We enter 2019 still in the trail of “10 Days in December”, a script we’ve been trying to get made for 4 years or more. We original thought of making it as a short, “One Day in December”. We even ran a month long crowdfunding campaign, which failed! But I think we asked too much for what it was. It also occurred to me, if we were going to put this much trouble into a short, and it’s a lot of trouble to do a short properly, let’s just do the feature! So, we set out on getting 10 Days made.
|The actual 171 page first draft of 10 Days in December|
It took a while to write the script, we were both working full time, in busy demanding jobs, me at Apple, Maryann at Stanford. Not to mention the fact we had two small kids and no real support network, no family who could drop in frequently, take the kids for an hour here and there. So we would write at night, after the kids went to bed, between the hours of 9:30pm and 12:30am. Over the course of a year we got a feature script written.
Of course, that was just the first draft. So we started rewriting. I wasn’t really happy with where it was, or indeed, my own ability. I was starting to doubt myself. So I took some time out to reeducate myself. Blow off some cobwebs and unlearn some bad habits.
I did the Aaron Sorkin MasterClass, which was ok, I picked up a few hints and tips. Also the Ron Howard MasterClass, same thing. Where I found the most insight was from a book by Linda Seger called How to make a Good Script Great. It is by far the best screenwriting book I’ve ever read, and I’ve read quite a few over the years. It breaks down the process in the most constructive, practical and simplest way. It’s to the point, clear and concise. If you’re starting out as a screenwriter, or you want to get into filmmaking, start there. You wont regret it.
So I went back in. By now, about two years had gone by and we started contemplating shooting this thing. We were already going back to Ireland for Christmas, so we started playing with the idea of shooting it then, Christmas 2016. But it was too close, there wasn’t any money, so we settled on a proof of concept. We raised a couple of grand, gathered the cast and crew, booked the gear and we were set.
|DOP Ivan McCullough and me talking shots|
We came home for a family holiday with one days shoot planned, three days before Christmas. I thought it might be stressful, it wasn’t, it was wonderful! Everything I hoped it would be. Fun, creative, invigorating, we just wanted to keep shooting! Alas, we couldn’t, we had to go home. (You can see the result here.)
We went back to work and life, I kept working on the script and editing the proof, which took a while, and then, our third child came along! So, as you can imagine, life got a whole lot busier and whatever spare time we had to write, was gone.
But the passion for the project burned. We decided, if we really wanted to do this we needed to be on the ground, in Ireland, so, along with many other reasons, we decided to move back. We bought our tickets and we were on our way.
While we prepared I put together an application for development funding with the Irish Film Board. We applied, and waited and waited and waited... for some reason it took the 8 months to consider the application. They rejected it in the end. We were also sending to producers and production companies in Ireland, only to face more rejections or, in classic Irish style, no reply at all.
What kept us going through all this was the fact that it was landing with a few people. And the people who liked it, loved it. They understood what we were trying to do. They got the jokes, the homour, the atmosphere we were trying to create. Even when we entered (and got rejected by) the Nicholl Fellowship, the readers notes were 50/50. One reader loved it, understood it, got everything we were trying to do and gave it a “Yes”. The other guy just got hung up and why the characters weren’t sleeping together straight away, and that made it a “No” for him/her.
So, baby number three came along, 6 months later we would immigrate back to Ireland. No work got done during that time. But we weren’t resting on our laurels. We organized a half-cast reading (full cast weren’t available on the night). It was great. Great to see some people again, others for the first time, and hear the script out loud. Made it closer to being real.
|Cast Table Read - Earlier This Year|
By the way, these actors have been amazingly patient through this process. I think if someone promised me a job and four years went by, I’d have walked long ago. But I guess it’s the nature of this business, projects come and go, some happen quickly, others take their time, need their time. I’m grateful for the understanding of fellow artists and collaborators.
So, here we are, entering 2019 and we’ve already been on quite a journey with this film, before anything has rolled on it, or come close to rolling. 4 years in we still feel like we’re at the start of this, still figuring it out, still learning. I hope it’s the Universes way of telling us it, we, just aren’t ready yet. Saying “Don’t rush it. When is time, when is ready, when you’re ready, everything will fall into place.”
It’s going to be a strange feeling when that happens. Finally. Really. Standing on set, calling “Action” for the first time. It will be a surreal moment. But a moment we’re continually striving toward. And no film I’ve done will feel more earned than this one.
Next steps? Keep working on the script. Get it right. Then, somehow, find the money.
So, here we go, again, wish us luck, me, my co-writer and wife, my cast and crew. We’re going to need every ounce of goodwill and good vibes to get this thing made. It’s a miracle anytime a film gets made. And us starting to feel like that’s exactly what we need, a miracle! But then, it is Christmas, this is a Christmas movie, and if ever there was a time for Miracles, it’s now.