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Saturday, July 30, 2016

How hard is it to make a feature film, and how does that sport a web series after release by Universal

The Music in the Status Quo feature film BULA QUO; the magic and complexities of working with a legendary Rock band

The music for the film Bula Quo was always going to be a fusion, but as a screenwriter you hope to do something that lasts or moves, and I wanted to find a new Quo hit. As a screenwriter the music choices are essential and as the director as well, the music choices become even more important because you already have so much control over the story you feel every wrong move.

Certainly the composer I was going to use for the score was never in question nor questioned because this was not something Quo were geared up to do. What was disappointing was that I was told there would be no new songs, the band did not have time in what was a busy schedule.

I was conscious that this could have come from too many suggestions from me. As I have said, the music, more importantly the mood and lyrics should aid the story, the through-line and the mood you want the audience to feel. I had in the many changes to the script, as it went from violent hard playing rocking rock and rollers to comedy, suggested whole lyric lists for new songs as well as old album tracks used like the 1979 track Runaway. Runaway said so much about what was happening in the film and was the session guitarist, Tim Dodd's favourite track. Tim laid down all the guitar work in the score.

A team was building and they did not actually need to learn to work together until the film started, and before then were years of thinking and speculation. I did feel the versions of the script I put forward with lyrics in were received less well. It was perhaps over stepping.

The green light for the film was a shock to us all, having been through so many changes and cancellations for all kinds of reasons, Status Quo were just as popular as ever and their diary playing arenas around the world was unforgiving. The truth is a series of ships or phone calls that met in the night. The film was a lesser priority than touring and there was no gap, even though there were film financiers and players and team members still working and prepared in the wings, and script changes had continually been asked for until we got to the comedy you now see as Bula Quo.

Apart from the touring, if you just saw the number of propositions Quo get your head would spin.

The trigger was a call saying that the Mexico tour was cancelled. That freed up an unexpected gap which they should at best stretch into 5 weeks. I heard many rumours as to why the tour there was cancelled but my favourite as a conspiracy theory lover and film maker was because they could not get a reasonable quote on kidnap insurance, and the risk was high. I don't need to here any real reasons if that is wrong, it works for my brain.

I flew to Jersey and within 24hours the deal was agreed to finance the movie and sealed on a hand shake.

Now people were working for real and taking notice and the logistics of diaries, movement orders and work were factored together long before art or content were looked at again. I am sure that both Francis and Rick do not take any of these crack pot ideas too seriously until they are scheduled and when they did the film gave them many reasons for concern.

Arriving in Fiji changed expectations and script, and the cyclone mentioned in previous blogs, changed it all again.

There were a number of themes I was pushing for hard to be felt by the music as the script had cut into explanation. I also felt that the intern, the young girl Caroline, could in some way be a revisit to the classic song. I wanted a song for her, Caroline the sequel. Not least because at last after fighting with her agent for weeks I got my own daughter to play Caroline. Her cast name was by no way an accident. In the first version of the script she was travelling with her mother, and Joanna Lumley was approached, but it was too many characters.

I also had an emotional attachment to the Gun Song, which I had wanted to be an emotional solo from Francis. 

'Don't know how it happened
I got myself a gun,
Don't want it to be crazy,
Don't want to shoot no one.'

An exposed song, and I could suggest styles and tune, but that was not on. You learn as a director to stay on plot and fight the wars you can win, leave the others in an observation tank for others to notice. Again I was told, no new music and at the same time, the music publishers were playing hard ball on the old songs. They came, and the Fijian demos we had done for places we knew they worked in the film, both Francis and Rick understood when they saw the scenes play out.

It was just days in that Rick came to me with a song. The problem was that with a cyclone hit country, a loss of locations, no villain yet to fly out as Hasselhoff had fallen through, script changes and a local film commission who did not really understand film making, I was busy. I also did not wish to upset Francis by listening to a song from Rick when we had all discussed there would be no new song.

They got to meet my daughter Laura Aikman and both instantly fell for the fellow creative and the team was working together. Francis heard Rick's song, said he really liked it and I then felt I had permission to listen to it. The politics of film making is complex. It was a good song, a very good song.

Francis then asked me for a list of notes on Caroline's character, who was she, what did she think, what was she like, and out came my old lyric list for the sequel I had wished for and I enlarged them into notes that he would get. Francis prefers to write tune first, he is not inspired by Lyrics, but he had something in his head.

Very soon I had two knew songs and they both could see the movie and wanted to read the script more and understand it and add things. What we got was music. More and more song ideas and then the magical Bula Bula Quo, which prejudices aside, is a great Quo track. 

Francis had his own songs in his head and he gave the Gun Song for me and Rhino to complete. It changed, became Rhino rocky, and I am pleased to see the many emails that said it was the best song on the album. Many of the songs were healed by different fans, and that is so good to see.

Both the film and the music are in my mind great works, and I can see the Nameste Quo fusion with Quo's music, see it visually from the two recces done in India, and I can see the script working. I deliberately did not put Caroline in, but had a new young Indian girl. They instantly demanded she was put in.

It is never easy .......  But the musical score, the classical score that reflects the film is another piece of wonder from Mark Blackledge and here is an interview where Jean Heard who played the news anchor in the film, and now has this character Doris, interviews Mark. In this, she discovers that there is a Quo influence to the theme of Shades Of bad !   And I missed that.

Click the text to get the film.  Or go to.

The film Bula Quo, if you have never seen it, should be seen. It is available on Amazon as a DVD or download.


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