Apr 9, 2018

Chuck Norris and the history of "Wealth"

The project started in November 2009, when I was bored with extended length of "Blind Fate". The screenplay was written for 20 mins long film (it had 20 pages, the standard ratio is 1:1). However during the shooting we filmed additional sequences, which probably added 5 mins of extra screening time. Then, during the editing, some scene were further extended, since many times we were using two camera setup. Thus the whole story became half-an-hour long. It was very mystical, deep, and some people liked that.

However I felt that the poster is a bit misleading. After all they were expecting Chuck Norris movie - so why the pace is so slow?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7wCPFRKnIM



"Blind Fate" started as an adaption of bible story from Book of Tobiah. It was based in modern Warsaw with focus on crime world. The original script involved the Cashier, the last fatal victim of main character, who after his death starts to appear to him as a ghost. Just like the demons in "Mackbeth". He was forcing Tobiah to return on the path of virtue. However, once we started to make the project more entertaining, we've realized that the mentor figure could have more authority.

Our benchmark here was "True Romance" by Tony Scott, where Elvis Presley (played by Val Kilmer) was the spiritual mentor of the protagonist. We didn't have access to any Presley impersonator (yet), but immediately we thought of Chuck Norris, whom he spotted in cameo of Bodo Kox film. Last year we finished filming Kox in our movie "Deadly Recording" (which by that time was still not finally edited). We found Chuck's phone number on his website, and based on this relation called and convince him to meet to discuss the project. After hearing the name of common friend, he already knew what to expect from this kind of production. We've met few days later to discuss the role further. Immediately we've found a common ground. There was even original Chuck Norris' film, where he played Guardian Angel in the film called "Sidekicks", so our approach was not that radical.

After all the concept of spiritual guide was not new in movies. Woody Allen in "Play it again, Sam" was constantly referring to invisible to others ghost of Humphrey Bogart from "Casablanca". The plot of "No Retreat, No Surrender" with Van Damme had a spiritual guide in the presence of Bruce Lee. And just few weeks after "Blind Fate" was wrapped I went to Cannes, where Ken Loach was presenting his newest film, "Looking for Eric", where football legend Eric Cantona was the invisible friend of the protagonist. Wow!

We worked on the script for few weeks, producing totally 7 versions. Twice the screenplay was totally re-written with using just the plot points as reference, so the final version completely differs from original idea. The task was after all to move from spiritual slow-paced biblical story into the world of "Miami Vice". At least to me, being huge fan of the series, during the time of production I was watching again all the episodes which was a big influence. Upon rehearsing the dialogues with actors we've noticed, that female character isn't that convincing as she should. We didn't want to get rid of our actress, who was already scheduled for the production. Instead we wrote for her special role with two additional scenes. And asked another actress to jump in action on a very short notice. Luckily it was possible and she gave us additional strength, so needed in this genre.

The production was wrapped in April 2009 and few months later we ordered premiere screening, which was quite intriguing for the audience, since Chuck Norris came in his costume. It was natural, that he was posing for pictures with our guests. The movie gained even more media coverage, when we presented it during Happy End Festival in Rzeszów. I've watched it so many times, that I started to get bored with some of the scenes.

In November 2009 I prepared a short 15 mins version of our film, just like a fan edit rather than final cut version. The goal was to leave only the best scenes without having the gaps in plot. I think that we rushed too much to make the film as big as possible and artificially extended it. So the first watching may still make a good impression, but you won't like to re-watch it again. This shorter version was titled by me "Blind(er) Fate". In Polish there was a double meaning, where the adjective sounded as a sum of "blinder" and "better". Small pun. The film was presented only to few closest friends and remained in archives... till 2016. As it usually happens, I was a bit bored with no new film being shot. I started to play a little bit with After Effects learning about using stock material. In order to exercise I launched the "Blind(er) Fate" and started to improve the shooting scenes adding some blood and bullet squibs. I had to re-edit the final scene, which was very unclear. After adding alternative takes it made more sense now. There was some work on color grading as well. Also I introduced temporary blindness to the audience, which was experienced by the protagonist. Every moment, when he was considering bad behavior (just like Alex in "Clockwork Orange"), he was conditioned for punishment in the form of temporary blindness. I used the white color instead of fade to black, to make it even more photofobic. The other significant change was adding original song by film composer "Walcz", instead of the re-mastered version with the voice of Julia Trębacz (which was included for end credits). Original one had somehow more raw male power within, than female rage. At the end the title was changed to "Wealth" to differentiate it from "Blind Fate" association. Anyway, it was the original title of the screenplay, so it made sense to show the roots.

Now it's 2018, almost ten years from the conception of the original story. In between I worked on some other 'special editions' of my films including "c@ught in the net" which was re-edited twice (as "In the net" in 2010 and "Apart" in 2017) and "Disconnected" (re-cut down to 10 minutes for festival presence, and later to 3,5 minutes for intensified 4K version). Also in 2014 I've improved some scenes in "Deadly Recording", and released the movie for free on Vimeo. So it's about time to show also "Wealth" as an alternate take on the story of everlasting conflict between the good and... better.