"It was Career Day at school, I was fifteen years old and I told the career guy I wanted to be a film director and make a million a year. He took me to the headmaster, who showed me his £34,000 paycheque and said, ‘Scott, this is perhaps a more realistic goal.’"
Filmmaker Scott Elliott says this was the spark that kicked off a fifteen-year quest to make a movie with his schoolfriend Sid Sadowskyj. However, rather than take the route of many aspiring filmmakers, Scott and Sid spent their formative years running creative businesses in New Zealand and Leeds before gathering to make Scott & Sid, the (slightly) fictionalised, fantastical story of their lives.
Before raising the £1.5M budget they now have to make the film, Scott and Sid tried every way of learning the film business. Scott tells of a time he infiltrated the higher echelons of Hollywood by paying someone on a big film production to let him serve a top producer his lunch. "I bribed them a hundred dollars so I could serve a big producer some lobster and then I cheekily sat down to ask if he could give me a start in the industry. Thankfully he did. You have to do things like that sometimes when you’re a bit frustrated!"
Starting their filmmaking endeavours humbly in the UK, Scott and Sid originally made commercials for companies, shooting on VHS. "We went to New Zealand and started doing BMW commercials and so forth, learning to use cameras and editing and we really learned the business side. Then I went into the directing side of things and found it interesting," said Scott. "We started getting together a cool team and shooting kind of guerrilla style, big-looking productions with a few major shots from cranes and helicopters to beef up the production value."
"I produced and learned a lot about the business. A film is, after all, a brand and I was learning how to find money, sell and discover what not to do as well as what to do. On those early films we knew we’d get the funds back by learning about pre-sales and packaging. Fifty percent of any company is sales, marketing and branding. If you create a piece of art first, it might be liked or it might not. If you want to sell a film eventually, you have to sit down beforehand and ask what the sales companies would be interested in."
"It took us about twelve, thirteen months to raise the money for Scott & Sid. It’s been a lot of hard work and a long slog of networking and producer meetings; we didn’t go down traditional film routes and we wanted to retain creative control so we knocked on a lot of doors and sat down with people who could help fund the movie."
After arranging one meeting a week with the right kind of people, the producers managed to convince enough financiers to levy the money that would support Scott & Sid to be made.
Scott & Sid has now become the result of a fifteen year plan, during which Scott has learned the business inside and out. "I didn’t want to make it too soon, it had to be right. It’s a flight of fantasy movie, one in which we very much present the idea that if you want to do something you can. The film is living proof, as is mine and Sid’s story."
"Walking around York is visually stunning, it’s a very cool place. In London people can be very cynical and of the attitude that ‘everything’s been done’ whereas up here it feels like people actually want to learn and expand the industry, not just talk like they know the industry. There’s no right way of doing things and everything is changing. You can learn anything from anyone on any day and you have to keep an open mind."
While raising the budget for Scott and Sid, the producers have also raised the budget for two films shooting in 2017; one called Pictovia, one a Guy Fawkes movie. "We’re hoping to shoot all these films, including Scott & Sid, in and around York in the next couple of years," says Scott. "Some of the scenes are being shot in New York but we’re big fans of Old York."
With Scott & Sid shooting this autumn on the streets of York, it’s clear that, having raised £1.5M and with some as yet undisclosed star names attached, Scott’s enthusiasm for the film has paid off but he is well aware of the difference between having money and making money: "Raising a budget is great because you can go ahead make the film but you’re still faced with what to do with the film once it’s done, whereas when you get a sales agent involved, you’ve already planned your endgame and have something aim for."
With a series of children’s books to be published alongside Scott & Sid, the film is a testament to dreaming big (the film was originally and fittingly called Dreamchasers) but living in the real world when it comes to filmmaking. "The movie is our lives, part real and part fictional and it’s been a very long journey," says Scott "the aim being to learn and enjoy that journey along the way."
You can get involved with the production and show support at the Scott & Sid Facebook page. We will be following and reporting on the story and the shoot as it develops. With thanks to Tegan Pearce.