Murphy's Law states that whatever can happen will happen. Here at Lanther Black however, we tend to operate on a more specific subset of this law, Lanther's Law: whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. This is not just a pessimistic outlook on life, this is a scientifically proven fact based on years of extensive research and experimentation. We first noticed the existence of the law when shooting our third film, Bonnie & Clyde. We had spent weeks in preparation. When you're a pair of filmmakers working without a Hollywood budget, this essentially means answering the following question: What do we do if everything goes wrong? We were about to find out.
It was set to be our most ambitious project yet. A five day shoot, four production assistants, three locations, two guns and an Austin Cambridge A60. The first day passed almost without incident, apart from the unexpected heatwave. We hadn't factored this into our risk assessment because it was October. The previous week had been winter, the following week would continue to be winter, the 6th of Octoberhowever was the hottest day of the year. Not a cloud in the sky. Not particularly helpful when filming outdoors as we had nothing to diffuse the light of the scorching sun which was glaring off the lens and casting shadows all over our scene. Nevertheless, we peeled off our thermal bodysuits, found a sheltered spot beneath a tree and carried on.
Day two proved to be slightly more testing. The road to our location was closed due to an accident and we were forced to find another way, guided only by a stubborn sat nav that was refusing to consider the possibility of taking any other route. This resulted in us getting hopelessly lost and driving around forgotten country lanes for hours watching helplessly as the sun rose higher and higher in the sky. We arrived four hours behind schedule, missed the sunrise completely and had to re-write the entire scene. Still, the worst was yet to come. On day three, the Cambridge spluttered and died on the way to the location, which is where the well known saying comes from: Never work with children, animals or classic cars. On days four and five, we nearly killed ourselves and our entire crew whilst almost losing thousands of pounds' worth of camera equipment...
Our location for these last two days was Grain Tower, a 19th century anti-invasion fort located 500 metres away from shore at the Isle of Grain. In other words, in the middle of the sea. During low tide the tower is just about accessible by a 'path' running from the shore along the sea bed. If you survive that without getting stuck in the mud, the only entrance to the tower is via a thin blue rope hanging down a wet, stony, 10 foot wall. Once inside the tower, the situation does not improve. Grain Tower is a graffiti covered labyrinth of badly lit passages and chambers. The darkest of rooms have giant open hatches in the floor. What genius conceived that brainchild? Where shall we put the big holes Stan? Let's put them in the dark rooms where no one can see them. Won't people fall through them? Stan shrugs. Great work Stan. It turns out that Stan was also in charge of the ceilings. There are five steps leading to an opening where the sun shines through so brightly that it blinds you. As you mount the fourth step a four-foot ceiling comes out of nowhere. Stan's pièce de résistance. Its sharp concrete edge sits quietly in the darkness, waiting patiently for its victims like a deadly sniper. Its latest victim, our buddy Resh. The sweet boy that had volunteered his time to help us, in return for nothing other than our love and the occasional sandwich. His gentle, peanut shaped head met the concrete with a spine-tingling crunch. Luckily he escaped with nothing more than a bump because there was no way that we'd have even been able to get him down the rope let alone along the quicksand path. Consider the irony, you can't open the windows in most hotels in this country in case you fall to your death and yet here is a dilapidated tower just off the coast of Kent, where the possibilities for life-terminating actions are endless.
But the worst of our troubles weren't provided by the ceilings, the holes, the quicksand or even the giant eagle that Jack bumped into on the top floor. For Grain Tower is surrounded by a deadly substance - Dihydrogen Monoxide. A chemical so dangerous that it is the leading cause of drowning. You may know it by its street name - water. Every time we turned to check, this cunning liquid stood reassuringly still. "Take your time," it lied, "I'm going nowhere." But the very second we turned our backs it bolted towards the shore like a robber escaping the scene of a crime (perhaps it had cast itself in our film). Before we knew it, we were trapped. We had two choices, we could wait in the tower of doom for twelve hours and see if we could avoid freezing to death (winter had very much returned with a vengeance) or we could make a run for it. We decided to run. Less of a run, more of a wade. An increasingly difficult wade through waist high (and rapidly deepening) icy water being flung at us with vigour by the ridiculously strong winds all whilst holding very heavy and very expensive equipment above our heads.
We survived, crew and cameras intact, albeit more than a little cold, and we managed to create a film that we were really happy with. But when we looked back over the five days, we couldn't help but notice that everything that could have gone wrong, did go wrong. Lanther's Law Q.E.D.
It has come as no surprise therefore that the same law applies every time we prepare for a trade show. We recently exhibited at the Harrogate Home and Gift Fair. Everyone had told us that it was the 'party show', more like a holiday than work, good food, great atmosphere, drinking every evening in the sunshine, and thank goodness because copious amounts of alcohol was exactly what we needed to get over the ordeal of the previous weeks. The first straw was when the logo company decided to make our logo twice the size of what we had ordered, meaning that it would engulf the entire stand. No cards to see here folks, just some 10 foot trees. The next day, the cards arrived, but only half of them were there, the other half had been forgotten. That was okay though because we had plenty of logo to fill the space. Or we could just leave the walls bare, we'd found a lovely paint a few weeks earlier, so at least they'd look nice. But it was so lovely that by the time we came to ordering it, it was completely out of stock. That was okay though because we were putting large prints up so no one would be looking at the wall anyway. But then the prints came back overwhelmingly green. Bare wall after all. No matter, we'd built some nice wooden panelling to go around the edges. That would really enhance the walls. We measured them perfectly, cut them and painted them and then stuffed them into our far-too-small car which made the four hour journey unbearable (and probably illegal) only to find when we arrived in Harrogate that we had the supporting beam from the marquee coming straight through our stand cutting one of our panels down by about 20cm which rendered all of our measurements useless. But that was okay, that's what saws are for! And when we found out that our metre panel of stand was actually 96cm so our shelf no longer fit, it was actually a good thing because we got more use out of the saw and we had to use the screwdriver to move the brackets. The last thing we would have wanted was to be squashed in a car with a bunch of tools that we hadn't even needed. That's why it was actually a triumph to discover that we couldn't wash a paint brush unless we were willing to walk for three miles in the rain. It meant that we had to make use of all of our spare rollers and trays. Bonus!
Despite all the catastrophes of the preparations, we survived. The logo company sent out a more appropriately sized version which, along with the other half of our cards, arrived just in time. The printers offered to redo our prints in a less green manner and we even managed to find a new paint which turned out to be better than the previous one. The wood panelling and the shelf were cut down and all the walls were painted. (We never did manage to wash a paintbrush though.) When the show finally opened it was a great success, our best show yet, and we put all the dramas of the previous weeks behind us (apart from ten minutes into the opening day when I spilt an entire cup of coffee down my brand new white top and had to march back to the hotel in a fit of rage to change). We took lots of orders and we had a fantastic time. Everyone was right, Harrogate is a lovely place and we enjoyed ourselves immensely (a little too much at times perhaps). Just like the film we were tested at every turn, forced to adjust, amend and re-think but just like the film, everything came together in the end.
It turns out that no matter how much we prepare, the unexpected will arrive to throw spanners at us. No matter how well we plan, at some point we will have to improvise. There's no point losing our shit about it. I doubt many problems have been solved by collapsing into a whinging heap on the floor. (Unless you're three years old and in a supermarket with an exhausted parent, in which case I'd bet you could get the exact solution you were after). We've amended Lanther's Law slightly and we're going to stick it on the wall so that next time we're drowning in disaster (or icy water) we'll remember: Whatever can go wrong will go wrong. But it'll all be alright in the end.