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netribution > features > interview with jacqueline swanson > page two
How did you plan to raise the finance?
Because of Pauline’s schedule her next available slot was going to be December 1998 which gave me just under a year to raise the rest of the budget. We had already received production funding from Southern Arts (Rupert was from Southampton) who also then came through with post production funding. I had a very good friend at Saatchi & Saatchi who had put the script forward to a couple of account directors with some positive but ultimately non-committal feedback. Product placement was a fairly uncharted territory at the point. However, when Sunny Delight were about to launch in the UK they had generous budgets and more scope for taking risks. It was pretty much left to me to structure the deal and suggest a fee. Although it was a significant amount for the production it really was not a big commitment for the agency so the whole process was fairly straightforward. I had suggested a four-tier payment structure; a sum on first day of photography, another on completion of shoot, a third on sale to a UK broadcaster and the final instalment on sale to a US broadcaster or Trans Atlantic in-flight entertainment programme.We also received product placement monies from HP Beans. That was also fairly straightforward. I explained to them how much the set was costing to build and asked them for a portion of the costs up front. They were happy with my proposal in the knowledge that their product was going to ‘colour’ the film rather than the distinctive colour of their main competitors.

How did you create the supermarket?
During the year I had been working part time doing book keeping for several different film connected / media companies. One of which was Harry Metcalfe’s construction company. Through Harry I got in touch with Steve Jaggs at Pinewood Studios who was keen to help us out with a stage to build the set. As we got closer it became apparent that Bond was taking over all the big and medium sized stages and that we needed to come up with an alternative and fast. Lester had noticed that a supermarket in Elstree was closing down and we ended up renting it for a month. They were fantastic – allowing us a few extra hours in the evenings when we were really pushed and importantly lending us some shelves. They cost a fortune to hire.

How did the shoot go?
On our first day we had this huge space with absolutely nothing in it. The shelves arrived and we had to get them up, no easy task in itself., Harry’s boys built some false walls so we could cheat the size, all the flourescents needed gelling and then the products started arriving. We had the most amazing art department team who, in the space of three weeks, had talked every food supplier into giving us actual product or packaging for the production. There was everything from condoms to custard powder, hair dye to yoghurt. We passed all the non-perishable goods onto Crisis at Christmas at the end of production. And they came in on budget. How Chris Burridge, the production designer, and, Alice Norris, the art director did it I’ll never know, especially when you consider at one point the checkout were going to cost over £10,000 to hire (but ended up costing around £1,500).

How long was the production from start to finish?
The set was built and dressed in ten days and we than had another ten days to shoot the whole film, and a further three days to clean the whole place up. There are loads of stories to tell about the production, from having to turn away real shoppers on the Saturday morning to getting the retail park manager to do a cameo role as the security guard. I was basically the entire production department and although I know it would have been less stressful to have had a production manger it seemed appropriate to be the immediate point of contact. Everybody was working so hard and the budget was so tight it really was ultimately the only way to protect the film from the daily stress of keeping the production together. Everybody was smiling on set whilst I was pulling my hair out in the production office – the way it should be. I know every producer wants to believe this about their production but I really do believe the cast and crew had a good time. We also spent a lot of time over the music. We ended up with eighttracks of music plus one incidental track. Some of those tracks were specially composed, some straightforward library music and others involved some serious research to clear the licenses. There are a couple of great tracks from 1960's Italian porn movies - we ended up going to Italy for one and Germany for the other!

Did you still have enough money for post?
Post production was a long, laborious process as always – funds were run dry and we relied on the support of TSI Post Production to let us in during down time.

What's happening to Checkout Girl now?
The film was given it’s premier screening in May this year at Cucolorus Film Festival in North Carolina were Joe Dunton has his sister company. Since then it’s been shown on Virgin Atlantic, played at Made in Camden, The BBC Short Film Festival and will screen as part of the Peeping Tom’s evening of shorts for Raindance on Tuesday 17th at 8.30 pm, Metro Cinema, Rupert Street.

What are you doing now?
I’m now working for The Short Film Bureau, Rupert has directed several corporates and continues editing. We're both working on our next short which we plan to shoot in Spring and we’re developing Checkout Girl into a feature. I want to take it back home to Wales where they have bilingual signs in the supermarkets. A Welsh film with no drugs or Englishmen mocking the locals. Might work. 

To contact Jacqueline about Checkout Girl or her future projects, attend the screening at the Metro or email her on:


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