TAKING STOCK OF THE VERY SUCCESSFUL FILM COMPANY
By Mark Weekes
ONCE UPON A TIME, there was a very successful Film Company, called ‘The Very Successful Film Company” and it made very successful films.
As with most film production companies, it had a Production Manager called Fiona. (Naturally, that does not mean that all Production Managers are called Fiona, but that most film production companies have a Production Manager. This one just happened to be called Fiona.)
And, as with most VERY SUCCESSFUL Film Production Companies, it also employed an accountant called Nigel. (It is true that many accountants are called Nigel, and therefore this observation needs no qualification, other than to note that film production companies that are not very successful often don’t have an accountant at all, or tend to leave the accounting process to the receptionist or the cleaner.)
Now Fiona and Nigel did not necessarily see eye-to-eye in all matters, or, for that matter, in any matter at all. This was probably due to the fact that Fiona, as Production Manager, was responsible for spending money, whilst Nigel saw this activity as being essentially profligate, extravagant and totally superfluous to the business of making very successful films.
Take film stock. Nigel saw it as being out of the question that, having spent many thousands of dollars on hiring a very expensive camera, Fiona thought it necessary to pay for film stock as well. After all, Nigel had succeeded in progressively recording thirteen hundred episodes of ‘Sexless in the City’, the gripping tale of a down town firm of Financial Planners, on a single VHS tape he had bought in a second hand shop twelve years ago.
Nigel suggested using cling film instead. It was much wider than 35mm and thus much better value; it could be bought from any supermarket, it wasn’t susceptible to light, or changes in temperature, thus much more user friendly, and it cost $4.95 per roll instead of $495.00.
After a long argument and several beverages (spiked double espressos for Fiona, a chamomile infusion for Nigel), Fiona managed to convince Nigel that running 40 meters of Gladwrap through an Arri 535B would probably render the camera unserviceable (not exactly the word Fiona used); it was also unlikely to result in a very successful film.
Nigel then found out that they could save on the budget by buying returned film stock - recans and short ends surplus to requirements. Fiona conceded that this was possible; they often used returned stock for testing purposes or for low budget jobs. However, as a very successful film company, it was not worth the risk cutting corners in the making of a very successful film.
Nigel finally got his way when he insisted that Fiona change supplier to one who agreed to take back any unused stock. At least that way there would be no wastage at the end of the shoot. When Fiona asked what the supplier did with the returned stock, Nigel said they obviously threw it away or passed it on at a discount. And when Fiona asked how such a supplier could survive in business, Nigel replied that they must have a good accountant.
As times were hard, Nigel’s argument prevailed and Fiona took delivery of the first consignment of stock. She was assured by the supplier that every can of film was pristine. The coffee stains, water marks and cigarette burns were superficial; the fact that the sealing tape was upside down must have been due an error on the assembly line; and the can itself being buckled would obviously have no effect on the film within, as it was designed to cope with rough treatment. All the same, Fiona did get a ten percent discount and a free bottle of chardonnay, even though she hadn’t asked for it!
All went well on the shoot, and it looked as though the Very Successful Film Company would soon have another very successful film for its show reel.
Unfortunately, the Lab called Fiona the next day to say that the neg was ratshit and they couldn’t get an image.
The client sued the Very Successful Film Company for a squillion.
Nigel proceeded to undertake the management of an efficient and trouble free liquidation of the Very Successful Film Company, and went on to make a substantial name for himself by repeating this operation for many other companies.
Fiona decided to pursue a less stressful career and joined the SAS.
And they all lived happily ever after.
(Mark Weeks is the owner of Sound & Vision Stock Shop, suppliers of motion
picture film stock to very successful film companies. He is not an