Psst, wanna be a movie mogul?

Fukme99 reckon they are Britain's answer to Dogme95 and persuaded Declan O'Neill to part with £100 for a stake in their first film. As a key player, he felt he deserved to know more
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The Independent Culture

On occasions, the rigmarole of film spills over into everyday life. Last month, I was walking through Leicester Square - the home of premieres and PR stunts, admittedly, so there was nothing abnormal about people in forensic white paper suits moving through the crowd. Until they approached me with a digital camera and asked, "What would you do if you had only a week left to live?" My answer, they told me, would be used on a website to promote the Festival of Unknown Kamikaze Motion Experiences99, or Fukme99, a play on Dogme95, the Danish digital school responsible for Festen and The Idiots.

On occasions, the rigmarole of film spills over into everyday life. Last month, I was walking through Leicester Square - the home of premieres and PR stunts, admittedly, so there was nothing abnormal about people in forensic white paper suits moving through the crowd. Until they approached me with a digital camera and asked, "What would you do if you had only a week left to live?" My answer, they told me, would be used on a website to promote the Festival of Unknown Kamikaze Motion Experiences99, or Fukme99, a play on Dogme95, the Danish digital school responsible for Festen and The Idiots.

Digital's low-cost challenge to the élitism and expense of the film industry - embraced by a few pioneers such as Mike Figgis and Harmony Korine - is only half the battle. You may be able to make a decent movie for next to nothing, but what about getting it shown? Fukme99's intention is to become a network for the lone rangers of the new wave, "a movement of unknown film-makers - on one level we're trying to court the establishment, on another we're trying to reject them".

The group's first feature is called Plop - People Like Other People. As part of its declaration of independence, it issued 500 passports, or Plop-passes, at a cost of £100, to promote and pay for Plop; the majority have been sold. They also allow people to pass symbolically into Fukme99 territory.

For once, the notion of movie-making as an adventure rather than a business took over. I sent off my cheque and two photos. A week later my blue book arrived, No 156. Something unstable and psychotic seemed to resonate from it, a suicidal scrawl defacing the opening page. Inside, there's a repeated motif of the faces of the film's three principal actors, photocopied almost out of existence. Entry stamps at the back announce the venues for the screening. My equity stake is registered and countersigned. Lottery tickets offer the chance to win a larger equity stake and an executive-producer credit. I told all my friends I had just invested in a movie. What's it about? I had to admit I had no idea.

The trailers on the Plop website play with "conceptual ambiguities", in the manner of Blair Witch. The question is asked again: "What would you do if you had a week left to live?" Schoolboys fantasise about seven days "juicing" Jennifer Lopez or "Ainsley's mum, bum side up". A newsagent says she would "run round the streets naked". They may be Plop characters; they may be people like other people.

The only way to penetrate the intrigue was to secure an interview with the Fukme99 brotherhood, though the prospect was slightly alarming. Weren't they the people who had asked me in Leicester Square if I would like to "disappear"? Hadn't they been ejected in their crime-scene suits from industry parties in Edinburgh and Cannes for not playing by the rules? Didn't publicity agents ask them to desist from all contact as their secretaries were being frightened by e-mails asking them if they ever felt like giving up?

A young woman shows me into a room at their offices off Tottenham Court Road, where I am faced with three characters dressed in the ubiquitous suits (the kind worn for industrial spray-painting). Their faces are obscured by masks and sunglasses, and they introduce themselves as Nardist, Rahk Lem and Ace Drif.

Isn't such playfulness just a marketing ploy, I suggest, a cheap gimmick, like the Dogme95 parody? "Dogme have been waiting for someone to respond," Nardist says, "and Fukme99 are just using some of the energy they've stirred up." Though he admits, "We're just not on that platform yet; we're really just trying to survive. This isn't a cynical marketing ploy for mass distribution and profit. It's about festival, about celebration, because it can be quite dark and dismal setting out on an independent venture."

Fukme99 is fired by an irreverent impatience with the traditional routes of film-making. "We wouldn't have needed to use this expletive," says Nardist, "if things hadn't become so desperate." Like a victim support group for cinematic Tourette's syndrome, the aim is to present a platform to film-makers who are equally frustrated.

Everything - the websites, the trailers, the Plop-pass, the film itself - has been designed with collaboration and accessibility in mind, social inclusion. "If you think £100 is a stiff price to pay for a cinema ticket," Nardist says, "you can sell your lottery tickets and still access the same territory. This way, people from outside the film community can contribute to something which until now has been exclusive."

Surely the point, though, is not independents vs studios, but whether the film is any good. "Let the audience decide with their feet or their fists," Nardist agrees. "It may fall on dead ears or dead eyes, but without areas where people are trying to shift the goalposts of what entertains, you've got a stagnant culture."

 

'Plop' will be screened Thursday 19 October, Curzon Soho; tel: 020-7692 5265/6 for Plop-passes

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