Koh Samui Diaries: Location scouting for wannabe movie directors
by Adrian Rawle
On Location part two
FADE IN: Whilst I waited for a reply from London I spent my time exploring more of the island and clocked-up an impressive amount of miles. Fortunately, the cost of fuel is cheap compared to the UK, but I had to fill the tank more often. You would be surprised how much fuel the air con uses in these small jeeps.
Eventually, on the third day of waiting I got a reply from London and it was not what I had expected. The e-mail was confusing. Certainly nothing like previous e-mails, which wasted no time in getting to the point. Now more demands, as I interpreted them, were being made. With no mention of the beach (I assumed then, that by not mentioning it, the beach I found is OK), they now wanted me to find a west-facing luxury beachfront villa. This was not on the storyboard, but I expect, they wanted it for one of the sunset shots.
The e-mail also mentioned that the director would fly over for a one day recce on his way back from LA to London with no indication of when. I e-mailed back asking for a date. If it were soon I would have to move fast. This director was not just any old TV commercials director; he was going to direct a big Hollywood movie soon and fresh from his LA trip he would, no doubt, still be in movie director mode. Bad news, as he would expect the full Hollywood treatment. You have no idea how they pamper their film directors in Hollywood. The old Jeep I was driving will certainly have to go and I will have to get a serious upgrade for the day.
By now my petty cash was running low, so I decided to stay with Wolfgang and we agreed on a price. I also e-mailed the accountant in London to send me more money, implying a sense of urgency.
At last I felt I was on top of things and I was heartened to know that the director was coming out to visit the locations I had found. This gave me an added sense that all was well and everything was going to plan. All I needed now was money from London. Confident that this would come soon, I decided to treat myself to lunch at Villa Bianca in Fishermans Village. I sat overlooking the beach and chatted with Guido, one of the restaurants owners.
After a large pizza washed down with a glass of wine I was ready to go and find that luxury villa. Now, just in case you were thinking that I drive around all day hoping to bump into the perfect location, you would be wrong, well partially wrong. I do a lot of research beforehand and a good source of information, apart from the Internet, is talking to the local ex-pats who live in Koh Samui and going through the numerous magazines, newspapers and guide books that are regularly published on the island.
In the restaurant, I came across a copy of the Samui-Phangan Real Estate guide and found what I was looking for, an agent who dealt with luxury villa rentals. I called them and arranged a meeting for the following day.
To my surprise, I was overwhelmed with choice. I had no idea of the amount of villa development on the island. I told the agent I wanted a beachfront villa with a westerly aspect and this narrowed my choice. I asked for copies of the photographs he had of the villas as I thought this would save me having to visit them all. However, I wanted to visit one or two villas just to get the feel for the location and check that the photographs I had seen were not in any way misleading!
We travelled in his super-sized 4×4 – just what I needed to ferry the director around in. As we went round I did discover one thing, some of the photographs the agent showed me were a little bit misleading, although I did not believe that was intentional. Most of the villas we visited were more like hillside villas than beachfront, however they did have sea views.
After a long day of driving up and down hills – some of it off road – I eventually got to see a real beachfront villa. The villa had a Thai style roof and was only metres from the beach. Funny, but it turned out to be close to the agents office. Why on earth he didnt take me there to begin with Ill never know.
Based on this excursion around Samui, I arranged with the agent to see more villas on his list, but stressed they ALL had to be beachfront!
It has now been over a week since I arrived in Koh Samui and I feel I am losing touch with what is going on back in London. I decided to call Polly, to see if there was any other work coming up. This is silly really because I know that if there was work booked in for me she would have contacted me with the dates. Polly is great; it is always good talking to her. She chatted about the weather in London and I told her about Samui and said it was the perfect holiday island. As for work, she said the phones had been very quiet lately.
I normally check my e-mails at the end of the day and not the morning because of the time difference. Expecting to hear news from the accountant, I was surprised to find there were no e-mails from the production company. To put it mildly this is not good as now I will have to break my number one rule and use my own money, but I have no choice. Lets hope the director will bring some float with him.
The weekend is approaching and I am feeling anxious again. I havent heard a single thing from anyone. I tried to call the producer only to be told by a snooty receptionist that she was out shooting on location and couldnt be reached. I asked if there was anyone else in the office I could speak to. No was the reply, everyone was out on location. I found this a bit strange to say the least, but I was in no mood to argue with her, so I left a message for the producer to contact me as soon as she could, saying it was urgent. After that call I gave up for the day and went for a long walk on the beach.
The weekend passed and there was still no word. I wrestled with the thought that perhaps, I should leave Koh Samui and return to London. No, it would just be my luck that, if I did, then the director would arrive and my name would be mud and I would never work again.
At last, I have found what I think would be the perfect villa for this commercial. It is a stunning luxury beachfront villa situated in a picturesque bay. The villa has a huge pool in front of it and a short distance from the pool, across a well manicured lawn, is the beach. Because it is in a small bay the beach is effectively private; no one can reach it without going through the villa. That will please the assistant director, as he wont have to worry about crowd control.
I e-mail the photographs to the production company. By now I am beginning to wonder if they have actually received any of my previous e-mails. That afternoon I got a text saying the director would be arriving the next day on a Bangkok Airways flight PG103 at 07.05, which is the first flight from Bangkok. It was sent, not from the producer, but an assistant, another would-be producer no doubt!
I arrived at the airport at the crack of dawn in a Grand Jerokee I had hired for the occasion, parked and preceded to the meeting point and there I stood as the minutes ticked by.
The first flight arrived, then the second, then the third. By the time the fourth flight arrived at 08.45 I was getting worried. I looked up at the arrivals board. No cancellations and all the flights were coming in on time. Well it wouldnt be the first time I told myself. I started to wonder if I had somehow missed him, but that was not possible.
By the time the 10 o clock flight had arrived I was ready to give up. I knew there was no point in trying to contact anyone from the production company, as no one would be up. I wondered if they had had the sense to give the director my mobile number.
I left a message with Bangkok Air for the director with my mobile number and headed back to Fishermans Village to wait for his call. It never came. After an hour I couldnt bear to wait any longer so I called the airport and spoke to a Bangkok Air representative. They said they would try and trace him and get back to me. I eventually got a call back and they told me that no one of that name was on their passenger list.
As it was still night time in London I had no choice but to wait. I fired-off an e-mail to the producer explaining what had happened at the airport, and decided if I did not hear back later that day I would call Polly and ask her to contact them and find out what was going on. By now I was feeling abandoned.
That evening I got a call back from Polly and she told me the job had been cancelled, something about the director and LA! All that was left for me to do was put in my invoice and expenses claim and hope I get paid.
When will I be back in London? Polly asked. With no work on the horizon, I told her I would be taking a break…a holiday on Koh Samui. FADE OUT.
Adrian RAWLE is a Film and TV Producer/Director and Writer based in Hong Kong. His company GOtv LTD and its partners specialise in new media concepts for Broadband TV. E-mail: gotv (at) netvigator (dot) com.