When I was 14 years old I overheard a conversation about Film Directors on the school playground. I remember the moment well, my friend Rachel was walking ahead of me talking about how she and her dad where going to attend a film festival. I had never thought about how films were made before this moment. I just took it for granted that they were made. It started to play on my mind, I started to wonder who where the people who made films.
and so by the age of 14 I had decided that I was going to be a filmmaker.
By this point I had never made a film before. It was not like the dreamy stories you hear making super 8mm animations with friends or memories of sneaking into movie theatres. It was not how your typical film director recalls their zeal for filmmaking. I just decided somewhere on a grey concrete playground that I was going to be a filmmaker.
I was always creative, as a child I thought about being an artist of some sort, at one point a Blue Peter presenter, another time an inventor. I liked the idea of ambition, having a life purpose to pursue. The dream of filmmaking was my escape.
That year for my 15th Christmas I got a hand held camera and started to make short films.
I pushed and pulled people from school to act out crazy stories for me, at one point I got a class of twenty students to act out a gangster fight scene.
Like many filmmakers my age I read Robert Rodriguez's book Rebel Without A Crew and I started to immerse myself additively into filmmaking. In my head I dreamt up vast exterior shots of armies clashing - in reality a group of school friends shot each other with plastic guns inside of a school gym.
I entered a short film I made into a local cinema’s film festival and it was chosen to be screened.
I was ecstatic to have my film shown on the big screen. I felt a weight on my heart that night when I didn’t win the prize. Not because I wanted to win but I thoroughly thought there were no prizes being given out, I naively thought we were all winners.
I observed at the festival that my film was not very good. The other “children’s” films had budgets and all round better quality. I didn’t understand it at the time but everyone else had adults help them make the films and mine was just me, my friend and my little brother playing with a camera in the back garden.
I judged my ability heavily and realised I needed more real life experience.
My school held a work experience week later on in the year. luckily someone took notice of my desire to work in film and I got an extended two week placement at a local production company.
I was a shy teenager at 15, everyone at the company was much older than me, I carried out admin work, I was too shy to eat with the others so I ate my sandwiches at my desk alone. My shyness faded as the days went on, I helped out on a location shoot capturing some behind the scenes footage. The next week a short film was being made. I was insulted when the actors looked down on my runner position and called me ‘coat lady’ as it was my job to hold their coats for them during takes.
At the end of the work experience, I decided to get editing software for my 16 birthday (nothing special but it allowed me to edit my short films on something slightly more advanced than windows movie maker and it's use of star wipes). I spoke to the director on my last day of work experience, he was dismissive of me and impolite. I was enthusiastic about filmmaking, perhaps too much enthusiasm for others to handle. On the last night I felt dishearten again as a fake award ceremony was held and everyone cast and crew was thanked for their work apart from me.
I passed my GCSE’s at age 16 despite sitting at the back of classrooms drawing storyboards and daydreaming.
I enrolled in college sixth form and spent three years studying film studies English language and art. I had a messy fun few years, of drinking and partying. I still made short films, they slowly started to improve in quality. I enrolled in a summer film school, that although fun, it had far too many rules for myself. Naturally I am bad with authority, fiercely independent and too enthusiastic, my naïve enthusiasm rubbed off badly with others. Adult Bullies keep propping up throughout my later teenage years, perhaps the jealousy of seeing someone do what they want and living care free. It seems like when you're on a high there will always be people around to push you down.
When I was aged 19-21 I studied film and TV production at university.
The university dropped the course after its first year. The class protested, but we were ignored, the last two years where carried out with less enthusiasm from substitute teachers, the course felt broken and pointless, my grades dropped from As to Cs. Seeing as my university study years could not be saved, I enjoyed my time with drinking and dancing.
I graduated at age 21 and jumped flying head first into film crew work. My enthusiasm had so far surprisingly ‘despite the efforts of many’ not been killed. I had by now some experience on low budget sets.
I narrowed my job role down to Script Supervisor and I pushed, applying like crazy to any job I could find.
Bit by bit I found the work. The first 6 months went well, if I made a mistake I tried not to beat myself up over it, sure the mistakes I made would cost money , but I had already saved the production countless errors.
I pushed onwards, but then suddenly the work took its toll. On feature film shoots I was working 6 day, 70-90 hour work weeks. I done this for 3 months solid and by the end felt rightfully exhausted and mentally broken. I had been trying my very best working for every director I met, but most were not what I had hoped for. My logic was simple I wanted to be a film director, as a Script Supervisor I got to sit next to the director all day.
even on the most professional of film shoots the director never met my romantic expectations.
The director was supposed to be sure of themselves, assertive, logical, honest, rational, powerful. But I found myself sitting next to directors who where far too interested in Twitter to pay attention to an actor's performance , or not putting the care or thought into their crews safety. I lasted 18 months before I decided that film set work was not for me. And I say this to not put you off, a lot of people like the work, the travel, the hours, the teamwork they like it all. But I could not hack it, I romanticised the idea of filmmaking so much that when I saw it as it was I could not bear to see it torn up like that. I started making films for the escapism, and working on film sets took that away.
My last job was a commercial, the director a young hipster fancied himself the next big thing, screamed orders at crew, told me he didn’t understand what my job was, told me to join the art dept instead. He didn’t like the set already built so demanded that a new one was found, when I realised that the 8 hour work day was going to turn into 20 hours I walked out. The experience and disbelief of film sets caused a major problem.
I thought that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life, I was wrong.
It wasn’t long before I was in debt and depressed. I worked many low paid jobs to get by, feeling lost, hopeless, I couldn’t see the future, the ambition and dream had finally died.
A year later things got a little better, a better job kept me at the same level but allowed me the time to clear my mind and think. There is a problem when you spend 10 years of your life working towards something, only for it to not be what you first thought it was. I had a messy breakup from film.
You learn more from bad times than you do with the good. Last year I tried to make a short film. I shot it but I have been unable to finish it. Working full time gave me no free time to edit, and having no plans for the future left me feeling low. I need plans and creativity in my life which I why I am pushing blogging as a career and filmmaking for fun.
I hope to complete my short film this year and start making my own films again, my way.
I have not finished with filmmaking but I do need to start thinking differently. My enthusiasm has died down, but it is still there inside. I still dream of film festivals and red carpets. I still believe if I keep trying one day I will be good at all of this.