Wednesday 20 June 2012

Stay classy, Rescue Industry

In the cutthroat world of filmmaking it must be hard to get noticed. Some make their names by honing their craft over years or even decades, learning the business from the ground up, and keeping their egos in check. Others sleep their way to the top. But that's kind of lame. Why make good films or suck off a decent producer when you can hop on the concern-porn cause of the week and gain tasty, tasty attention that way?

Enter 'Balkans the Movie', a yet-to-be-made film that aims to expose the seedy underside of human trafficking by, er, cobbling together a lot of ethnic stereotypes and asking NGOs for funding. Nice work if you can get it. Certainly seems to have worked out for Nefarious: Merchant of Souls (which, incidentally, is so my next character if I ever take up RPGs again. Or alternatively my thrash metal band's debut album).

The Balkans site is looking to cast such no-doubt sensitively and intelligently written characters as "Big Mama" (a large cockney lady married to a Jamaican) and "Fats" (a Kosovan by way of New Orleans). Cast extras include "10 Prostitutes," whose roles are not entirely clear apart from the fact there will be a "porn scene" and an "auction". Don't worry about the lack of scripts, though, ladies: the director assures you "I shall ask you to improvise on the day." Is your asshole-ometer up in the red yet? No, nor mine. Not. At. All.

The site also makes clear that not only is the film gritty with potentially crude sex portrayed, it's also unpaid. Yes that's right, if you're lucky enough to get this gig you'll be pulling down not union rates or even minimum wage, but you will score a complimentary DVD. With profits to go to "anti-trafficking charities". The film will however be sent to "top industry contacts" who no doubt will dispatch it directly to the circular file. So basically you get to re-enact "harrowing scenes of torture" for free!

Executive Summary: We're going to stick it to those horrible people exploiting young women by, er, exploiting young women.

There isn't a mainstream porn studio in the world that could get away with this shit.

If the concept of the film hasn't made you roll off your chair yet then get a load of the script. What there is of it, anyway, since most of the film will go all Mike Leigh on our asses and depend on the actors' improvisation skills. We experience the story through the eyes of Joe, who is "Unstoppable, determined, curious, witty, vulnerable and a good liar ... educated at Cambridge ... Joe's heritage enables him to infiltrate this group as his father is from Eastern Europe." 

So far, so Misha Glenny. Minus the credibility.

"Joe is one of the remaining few journalists committed to the ethos of investigative journalism – to uncover the truth using all methods in spite of the risks."
As long as "all methods" means "getting handjobs," yeah? Has someone alerted Leveson yet?

Our Joe may be green, but by gum, he knows a good story when he sees it.
"I'm onto a new story with the break-in thing--absolute page one stuff-- ... It's gonna be bigger than Watergate!"
All the President's Men this ain't but please, tell me more, maybe I've missed what's so exciting here...
"Guys get into arguments over nothing and before you know it, one of them is dead. They're shooting each other all the time."
Oh. Never mind then.

More dialogue WTF: 

"Fats had killed a made man, elite Mafioso."
Now, I may be no expert - I'm only half-Eastern European and half-Sicilian, so what the hell do I know? I'm pretty sure - not 100% certain, but pretty sure - that Eastern European gangsters are not, kind of by definition, "mafiosi". 

Enter Natasha. Nats here is our hooker with a heart of gold. You can tell because she's giving Joe a rubdown and guided tour of her singing ability by page 2. She sounds all sorts of awesome:
"Natasha left her country in Eastern Europe to find a rich man in the West. Unfortunately she was conned and is now serving as a prostitute."
Serving as a prostitute? Bitch, I'm a sergeant in the Hooker Corps!

On a more serious note, though, sounds to me she found exactly what she was looking for and needs to reframe this new arrangement not as a problem but as a solution. A rich man in the West. Only, you know, an hour at a time. Why put up with a guy full-time when you can get cash in hand and have the odd evening to yourself? Hell to the yes.

The best part about Natasha is she speaks like a minor character from Isaac Bashevis Singer:

"When I was 15, my parents married me, against my will, to a man aged 35, whom I did not love. So started my miseries."
Feel free to imagine the sad violin here. Or alternatively some jaunty squeezebox à la Gypsy Weddings. Your call.

But wait! There's more. So much more:

"Smart Nick is Downtown Joey's son and a possible successor to him but first he must learn the business. "
Unlike the writer, this may entail more work for Smart Nick than merely watching The Wire with the sound turned off. I like this Nick fellow, not least because
"He has developed an upper class Oxford accent..."
I didn't know the university had its own accent! Learn something new every day. Smart Nick deploys his hard-won knowledge of Received Oxford Pronunciation on such gems as: "Next to him dancing with sexy girl is Jim Whip, number 2 top porno star in UK."

Mark-Francis Vandelli doesn't get this role it will be a crime against Thespis.

Oh wait, there is an Italian in the film! His name is 'Sammy Cigar'. We Italians are all called things like that, you know. We're also orange puppets made of sponge who sit around eating Dolmio every Saturday night with Mamma. He owns a nightclub too? You could have knocked me over with a feather.

The there's Leo, the Obligatory American.
"Leo was born into music, although his family were not in the industry he managed to make the right connections,  is in his early forties and is American. His break came when he graduated from Harvard in Art History and dated the daughter of the Chairman of Warner Music. He has managed huge acts, is a millionaire, loves young women (18+) and sometimes dabbles in cocaine."
The actual Chairman of Warner Music, Lyor Cohen, has a daughter all right. She turns 10 this year. Way to score, Leo!

The film's website helpfully informs us that 
This story is fictional and is not intended to be racist or to offend anyone. 
It's not intended to be racist. Like, I didn't intend to steal that cupcake, it just ended up stuffed in my gob unpaid for, officer. (For what it's worth I'm not offended. I'm more bemused and slightly mystified but not actually offended. Kosovan gangsters from Louisiana may feel differently.) Also:
All characters are fictional and any resemblance to any person/event or situation whether present or in the past is coincidental.
Don't worry, hon. There is absolutely no danger anyone is going to mistake these characters for real people.

Do you know what the script reminds me of? This date I had years ago. I met up with a guy from Guardian Soulmates who told me he was an aspiring novelist who eschewed a career as a postdoc chemist for two (yes! two!) masters' courses in writing. He then proceeded to tell me in much detail about this amazing book of his that was mysteriously unpublished. It involved a super-secret society at Oxford whose bitch-queen was a virginal descendant of the real Royal Family (whoever they are) and gets deflowered by her super-secret fraternity at the end. He saw Emily Blunt in the lead role for the film adaptation. There wasn't a second date.

I could go on. But I won't. Because I'm not even past page 12 yet and you probably have other things to do today. Suffice it to say that I actually hope a rubbish trafficking hype film with characters like "Detective Inkling" and "Chinese Man" gets made. If only so I can MST-3K the shit out of it. And let's be honest, if I had no conscience and no qualms about not paying the talent I would be kicking myself right now for not coming up with this lucrative wheeze first.

In fact I actually hope this is the product of some some hard-eyed cynic grabbing what cash he can out of the system before the whole trafficking panic collapses in a heap of invented moral scares and bullshit statistics. In which case, mate, I owe you an apology and a drink.