Stay the Same

An Incredible Year
21 June 2012, 8:24 am
Filed under: ALL, Diary entries

This morning I will step on my platform one last time. The end of this project brings a mixture of feelings. I am excited about leaving, but strangely nervous too. There is also a degree of sadness. A years routine is coming to an end.

I began to look back over this year over a month ago, but it was far from finished.  In one of my first blog posts I wrote “ that every year of my life has brought change and unexpected events, but I can’t begin to guess what these might be this year”. I certainly couldn’t have guessed that I would be spending the penultimate day of this project, a film about our relationship with mortality,  attending a funeral surrounded by the community I have spent this year with.

This project so far has been an incredible journey. A journey that has taken place without moving.It has been characterised by many different things. There have been two unexpected deaths in my community, but also four births to be celebrated Maja, Reuben, Morgan and wee Victor. My own life has also had its ups and downs, which will no doubt be reflected in the film. It is a self-portrait of my year.

There have been storms and insomnia and it has felt like a particularly long winter. I  have felt trapped by this film, my choices, my life, my desire for control, for a story that makes sense of it all, trapped by my body and its failings, trapped by temporality itself.

But there has also been a long glorious spring too. Things returned to how they had been. Eventually I stopped feeling trapped and started to appreciate the cyclical nature of time

It is now apparent to me how I have run from difficulty in the past, kept moving to avoid facing things. I have used fantasy as an escape. Imagining other lives I could be leading, other choices I could have made. This year has taught me the importance of valuing what is there in front of you, the life that you have.

Modern life teaches us to keep moving, chase our dreams, find the solutions, keep up with change, continually adapt but I have found that if you stand still for long enough sometimes the things you are searching for most in the world come to find you. Comfort and happiness can be found in routine, in the cycle of seasons, in the slow putting down of roots. Everything passes with time, time mends and time cements.

This project has been instrumental to my growth as a filmmaker. I have worked on this and new projects as well as working with a the children in Mallaig and learning a great deal from them. I have gained confidence in who I am,  what I do and what it is I want to communicate. I have  learnt that I don’t necessarily need to give everything away.

In a year in which I have turned my life into a film I have thought a lot about our relationship with stories. We are fascinated with real stories and celebrate those who expose themselves most. There is a sense in which I too have exposed myself, but by doing so I hope to show the beauty in the every day.

Ultimately I want the film to say more with images and emotions than I can express here with words. I hope it will pose questions rather make statements, exploring the journey we are all on.

Life is both fragile and robust, at times it is unbearably painful at others joyous and beautiful, it has an urgency but it is also mundane, and it is temporary. This is all we have and we don’t have it for very long.  Living it to the full doesn’t necessarily mean chasing adventure and following dreams. It can mean standing still and appreciating what is there in front of you. Cherishing the moments you have.

I want to use this post to thank everyone who has supported me over this year. I hope I can produce a film that lives up to your expectations.


#31 Tommy McManmon
19 June 2012, 12:25 pm
Filed under: ALL, Responses to the project

I leave everything to the last minute, and this response to your blog is certainly no exception, being written on a jolting coach of funeral-goers on the day before your project ends. I sometimes wonder if my tardiness is because I’ve never quite recovered from the freedom given to me as an adult to live my life as I please, which to me means I can kick back and relax in the lead-up to a deadline. The ensuing rush to complete work usually results in good, if not spectacular, work – but the accompanying stress easily outweighs any benefit from the supposed “chill time” beforehand.

So, here we are. Me constantly finding excuses to not complete projects I know will benefit me in the long run, and you finishing one which has taken up so much of your time and emotional energy for the past year. I’m envious of your ability to complete something, to produce art that comes from within. I had initial doubts about the call for responses, though, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, there was the nature of your film, which seems so intensely personal. I’m uncomfortable with expressions of personal matters in such a public forum, and I wondered at first if the call for responses might be an ego-boosting request for friends, family and strangers to affirm your project, your ideas, and your life choices. But it’s been nothing like that: people have genuinely thought about the issues you obliquely raise, and in every case they are producing something that comes from their heart. The responses are creative, personal, and all deal with how we cope with one of the few unstoppable (yet self-constructed) forces of nature: time.

