And so I now recommit to my own adventure. I may be battle weary. I may be exhausted. But my teeth are gritted, and I am stronger and wiser… and that bit closer to my goal…

I can’t wait for the next crack of the whip…!

Onwards and upwards!

Chris Jones, Film Maker and Author

31 Responses to The phone rang, and from that moment, everything changed… PART 3… The conclusion…

  1. Andrew October 6, 2009 at 10:09 am #

    I guess the meeting is also a marketplace….so many producers in one meeting, they consolidate any positive views which will/can now be carried by them to someone else…Prob stating the obvious…It’s another step, and where many of us will not tread….:-)

  2. Steve Wilson October 6, 2009 at 10:11 am #

    I had a feeling it went that way from part 1 but your energy astounds me. Its just a question of time and meanwhile mr Rocketboy – keep on keeping on! You’ve put yourself in the limelight and we’re all watching with baited breath, don’t forget to sleep and maybe this is worth a read
    All the best as ever. (The ethnographic film gig at Durham came off for me so I’d love to have you speak if free as per my email. More on that later as the year progresses) – Adios amigo

  3. Chris Jones October 6, 2009 at 10:22 am #

    Thats a great point Andrew and I agree – the compromise is in the consensus. That’s why when you get a break out film like ‘District 9’ you know that there were very few people in the room, or at least one with so much weight, let’s assume Mr Jackson, that the others just agreed.

  4. Eddy Grabczewski October 6, 2009 at 10:23 am #

    Tough luck Chris! But I feel that you needed a leg up, so don’t beat yourself too much. Every director got a break at some point in their lives. The “experience” argument is just an excuse for the producers not being willing to take an extra risk. They needed a bit of pressure to make them jump.

    Chris Nolan got to direct major films after only making two or three low-budget movies. By the time he got to Hollywood then he had the backing of Al Pacino. Let’s face it, if you’d had that kind of sponsorship then you’d be directing that film today.

    Come to think of it, we all know that you need to get the backing of powerful people to get on in this world don’t we?

  5. Jason Fairley October 6, 2009 at 10:29 am #

    A huge shame Chris, sorry to hear it. Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us, a rewarding read. I still think a congratulations was in order!

  6. Ian October 6, 2009 at 10:50 am #

    Well, bad luck on this one, but to be honest I’m confident that it’s only a matter of time before you get the ‘Yes’ that you so richly deserve (and have been working for so hard).

    Onwards and upwards, indeed!

  7. Mike Le Han October 6, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    There is no winning or losing here Chris. You can take all the valuable information and learn from it, because this senario will happen again. Having a good agent in the UK can only re-afirm your position as a talented and creative film director, and I can assure you (from experience) that they have weight in this industry.

    Chin up and move forwards with what you know.

    Best Regards

    Mike Le Han

  8. Guy Rowland October 6, 2009 at 11:42 am #

    And don’t forget the most important practical thing that’s come out of it, Chris – you are now firmly on a bunch of producers’ radars and it sounds like you’ve made a strong positive impression. Since Soho is basically a network based around wine bars and chit chat, this is actually a very big deal. It might take a few more of these meetings til someone bites, but your chances of HAVING these meetings have surely increased – good on ya.

  9. Julian Boote October 6, 2009 at 12:03 pm #

    Chris, my deepest commiserations, at having come so close, only to be pipped by opinions, the need for comfort, and the experience of another “tried and trusted” director at the last. I really felt for you. At the same time, it’s heartening to see you analyse the outcome to bring something positive out of it, and so lift yourself up to crack on and re-join the battle. If it happened once, it can happen again. More power to you!

  10. Pete October 6, 2009 at 12:05 pm #

    gutted for you… but it’ll come

  11. Graham October 6, 2009 at 12:34 pm #

    Well done Chris – getting through the door was a massive win, the rest is valuable experience.

  12. Max Scratchmann October 6, 2009 at 12:52 pm #

    Have been following this with my heart in my mouth, so sorry you didn’t get it but they know you now so you’re two steps further up the ladder for next time!

  13. Euan October 6, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    What a crazy few days! I’m glad Hollywood has begun to take notice, and I suspect this won’t be the last time. Onwards and upwards indeed.

  14. Alex October 6, 2009 at 1:22 pm #

    These blogs have been better than hollywood block buster! Sure, it may take another stong hook and that Friday night steak, but you’ll get your Goliath!!

  15. Pepe October 6, 2009 at 1:22 pm #

    What a journey was reading these entries. So well written!!

    Good luck Chris! Keep it up!

  16. Jurgen Wolff October 6, 2009 at 1:31 pm #

    As we know it’s a business of relationships and you’ve just forged some important ones, so congratulations on that. The low budget films were act I, Gone Fishing was your entry into the world, this was trials…and of course eventually the hero grabs the treasure!

