Ok, so in the last week or so I’ve been asked by Global and Channel 4 to comment on a news story that’s affected the UK film industry. I thought I’d blog about it, as it’s a lot easier to get the facts and my own feelings on it down.
As I’m sure you’re all no doubt aware, on 25th March 2013, Bashar Al-Issa, Aoife Madden and three other film-makers were sentenced to prison for committing a fraudulent scam. According to BBC News, what they did was effectively dupe a number of government officials into giving them tax credits and VAT repayments to the value of £2 million for a film that they declared had cost them £20 million. Supposedly, the whole project, named ‘A Landscape Of Lies’, had been backed by a Jordanian financier and it had a number of high-profile Hollywood actors attached to it.
They were rumbled by the HMRC when after having submitted the claims to them (they gave them fake scripts, a seven minute piece of footage, etc), it didn’t quite tally up. The suppliers had never heard of them before. The film studios had never heard of them either. All five were therefore arrested.
Strangely though, after “the gang” was arrested, they came up with an elaborate plan to cover their tracks by producing a low-budget film, funnily enough called ‘A Landscape Of Lies’, featuring an ex-Eastenders actor and Loose Women’s Andrea McLean. Weirdly, it was received well in a number of festivals, and even won an award.
In December 2011, I interviewed Aoife Madden about the low-budget film, ‘A Landscape Of Lies’ – of course, not knowing who she was or what had transpired. I had no idea about ‘the scam’ part of it that had gone on until two weeks ago, when a number of comments from my readers started appearing on my blog.
So – here we go. You’re about to get a crash course in how my process works, and the three e-mail conversations that transpired between me and Aoife:
1) Who I am – can I have you for a written interview? She said: “Hope you are great! I just received an email forwarded from my agent on your behalf! I checked out your blog which is fantastic, great interviews with inspiring people. I’d be delighted to have a chat with you regarding ‘A Landscape Of Lies’. I am the producer on the film, and I’d be delighted to chat with you about our process etc. I look forward to hearing from you.”
2) Here are your questions. Please fill the document in and send them back. She acknowledged them a week or so later, saying: “Hope you are great!! Sorry it took a while to get this back to you, we’ve been crazy busy organising a distribution screening. The film is just completing post, and we’ve had a fantastic response from sales reps and distribution companies, so fingers crossed it gets picked up. I’ve attached the interview with all the answers and let me know if you need anything else. It would be great if you could let me know when you’re going to run the interview.”
3) Thanks for your answers – here’s the link to the article on my blog. She said: “Just wanted to say a big thank you for sending the link, we’ve promoted it on Twitter and FB and will be uploading it to the film website. Thanks again, and I’ll keep you posted on the next project!”
And that was our exchange completed. Quite rudimentary, no?
I feel knowing what I know now, Aoife kinda duped me, probably thinking that any sort of press about the film would be beneficial – and I am still in shock. In over 500 interviews, this kind of incident has NEVER happened to me, not even when I was at Demon FM. As you can see, she just came across as a normal interviewee.
I know now that I was being used, as were the actors and actresses involved in the movie, (who were found innocent by a court of law for being unaware of what was going on – and have my complete sympathy).
Film is about the power to make people laugh or cry, make people talk converse about their favourite scenes, make people walk out the cinema and go, ‘You know what, maybe life isn’t so bad’. There’s twists, turns, romance, gunfire, aliens, sex, car chases, births, deaths. Darth Vader.
But….there is one thing that most of the industry folk I hang around with will state, with absolute pride and joy because they live and breathe film.
It is NOT the conduit to commit a fraudulent scam. At all. If you’re going to make a film – do it because you want to tell a story and invoke emotion.