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.
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.