“So you’re the sofa man? What’s your connection to this sofa?”
I’m back up in Birmingham. It’s one of those little studios way outside London. I’ve been to a few over the years. Somebody enterprising has maybe made some greenscreens or some decent sized location spaces somewhere that you have to drive to. Through connections or luck or bloody-mindedness they have picked up business. People who don’t want to pay London prices might accommodate a load of crew in such a place and shoot their low budget feature or somesuch. Often they have basic accommodation on site and sometimes a little improvised bar because they know what film crews are like and they tend to be a long way from anywhere.
It’s about forty minutes in a cab from New Street. I was gonna take two trains but the Aviva up from Euston was too slow for me to make the connection. “It must be new – I’ve never heard of it,” says the cabbie. It’s not new. There’s a dusty plaque on one of the walls celebrating five years in business. “It’s not new, it’s just way out in the middle of nowhere,” I tell him. Because it is.
I dropped off a sofa and left the van parked there yesterday morning before rushing back to Plumstead. Now I’m here to pick it up. It’s a strange thing. The sofa has featured in a photoshoot since I dropped it off. It is just a fucked old sofa. It has character but you wouldn’t think it was desirable. It was used by the same brand for a previous photoshoot, and they wanted the same sofa for consistency of style. This is why they are curious. “I’m just the driver,” I tell them. “Because I mean I could probably find one like this on freecycle,” he continues. He probably couldn’t, as it’s a very specific look, but he’s aware that it has come up from London at a high price, and it’s just a fucked sofa. He’s mildly baffled. “I’m just the driver,” I reiterate. “But … Consistency is priceless.”
This is media. There are people who rent you old 1980’s Benson and Hedges cigarette butts for like over a fiver a day and you pay a hefty deposit if you lose just one. Junk in the right hands is treasure. The film industry needs specific things quickly. If you can be the person who has that rare thing, for the right company you can name your price. There are warehouses just waiting for somebody to need a Flymo or a stack of Whizzer and Chips comics. Things that have little value are extremely desirable occasionally to that group of people making a movie with a scene where a British woman mows up her son’s comic collection in the eighties. I remember being on a set where they suddenly wanted an electric turntable to display some rotating shoes. They paid hundreds for it. I ended up picking it up for them. They could probably have just rigged a kitchen turntable from IKEA with some string and got the shot, but they had an American budget and they weren’t afraid to spend it.
So I got this fucked sofa that suddenly found new value, and I brought it back to London, and now I’m home and I feel like it’s the beginning of the weekend. I prefer it if I’ve got time to stop and see the new places in in on these long driving jobs. But this week has been packed. Tomorrow I’m just stopping. Hopefully there’s nothing I’ve forgotten…