UNEXSO To the Rescue — Love You Guys!

Two days ago as we have been pushing to get the final cut done for screening at AFM, Mark Linthicum and I came to the conclusion that we really, REALLY need a few more dolphin shots for a couple of the scenes, plus some shots involving boats and jetskis. But there is no money for that left in the budget. (Welcome to indie film-making.) What we have is “good enough” — but to really getit to the level we need a couple of days in the Bahamas. Gotta make it happen. But how?

So on Monday I wrote the following email to Veronica Cucurrullo, the head of Dolphin operations at UNEXSO.

Hi Veronica,
Hope all is well with you. I’m struggling here to finish the movie, which is looking GREAT but has consumed all of the cash resources — you can check out the website at BeneaththeBlue.net…there’s also a trailer there. It’s really lookign great. Thanks so much for being a good friend to the project and to all of us — you’ve been the best rep UNEXSO could ever hope for. And Linda has been mega-supportive, and we appreciate it.

I have a problem and that is this. We still need a few open water dolphin shots and a few shots back in the “Navy Pen” — all shots are “dolphin only” and nothing complicated — basically A to B’s and some shots of the dolphin swimming in the Navy tank. There’s no cash to send a team out there. I’ve talked to Paul Mockler and he’s willing to shoot it for us pro bono, and I’ve gotten a camera supplier here to lend us a camera and underwater housing free of charge. What we need from UNEXSO is one open water session for some A to B’s and one session in the “Navy Tanks” back at the back of he lagoon. This would cost $5,000 at our usual rates. I don’t have cash but I wanted to propose a barter deal whereby we would provide 500 DVD’s ready for sale, presumably at $19.95 each in the UNEXSO store. That would be a $10,000 retail value — call it $5,000 at wholesale. Do you think there is a chance UNEXSO will approve this and should I address such a proposal to Linda Osborne, since we was our financial contact? Pls let me know know your thoughts. I need to get this done in the next 10 days. If the DVD barter deal won’t work, do you have any other ideas? Even if they would just give me 60-90 days credit that would help as it would give me time to come up with the money. But I prefer the DVD deal. Any other ideas? I really appreciate your thoughts. Gotta move on this today or tomorrow at the latest.

Best,
Michael

Well I bit my nails and for the next day and a half Mark and I just kept on jamming on the 150 or so special effects shots that we’ve got to finish, plus I was working the composer, and the sound guy, and the color timing…….when I got this back from Veronica:

Hi Michael,

I have spoken to Linda. We’re going to work with you. So, we are going with your barter deal of the 500 DVD exchange. This exchange would include one ocean session doing A to Bs, and one navy pen session; however, navy pen area will have to change. We are currently using pens 11 – 15 (navy pen) as maternity pens. We would go to pens that are similar. They are located on the south wall instead of the W wall where we previously worked. We need to keep the number down on the dock very small. The fewer people in the area the better. Can you give me a shot list so we are ready? ocean – A to B (U/W). Anything else? navy pen?? (U/W and or surface?) Can you give me the crew total at the facility and in the ocean? We also need dates to ensure availability. Look forward to working with you again.

All the best,
Veronica

Now I realize it may sound lame that on a multi-million dollar picture it may seem lame to be scratching for a few thousand dollars — but it’s not just the $5k for the dolphins—we cost this out four months ago and it looked like the total cost would run to $25-30k by the time we took me over there, producer Susan Johnson, DP Lila Javan, plus a couple of others, plus the cost for the Bahamas crew, the underwater operators, hotels for 5 people, per diems, air fare — you get the picture.

So the trick here was — how can we get this done for a tiny fraction of that. The UNEXSO barter deal was a start. I then got on the phone to Paul Mockler, our underwater DP, who lives on Grand Bahama. Then Siobhan Antoni, our coordinator. Through Siobhan we got to the boat owners, and the jetski owners, …then the Film commission helped with a hotel room, and we found a dirt cheap airfare for the one person we can send over there — our Mr. Everything Paul Linthicum, who is our Post Producer, editor, a Red Camera DIT (Digital Imaging Technology) expert, and has emerged as a superb second unit director. Bottom line, we’re going for it. Mark gets on a flight at 6:00am tomorrow morning. I can’t believe it’s happening.

Meanwhile, dozens of phone calls back and forth all day to the Film Commission trying to get filming permits and customs clearance for our equipment. Can it be done in 24 hours? Because we have to travel Mark tomorrow, and he has to shoot Saturday and Sunday because bad weather is coming in on Monday and anyway we need him back here ASAP so we can finish and screen at AFM. No one is sure if it can be done, but they are going to try. I tell them we’re on pins and needles, pulling everything together but I can’t pull the trigger without approval to get the equipment into (and out of) the country. Eureka Glinton is my contact here in LA and she’s doing everything she can.

Late in the day I get a call from Eureka. I swear to all of you it went like this:

“Michael?”
“Hi Eureka, what’s the news?”
“I’m sorry to say: Permit Denied”
Silence. Gulp. More silence.
Finally Eureka starts laughing.
“Come on, Michael, I’m just kidding. It’s approved. Come on, don’t be so nervous.”

Talk about getting punked. She had me completely in jaw-dropping stunned silence. Eureka, if you’re reading this, love ya and I’m going to get even someday. You really got me.

So that was the last nurdle. It’s a go.

Mark and the team over there will be my astronauts, and I’ll be “Mission Control”. I feel like I should get a white vest like Ed O’Neil in Apollo 13. Just don’t want to hear “Houston, we have a problem.”

More tomorrow.

Here we go…..

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