Monday, July 1, 2019

2019... The Story So Far

Back in October of last year I posted a very reflective update about my filmmaking ‘journey’ and the frustrations I experienced. Now, halfway through the following year, five films have since been produced and released, with four of them being made in 2019. Two are animations, three are live action. Undoubtedly, my hunger and desire to produce great movies continues unabated. However, my frustrations and a growing sense of disappointment hasn’t diminished, unfortunately. In fact, in many respects, it’s been exacerbated.  

My writing, which is my source of income, continues to develop and new ideas flourish. I am so prolific that I have to consciously ‘turn off the tap’ to stop further ideas from arising. I have never struggled for ideas and I rarely suffer, if at all, with a lack of confidence or belief when putting the pen to the page. That’s not to say I think my writing is fantastic and everything I produce is amazing. The point is, I rarely suffer with self-doubt and a feeling of despair once something is finished. However, words are easy to edit and the ideas articulated are easily refined, rewritten or simply removed. So, the process is considerably easier than the actual process of filmmaking. 

I know I’m not alone in experiencing ‘issues’ when filmmaking and the best laid plans invariably change and/or are compromised due to circumstances often beyond a filmmaker’s control. That is to be expected and, in many respects, can be exciting to a degree. It does actually make the process ‘fun’, in a masochistic way. Conversely, all kinds of glorious quirks and unexpected things occur organically and add to a movie’s individual ‘magic’ during its production. All of that is good, of course, however there is plenty which can go wrong; destructively wrong, and unfortunately, I’ve experienced this a lot in the last three live action productions. 

Animation is a different proposition and comes with its own amount of issues and pitfalls. Most obvious is that I’m not really an animator; not in the purist sense. The difference, and this is the main reason why I sometimes revert to the medium, is that with animation I usually have total control over the whole process and can oversee all aspects (as individual pieces) to create the final movie. However, this is not ideal. Coincidentally, my true filmmaking ‘voice’ is articulated far more readily and easily through my animations. Essentially, as I’ve always said, this is usually because I am not hampered or restricted by the confines of budget and location. There are other reasons, I guess, but anyway… Sometimes, I just really enjoy my own company. I've always been a bit of a loner.

So, live action… A conundrum. I love to direct; however, I am not a technical director who does and even wants to be involved in handling cameras or lenses, but I sometimes have to. That said, I always have a strong vision and a definite appreciation of the aesthetic I wish to convey. Furthermore, as I trained as an actor (and have been a performer) I enjoy working with actors to craft the movie and honing performances in a way I imagined. I like to think I have some real qualities here. 

The trouble is, and it is entirely my fault and is probably endemic with indie filmmaking, is that I take on too much responsibility, which ultimately dilutes my ability to concentrate properly on what my real focus is (or indeed should be). Now, I’m sure I’m not alone in performing this juggling act and I must concede that many others are probably a lot more adept at it than me. I don’t know. There is great reliance on your collaborators when producing films and so much can go wrong. Therefore, getting everyone to dance to your tune, in a way you imagined and want it, is the real trick to directing. So far, regrettably, I believe I have failed. I am highly organised and take time to prepare my movies – working with the director of photography to produce shot lists etc. and working with composers to create the score. I immerse myself in the creative process of the film. I am confident that I do this well. However, things that are clearly lacking are a proper, recognised producer to oversee the production and a First AD to assist, so that I’m not ultimately pulling everything together and running several jobs. So often, plans go ‘off piste’. Again, I appreciate this is symptomatic of independent filmmaking. 

However, I am often surprised and, in many ways embarrassed, when I watch the credits roll on other filmmaker’s films and see a long list of contributors, whereas on mine there are usually a handful. We do well, undoubtedly. That’s a positive – clearly! This is small-time and we have success. I fund these movies entirely from my own earnings. The flip side is that so much more could be achieved with more assistance (and obviously, bigger budgets to afford that). 

Anyway, it is again, with renewed impetus and a lot of lessons learned, that I’m dusting myself down and forging ahead on new projects. Inquests have occurred; decisions have been made and so, with a little less naivete and a bit more help, we go again.  

Thanks must go to everyone who has given their precious time and skill to work on the movies produced so far, but clearly I must ‘step up my game’. The movies produced are now ‘out there’ but with serious misgivings and ‘issues’ in abundance. This really annoys, frustrates and depletes me, quite honestly. I take full responsibility though, as I have put myself forward as both director and producer of these films. This must change. 

Unfortunately, since my October post, some of the same problems have been allowed to occur. That is truly unforgiveable. I can accept that not everyone will like my stuff, in terms of the story and style. In many respects, I don’t care. However, to have movies with so many technical failings is hard to take. 

New movies have been written with the aim of keeping things entirely manageable and controllable, so that my work can be crafted as close to my desired intention and vision as possible. Ultimately, I aim to get my ‘true voice’ heard. We’re not quite there yet, but strides will be made. 

All I can say is, I’ll be back after a much-deserved break and the new movies will be great. They must be…

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