Thursday, February 7, 2008

Carl Gover, Part 2

In the meantime, after a lot of disappointments chasing finance for “The Thief”, I was contacted one day by an Arab guy for whom I’d produced a film title sequence. Having seen some spectacular Islamic style inspirational paintings by Errol le Cain in my office – he introduced me to Prince Mohammed Faisal of Saudi Arabia. His Highness appeared very interested in promoting Islamic culture, especially with moral tales, so I encouraged him further to meet with Dick. This would seem to be the opportunity of a lifetime – without any obvious strings attached. A meeting was arranged in Geneva – and with Dick on his best behaviour The Prince agreed to provide all the finance. I requested a ‘honeymoon’ period whereby the Studio would first receive a substantial proportion of the budget to finish up a 10 minute section. My main reason for requesting this was to test the forthcoming relationship with our sponsor to see whether there was any danger of any unwanted interference that usually develops from someone providing such a large sum of money. The Prince had not even read the script – and had no idea which section would be selected for the 10 minute test - but I believe that he was expecting to see animation based upon the Errol le Cain inspirational paintings which I’d shown him at previous meetings.

After the Geneva meeting it took a very long time to draw up a satisfactory contract due to our respective lawyers wishing to cover so many issues. The Prince had instructed Farrer & Co. as his lawyers (incidentally, they are also our Queen’s) and after many months of wrangling I was advised that the Prince was becoming very frustrated and would I be prepared to deal directly with his lawyer on a one to one basis. Apparently, he trusted me totally and felt that I would always act completely fairly with any deal with him. From then on the contract was quickly prepared – but one issue became a problem. It was always agreed that we would split all the profits from the film’s distribution, right down the middle – but as a gesture of goodwill I had verbally promised the Prince that he could have sole Middle Eastern rights. Unfortunately, this was misinterpreted as all Islamic rights – which I couldn’t agree to as it involved 44 countries worldwide. At the eleventh hour, just prior to me flying to Paris to finally meet with the Prince at his splendid house on the island just by the Notre Dames, I was told that by not agreeing this could jeopardise the signing of the contract. Anyway, I sat with the Prince in his glorious drawing room going over the various amendments in the 30 page contract – and everything was going beautifully until we came to the list of countries specified to be under his control. I could feel the anger building when he saw that I had deleted all those geographically not part of the Middle East. A really long silence followed – and I feared that this could be the end of the road. Then I remembered from previous conversations that he had a particular affinity with Pakistan and had invested a great deal of money there in educational programmes etc.. I broke the silence eventually by agreeing that I would consent only to Pakistan being added to the list. This did the trick - as his hand came up to meet mine and we shook hands. He immediately signed the contract - which allowed us both to withdraw after the ‘honeymoon’ period should either of us for any reason decide not to go ahead. The Prince would be entitled to 5% of the net profits in return for his contribution should this happen. Despite having more than enough impressive material already thoroughly line-tested and ready to go into production, Dick chose the immensely complex and costly War Machine sequence for this crucial test period.

Then, surprisingly true to form, at the end of the agreed 44 week completion schedule, Dick and Roy Naisbitt and crew were still re-animating. In my opinion this was grossly irresponsible when so much rested on the trust that I’d personally established with the Prince. As a consequence, the money was soon exhausted – and the schedule extended beyond reason. Dick kept making excuses and pleaded for me to get more time – which I did of course. But the Prince’s accountants became more and more concerned despite the Studio secretly subsidising the finishing by producing an even greater volume of commercials made possible by using the best freelancers in town.
Eventually, on completion the Prince came to London with his family (plus entourage) to view the ‘masterpiece’. I’m sure he was expecting to see some evidence of Islamic art in the animation but instead he was well and truly entertained by an awe inspiring F/X heavy action sequence – although by this time I realised that the damage had already been done. Very reluctantly I decided that I’d had enough. Dick was obviously incapable of ever finishing anything on time and on budget. So, the following day I announced that I wanted to leave – and then came the bombshell. A letter from the Prince’s lawyers withdrawing from the deal. The honeymoon was over! Another golden opportunity lost. Despite Dick’s pleading, I left the studio after a most extraordinary 10 year period of my life which I wouldn’t have missed for the world. Not only was it a unique education in human psychology – I’d also got to work alongside a real genius - and contribute towards a piece of animation history.

There are so many tales to tell – I could write a book about those truly memorable years.

Carl Gover
London 28th January 2008


Rune Brandt Bennicke said...

Thank you so much for doing this!

These are incredible stories, all of which simultaneously inspire me and make me fell very very lazy.
What a relief it was to read that Dick didn't animate the Brigand laughing scene in a day,, (I have printouts of the scene up on my wall).

Just for the record, in my humble opinion, Dick had every right to make the film he wanted to make. Art doesn't have to make money or even make sense, and no matter what else he did we now have an incredible beautiful, insanely complex, inspiring work of art that will most likely never be surpassed.
Freaks me out every time I watch it.

Thank you again.


Carl Gover said...

Hello Rune,

You're so right of course - we now have an incredible awe-inspiring work of art for everyone to treasure - but please remember that a producer's job is to keep the ship on an even keel throughout its long voyage. Whatever happens, it mustn't flounder at any cost as it involves the entire crew - and often their families.

Therefore, even a genius needs to consider at times the extraordinary talent which has gathered around him over a period of nearly 30 years. It's their dedication too which has helped to create this masterpiece - so let's not forget all the sacrifices they've made.

Unfortunately Rune, producers have to be ogres occasionally - otherwise nobody wins.

In the meantime, thank you for your comments.


Rune Brandt Bennicke said...


I'm very sorry if it sounded like I was complaining, which, if I was, was certainly not about any of you.
I have the greatest respect for all of you and what you've been through, done and seen.
If anything, I might have been complaining about a world in which you have to be either ruthless or insane or both to accomplish anything more than the usual.
I would never belittle the part all the talented artists who worked on the film played, or their sacrifices. All I meant to say is that if a group of people are willing to do the enormous amount of work necessary to make something extraordinary, it should be encouraged and supported. And money and deadlines should never be the reason a work of art is left unfinished.


Thanks again

Love the blog!!


Holger said...

I feel that your story Carl and your comments Rune are both valid. We all admire Dick's work and being a producer for him must have been a tough job and frustrating at times. Doing it for 10 years is pretty amazing. I'm sure Carl has been around many people who are in awe of Dick's talent and I think he appreciates it just like the rest of us, but he has seen the other side of the coin and I'm glad he shared that. Thanks for your fascinating story Carl. I hope we hear more from you in the future.
Rune you didn't sound you were complaining, as I said I think it's all valid. Thanks for your comments. They make the blog more interesting. It's always good to hear back from people. It keeps the motivation up.

Anonymous said...

Hi Carl,
We fell upon your blog by accident, as we were researching stuff for a film project and it was only the other day we were on one of those "whatever happened to" ...days. Then we found your blog and it is so refreshing to see the truth laid out. Someone once said "you can be mean moody and magnificant, but just make sure you are magnificant"
Dick was magnificant but qutie frankly I'm not sure how you stuck it out. Having worked with you all that time ago I (Graham)can see how addictive it can become to follow Dick's dream. Glad to hear you are still in business(?) and we are both wondering how you are and what you are uo to.
All the best Graham Ralph and John Cary