In the wake of Robin Williams death, at the time I’m writing this there’s still no confirmation of how (do we really need to know?) but there’s a lot of talk about suicide.
With this in mind, here’s a couple of scenes from my one man play, written last year, and based on personal experience I had some years ago.
I feel distant from these feelings now, and am grateful for that, as its allowed me to write about it in this and my book. I will never forget that I’m one of the lucky ones.
The show has been my most successful in terms of script writing, and has already had a number of successful performances. Maybe I should take it to Edinburgh?
Sam: When we have past lives, we keep having them until we get it right.
I have no memory of this in a past life.
And no idea why it happened.
It continued for days.
Days turned into weeks
Weeks turned into months.
I couldn’t remember feeling well.
I couldn’t remember not feeling angry
I couldn’t remember being happy.
I had these thoughts, these delusions in my head
and it felt like that’s all that was there.
Whatever knowledge I had, whatever dreams I had
couldn’t get through because there was only violence in my head and it was all against me.
After four months it got unbearable.
At 3am I got dressed, and went out.
Walked in the fields.
Cold. Dark. Alone.
Shouting, Screaming, lashing out at nothing in front of me
because it was all in my head.
I just couldn’t get it out.
made my way back.
Still crying when I got home.
Didn’t wake anyone else up.
So no one knew.
(He sits in one of the chairs)
Next day I went to my doctor but I couldn’t describe what was wrong with me.
So he gave me sleeping tablets.
Seriously, sleeping tablets, are you fucking kidding me?
I went home not knowing what was wrong with me.
Still no diagnosis.
Still no idea.
I tried not thinking about it.
I started taking the tablets.
But they didn’t help.
So I took them all.
Well, I stopped half way, got scared.
Didn’t know what to do.
Went to bed.
Woke up next morning.
Carried on as normal.
Next night I did the same thing.
Took the rest of the bottle.
Woke up next morning.
Went back to doctors
I was already on the waiting list for therapy see.
So it was fine.
I got told to go home and sleep it off.
That was it.
(He lies under the duvet)
Got home and got back to bed
and I Lay there, feeling –
Not knowing what to think.
Not knowing what to say.
I was staring the lock as if it might force itself open and pull me towards the door.
Pulling me as I cling to my bed, my duvet pulled right over me
Saying to myself over and over
“I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die,
I don’t want to die"
2am turns to 3am.
The clock getting blurrier as I close my eyes and then finally I fall to sleep.
The thing is, when you’re in that place you can’t think of anything else.
I couldn’t remember ever feeling happy, or remember ever feeling as if anything else mattered.
I couldn’t remember being well, I couldn’t remember that I had a past, and most important of all, that I had a future.
I thought I’d blog about how 2012 has gone for me. It’s sometimes confusing being a creative person, as the ‘personal’ and the ‘professional’ easily gets mixed up. My ideas, which are sometimes personal, become something I want to write about, then make work from.
Anyway, this is a run down of what I achieved this year, and there have been a lot of ‘firsts’ for me.
In January I ran a 7 week workshop at The Orpheus Centre, teaching filmmaking, and the group made a short puppet horror film using the Uscreen website. This was the first time that I’d run a workshop on my own, and there was a lot of support from all the guys at The Orpheus Centre.
In February I was in Manchester for The State Of The Arts Conference, after receiving a bursary to attend.
In March I completed The Dog & The Palace, my split screen installation film. This was the biggest budget film I have ever worked on, and in February we were filming for 2 days in Lancaster House, in the same room they shot ‘The King’s Speech’ feature film in. It was screened a number of times on the big screens during the London 2012 Olympics, and I was also featured in the local press. I also had a great team on board, thanks to Producer Karen Gilchrist.
Around June I completed an early draft of my third screenplay. I wanted to write a 1 hour drama-comedy for TV, and this was then redrafted and performed (as a work in progress) at the Arts Alive Festival in October. This was my first ever live event I produced.
