You cannot kill Price James
Commercial director Price James left London for LA in 2018 to make his first feature film, just not the one he expected. Here, he reveals how he came to follow actor David Arquette's return to wresting in documentary You Cannot Kill David Arquette.
What a ride. Hackney to Hollywood and marooned during the ‘pandy’.
I was flown to the states in 2018 to start on a fictional narrative but, the day I got there, the production company ‘suddenly realised’ they only had funding to make documentaries, which was a complete disaster as I'd just flown half way round the world.
The Arquette project was lurking in the background as something that David Arquette wanted to do and, perhaps purely out of guilt, the production company threw it at me as they were fans of my Action Man: Battlefield Casualties short, which had a lot of comedic and ironic genre similarities.
The production company ‘suddenly realised’ they only had funding to make documentaries, which was a complete disaster.
I pitched on it, wrote a treatment and did the usual image research as I would on a commercial project. We did a call with David Arquette, my opening line to him was 'look man, for this to work, you’re going to have to look worse than you’ve ever looked'. He was super-down, so we were greenlit three days later. Two-and-a-half-years later, here we are.
Above: The trailer for James' independent film, which has garnered rave reviews and box office success.
I've been writing for years and, when my parents passed away, I decided to take things more seriously with features, so i guess the idea of making a ‘doc’ meant that I should skew it completely and approach it like a genre feature.
Wrestling is, in its nature, a theatrical and predetermined performance, but it creates real emotional reactions with its fans. So, I wanted to skew the line with that. Also, I wanted my buddy David Darg to come on as co-director as he was so great with camera work and traditional docs. My main role was everything genre; scripting, blocking of scenes, dialogue, and making sure we were hitting the genre story beats. It was, after all, a 'Rocky Doccy'. I personally oversaw all post. I cut everyday for 20 weeks with Paul Rogers at Parallax, leaving a permanent indentation in the couch.
I guess an indie movie is more like shooting a music video. It’s kinda raw and there are not many luxuries.
In terms of working in feature docs and commercials, there are similarities. Commercials are amazing; you get to play with proper equipment and work with talented people. The similarities to making an indie movie are actually not the same though. I guess an indie movie is more like shooting a music video. It’s kinda raw and there are not many luxuries. I was lucky I had the trust of Arquette and Darg to kinda do my thing.
Of course, as with any movie, you hit some obstacles while editing (it's totally true that you make the movie again in the edit), but that to me was the most satisfying thing. I got to use all of my favourite songs from Carly Simon to Ennio Morricone and Limp Bizkit (ironically). I went full retro-sports-action movie in the edit and pulled out as much comedy as I could. The end result is something we are all super happy with.
Above: From left to right, Price James, David Arquette and David Darg at the film's premiere.
They say you get close with actors when making a movie. This is true. I’ve seen Arquette naked too many times, we’ve shared meals and beds, been welcomed by his whole family. Rosanna Arquette is a total badass. I’ve captured some intimate footage that, sadly, the world will never see, but I also have to protect someone who is giving up a lot of their personal life for a movie. But, without that intimacy, you would never get to pull out the gold to craft a film like this.
I’ve seen Arquette naked too many times, we’ve shared meals and beds, been welcomed by his whole family. Rosanna Arquette is a total badass.
I cant wait to get some more projects going. I have four that I want to do plus a couple with Darg. I’m super-proud the film is doing well. We had a drive-in premiere in LA, which was definitely on the bucket list. We have a critical score on Rotten Tomatoes of 85%, audience 91%. We’ve even made money, an almost impossible feat for an indie! Bring on the next film!
I do miss London and the creative forces there. So, with the help of Curly, my new London commercial home, with Julia Frost and Rich Guy, I’m hoping to come back very soon to shoot some UK commercials. LA will help me live longer but London will always have that edge.