Cash Runs Out
Bob Perfect chats to Roger Young via Facebook about his latest film, Love Runs Out. Learn about the struggles of crowd funding and the difference between partying and relapsing below.
DIY: The last time we chatted to you, you’d just put out a short film, Boat Girls, and were busy working on Love Runs Out. How’s that coming along?
Roger: We’ve shot I’d say a good 80% of it. Which is like 5 short films worth if you go by amount of script pages, but in reality it’s felt… well, you can’t compare the process to a short film, because I haven’t had like five moments of epiphany over the last year. The wormhole keeps getting deeper. But man, what a glorious wormhole. The people I’m working with are effortlessly talented. The life, the characters they’re bringing to the screen, well it’s so fucking Alice through the looking glass, these characters are people that were my best friends when I was in my early 20s, some of whom are long dead, and they’re being bought to life in front of my eyes, I’m jolling with ghosts. It’s bittersweet.
How’s it coming along? It’s a stop start process. We get so far we run out of resources, we stop, we shop around for a few thousand rond more and then we go back in. And so on. That’s indie filmmaking. Now, that we’re so close, it stings having to stop.
DIY: You’ve had to stop? Because of finances?
Roger: You have to also understand that I’m not working on anything else. I’ve put all my regular freelance gigs on standby, I have no income, everything is about Love Runs Out. I eat when there is food on set. I pay rent when someone invests.
We’ve been lucky in that some people have thrown in 20k here, 10k there, 5k this month, 10k next month. One month, in the early days, Pieter Hugo rode in like a knight on a white fucking horse and saved our ass so hard by dropping a sizable sum on us that I had fever dreams for a week. I don’t even know if I’m allowed to say that.
And man, I don’t like talking about this stuff, I want to hunker down and make the film, dig deep into the psyche of my characters and lose myself in the fantasy.
I’ve bought some long dead friends back to life and I only have 9 shoot days left with them, I’d like nothing more in the universe – it would actually complete me – if I could do that without having to worry about the financing options and all those things, if we just magically had the 134k we actually need to start up again, or the 314k we need to finish the whole shoot.
But that won’t happen, we will hopefully crack the 30k we need to keep the 20k already raised – and then we have an auction coming up. We’ve had like 12 pieces of art donated by serious artists, and there are about 20 more coming in. That auction, please lawd, will put us in the black, that’s our hope. That or some mysterious shadowy investor. If that happens, we should finish by Jan 2017.
DIY: You wrote the first draft 22 years ago. How much has the story changed since the original? Did you have any difficulty adapting it for the youth of today?
Roger: The youth of today, lol. Yeah no, I struggled to get the drugs as per context balance right. I’d suggest things to my cast and they’d go “OH HEY, too much”, or “(cough) rookie, not enough”. But this isn’t a film about youth culture. It’s three, four, five, yes five people, of various naïvetés, falling in love and discovering that well, love hurts like a motherfucker.
DIY: How hard is it to make a feature length film whilst fundraising for it? How much time and focus does it take away from the film?
Roger: Brah! Yassis, what can I say? What can be said? Yeah, crowdfunding started before this section of the shoot started and should have been over before we begun shooting again. It didn’t, and yes holy crap it takes away the focus, but what other options do I have? Zero. There were days when I seriously dropped the ball on the crowd-fund due to pressing on set issues. Now I’m on a three to four week shoot break and I’ll be flat out pushing the crowd fund. We have 3 weeks to get 30k in, to keep what we have already raised, you know. So expect jolly and upbeat spam from me.
The thing, the crux, the nub, the whatever Shakespearian word you want to use of it is something best described by Lynch in an interview about the making of Eraserhead. The interviewer keeps asking Lynch how the baby was made and Lynch keeps telling him that it’s unimportant. Eventually after too much pushing Lynch says, “The baby is the baby, no more questions.” Later on in the interview, Lynch is asked if the robin at the end of Blue Velvet was meant to look fake or not. Lynch clearly exasperated, says “The Robin WAS PLAYING A ROLE!” You get me? Nah, it’s a fucking arch reference.
DIY: Yeah, no, I have no fucking idea what you mean.
Roger: Let me explain this way… Crowdfunding is another form of entertainment, added to that, the money that people pledge is an investment on some level, their reward is their return, and so they have a right to know all the things they want to know, to know how to evaluate whether to invest or not. At the same time, you’ve got to be entertaining, to draw them in, with the material you have on hand. What this means is that you are often tempted, or ambushed into revealing more about the film than you would like to, some aspect of the making of it, or of the plot. This aspect, the knowledge of this aspect might actually diminish the viewer’s enjoyment of the film when they finally get to see it. Knowing that the baby is made of jelly, a Victorian clock and three mouse brains means you no longer see a baby, knowing that character A is ACTUALLY the narrator and not character C would mean the grand denouement of the film is taken away from you.
So, it’s a juggle, it’s me trying to entice you to help me finish my film by letting you in on little things, without ruining the film in total. It’s a balancing act, and being someone who is, yes 22 years later, still trying to work out what the film is actually about, still writing it as we shoot, still waiting for the film to reveal its secrets to me, which will probably happen only after we premiere, it’s a balancing act that I don’t know how to get right. So there’s that, that can be exasperating, yeah? But in the midst of this conundrum, I’m having the best time, I’m making something nuanced and amazing with incredible people, something that I really WANT to talk about.
