Bypassing a crowd of people clustered in the lobby of the Four Seasons Hotel last Saturday presumably waiting to catch a glimpse of the stars who emerge from elevators, body guards in tow, at regular intervals, I glide effortlessly on an escalator up to a lounge haven and settle into a cushy two-seater sofa.
Caressing the plush wool of a Chinese rug under my toes, I smugly separate myself from the mundane life in the world below, open my notebook and wait for creativity to join me. Camera roll. Scene one. Big reality check.
From pin-striped wing-backed chairs, three voices, all male, yabber about money, investment money for film production. Pre-sales, gaps, foreign gaps, risk, tax shelters, waterfalls, border falls, leveraging. I listen at first, trying to understand logically what the words mean and why the government of South Africa would allocate $40 to $50 million for film production when it can't feed the majority of its population. OK, it's about return on investment.
At first there's an adrenaline rush because I'm sure I'm privy to what the ordinary person is not supposed to hear. Secrets, I think, of the industry that may give me an edge. But after an hour of writing verbatim what I've heard, I'm overwhelmed. Will I ever have access to this kind of money and the power it lends to production?
Geez, how's a girl from a small town with only a degree in filmmaking supposed to face that kind of reality? Gaps. With every word they utter, the distance between my reality and theirs seems to grow.
Somewhere in there I've heard one of the voices declare matter-of-factly that he has access to over $7 billion, never invests in a film if it costs under $25 million and won't waste his time on a film if it doesn't have very big-name actors "like Robert Redford or Matt Damon." I guess the guy really doesn't like film that much. I ponder my own screenplays. Nope, hadn't thought of Redford, and Damon won't do at all. And I thought low-budget films were the only way to go these days.
Across from me on the other side of the room are two clean-cut guys from New York, both well dressed, in shiny shoes. I can hear every word of only one side of their conversations, which take place on cellphones that sit in their laps like cats. They hold forth wearing, for the sake of comfort, hand- free headsets. I notice they fondle the screens of the phones as they speak. One is selling distribution rights.
He's looking for the best offer for a client, presumably a filmmaker, but who can say for sure whose interests he represents? He sounds like he's bluffing. "Right, well, if you can't go higher than $75,000, I don't think my client is interested. Get back to me if you think you can get the go-ahead on a larger sum." Next call.
Outside, it's getting dark. I don't want to wait in line for a film screening. Soon there will be a stream of filmmakers and stars coming back to the hotel. It's almost 10, the end of a long day. I'm not quite ready to relinquish my connection to this reality. But it's time, really, for a curtain call on this scene. Maybe I'll go home and work on my script. I think I've decided to make the film in South Africa.