I also wondered how one could possibly respond to a project that was still in progress. Very few artists like to reveal an unfinished work, perhaps because interpretations of it could vary wildly. You suffered from this to a certain extent when the press picked up on the story, although I suppose their right-wing howls of protest at another artist wasting tax-payers’ money pander to an opinion an unfortunate amount of people have (even this, though, proved positive in the end, as I think it made many of us consider more carefully the uncomfortable relationship between art and money: I would say the British man in the street is getting a very good deal). Overall, the unexpected benefit of your request for a response to an unfinished work has been the sheer range in replies, both in terms of medium and content.

For a while, I was planning to use my exciting new Veho Muvi camera to record the life in a day of, well, me. My film was going to be a point-of-view record of 24 hours in Knoydart, from getting out of bed, to showering (there had to be a bit of exhibitionism), to driving to work as a ranger, and finishing the day as a postie. But I soon realised that I am not a film-maker, and have no real desire to be one. Any efforts would be painfully amateur next to yours, and what’s more it would take too bloody long to edit to a vaguely acceptable standard.

So I decided to write something. I’m using a posh notebook you gave me as a birthday present over six years ago, which has a slip of paper inserted. This is what it says:

Instructions for Use

1.Carry around with you at all times* and use pencil** to write down;



Things people say









Things you want to tell people




Lists of things





2. Fill up

3. Never show to anyone

4. Put on shelf for few months

5. Take out, read, discover beginnings of stories, articles, and genius inventions

*Should fit in pocket of postie jacket

**Good psychologically because you can rub it out

There’s not much of the above in this notebook, apart from a curious passage on the first page about the nature of beauty, and a plot line for a novel on the second page involving religious amnesia (neither of which I remember writing). I tell you what, though, there’s a theme emerging here, and it’s your drive to encourage others to explore their creativity, and reap the resulting benefits. I wouldn’t be writing in this notebook if it wasn’t for you, and I thank you for that.  It took the combined efforts of your Stay the Same project and that slip of paper to get me to do it, mind you.

So. One year. What can we learn from the passing of a single year of our too-short lives? On the face of it, my twelve months have been unremarkable, but looking closer a lot has happened that has made me change and grow as a person (I cringe when I write that sentence, but it’s staying in). I’ve met some amazing people, some of whom I hope will become life-long friends. I’ve had lots of fun with work, drink, sex and parties (not all at the same time if my admittedly bad memory serves correctly).

I don’t know what the next year is going to bring for you, Sam, or myself. But I do know that the incremental learning experience of life provides lots of learning opportunities for improving our happiness. I wish you well with your film, and look forward to the finished product. Even if it will (presumably) mostly consist of your face. That was a joke.

Keep reminding us about the important things in life. Keep creating.

Tommy 20/06/12

What happens next?
19 June 2012, 10:34 am
Filed under: ALL, Diary entries

Only two days to go and I have pulled out a very dusty suitcase from under my bed ready to catch the 11am boat on Thursday after filming. I really am looking forward to a few weeks of visiting friends, film festivals and doing some teaching in London. I am also starting to prepare for the next stage of this project – editing the film.

This will be an intense process requiring a different kind of reflection so I have decided not to share it on this site and will stop blogging when filming finishes on Thursday June 21st.

The first thing I will do will be to watch the whole year back in its entirety to try and see the film I have. There is nearly sixty hours of footage so this will take at least two weeks of  non stop viewing. Once I have a sense of the whole film I will start picking out individual moments I want to highlight and structure the rest of the film around. When I have a rough cut I will start working with a composer on an original score to be recorded for the film.

I will post updates on press and screenings for the film once it is finished on the Tiny Spark Productions website and the films facebook page. The film is intended for the large screen and am hoping it will be exhibited in this way before it reaches the internet.

In the meantime I definitely want to keep collecting and posting your responses to the project here on this site as I know there are more to come and I have been really moved by the ones I have had so far. Even the negative ones have been interesting. It seems, this project has captured peoples imaginations in some way.