Roger: Just a small note, there is a 20 minute sequence that is the centerpiece of the film based around a Thomas Krane song, we use three versions of it, that is my sort of shout out to the fact that Thomas Krane crowd funded that beautiful fucking album. That sequence is my way of appeasing the crowd fund gods.
DIY: You said I could ask you anything, even if you’d relapsed, which makes me think you obviously want to talk about it. Have you relapsed, and what exactly does relapsed mean to you? I think it’s well documented that you take a variety of drugs which would be considered relapsing on the NA spectrum of things, so when is it relapsing and when is it partying?
Roger: My very existence is on the dark end of the NA scale of things. It’s too binary as system to have any real meaning for me. Life is a far more nuanced a thing. I stopped using heroin, after about 7 years, five at least on the streets of Hillbrow, in 2009. My first relapse was in 2014, during the editing of Keys. It lasted about 4 days. The next was during the editing of Boat Girls, that lasted a bit longer. As production for LRO started looming closer I sought help. It came in various forms. I started a programme of antidepressants, comprising of three different meds- if I don’t have all three I tend to wig out. One of the three is tres expensive, so there have been periods of wigging out in between shoots. Life, I guess.
But people are intensely over-invested in my private life, there is a lot of speculation around how clean I am, mostly around the will-he-pull-this-film-off typa vibe. Well, I raised this with you, in light of this interview because it’s important that people know, and I needed to somehow let them know, that it’s none of their fucking business.
This film, LRO, is looking so fucking great at the moment, so incredible that if I WAS high when shooting, then being high is something that should be advocated. Sadly, for the legend makers, I’m not Hunter S Thompson, I’m more Almodovar, Patty Diphusa to be exact, so I try not to be high on set, barring accidents and happenstance; that is if we’re shooting in da club and the scene is everyone banging rails and there are some rails left wanting, well it would be rude to waste.
Smack, well prescription pharmaceuticals are far more effective and cheaper, the only thing that got weird on me was a flirtation with speed during the build up to the shoot, I lost weight, I started picking up weight again, I’m super self conscious about this shit, I’ve been called fatty all my life, so I did about a month of speed to try stay slim. It was unsustainable, so I stopped, now I stay thin by token of the fact that I am so fucking broke all the time that I live by the banting playbook to stretch my food ronds, and etc. For someone who professes it’s none of anyone’s business, I sure like to spill the beans. I have a complicated relationship with “my public”.
When is it a relapse, when is it partying? It’s not partying if you can’t get up and work the next day. It’s not a relapse until you’ve had to choose between food or drugs that day. I don’t know, pocket wisdom is something I’m terrible at.
DIY: What do you mean by “If we’re shooting in da club and the scene is everyone banging rails and there are some rails left wanting,well it would be rude to waste.”? Do you use real drugs in the film?
All the “drugs” used on camera are fake. No one is actually high while we work. Maybe when we wrap things get loose, but the greatest secret about making work about drugs is to never be on drugs while doing it; it makes for extremely sloppy work.
DIY: How do you think being so open about your drug use will affect your funding? It’s probably not the most reassuring tactic.
It’s kinda a great pity that people don’t know how to have any fun with a press rollout anymore. Yesterday someone suggested to me that I would stand to raise more money if I wore a suit on camera. I’m sorry, I didn’t wait 22 years to make this film just to have to suit up and behave exactly in the manner I’ve been determined to escape my whole life, and I certainly didn’t wait 22 years to make a film just to throw it all away by being high on set. Anyone who thinks that obviously doesn’t appreciate the depth and quality of my work.
Earlier when I referred to “wigging out” I literally mean that, for some reason, when I don’t take my mood stabilizers in conjunction with my buenophenphrine and my serdep, and then combine this with lack of sleep and a shit ton of stress, I can become extremely agitated, to the point of unconsciously pulling off these sorta skittish ballet dancer moves, and chewing on my tongue – something, you’re welcome to check with my kindergarten teacher, I’ve done in state of extreme nervousness my whole life.
The tongue thing is in fact hereditary, all the men on my fathers side of the family do it, my great grandfather in fact was the first person to have an automobile accident in Pietermaritzburg and, due to the fact that he was concentrating so hard when he rear ended that horse and buggy, bit his own tongue off. Such is life.
Any founder who would put money into a film about drugs and insist the filmmaker have never taken drugs is not the kind of funder I care to work with. Art is about experience, and besides the film is not about drugs, it’s about love and betrayal and hearts that open like flowers toward the rising sun.
You’ve been trying to tell this story for 22 years, will completing Love Runs Out give you some sort of closure?
Lol. No. Not a fucking chance. Love Runs Out is about the impossibility of closure, that it doesn’t exist, and that that’s okay. No, what completion will give me is confirmation that filmmaking is what I’m good at, and what I should be doing. But that could take another 22 years, unless people start throwing money into the crowd fund (yeah emotional blackmail, whatevs, have a look at the reward – Tom Waits Is Watching You, it’s kak fun).
I mean if there is any closure, maybe people will enjoy this film, and maybe there will be some slight epiphany that South African films don’t need to be important to have a right to exist. This is a film that covers a lot of things, but none of them are historically or socially important. There are no lessons here, only entertainment, and heartbreak, and dancing. Lots of dancing.
You can contribute to Love Runs Out on their Thundafund page.