While in London, I saw the advertisement for a new short film competition run by Heinz to launch their new Soup Cup in The Metro, the free newspaper given out at stations. First prize? A trip to the Sundance Film Festival, all expenses paid. And equipment for the runners up. It was too good an opportunity to pass up, so I called Just, a director I had met on a weekend seminar run by the director Mark Travis earlier in the year.
We met up in a coffee shop in Leicester Square and knocked ideas around. We only had days until the deadline and minimal funds, so we had to do something on an extremely low budget and in one location. We sat nursing our drinks. Finally, I had it: a spoof on the 1980s film, Nine ½ Weeks. We would parody the famous scene where the Mickey Rourke character feeds Kim Basinger.
The concept was the man would feed the woman all sorts of expensive food stuffs – caviar, champagne, the finest chocolate. In her growing excitement, the woman would reach out blindly into the fridge and grab the man’s precious Heinz Soup Cup. He would recoil in horror and throw her out. I called the script “Nine ½ Minutes”. I went home and wrote the script. A week later, we were shooting in my sister’s kitchen.
Our Mickey Rourke, Rowland Brand, we met on the Mark Travis course. Our Kim Basinger, Rita Renfeld, Just met at the Actors Centre in London at a showcase. The day before the shoot, I was running around London frantically buying props. There isn’t time to blag any freebies from food companies, so I have to buy caviar.
I go to Selfridges Food Hall and check out what’s on offer. The sales assistant asks me what type of caviar I want. “Beluga?” I offer. It is the only type I’ve heard of. “That’s £82,” he replies. “Jesus!” I exclaim. “How much are the others?” Somewhat disdainfully, he gives me the price list. The cheapest is £42 for the smallest size. I take it.
Just, meanwhile, has procured a bottle of Bolinger Champagne from a previous life. He also buys cheap bucks fizz so we can cheat shots of opening the bottle.
The day of the shoot, Rowland picks me up in his car at 10am on the dot. I fill up his boot with props. We hope no one else has bags. Next, we go to pick up the others – our camera op Hanna, make-up artist Sara and actress Rita. I have arranged a mutual collection point but Rita pretends to be non compes mentis and we have to drive to her house. She gives us the wrong address then keeps us waiting when we finally get there.
We are half an hour late collecting the others. At last, we set off for my sister’s house in southern England. On the way, Just calls to say he’s stuck on a train and is running an hour late. At least it’s not raining.
When we finally get to my sister’s, Hanna and I rush around getting the kitchen ready. My sister has three children and we have to eradicate all traces. Just calls from the train.
He has an idea.
He asks me to get a Halloween bowl. He’ll explain later. It’s one o’clock and already the light is fading; we haven’t got lighting equipment.
Finally, Just arrives. He tells me about another short film competition – 2 Days Later. We can shoot an alternative ending and enter both. Quickly, we knock ideas back and forth and come up with a plan. Sara starts make-up, while Hanna and I carry on setting up. Sara does a stirling job with Rita’s make-up but it takes an hour. Meanwhile, my sister has taken up residence in the garden.
We don’t start shooting till three. My sister wants us out by seven. We start at the end and shoot the scene where Rita finds herself on the doorstep having been ejected by Rowland.
Hours later, we finally wrap up the shoot, my sister at her wit’s end. Did we win the trip to Sundance?
No, but it was a fun experience.
(Written and Directed by Josh Appignanesi & Misha Manson-Smith)