Dan Turner on the challenges he faced making a romantic comedy short film called Girl Tuesday.
Full disclosure. I’ve got some form in the film world.
Back in 2015, I had to step away from the film business for family reasons, having made four feature films. It wasn’t until last year that I was able to return to film, and in many ways it was like starting all over again. Film is a fickle business and so I knew I had to let people know I was back, but also, having not been behind the camera for five years, I was also pretty rusty.
In the intervening years, I’d written a couple of feature film scripts, but it quickly became apparent I needed to do some actual filmmaking. A friend suggested I make a short film. It seemed like a sensible idea. Low cost and achievable. However, I was flailing around for ideas and couldn’t settle on anything. I also felt the pressure of it being effectively a film career reboot as well. So, I knew it had to be more than just a flight of fancy. It had to mean something.
During this period, we had moved into a tiny flat, which was to be our temporary accommodation in East London for a year. On the wall hung a replica painting of Edward Hopper’s The Laundromat. It featured a woman from a time gone by sitting alone in a café. She seemed so sad and thoughtful, and I was drawn into the painting, and that’s when the idea for Girl Tuesday came alive.
Making A Short Film: Story and Outline
First things first. I wrote an outline of the story and booked a script session with script editor extraordinaire Andrew Ellard. He took me through my outline, and with surgical precision he identified what worked and what didn’t. He also, and crucially, made me centre on the girl in the story, and by the end of that session we had a fully formed short film story that allowed me to go ahead and write a first draft of the script. What quickly became apparent was that it was to be a purely visual film. In fact, it’s about a 90% silent film, with only a handful of lines of dialogue in the entire 15-minute run time!
After many more revisions, I knew that I wanted the lead character Severin to be played by a Parisian actor I had met at a French actors workshop back in 2014. I reached out to her and was greatly relieved when she agreed to play the part. The fact her English was on a par with my French was just one of the many obstacles to file away for later.
Making A Short Film: Money
Next up, money. Yes, short films don’t cost much, but they do cost ‘something’. So I had to raise money somehow. I reluctantly set up a crowdfunding project. I say reluctantly, because I really didn’t feel good about asking for money. In the past, my feature films had been funded one way or another, but never through friends and family, etc. To me, it felt a little unsavoury, but my options were limited. I launched the crowdfund campaign, and after a month I had raised enough money for Girl Tuesday to go into production.
Making A Short Film: Casting
Casting went well. Two leads and three supporting cast all came through existing contacts, so that part was one of the most pleasurable. Location: that’s the part that would have given me grey hair, if I had any actual hair. After scouring London and beyond for the perfect location, I happened upon somewhere perfect. My producer Neil West (director of the awesome feature film Containment) set up a meeting between the owner of the restaurant/café, and I and I went to meet him. He didn’t want to sign any contracts or give me a cast-iron guarantee. I left and called Neil to say “I think we have it”.
Making A Short Film: Locations
Many weeks passed with me visiting the location, and each time the vagueness remained. “Should be okay.” In the end, Neil impressed upon me the need for a contract. I approached the owner with the contract. He threw a rage in my direction and stormed off. Ooops. After much coaxing, he finally signed it. Grudgingly.
Then, in the week leading to the shoot itself (the film was comprised of three days of night shoots and a pick-up day), I went to the restaurant to be told the owner had been called back to Greece with a family emergency. The staff had no idea if filming was still possible. All my cast and crew were ready. Money had all been spent. I had palpitations.
Making A Short Film: The Shoot
We all turned up on the first night not knowing if the location was possible. We waited for the restaurant to close at 10pm and then I tentatively ventured in. The assistant manager shrugged his shoulders and told me all was fine. Why wouldn’t it be? Phew. In all my years, I’ve never had something like that go so close to the wire before.
That first night, the assistant manager was texting pictures from the set to his boss who loved what he was seeing. So by the time we wrapped our first night, word came from Greece that we could have the run of the place. We could fully relax and focus on the film. In fact, on our last night, the owner showed up briefly and embraced me happily.
As for the film? I’m dead chuffed with how it’s all turned out. I set myself quite the challenge making a visual narrative film without dialogue, not to mention making a romantic comedy, a genre I never thought I’d try.
Next stop will be the inevitable film festival circuit as well as sending it out to all those people who thought I’d gone the way of the dodo…!
More on the film as we hear screening details.
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