The Firm: Telling A Familiar Story In A New Way

Dominic Frisby is a friend of Bleeding Cool. Here he reflects on how his short film The Firm went from concept to completion. You can also watch the film in the player below.

The Firm was born some 15 years ago in the days following the death of Diana, Princess Of Wales.

I was living with my dad at the time. Dad, otherwise known as Terence Frisby, is a veteran playwright who counts among his many credits what was once the longest-running comedy in the history of the West End, There’s A Girl In My Soup.

As the amazing events around Diana’s death and then her funeral played out, Dad had this idea of re-telling the story of Charles and Diana as though it were a fairy tale. He started writing it, I quickly muscled in with ideas and the story was born.

We sent if off to some publishers and newspapers, but it was roundly ignored. Slowly, it made its way to the proverbial bottom of the drawer.

Then last year, royal hysteria emerged once again with the wedding of William and Kate. I dug it out.

At the time I was working with the animator Pola Gruszka on The Four Horsemen, a film about the global economy (and a film about which I now have, shall we say, mixed feelings; Google ‘Frisby Ashcroft’ if you want to know why).

Pola and I had made two animations together for the film. I just loved the way she was able to bring pictures to my writing so effortlessly, so I approached her with The Firm.

She was swamped with other work, but said she really wanted to do it. I recorded the narration and emailed it to her. A fortnight later she came to me with a storyboard and a few weeks after that with the final product.

I then went to my friend, Peter Grahame, who runs the comedy club Downstairs At The King’s Head, London’s oldest comedy room. Peter’s also a musician. Together with his dad, Alan, on vibes, and his sister Lisa, on Saxophone, Peter put together a most lovely musical bed for the film and, lo and behold, it was finished.

One of my strengths is that I’m pretty good at making things. My weakness,
however, is that as soon as something’s finished I lose all my energy at the
prospect of marketing it.

I diffidently approached Sky Arts and BBC4 with the film, pitching a TV series
in which we re-tell the lives of amazing figures from modern history (the likes
of Elvis, Michael Jackson, Marilyn Monroe, Saddam Hussein) as animated fairy stories. This plan never got anywhere.

I started to submit the film to festivals, but just found the whole process utterly thankless. Marketing involves thick skin and persistence. It really is a
valuable skill, and one I do not have.

Last week, given that the Queen’s jubilee is coming up, I thought ‘screw it’, and
bunged the film up on YouTube. As I say, I’m a rotten salesman but I do think the film is a pretty enjoyable way to spend 10 minutes.

Here it is.

I’m continuing with my series of animated fairy tale biopics without a TV station backing me, so watch this space.

And if any of you are any good at marketing film and video, please get in touch.