How To Make A British Film, Part One: Beg, Steal And Borrow

How hard is it to get an indie film off the ground? Well first you need to write a script entirely in rhyming couplets, call it Acts of Godfrey, get rejected by the UKFC and beg elsewhere for investors. After that, it's a doddle...
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Three cultural cheers for me! I’m making an ‘Independent British Film’ (that’s a film with no budget) and am thus casting myself among a group of other ‘Independents’ who would willingly become dependents at the drop of a hat (the slightest mishandling of a hat has been known to cause this herd to stampede violently). I went from ‘I’ve written a script’ to ‘I’m making a film’ very easily. It was a declaration that was followed by a mindset and has now become a reality. A bit like giving a dog a bad name…maybe ‘Debbie’.

‘Acts of Godfrey’ is everything that film companies purport to want. It’s unique, original, observant and has a distinctive voice. Well, how many films do you know about fate vs free will that are set at a motivational sales conference, feature God and are written exclusively in rhyming couplets?...Exactly.

The first stop for anyone trying to fund their debut feature in this country is the UK Film Council who are funded by the National Lottery (‘It Won’t Be You’) and they had this to say in their rejection letter: ‘there are many elements to this script that give it a real uniqueness’. That’s good, the only problem is that it doesn’t remind them of anything that’s been successful before…that’s not bitterness or rejection talking, just good old single-minded self-belief. Bitterness and rejection are much more scathingly sweeping; “fucking script readers, when did any of the talentless gimps ever write one?”

Bitterness and rejection are often drunk. Their next observation is that viewers may lack empathy with the storylines. Great! It’s a fantasy. I was once described by the NME as ‘The Dennis Potter of Indie Rock’ and this recent obsession with empathy got me thinking about The Singing Detective, just how much did I empathise with the crusted form of Philip Marlow as he lay amidst chorus lines of hoofing medics? (Mind you, as Joanna Whalley slathered great gobs of creamy emollient between her palms I recall feeling the slick warmth of empathy pump through every dilated capillary of my feeble teenage being). Yes, ‘empathy’...check.

But it’s not a BAFTA …it’s a rake and I divert via the shed. The phone, like heaven, can wait.

They continue; ‘the comedy often eclipses the characters’ empathetic qualities’. Well it’s a comedy, that can happen. ‘We like the idea of setting it in a hotel but could you make the Fawlty character a bit more likeable?’ To be fair, the Film Council’s letter really couldn’t have been sweeter and having talked of how original, funny and conceptually strong the film is I was half expecting them to continue ‘It’s not you…it’s us’.

A good friend who’s just completed his first feature encourages me to continue ‘this response is as cliché ridden as the kind of script they want it to be’. I nod sagely and feel that this would definitely reassure me if I only understood what it meant.

I’m knocked back for a day, but that’s why God gave us strong hooch and short memories and pretty soon the wellspring of hope is spouting like Old Faithful (or are we back to Joanna Whalley again?) A meeting with a Big Businessman raises the prospect of a share initiative that needs just 200 investors at £1,175. A broad smile crosses my face and I can practically feel the BAFTA in my hand as I wander down the garden path to my office and the waiting phone.

But it’s not a BAFTA …it’s a rake and I divert via the shed. The phone, like heaven, can wait.

'Acts of Godfrey' has been selected by the British Film Institute for the London UK Film Focus in late June 2011 at the NFT. The film is part of the 'Breakthrough' strand for emerging UK talent. For more info visit

Acts of Godfrey (trailer) from johnnydaukes on Vimeo.

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