During the year I also worked with writer / producer Cherry Bennet on ‘Temps Interruptus’, an indie radio sitcom which we recorded at Headline Music Studios in October (another first!) We also had a rehearsal of Cherry’s play ‘Early Viewing Recommended’ at The Actors Centre.
In May I worked with young homeless people in Crawley, on a 7 week filmmaking project, again using the Uscreen website.
In June I gave a talk about my own experience of Mental Health issues to a group of Surrey Police officers at Surrey Police HQ. I can never really underestimate what an achievement this was for me. I also got two articles on the Time To Change Mental Health website, and you can read about the talk I gave here.
I directed the 2nd episode of ‘Moving In’ in August, working with 10 actors and numerous crew on location on the 10 minute film, written and produced by Mark Lever.
During the Paralympics I was interviewed by BBC Three Counties Radio live on air, about the Paralympics and my work. I also went to the closing ceremony which was pretty amazing.
I supported a young filmmaker in Slough to make a short film with a Uscreen Ushoot bursary. All the films were premiered at Pinewood Studios.
I finished the year presenting a 2 day low budget filmmaking workshop which was part of The Together Festival. I was put up by the festival in the Ramada Docklands Hotel, and was a great experience to end the year on (apart from missing the closing night party)
During the year I’ve also continued to work at the Freewheelers Theatre Company, and work on my own projects, which included a short story as well as other TV ideas I’m writing.
I’ve also pushed my feature film comedy in a direction that I think I’ll be really happy with.
This doesn’t include the really personal stuff that I’ve been through this year. It really can be a massive interruption on all the stuff I want to do, although it does give me interesting stuff to write about, and this will be a big project for 2013, as I’ve just finished writing the outline for my autobiography, and I’ll be working on a TV screenplay about mental health.
I often do the ‘3 word plan’ for the year ahead. My 3 words for 2013 are ‘Writing’, ‘Personal’, and ‘Stages’. I’ll blog more about what these mean in another post soon.
In 2013 I’m looking forward to doing much more writing, and looking at the next stage of feature film production. I’m also looking to work as a writer with other organisations, and am especially interested in community projects which culminate in a live performance.
I’ve been thinking about a couple of posts I saw recently. Well, one on Facebook and one article in the local paper. Both were about suicide, and the one on Facebook in particular mentioned that the person who knew the man who committed suicide had no idea he felt that way.
Which left me thinking about why I, and others like me, don’t talk. I’m not going to go on about any male ego bullshit, I’m trying to come up with helpful answers. Stuff that I’m not 100% sure about, but may help people who want to understand.
I had my therapy appointment today at 10am, and this was actually something I was looking forward to, a space to talk about how my anxious feelings have been getting worse. This appointment was cancelled at 9.10am today. No apology, just cancelled with a phone call.
Which left me in a bit of a turmoil, because while I’m quite lucky in that I have others to talk to, I knew I would go through a number of excuses and thoughts and feelings before I made that call. And in the end I texted. Because it was easier for me.
So I’m wondering, on what grounds would people, who ever they are, not tell anyone how desperate they were?
I go through a number of things when I want to talk to someone. Standard thoughts of ‘I’m not worthy’, or I don’t know what they’re doing’, or I want to be in the right ‘frame of mind’ come up, along with feelings of being incredibly nervous and wondering, before anything happens, what the conversation is going to be like. I’m often thinking I’m going to run out of things to say, and that’s going to be just awkward.
There are other thoughts too, but they all boil down to feelings of self worth, and that maybe I am taking up someone’s time.
The truth is, of course I am taking up their time, but they wouldn’t have given me there number, or spoken to me, or known me all these years for that to be a problem.
This original quote has been attributed many times to Nelson Mandella, but it was actually Marianne Williamson who said it in first in her book ‘A Return To Love’, which I think is a good point:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?"
What that means to me is that you might help another person out by making that call. By sharing with others they may then go on to help you, or help someone else, because you've shared something personal.
