Thursday, 13 November 2008

No-budget film making - the highs

Nine years ago I directed a short mockumentary called Tastes Like Tuna. It's about a couple engaged in a dominant/submissive relationship, and centres on a strange ritual they perform together.

It's not very good, but neither is it very bad.

We shot the film over three days, with the two actors (a couple in real life) and a crew of three: me, the director of photography, and the producer/make-up artist/set decorator/caterer and wardrobe assistant (who was going out with me at the time). The Bolex camera belonged to the DoP, the lights came from the producer's university film department, and the film stock I'd won in a competition for a previous film.

It was fun. We worked long hours, but everything had been storyboarded and prepared in advance so we knew what we needed to shoot, and we got it all. The ritual scenes were shot without sound and the interviews (a mixture of scripted and improvised dialogue) recorded later on video. The actors showed up on time, turned in excellent performances and were a joy to work with.

After the shoot and a quick two day edit on Avid, the film sat around for about a year as we raked together the favours we needed to finish it. The actress had a friend who was a composer, and she knew musicians, but the music recording cost money. The sound design and dubbing cost money. The final negative cut and film print cost money. A studio I'd worked with before were kind enough to swallow some of these expenses.

We screened the film for the first and last time at the Brief Encounters festival in Bristol. The audience laughed at the places I'd hoped they'd laugh, but the response was largely "WTF?". The subject of consensual sado-masochistic cannibalism had yet to become fashionable - although a few years later the news broke about the German guy who'd eaten bits of his boyfriend, and I felt vindicated.

Later on Graham Linehan did an episode of The IT Crowd based on the same incident, but I WAS FIRST, GODDAMMIT! And I didn't even know about the incident when I wrote it, because it hadn't happened yet.

But they are around, those cannibals. I did some internet research while I was writing the script, and while it's not a widespread fetish - certainly not as widespread as balloon popping or acrotomophilia -- the idea of eating other people seems to appeal to a fair few. In most cases I'm sure it remains a fantasy, but I found a couple of slightly chilling dinner invitations on "special interest" message boards.

And why is the film called Tastes Like Tuna? A mistake on my part. I misread an interview with famous Japanese cannibal Issei Sagawa, and thought he had said that human flesh tasted like tuna. What he actually said was that the texture was like tuna.

So now you know.

Tomorrow: No-budget film making - the lows (<-------much more entertaining)

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