  17. Allin Kempthorne October 6, 2009 at 2:11 pm #

    I’ll wait for Part 4 when in a few months time one of those Producers in the room calls you in for another project.
    Thanks for sharing the experiences.

  18. Mark Rawlings October 6, 2009 at 2:22 pm #

    Well done anyways Chris, reading these last 3 blogs has been an exciting adventure. I believe this is the start of something

  19. Donal Heath October 6, 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    There was a show on TV a while back that compared the characteristics of a bunch of millionaires, and the only thing they could find that they all had in common was the ability to treat their ‘failures’ as learning experiences, rather than defeats.

    Seems to me, Chris, that you’re proving this is true, and you’re an inspiration. Thank you.

  20. Hugh Hancock October 6, 2009 at 3:50 pm #

    I’m quite astonished by your ability as a writer here. It must have taken some courage to write this article – something that will be incredibly helpful for your readers, but must still be very sore.

    (As I’m also staring a bloody huge potential opportunity in the face right now, it’s really helpful to read about this, too. )

  21. Lori October 6, 2009 at 3:52 pm #

    You are real inspiration, Chris! Thank you for sharing your adventures!

  22. Jason Clancy October 6, 2009 at 5:52 pm #

    You have gone where other’s have only dreamed of. You will see many more of these meeting i am confident of that.

    Jason Clancy

  23. Joaquin Baldwin October 6, 2009 at 6:57 pm #

    Now I understand why you broke the story down in parts. As you mentioned, it pushed us to take action, and gave us a little lead way before we found out the end of your story. Great stuff Chris, I’ll post it around 😉

  24. JR October 6, 2009 at 8:54 pm #

    I went through a similar scenario for FREDDY vs JASON but Ronny Yu got the job. This business is a financial meritocracy and the only value you have as a creative is the box office figure from your previous effort. Micro-budget and straight to DVD count for nothing, what matters is theatrical BO.

  25. Jon Sorensen October 6, 2009 at 9:01 pm #

    Well, there you have it in a nutshell. The film business. Any creative endeavour is not a sprint but a marathon. And certainly choose your creative direction and your expenditure of energy carefully as in be careful what you wish for because you just might get it. As someone who has selflessly given so much to others I am certain your boat will come in. Just keep your lifejacket within reach. I’d pass on the story of Werner Hertzog. He was a panel guest on the selection board of the National Film School and suggested they set up a boxing ring. Those candidates who were able to keep getting up from being pulverised by the pro in the ring with them, he suggested, had what it really took to be worthwhile film-makers…way ahead of mere “talent”. Good luck, Chris. Stay in the light.

  26. Alan Brash October 6, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    What a great yarn, Chris! Thanks for having the honesty and humility to share it. Your philosophical nature is a breath of fresh air in an industry full of sour grapes bitterness (hey, I’ve probably been guilty of it myself!). Your sober analysis of where you need to keep working and how you could improve for next time will, I know, hold you in good stead. All the best, Alan

  27. Leilani October 7, 2009 at 2:34 am #

    Woah.. well it may not have been a movie but you had me on the edge of my seat these past few days with these blogs! lol

    Seriously.. this is still really great news and you should be very happy. You got into the room for the first time AND NEARLY GOT THE JOB on the basis of A SHORT FILM!! Not only that but a short film that hasn’t been as appreciated in the UK as it could have been. That is stunningly rare. And typical of you and what you can achieve through your sheer love of film.

    So you didn’t land the shark this time Chris.. but maybe you just need a bigger boat! 😉

  28. hailey October 7, 2009 at 3:37 am #

    Thats right learning learning… good on you and sorry it didn’t work out this time but sure it will one day soon.

    Sometimes its this sort of thing that checks us and makes sure we know what we want and where we are going.
    I look forward to seeing all your dreams coming true.

  29. Mandy Thomas October 7, 2009 at 5:28 am #

    Well, I think you’re amazing and will soon get your just rewards. Good Luck Chris

  30. David Fussell October 8, 2009 at 12:58 am #

    Well Chris your blogs have had more cliff hangers and heart stopping moments in the past days than in most films.
    My Dad told me that there is no shame in failure only shame in not trying.
    Chris with your Films, Books, courses and your blog you have inspired many film makers on his or her heros journey.
    As you say onwards and upwards!

  31. Kiwi John October 8, 2009 at 2:46 pm #

    Nice one Chris. That was a neat little piece of writing that had us all desperately hoping you would strike gold. It’s fantastic the way you send stuff like this out just to help and inspire the rest of us – it takes time and effort and is something you don’t have to do and yet you do – you’ve got a big heart.
    Looking forward to seeing your amazing hard work and considerable talent not to mention generous spirit reaping you some rich creative rewards (and let’s face it – financial would be nice too!) sooner or later (preferably sooner!).

    All the best

    Kiwi John.

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