Originally this was going to be a long rambly Facebook update, or a Tumblr post, or a series of rushed Tweets, but I felt like there was nowhere more appropriate to document my current feelings than here, on my blog dedicated to film and filmmaking.
Today was the fourth day of filming my latest short film, Grey. I’ve written and directed films before, but this was the first truly mine film. This feels like mine. I’ve had incredible help and support on it, my DoP is my trusted and consistently-talented best friend, and my sound and editor is another one of my reliable close friends. I consider myself truly lucky to have found such talented, reliable and generous filmmakers at university to have collaborated with for the last three years. I honestly wouldn’t have been able to make this without them. A simple ‘hey guys I’ve written a film that’s super personal and might be shit but would you want to maybe help?’ and they’ve been getting trains back and forth, spending their own time and money and energy to help me create my vision. Sure, they’ll get a film out of it for themselves too, but this… this one really feels like my film. Produced by, written by, directed by. It’s beyond personal, not just the topic and all that it’s based off, but the way it’s been to try and get it off the ground. It was a rushed start, folowed by five months of stress and panicking, trying to film the final scenes – meanwhile the seasons changed and we all tried to cling on to the momentum to finish it. But today, we filmed the final scene. We still have two more to film tomorrow, but this scene was the finale – the weather was shite and not what we needed, but the tone, the acting, the dedication, it was all perfect.
I cannot wait to share this with the world. I’ve always said that if my films make just one person feel something – even if it’s angry or sad or frustrated, rather than happy, inspired and fulfilled – then I’ll consider that film a success. As someone living with a mental illness, life always feels like you’re wading through water. Even on the good days, you’re still struggling to walk and not fall down. Even on the okay days, it’s like you’re pushing through a stream of dead bodies which are all the days you just keep on going. But nothing makes me feel how creating makes me feel. Whether it’s someone reading one of my screenplays and just getting it, or someone laughing at a piece of dialogue, or seven hours filming in a sweltering tiny university room surrounded by lights and equipment. Nothing makes me feel more alive and more normal. This is one of the few things in my life that actually makes me feel something more.
A few moments have truly stuck out for me during these past two days of filming. One was yesterday when I learnt that every single person who read the script for Grey was (to quote my DoP) ‘depressed as fuck’. This film is not a happy one, but I believe in it more than I’ve ever believed in everything, and every time I say ‘cut’ and we finish a take I feel so fulfilled and so grateful that we managed to finish it, however long it took. I found out that not only did my mum cry when reading the script, but our two actresses did, and everyone else who has read it has been truly moved by it. That power to make people feel through your words is what I adore about writing; it’s why I write. I can’t help it.
Today when trying to film a romantic kissing scene (unsurprisingly) it was awkward for our two actresses, and there were many moments of uncontrollable giggling. I explained why this scene was needed, why it gave representation to young lesbians on screen, why it showed that people who have mental illnesses can still have good moments, why it showed that they’re still loveable… I talked without even realising what I was saying about just why this scene was crucial to the film, and why it would mean so much to even just one young queer girl who might stumble across the film on YouTube. And after that, they just did it. It was possibly our best scene of the day, and was convincing, beautiful and exactly how I saw it in my head. That feeling of explaining what I wanted and why I’d written it into the film; why it was important, that was like nothing I’ve ever felt before.
Our actresses are incredible – submerge in a bath on your first shoot day, film countless argument scenes, cry on camera, be completely numb and emotionless but also show this emotion and this and this – they can do it all. Every scene I think ‘this is the hardest’ they accomplish to beyond my expectations, and proceed to keep blowing me away with each challenge they face. They’re so consistent in their intensity and dedication to the scene, not to mention their professionalism and determination. Watch out for these two.
Watching someone say your words and your thoughts and emotions and get them just right is like nothing you’ve ever experienced. You get goose bumps. It’s surreal and wonderful and unsettling. I love it. I will forever be grateful for this experience and these talented people who have made it such a successful and enjoyable one.
I don’t really know what this blog post is, but I needed to say it. I’ve always felt alive on film shoots, but this one, it really just validated that this is what I need to be doing. I don’t believe in fate or destiny, but if I did, this is what I was made to do. This is my calling.