Finally, Progress! And A Few More Flying Pigs

Joel – the first assistant director – told me not so long ago that, “Frustration is your enemy”. I took that to heart.

Every now and then I still get too annoyed to keep my mouth shut. In the last twenty-four hours I have been a bit snippy.

That said, there has been progress. I think a big part of it may be that Ahmed met Talal a few weeks ago and it was made clear to Talal that Medinah would not be going back to Jordan. Ever.

Knowing that, ATP now seems a bit more desperate to do something. But also a bit more desperate to strangle the budget.

The second lot of scaffolding turned up this morning at a flooded location. All the unfinished workshops were flooded. The hangar was leaking. But at least the water had missed the RLCR set and the mould making area.

Time to backtrack.

I had a major think last Friday about how at every turn ATP seemed to create obstacles to stop us getting anything done and I asked myself how I would get around them. I decided three things;

First, remove as many curves that depended on CNC (computer controlled cutting of timber to create accurate shapes) from the RLCR set as possible so that ATP could not stop us moving forward through the need to have them pay for CNC.

Second, figure out how to build the mezzanine without steel since it looked like ATP was stalling on paying for that as well even though we had gotten three quotes and picked the cheapest (they’ve had all three quotes since October  20th and have not said a word about it).

Third, lie. Since ATP lies almost every time it opens its corporate mouth I decided to play them at their own game. Simon and Ahmed and Joel asked me two weeks ago if I could build Haraviei’s village by mid-February. I said I believed I could if I could get round ATP. So the first thing I did was to decide not to use CNC – but (and this is the crucial part) I would tell ATP I needed it. If I could create fake needs for them to block, hopefully, I could slip the real needs past them and actually get the set built.

Whether or not point 3 will work remains to be seen. I did tell Neil my plan and told him not to tell anyone.

But first I need to complete its design. To that end, I have Shatat making a Sketchup model. However, it may need hand-drawing. Sketchup makes organic sets look ugly.

Kristine has started as Art Director. She is a real find. Easy going, smart, creative, and she knows what she is doing. She should be a real asset.

I had a long chat with Ahmed today in which I expressed my concern about props and dressing. I explained construction for the caves will need vast quantities of materials and equipment, but so far only about ten orders have gone through. What will happen with Ray starts buying hundreds, nay, thousands of props? I said there is no way the ATP system could work. How many times have we said this only to fall on deaf ears?

Ahmed told me that we are stuck with it. There’s nothing I can do, he said. And somehow we have to make it work. I said it won’t work because ATP will use their system to vastly reduce the amount of stuff we can get. Sets will be undressed and they will look like shit. He did not react. I told him this problem would be abundantly clear very soon. Again, no reaction. Why?

I mentioned that I had been told by someone at ATP that they were being forced to use this system because the investors were insisting on it. Ahmed looked genuinely perplexed. Once, again, it looks like this may be another Arab Telemedia lie. But Ahmed did say that since the start of September the investors have insisted on open books due to “an incident” back in Jordan. Clearly, the “incident” is the occasion Talal told Ahmed the fortress set would cost over $250,000 when Chris had already told him we were making it for under $8,000!

So it seems that ATP *is* being heavily audited and who can blame the investors?

The good news is that ATP no longer has anything to do with the construction of the Oasis. This is now being handled directly by the investors. However, ATP is still responsible for dressing it. Not good. Unless we can use it against them. If the construction of the Oasis goes well but it still looks shit due to crappy huts and dressing, who’s fault will that be? ATP’s! So we can try to force them to behave. Let’s see how that goes…

Today, the Props department was furious and one of them said they would quit. Ibrahim is no longer allowing them access to petty cash! Instead, they have to go everywhere with someone called Abdel Rehman. Since Abdel also has to go everywhere with Neil and Tim, etc., this is a major hindrance. Clearly, that is intentional.

I sent a rather jokey email to Jude about it today saying it would cause problems and is unnecessary since we are relocating to the hangar next week (but not to the flooded workshops, thank God). I doubt it will make any difference as Abdel is not there to monitor spending but clearly to prevent it.

Scaffolding started to go up yesterday. Needless to say, we still had to rent some because ATP didn’t talk to us before buying it and they did not get everything we needed. No doubt their failure to communicate will somehow become *our* fault.

Today a group of Bangladeshi builders starting concreting the bottom of the workshops to stop the flooding. When I asked Hamad why they were working in the pouring rain he explained that they did not know it was going to rain. I asked if he had checked the forecast as rain had been forecast for this day since the weekend. He responded that no-one pays attention to the forecast because it is usually wrong. Clearly, Hamad has never heard the expression, “Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst,” an expression that should be sacrosanct in all filmmaking. And therein lies the problem because despite its being obvious they should not have done it today or at least had a backup plan, they went ahead with it anyway. And Hamad was convinced he knew better. That’s the problem with ATP. They always know better…

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