Produced, written & directed
by Max Barber
The film was inspired by a poignant quote: “Everything I own for a moments more time” which was a printed daily footnote found in an annual diary sometime in the early 1990’s. It was the words of Queen Elizabeth I as she lay on her deathbed in 1603. From the chilling idea that even the mighty and the great are willing to give up everything when they realise to their horror, that the last few moments of their lives are ticking terrifyingly away, I wondered, how would most people react faced with a sudden end, and how would they change as a person given the chance of actually preventing it.
With that as a basis my imagination went into overtime and several story elements come together for a light comedy-drama based on that premise. Over several years the script went through countless versions, from a ten-minute script to a full thirty minutes but always centred on an unpleasant character called Kevin who is seduced by a boisterous woman whilst in charge of a body he’s driving to a funeral. Various drafts were submitted to many TV production companies and broadcasters like BBC and Channel Four, and often I gained praise for its story and charm, but never getting the funding or backing I felt it deserved.
It wasn’t until the advent of digital technology, and in particular, high-definition cameras, coupled with me having progressed in television from a camera operator, director, right through to a series producer, that I felt the experience, money and technology was on my side. Like most things in life, you can only really achieve anything by getting off your arse and doing it yourself.
I enlisted the services of a professional script editor, and also took advantage of the advice of The New Producers Alliance – a must have membership for any UK independent filmmaker. Their take on the film was brutal but necessary and under their advice, I got the film down to 15 minutes, the maximum time for a short film to stand any chance of selection at the international film festivals that matter.
Using my own money, some private funding and haggling some good equipment deals, I set aside £10,000 to include the shoot, post-production and importantly, promotion. Pretty much all of the actors and crew were professional and paid accordingly, which at least guarantees high standards and their reliability on the project.
Much of the cast came from people I knew. Playing the gold digging tart was Mandy Holliday who ten years before played a fat slag in my graduation film, An American Business Man In Essex. As Kevin was Tony De Grasse whom I met through friends and thought his ‘cocky bloke’ personality was perfect for the role. It was his first time in a large film role, and allowed him to extend his comedy skills from the stand up circuit he’s used to. Stephen Chance as the cross-dressing Georgian was a perfect find from Marcus & McCrimmon Management through the Shooting People website and I have to say, he is an outstanding actor who carries the film completely and confidently – and I really think he enjoyed the blonde wig and high heels too.
For good luck, shooting commenced on my 35th birthday on July 18th 2005 and the gesture paid off. We shot for a full week starting in London for the urban settings then out to my Essex hometown to shoot the church, and road scenes in Thurrock; the lake and woodland backdrop was a beautiful country park outside Brentwood. The weather was glorious and shooting went without a hitch. Although I have to say we turned a few heads driving the fully laden hearse down the A13 with a leggy blonde in pursuit in a Porsche – and the coffin we cast out into the lake at Weald Park gave a few dog walkers something to talk about when they got to the pub that evening.
Post-production was managed by Maverick Litchfield - aka Richarge Wolf - who resides down the road from me in Peckham. Maverick is an editor, producer and lecture in media studies and his input, wisdom and knowledge of all production aspects was invaluable in crafting the film into what it is now. Together we actually completely restructured the film from a linear narrative to a film that reveals its back-story in a series of flashbacks – it works much better and strengthened my belief that it’s really in the edit that your film becomes alive and can turn into something of its own nature.
Making the film was relatively easy. Now the real hard work starts – getting it seen & selling it. 2006 lays ahead and it will no doubt be a very busy year for the film. I will be submitting it to over 30 international festivals and film markets, from the major commercial players like Berlin, Edinburgh, New York & LA but also to the more niche festivals that will appreciate the story’s gay angle like Sydney’s Mardi Gras, Toronto & London Gay & Lesbian film festivals, to name but a few.
I’m proud to have ended up with a well-crafted story with a simple message, nice twist and feel good ending; an entertaining piece of fluff that is fifteen minutes well spent watching I think.
This is a good time for filmmakers, high definition digital technology has proved itself in picture quality and flexibility and it’s about time we were released from the burden of expensive film stock and processing. More and more films are going to be made because the technology is becoming cheaper, but at the end of the day a story is only as good as the paper it’s printed on and a story that entertains and evokes emotion will always engage people – like A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Funeral is designed to do.
If things work out this film will be among the first of many – I will most likely tackle a low budget digital feature length in the next two years, possibly a kitchen sink drama with a science fiction twist or even more ambitions, a science fiction horror-thriller. Watch this space.
Clevermax Productions Ltd, 2006. All rights Reserved.