Damon Berry and I meet in the parking lot of the National Film and Video Foundation. He's carrying a bunch of papers. I open my car boot.
He says, 'Did you print out the synopsis?'
I pull it out of my bag.
The synopsis is a one-page treatment of the horror screenplay we're co-writing. We've entered it into the NFVF and UK Film Council pitching contest, '25 Words or Less'. And I got a phone call last week to say, 'Please attend a meeting with Ryan Haidarian on Thursday the first of June.'
It turns out we're on the shortlist. Our film idea has made it past the gatekeepers, and has a chance of getting made!
When I got the phone call, Damon was in New York. So I sent him a text message on his phone. And got one back from him a few hours later. Over the moon.
'Let's read this thing before we go in,' I say. And we go over our outline.
We get inside. And Ryan is waiting for us. 'We're going to be doing a conference call to London,' he says. 'We wanted to do a video conference, but the tech in London isn't working. So it'll have to be by phone, I'm afraid.'
Oh-oh. We weren't expecting this. I say, 'So who are we conferencing with in London?'
He says, 'Head of UIP in London, and someone from the UK Film Council. You know what UIP is, yeah?'
Holy cow. UIP. United International Pictures.
Ryan says, 'The world's biggest film distribution company.'
The conference call begins with the UIP representative in London saying, 'Hi! Of all the synopses we've received, yours is our favourite.'
Damon says, 'I bet you say that to all the guys.'
A slight time-lag through the phone lines, and we get two international laughs. A good start to a fifty-minute grilling.
When we leave Ryan's office, it's with the knowledge that the shortlist consists of 13 story ideas across three genres, culled from 340 submissions, and that they'll be choosing one idea from each genre. Each of those projects will be funded to the tune of £10k, and will be produced, with the aim of releasing the film internationally.
Damon and I head for La Concorde, a bakery/deli in Norwood. We're both trembling. Adrenaline is gushing through us. And he's just back from New York, so he's severely jet-lagged.
We get to our seat upstairs, and Damon orders an espresso. I stick with decaff cappuccino. And some spaghetti bolognaise, which turns out to be quite good, if a bit soggy.
We high five each other. 'Who would have thought,' says Damon, 'that when we started writing this sucker we'd stand a chance of getting it made?'
We started it in 2003. And now we've got a crack at turning it into a produced film.
We'll know on Monday or Tuesday, according to the London people. Wow.
Damon says, 'It's as if we've crossed all geographical boundaries and had a meeting in a Hollywood office. We just pitched to the head of UIP!'