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July 1999

Dear All,

As some of you may already know I am in the process of trying to put together a movie. I think it’s quite an important piece. It’s about a group of women who in 1942/3 were enlisted by the Soviet Union to join the airforce. There were three squadrons – two bomber squadrons and one fighter squad. They were called the “Night Witches” by the German Luftwaffe. My movie concentrates on the fighter squadron and to my knowledge they were, in ratio, the most successful pilots against the Germans in any airforce in the world – not only that – they were also, notably, the first female airborne combat squad in history.

So I’m pretty jazzed.

So what am I gonna do about these conventions in September and November? Well, here’s the scoop .. I dunno. No idea. There is a chance that this film won’t get made this October – in which case I will be at those conventions, but there is also a chance that it will get made – welcome to the filmmaking business! No one has any idea whether or not any film is ever going to get made until you find yourself in front of or behind a functioning camera with lights and silly costumes and the whole nine yards, that’s the deal. You just have to work your ass off to make sure that if it does get made, you’re prepared. Unless you’re doing a Star Trek movie – therefore the producers can be pretty sure that some of you guys are gonna spend your last dime on the merchandise, in which case they’ll make their money back … hmm …that’s a good idea – I’m gonna call it. “Star Trek: The Night Witches” and, wait a minute! These babes can ride shuttle craft instead of Yak fighter planes! No one will realise! Ok – I’ll have to think about that … oh … I’ll get sued … too bad.


What am I going to be doing in September while you’re all living it up in Vegas?

If you ask most people in the film business they’ll tell you that 50% of a movie is already made by the time any actor gets anywhere near a make-up mirror. 20% happens while the cameras are actually rolling and the remaining 30% happens after all the high-paid guys have gone home. Bit cynical – but pretty accurate nevertheless. So unless the bottom drops out (and bottoms often drop out – very embarassing in public especially), I’ll be flying back and forth between the UK and Russia and possibly CANAda (god I hate it when I hit the caps lock by mistake) taking photos of locations, meeting actors, fighting producers, putting out fires, starting fires, shouting “fire ..that guy, I hate him” (maybe not), and trying my hardest not to get fired myself.

Right now I’m talking with everyone about what kind of cast we’re going to shoot for – all Russian? Or English or American? Or a mixture? My ideal scenario is to hire an all Russian, English speaking cast. There are the most amazing Russian actors out there – try renting “The Thief” or “Burnt by the Sun” – the lead woman in “The Thief” is definitely on the wish list – maybe I shouldn’t be saying that …

Directing a movie at this stage is a bit like having sixty kids to a birthday party while all the parents go out for a drink, and you, the older sibling, must stop them from burning down the house. All the while some kid is taking big bits off the top of the cake and you have to keep re-decorating it. There is every possibilty that the kids will start killing each other, the house will burn down and I will be forced to fold my arms and walk out the door whistling a merry tune.

God I love this business!

The other important thing I would like to mention is that if I do get two or three days off in the next few weeks – the only people I’m likely to go and see will be my two boys – they are the only ones who are really paying for this production so far and what makes it tough is that I will probably be forever in their debt – cash isn’t the important thing anyone thinks about when they watch a good movie nor is the important thing while making it – so if I don’t make it (the film) – you’ll see me in Vegas … at the roulette wheel with a large Scotch and a black eye (the kids at the party can get real mean).


PS I will post regularly(ish) to this site about the progress of the movie …and when we start shooting – if I can get permission – I will post the script for your general amusement … 🙂