Monk3ys – in the “world of the dead” are we Zombie’s two!

Mike Bartlett & Kevin Gates 29th February 2012 - Hastings

Mike Bartlett & Kevin Gates 29th February 2012 – Hastings

It was one of the days that Paul Hamer and I found ourselves working on Caleb Lindsay’s documentary “Death by 1000 cuts” without the director. I guess it was OK seeing as I am the producer and by default interviewer. It was however, a little disappointing as we were going to Hastings the home town of the great Francis Magee from films such as “Layer Cake, Cemetery Junction and Don Quixote” not to mention his TV career with things like “Waking the Dead and Game of Thrones” under his belt. We were hoping to be able to hook up for a beer.

I had worked with Francis on Steve Norris’s film “Not for Two’s” and I really wanted him and Caleb to meet as I thought he would be fantastic for a part in “Se7en Seconds 2 Heaven”. But the best plans of mice and men and all that, meant that we would have to save these introductions for another day.

The days shoot was to follow Mike Bartlett and his crew as they filmed “Zombie Diary’s 2 (World of the Dead) and get an interview with Mike and Kevin to talk about their experiences in the UK film business. Both Paul and I knew it would be a fun day. For a change we would be watching other folk go through the pain we would just be filming it. More importantly some of our great friends from other projects would be there too. We knew for an example that Drew Cullingham the Director of “Umbrage” (the first Vampire) was there in his capacity as editor. In addition to this Jonnie Hurn  producer, writer and lead actor of “Do Elephants Prey?” would be there as one of the producers of the project. They are both great to interview so we felt the sea side town of Hastings could yield a good harvest for the documentary.

No sooner had we arrived and Paul had managed to lock his car keys in the car. I left him to solve the problem and went of with camera in hand to follow the crew. It was everything you would have expected. Mike and Kevin where using the environment to its most dramatic potential. Long shots of heroic war torn apocalypse survivors make their way to the beach in hope of being rescued. Typically Hurn manages to wangle himself an acting role. There are some things in life that just are. The universal constant “The speed of Light”, Drop some buttered toast and you know which side it will land on. Put Hurn on a film set and sooner or later he will be in front of the camera acting. It just the way the universe is! Twang Hurn down the large hadron collider and I guarantee you the Higgs Boson, it is as simple as that!

At lunch we all wander of to a pub for sea side fish and chips. Before long Drew has pulled me to one side. “I have an idea I think you and Paul would love” he tells me. Over the next twenty minuets, a pact is formed between Drew, Jonnie, Paul and Myself. The pact is to try to do the impossible. In it’s simplest terms it is to try to make a feature film on DSLR cameras for less then £1,000. Drew tells us he has already written the script and that he will e-mail us tonight. The film is a psychological poking fun at reality TV, it is going to be called “Monk3ys” Some job titles are dished out and ideas around casting were discussed. I bet you can guess the casting conversation. Hurn!!!!!

For the rest of the day the concept just kept banging around my head. Everything Drew had said had convinced me it was possible. But still there were a lot of niggling doubts. None more so then what I had been tasked with. Not only was I to be the first assistant director but also the location and equipment scout and the location was going to be key. We needed an environment where three actors can be locked in a cell. A place where they are in isolation and can not be heard, more importantly this needs to be attached to an area where the scientist can live and be near by.

I had written a script called “Antidote” a year previously and it needed similar location objectives, to be honest almost identical, and that had been the thing that had in effect broken the project. I needed a free sound stage and some equally free set builders and that was going to be impossible.

True to his word the script arrived that night and a stayed up to read it. I instantly loved the script but quickly realised how difficult to put together the project was going to be. In addition to the set it was also going to be a four camera shoot and we don’t even have one. IMPOSSIBLE!!!!!

Drew and I exchanged a lot of phone calls over the next few days. I approached the Oakford Social Club in Reading to see if we could use part of their cellar. I tried Pavlov’s Dog and a few other bars and got a big fat zero. I started to enlist all of my friends to start thinking about the location and who had spare Canon D5 mark 2’s that could be loaned to us of a week. A lot of energy and enthusiasm dissipated to nothing. I felt doomed to by the guy who didn’t deliver. Everyone else was doing fine. Jonnie had recruited Paul Hills to be the executive producer. James Fisher was on board to Act as too was Ian Virgo and Rosanna Hoult (sister of Nick Hoult from “About a Boy” and “Wah Wah” fame.)

After a fairly depressing call with Jonnie from France I was at a fairly low ebb and stopped of at my beloved Pitcher and Piano to talk with Andy Saxby and Tori Yates. They are a great council and bloody good mates, when I need some strength they normally fill my cup.

From nowhere my sister (not biological) Charlene Flygring bounds into the pub. She is on fire with joy. I say “Ok who is the hapless victim this time” Char just laughs at me and says “Well at least some of us are getting laid old man” we descend into laughter. Char is a tonic a breath of fresh air she always has been and always will be. Sometimes she is like looking at a car crash in slow motion but I wouldn’t have her any other way.

We talk and talk, eventually she asks about filming and I tell her about “Monk3ys” and how I am going to be the one to let everyone down, about the equipment and about the location. Char says “I think you better buy me a beer sweet heart cos your sister is about to wave her magic wand” five minuets late I am on the phone to a photographer who happens to have two D5 Mark 2’s and lives in the perfect location. More importantly he has always wanted to try his hand with film and is happy to work for equity. He is also the hapless victim and reason for Chars happiness. Sometimes the karma police are against you sometimes they are flashing the blues and driving you through traffic.

Two days later. Call sheets start arriving and contracts are being signed. We are in production and shooting starts in less then a month.

God bless Charlene Flyging may her car crash continue slowly, gently and filled with love.

Ian Manson

Film Maker.