Pissheads the movie is coming along. The script is more than halfway finished, and we’re planning to screen the ‘Going To Sunderland’ sequence (which we shot last month) to some of the cast and crew this Friday. In true Pisshead fashion this event will be followed by copious amounts of beer...and perhaps a Smirnoff Ice or three.
Overall I’m pleased with the way the sequence turned out, especially the acting, which was an initial concern because most of the cast are non-actors. But all those fears were allayed after the first scene. Unlike most people, the Pissheads have no inhibitions.
The creative process on this film is unlike anything else I’ve ever done before. First of all, we really didn’t have a script per se - only a seventeen-page outline of eight sequences, 12-14 pages each.
Prior to the shoot, the actors and I met to go over the dialogue, changing my words to Geordie, and finding proper phrases they felt comfortable saying. For example, in the opening scene of the sequence, I have Staggy saying, “I’d rather swim in me own cum, than ga’an to Sunderland.” During rehearsal Staggy immediately informed me that I had it all wrong - he would never say anything like that. So the scene changed to have Staggy say: “ I’d rather swim in me own spunk, than ga’an to Sunderland.” You see what I mean.
Basically I chose the “Going to Sunderland” sequence because, among other reasons, it’s a microcosm of the entire film, which I thought would provide any potential investors a good taste of what the entire story was about. After that decision, using the outline as a guide, I wrote the eight pages of scene in script form that we scheduled to shoot in two days.
My biggest surprise in all of this was that some of the scenes didn’t work as well as I had hoped. After watching a rough cut and conferring with my consiglieres, I agreed to eliminate unnecessary lines of dialogue to improve the flow (note: normally a screenwriter should to do this before the shoot). For example, Pob, Staggy, Bettsy and Stu’s dialogue while they wait for the bus seemed to slow down the pace of the scene.
The same thing happened in the next scene at Chilly Metro. There’s a part where Pob coaxes the Director to give them a ride to Sunderland, to which the Director replies that he can’t because of the “documentarian code”. In the rehearsal this was a funny scene, but again, in the edit the extra dialogue seemed to slow down the scene.
The rest of the sequence played out pretty much the same as the script. Now that I’ve watched the cut a few hundred times, I don’t think I can objectively say if it’s good or not. I just hope that it has energy and captures the Geordie sense of humour and fun-loving spirit of the North East.
So far it’s been an exciting film to write and shoot. Everybody seems to be behind the idea. I’ve really enjoyed working with real people to create true-to-life dialogue that, even though it’s a farcical story, seems more realistic than most of the films or TV I’ve seen. Besides, how can you not get excited by a story about getting drunk and making an ass of yourself?
In a small way, I hope this film will dispel the bleak, grim stereotypes that the rest of the country has about the North East, and they will see the region in a different light. As I enter my twelfth year of living in Gateshead, I can honestly say that I have never seen the true spirit of the area captured in any TV show or film. Hopefully we, with the help of the North East community, will change all that.
One final word - "Thank you NFM!"
James DeMarco 6th November 2009