Lanyon has a problem. The flat is furnished, the home entertainment centre is complete and even the carpet has been hovered. Twice. Serena seems to be dodging the whole commitment thing and Alex at work is really getting on his tits. He's lost enthusiasm for debt management job and he'd far rather be killing people for living. No one understands. And it's Christmas, y'know?
He's locked in the work-pub-home cycle with all the other bored office workers, as well as his psychologically damaged boss, a local TV 'personality' and some very dubious bar staff. Something has to change. Fade to Beige was produced in 2002.
I wrote Fade to Beige because we (freezedriedham) wanted to make another short (after The Lost Soul). I had written some scenes about a young man with no particular problems except a little angst, who was trying to get off the ground his new chosen profession of contract killer (essentially my life plus Grosse Pointe Blank). He lived where I lived and no one was going to take him seriously that he wanted to kill people for money, least of all his colleagues/workmates etc. Cue complications.
The story appeared quite inconveniently one night when I was about to fall asleep. I can remember two or three ideas committed to memory before sleep, but these ones all stacked up into an impossible to remember pile. So I got up and wrote the outline on two sides of A4, in front of the fireplace at our old house, wearing only my pants (and maybe a t-shirt, I don’t recall).
I wrote the script on breaks from my job at the cinema. I ate the best meal the bar could serve (chips, sometimes with cheese) and wrote whatever scenes pleased me, in two columns per page in my notepad. For some reason the line “while another burns brightly in its bayonet housing” reminds me of this time, or the time reminds me of the line, one or the other. Or both. It probably sticks out because I found it funny, even though (or because) it was preposterous.
We of freezedriedham decided yes, we would make the film (lack of another option not withstanding) so I wrote another draft. This seemed to mainly involve fixing spelling mistakes (because generally I obviously had it right), and I probably added some more pages (because what was right obviously wasn’t right enough). I liked the thickness of the first, and every subsequent, bound copy and I liked using my Acco fastners.
By approximation we calculated it would cost us £1000 to make our film (I would like to read that budget breakdown again). We didn’t have £1000 (or anything near it), so we got a credit card. We auditioned for the roles and I discovered I dislike the auditioning process (and I wasn’t even on the worst side of it). We found local businesses who, inexplicably, let us use their premises to film (miniDV) our humble blackcomedydrama story of a chap who thought he wanted to kill people, but who was just a bit dissatisfied with life. It took several full weekends and weekday evenings.
We ate MacDonald’s. We shot far more footage than we needed. Some of us had glandular fever, but we carried on regardless. Sometimes we were very well prepared, sometimes we weren’t. Sometimes people showed up, other times they didn’t. The shoot over ran. We spent so much on hiring lighting kit we could have bought it outright. More weekends were added on. We finally finished filming and, perhaps this is not quite chronologically correct, we celebrated with a weary pint at the bar of the pub we all used to hang out in. At 4 in the morning on a day in May, surrounded by film gear and Christmas decorations.
Footage from that last day in the pub sits next to footage from the first day in the pub in the edit. We reviewed endless hours of footage, got tired of the same old lines, I began to hate what I’d written. We had the usual sickening horror of the 1st edit, an the excitement at the improvement of every subsequent edit. We had fun with it, borrowed music, put strange effects on things, had someone rescue our sound for us. Eventually it was done.
We showed the finished film to the cast and crew (the former mostly our friends, the latter mostly the three of us). I, we, were nervous. I discovered I didn’t like being present when people viewed what I had contributed to the making of. This I realise now was just a variation on a theme on a theme, the theme being my discomfort at the vulnerability I felt at having what I had written scrutinised. Whether it be by the person reading it aloud, myself hearing it performed back, or in someone watching the end result. This is probably still the case, though I’d like to think I deal with it better now, that is more constructively, than we did on the evening of that cast and crew screening of Fade to Beige. There are few occasions on which is necessary to drink quite that much vodka, though it was probably, in part at least, a reaction to the freedom we newly felt following the preceding months of lucidity that were necessary to finish the job. We were pleased with ourselves and everyone involved. I had written, and we had made, a film. We’d cracked it, it was easy! In those estimations we were both right and wrong, as we would later find out.
Fade to Beige is my favourite film I’ve been involved in the making of. It is immature, a little shambolic and the work of those with limited means. But it was made with energy, enthusiasm and a never-say-die attitude. Its occasional ridiculousness included, it was created honestly, without cynicism and was unhindered by over-thinking, nor improved by it one might argue, but there we are. Watching it for the first time in years I found a new reason to respect what we’d made. With little or no experience we had made a film about a man experiencing the growing pains of young adulthood: relationship troubles, job dissatisfaction and the claustrophobia that is part of settling down. How oddly prophetic.