For Isla and Victors one and two
14 June 2012, 12:28 pm
Filed under: ALL, Diary entries

As this project comes towards its final days there has been a tragedy here in my small community that is almost beyond words. Early on Sunday morning June 10th, Victor, partner of Isla who is a dear friend of mine and neighbour, and father of six week old baby Victor, the youngest child in Knoydart, died in a boat accident.
Time seems to have slowed since then. Even the boats that go past my window seem to travel more slowly.
I probably saw Victor during my morning filming sessions more than anyone else. Isla lived next door up until a few weeks ago and Victor would often leave early in the morning or take his dog for a walk and say hello as I filmed. There is even footage of me laughing at him as one morning while I was filming I watched Victor come out of the house, get in to his car, start driving, then get out again while the car was still moving to grab his dog.  I couldn’t help laugh out loud at his shennanigans. He often threatened to jet ski past behind while I was filming and now I wish he had. Maybe there will still be a trace of him and the events of this last week in my film.
It is only when something like this happens you discover how deeply you care about people. I think it is probably fair to say that most of us here in are heart-broken for Isla and her family. The sense of love here for them is overwhelming. Sadly it is not enough to hold back the tides, turn back the clocks, and take them to a moment before this all happened. For nothing will ever be quite the same again.

#29 In memory of Nick Darke
10 June 2012, 10:27 am
Filed under: ALL, Responses to the project

It was particularly poignant when Henry Darke sent me these polaroids of his father playwright and poet Nick Darke who also died on June 10th in 2005.

They were taken during a holiday Nick went on in Scotland with Henry’s mum Jane.

One of Nick’s favourite books was Desert Solitaire by Edward Abby (Henry made me read it before my Arizona trip), here is a quote: “A man or woman on foot, on horseback or on a bicycle will see more, feel more, enjoy more in one mile than the motorized tourists can in a hundred miles.”‘

Henry came on holiday here a few weeks ago and saw clearly the paralells between what has happened in Cornwall and what is happening in the highlands of Scotland. It is possible Nick Darke joked a little too soon.

#28 Henry Darke sings Stay the Same

I have just had a visit from my good friends and felllow filmmakers Henry Darke and Harry Wootliff. Henry is also a musician and a few months ago he wrote this song in response to my film. It seemed apt to record it on the platform where I film myself every morning. Except we did it in the evening and got eaten alive by the midges (this was just the first take).  Henry’s band Only Pictures now perform the song regularly at their live gigs. I love it. Thank you Henry!

Two weeks to go!
7 June 2012, 11:20 am
Filed under: ALL, Diary entries

And now I just want everything to stay the same . . . .


#27 Sleep Stills by Pippa Best
4 June 2012, 10:17 am
Filed under: ALL, Responses to the project

My friend Pippa Best sent me this short film yesterday in response to the project. I have known Pippa since early childhood when our parents were part of a baby sitting exhange so it is very appropriate her film is about childhood. Pippa and I lost touch for several years then accidentally bumped into each other and discovered we were both working as script editors. I love Pippa’s film which is very different the other time lapse videos of children around and was really quite moved that Stay the Same had anything at all do to with its creation.

Pippa also runs a website called giving support to mothers and exploring the creativity of motherhood in all its forms.

On Standing Still
1 June 2012, 10:31 am
Filed under: ALL, Diary entries, Responses to the project

Twenty days to go.

There has been some more press interest in the project recently. Interestingly the focus this time has been more on the idea of me standing still which I quite like. It’s very true that the process of making this film has involved standing still in many different ways. Every day I stand in my spot for ten minutes trying to be aware of my surroundings and not drift off into thinking about worries and to do lists. I have had stand still by staying in the same place and not travelling for a year (which is very different to my former life). The film is also visually an attempt to stand still within time allowing it to flow around me.

I spoke with someone from the BBC yesterday who asked whether other people could gain something from the idea of standing still. Instead of the rather garbled answer I gave I should have just said yes. None of us stop and stand still often enough especially outside. Even here in Knoydart it is is easy to get caught up in a false sense of urgency. Before you know it weeks have gone by.

So yes, maybe we should all try to take ten minutes out each day or even once a week wherever we are to stop and notice our surroundings and remember what it is to be alive.

Certainly today as I filmed I felt sad that this year is nearly over and shall miss my morning visits to the loch shore.

Here is the often quoted poem Leisure by WH Davies which my mum sent me not long after I started the project which feels appropriate to share now.

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

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