So that other person who you connect could be more empowered - by you. In fact, who are you to not make that phone call. To not tell someone how you are feeling?
Latest update: My Therapist has been signed off for the next two weeks.
Those of you who’ve known me for a while may know that I’ve done boxing & wrestling for some time. (Although I haven’t done either for a couple of years).
You may also know that a few years ago I had a photo-shoot which I wore my ‘Disabled’ T-shirt.
That idea came about because I was so pissed of with having to explain why I had hidden disabilities and what they were, that I decided to start blatantly telling people.
It was really me saying, “Yeah, there not obvious, but I have serious issues that you need to be aware of, and before you assume I’m not entitled to any help, let me explain…”
As it turned out, I pretty quickly got sick of explaining stuff (surely the irony of a department called ‘Access to Work’ isn’t lost on everyone from the DWP?)
Anyway, fairly recently I’ve been thinking about words and images, and what I put out into the world, the image I project, and I wonder if that’s the image that I WANT for myself. That absolutely, doesn’t mean to say that it isn’t true. In fact the issues that I’ve had have intensified over the past few months, which means it’s just as valid now as it was then.
But while that’s still true, being an artist, I can play with people’s heads, and put out a different image of me from that one. One that perhaps (sometimes) I identify with even more.
As I’ve been longing to go back to the boxing club but haven’t made it there yet, and talking to people on Facebook about cage fighting, (training, not actual fighting) and haven’t done that for a while either, I’m thinking maybe this new image of me would boost the chances of me doing something about it.
So with that in mind, here are a few new images of me, taken by me.
Happy New Year!
I thought I’d start this year by recapping last year. Why do I think last year was so good when I had a family bereavement in January & I was assaulted by 2 'youths' in August? I think, at least for the past year, I've been feeling pretty well, and simply didn't want to let things get in the way of what I was doing - possibly because I had such a terrible 2010. The other reasons are work & funding.
I've done more this year than I ever have, starting with The Freewheelers Theatre Company, who I've been working with since 2007. One of the things I've enjoyed with them this year is that my writing / story telling skills have been used with the Uscreen project. Working with ten students we came up with a zombie story that was fun to plan and make, with some of the Freewheelers being mentors.
Perhaps the best validation of my work came from being selected for Upstream, which was held as part of the Brighton Festival. This was an amazing experience and I met a couple of people who I would love to collaborate with in the future.
I was also involved in Driving Inspiration, a huge project which saw me teaching in schools across the south east.
I met lots of inspiring people and taught 42 young people about filmmaking, making 12 films along the way.
Sync South East came to an end with the Pitch! event. I got to show rushes of my new film The Dog & The Palace, and made some good contacts.
In August I visited the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This was my 1st time at the Fringe & I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was also great to see the shows, both stand up & theatre.
I was selected for The New Voices Programme in August too, which was all about writing, and with that in September I attended Decibel in Manchester for the 1st time.
This was another great experience & along with writing reviews of shows, I suddenly felt as though I'd just discovered a new art form called 'Theatre'.
As I'm no stranger to theatre (honest!) this was a bit of a surprise, but I think the shows I saw were so varied that it was a mini revelation to see what people could achieve through a diverse mix of art and storytelling.
September also had another highlight as I worked with Rachel Gadsden & Deaf Men Dancing for the first time, filming their workshops at Stoke Mandeville hospital.
My 'personal projects' this year also grew in strength. In April I received Arts Council funding to develop my installation ‘The Dog & The Palace’. I've blogged about this throughout the year.
And in November I received more funding from ACE to complete The installation. This will see me filming in somewhere that looks like a royal palace, and working directly with more people in the film industry this month & next.
I also did well in my writing, taking my wedding comedy feature script onto the next draft, which I now want to take to the next level.
I've also done well on two other scripts, an hour long spec TV script written with Mark Lever, and my 2nd feature screenplay.
So this week I need to hit the ground running, working with others & teaching. Oh, and attending the Paralympics closing ceremony. It'll be a fun year.
