Archive for October, 2012

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The Ticking Clock

October 28, 2012

This is a bit of an esoteric blog posting. If you’re under the age of 25, there’s a good chance this post won’t make a whole mess of sense. Either that or you’ll come to the conclusion this is basically an old bastard talking out of his plastic pants and ignore it. As you should. This post, like mortgages and trousers worn from the waist, is for the older folks amongst you.

When you get to a certain age, the idea of a ticking clock becomes very familiar. You start to feel like time is running out rather than stretching ahead of you like it did. And every day that goes by without having yet achieved your dreams ticks past dramatically like the radio alarm clock in Groundhog Day.

When you’re young (for definition purposes this means under the age of 30) it’s easy to have dreams.  You have little knowledge of how the world works and even less experience of how difficult things can be so anything seems possible. If you were born in the 80s or 90s this also means you went to school at a time when teachers and parents were frequently telling you the world is your oyster. Which also means you left school and entered the real world full of dreams, optimism and a big, oyster-harvesting rake.

You also probably had a timescale in mind for this little riches and fame success plan. You know, the “I’ll make it before I’m 30” idea. You probably also believed that not only was it possible, it was practically inevitable.

Yeah, me too.

Which is why I’m suffering from ticking clock syndrome. AKA the “I’m 31 and this shit hasn’t happened yet” syndrome. Culturally, the big three-oh is considered a big deal- lets face it, what other age is spelt out like the way you spell the word “WALK” to a dog- because it’s the accepted age you have to start being a grown-up. The stereotype goes that by 30 you should be self-sufficient, have a proper income, a proper career, a house of your own, a partner and the beginnings of a family. Basically, by 30 you should have stopped dreaming the dream and started living it instead. Assuming your dream is the same as everyone else’s of course…

I’m 31 and have pretty much none of those things. By my own generation’s standards, I’m something of a failure. By my grandparents’ generation, I’m almost weird! What other people think doesn’t bother me so much, but I do have my own expectations of myself. See, when I decided I wanted to be a director about ten years ago, I kinda thought that I’d have made it by now. Granted, I never thought I was going to be the next Spielberg (nor do I want to be), but I figured I’d at least be earning a living from all this by the time I entered my fourth decade. And of course, I’m not.

But career is only part of it. When a 30-something year old logs onto Facebook, their newsfeed is clogged up with friends’ marriage proposals, housewarmings, weddings and kids’ birthdays. It’s like once you get to a certain age, no-one is defined by what they actually do any more- just by what their DNA did one day. This might have been their dream- and that’s not for me to judge- or they might have given up on their original dream long ago, but the fact is that I like the idea of that “normal” house/wife/kids/dog/picket fence dream as well. It’s just I want to be a director more.

I’ve sacrificed a lot to get to this point. Avoided settling down and getting financial ties like a house because they in turn would tie me to a regular income and a normal job. I’ve even avoided certain relationships because they would either hold me back or fail when I had to choose my career over them. Sad? Probably.

But I’m aiming for something that I want. Something that will make me happy. I don’t want to resent my normal life when I get it because I didn’t pursue my dream. And that’s what’s tough- resisting the temptation to give up. Listening to that persistent ticking clock and letting it dictate the pace of my life. I’ve felt this building for a while, but when my dad died recently it made me take stock of things. Made me realise that life’s too short to waste it chasing someone else’s dream and not your own (to paraphrase the late Steve Jobs).

So my destination is still the director’s chair, in spite of all the obstacles and odds and niggling doubts and other people’s definitions of success. Which means I’m a 31 year old man who’s still clinging to his 21 year old self’s dreams.

And do you know what, that’s not a bad thing at all.

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Location, Location, Location

October 12, 2012

If you’re working in the low budget arena, you frequently have issues getting stuff for cheap or free. Kit, production design, cast and crew… But for me, the biggest arse-ache of the moment is locations.

You rarely have the option of using a set on a budget of sweet Fanny Adams , so you have to find good/serviceable/not-shit locations for the ever-so-reasonable rate of nowt. Which can be tricky. Locations often have their own business to attend to- whether it be customers coming in or people living there- and frequently this means timing limits, noise problems or (worse still for the broke filmmaker) having to pay to film there. There are also some locations that are practically impossible to get without your chequebook because the location owners know how much they’re worth.

When I was at uni we were filming a short film in an Indian restaurant. We found one with a function room they’d let us film in and were happy for us to do so. For free, it seemed. Halfway through the shoot (we were there a week overall), the manager changed his mind and started talking money. You see, several years before, the restaurant had been used in a scene for the TV series “Soldier, Soldier” and as a result, he had been paid the standard rate for a half day location shoot. He knew we were students. He knew we had no money. He knew that the money he got from the TV production company that one time was more than four times the total budget of our little project. Yet he asked anyway because he knew his location was worth something.

I can’t really blame him. He wasn’t a filmmaker and no interest in the whole process. He ran a restaurant business. The use of his function room was becoming a business decision for him and thus he was looking for some reimbursement.

On the flip side of things, more recently we’ve been very lucky with locations. My friend Kelly let us film “Persona” in her house all weekend and The Gardner’s Arms in Emmer Green let us have their function room and bar for free all day. Neither had any real interest in filmmaking, both had no reason to give access to their places for larkin. But they did and we’re grateful and the shows look great as a result.

But I’ve got a few small shoots on the cards now that need locations. Some of which I’m having a real problem sourcing.

Maybe it’s me. I’ve never been very good at finding these places- in part because I tend to believe that people are going to be resistant to letting a small group of filmmakers traipse through their location, getting underfoot and making requests like turning off air-con or roping in customers/residents/workers as “background artists.”

Yet I also subscribe to the idea that if you don’t ask you don’t get. The old “the worst that could happen is they could say no” idea. Which is weird because I rarely actually act on said belief- like the teenager who fancies a girl but can’t even speak to her in case she turns him down.

(Actually, I think that might be more than just an analogy…)

(I think I’m going to go now and listen to some Coldplay, write terrible emo poetry and dwell on my own inadequacies. Nobody loves me etc etc…)