This may sound silly, but I've ummed a lot over the past month about how personal my blog posts should be, as potentially EVERYONE I know could read them (I'm tempted to say here 'they won't', but I'm not going too).
The past month has been difficult because my step dad died on 23 January, and I've been wondering how and whether I should write about it. I've decided that I'm going to, as it all fits in with the whole notion of things being difficult, things going slowly, things not going right, which after all, if you're disabled all that stuff happens anyway.
So when my step dad died I set myself a month before I got back into things fully again, and that month is nearly up. Trouble is, I still want to sleep more than normal, I still don't really want to do that many things, I still don't really want to be in 'full swing'. And there in lies the thought:
When the hell have I EVER been in full swing? One of the movies on my list still to watch (I have many on that list) is 'Girl Interrupted'. (I've also had a really strong urge to watch Six Feet Under)
Girl Interrupted is about a girl in a mental asylum in the 1960s. As I say I haven't seen it yet, its on my computer waiting for me to be in the 'right mood' to watch it. But I think the title sums up what its like when we all have issues come up that affect our lives.
This past year I've been struggling a lot with an issue that I haven't had to deal with very much for over 10 years, and so things have been going really slow, and you could say I've been very ill. This has been a HUGE interruption in what I want to do with my life and unfortunately it hasn't gone away as quickly or easily as I'd hoped.
I've come to the conclusion that a lot of this is down to my own expectations, both in the ones that I have for myself (all these things that I want to do) and with what I can 'realistically' cope with. This one in particular has been a battle raging in my head ever since I can remember. So, if I didn't have these expectations of myself, then I wouldn't have to do so much, right?
Trouble is there ARE things that excite me, new opportunities, and things that I really want to do.
So I still have things on my list, like finishing the next draft of my feature script, arranging meetings, making a showreel for my new website, finishing courses, writing up a fundraising document... and another, and another...
If you know me, you can drop me a gentle email towards the end of March asking me how I'm doing with any of this stuff. I'll reply to it, though I'm not sure how quick I'll be.
I've been talking to a couple of people recently about ambitions. Okay, mainly my ambitions, but certainly ambitions.
You see, I want to aim quite high, so at a recent arts meeting in London (more to be revealed eventually!) I stated in a sort of unsure voice in a room full of disabled artists - “I want to be mainstream”.
And then, after a pause: “I want to be nominated for the Turner Prize.” Yep. That's what I said. And now I've written it down. Shit me. Silly isn't it?
Well, nope, not really. Definitely not silly. You see, I'm an artist and filmmaker, and albeit I didn't go to Central St. Martins or where ever most artists go to study, I've had funding from the Arts Council, I've been commissioned, I've had a short film bought by a distributor in LA.
So why shouldn't we look at our work and say 'I want to win...' whatever it is that will take your career to the next level?
But where on earth do I get these notions from?
Chris set out to make a short film and said, in a rather public way: “I want to win an Oscar.” He asked people for money, got the money, and made a film that reached the final round of voting in the Oscars, just before they chose the actual nominations. They missed out on an Oscar, but the got very very close, and made a good film because of it. Which got people's attention. And although Chris is a 'mainstream' filmmaker (I'm assuming that) there's a lot we can learn from everyone who put themselves out there.
They documented the process & they've now put it online with interviews, clips, and everything you need to look at your filmmaking journey.
I'm on section 3 of the course at the moment, and already there's been some valuable insights into where I am, and what to do next. Some of which has reconfirmed what I already know, others have been first time insights. And when I get to the next stage of the course, there will be more. If the film-making journey is something you'd like to learn more about, I'd definitely recommend taking the course yourself.
In a short while, I'm going to be blatantly asking people for money. I need to think about how I do this seriously, how can I do it with the right support from people etc, and how I can do it legally too. I want to make a major work set a couple of days after the 2012 London Olympics.
It's not something I can do on a low budget, so will be needing all the support from people and companies that I can convince. Although it's a 'short split screen film' it'll be a major work... So who's with me?
Originally written on 5th October 2010.
I'm in a hotel in Buckingham as I write this and there is very little 3G signal. A couple of days ago I felt like shit. Truly awful, and I think I'm experiencing for the first time in my life (having had severe depression since I was 14) the 'black dog' that so many have spoken of.
All entirely ironic, considering I am thinking about a piece of film for the 'It Gets Better Campaign.' I'm thinking about it having not seen many of the videos. I'm not sure I would have the guts or whatever to look into a camera and talk about my experiences, although this is definitely something I would like to be okay with. But for now, or until I can use a couple of actors for a day and tell a story to a Melissa Etheridge song, here is what I have to say on the subject.
I was born with a flat nose and a cleft pallet. I couldn't talk properly until I was 9. I've spent the early part of my life from the age of 5 up until 24 in and out of hospital having operations. I had people making fun of me since I can remember until I was 17.
I've had depression since I was 14. I spent most of the last two years of my high school bunking off, wondering around a park, sometimes crying, nearly always listening to music, wondering why the hell I was born. Wondering what the hell I am going to do, and wondering when it's all going to end. And can I make it end? I couldn't see a future. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and I thought I'd be dead by the time I'm 30.
There is no reason on Earth why I should be where I am now. In May this year I was filmed at the BFI talking about film development for the Uscreen website. A couple of months ago I was directing my first online comedy drama.
This time last year I was in LA pitching a wedding comedy feature script. The year before that I was paid to go to the Liverpool Disability Arts Festival DADAFest. The same year I went to Cannes Film Festival for the first time and sold my short film Early One Summer to a Hollywood Distributor.
I use film as a way of communication, as a way to express what I'm interested in, my ideas, my thoughts about the world. I use actors to tell stories with words that I've written. I use the written word to explore how I feel, and to explore different characters and scenarios that interest me. Last year in LA was one of the high points of my life. So was going to Liverpool in 2008. So was receiving my Arts Council funding in 2006, and so was receiving my first commission from DADA-South in 2003. All of this revolved around me making work that I'm passionate about. No matter how its received.
Getting excited about my feature script keeps me excited, keeps me thinking about those high points, and how I can achieve more of them, and how I can make opportunities happen. I pretty much do that with everything because I've just never been the sort of person to say 'make this, you keep the profits, I'll just write it...' or (more to the point) I thought I'd have to make stuff myself, because no one would take a chance on me because of the limited experience I've had.
A lot of that's now changed, and its a different game. Life is about taking opportunities, not thinking (so much) about the dark times, but carrying on through them, by any means necessary. Even if that means screaming for help from people you know, or from people you don't. I don't have a problem with saying 'please do this for me' now, and likewise I don't have a problem with going after what's important until I have it.
It gets better if you go after what you believe in. It gets better if you find something you're passionate about and put your efforts in that. It gets better as you get older, and for the most part, even the difficult times become slightly easier to get through.
I am an intellectual. No, I'm not just saying that to show off or anything, I did an online quiz at www.oprah.com and it told me so. It also said my need for helping others was my lowest score, (no surprise there) and creativity was up there in the highest marks (12 points) but my thirst for knowledge was paramount (14 points).
I wonder if this is why I'm feeling frustrated at the moment, which I really am right now. I would like to use this frustration to take risks that would mean I can get on with the work that I so want to do, but this all requires money, and there's the sticking point. So what to do? So many things revolve around money, but it takes other people to also make decisions (and I'm not talking about mental health or any systems here) so, should that be a reason why I can't get on and do stuff?
I can't progress with the choices I have until I have the money to do so. Although, that's not strictly true, I can write stuff, I can write an application, I can rewrite my feature screenplay. I can do quite a bit of writing really, though anything else pretty much relies on me having funding.
A friend put a post on Facebook I noticed which said, without Capitalism there wouldn't be any mental health problems. I thought this was kind of interesting, and actually hard for me to argue against.
Although, I'm sure if I lived somewhere without the 9-5 working hours and pressure on jobs etc. mental health 'issues' would still be around. Probably arising from boredom and frustration...
Which brings me back to where I am now. And out of that, I can only hope I'll grow, and change. But its a slow process, unless anyone has a spare five grand they want to donate, in which case I'll possibly be less frustrated...
This post was written on Friday 23 July 2010
Fifth day of shooting Moving In and I am realising why film is not art. I'm also realising that it takes a whole load of people (and we don't have a whole load of people) to make things happen, and I also realise that I'm coping relatively well with the responsibility, as the crew we do have is very good. The actors are good too.
Yesterday was a bit of a f*** up as we'd planned to do a load of scenes in the kitchen with all the actors, and for various reasons some of them couldn't make it. There's so much pre-production that hasn't been done or will be done last minute that it's a bit of a problem, along with people trying to do other things besides making the film.
What I am enjoying though (and what is art) is watching the actors perform, and working with the crew who then come up with ideas for how its shot, and me with my own ideas telling the actors what I want. Again, as in most of my films, this hasn't happened very often, as (most of) the actors we have are good.
Over a week long shoot, by yesterday I felt a hell of a lot more able to tell actors what I wanted, to say 'no' to some of their ideas and to remind them to say things if they do some thing that works well / sounds good. One scene had to be improvised between us as the locations changed last week, but we got it done on the day.
So we have about 20 pages left to do over the next 3 days, and as much as I don't want to tempt fate, we may not even need the last day at all.
Though I expect we will.
NOTE: We did need the last day of filming, though that was only five scenes, including a reshoot of one scene we'd already done.
The first of these blog posts were written whilst filming 'Moving In', a couple of weeks ago on Sunday 18th July 2010.
I am currently on the train to Portsmouth. Despite being disabled I have managed to bring two rucksacks and two suitcases with me. Hence, I may well be hideously stressed by the end of the journey. I'm going to Portsmouth to direct a half hour film that my friend has written, about four students who discover life, love etc... and I think it'll be good.
Hopefully it will be better than good. But I have a feeling it'll be marred by the severe emotional pain that I've been feeling recently to do with some thing that happened 14 years ago. (Those of you who've seen 'Madness as a form of relaxation', will have an idea).
I'm trying not to think about what happened, but its been hard right now, especially when I can see that I need to use the experience to put the support in place, that I need. (I often ask myself 'What do I need to learn from this?) But I've had trouble arranging that support, mainly due to everybody else (well, nearly everyone) being so stupid.
So I've been distracting myself by various means including listening to Wayne Dyer's The Power of Intention, which I love listening to, especially the last chapter. I'm currently listening to Lady Gaga, which has a slightly different meaning. But it's much more fun.
So when I get to Portsmouth I'll be meeting a friend, and some of the actors who I'll be working with. We're going to do a promo shoot and then get together with cast and crew at a pub this evening. Tomorrow we're having a first read-though of the script, which I'm sure will throw up all sorts of comments and hopefully more 'jokes' or I should say, comedy.
As I'm directing for the next week, I've been thinking about the kind of director I want to be. In all my short films so far I've kind of done everything, (producer, writer, director). This shoot has been good as my friend has been producing it. I've been working with him on the script editing, and writing the shooting script (how to turn a 39 page document into a 44 page document – add camera directions!) So now its the week where real directing will happen.
I want to remain with the actors, work with them closely. But in all my films, I've been surprised how little 'directing' there's actually been. That's mainly because I've been very lucky with the actors I've got (may that continue). So, as it's a collaboration, we've come together. They have their own ideas and I have mine. During the audition process, if the ideas meet in some way, then that's who I want in my film. This happened in Early One Summer, where Graeme Dalling got the part because the look that he gave Charlie Ross, the teacher, was exactly the look I had in my head. And I wanted to work with him.
So I'll be blogging about “Moving In” and the progress through post production and beyond, as well as my current arts practice, and what projects I'm most excited about.