I have been meaning to write for a while and reflect on the whole experience of finishing and showing this Stay the Same. I really enjoyed updating this blog and keeping a diary during the filming, but chose not to do this during the edit because listening to ones instincts becomes much harder if there is more than one voice giving feedback at a time. It has been strange not to share so much here for such a long time.
It has been an incredible six months travelling with the film, watching it in different venues, hearing different people’s responses and gradually gaining a little distance from it. The criticisms I had during production have become a distant memory and of little relevance anymore; the questions now being what is next? and where do I go from here?
Finishing the film was a massive relief and at first I wanted to get it out as quickly as possible; but there are lots of festivals that require your film to be a premiere, or at least not available online and showing films in film festivals still seems to be important within the industry in terms of getting the right people to see your work. But it has done me no harm to go slowly and let the film find it’s place and audience.
That said, showing the film publicly the first few times was nerve-wracking. I was effectively asking people to sit and watch me stand for fifteen minutes without saying anything and had no idea what people would make of it. I didn’t want to explain the film too much before people saw it and certainly couldn’t stand up and say “it’s OK it gets a bit quicker” half way through as I would have like to. My fear was that people would walk away feeling nothing and maybe this has been true for some people – they have just been too polite to tell me.
But it has been incredible and surprising to find that at almost every screening at least one stranger has approached me, or even contacted me afterwards by email to tell me how moved they’ve been by the film. It seems I have made a film that a small handful of people are effected deeply by, which is wonderful and I am very grateful for those who have told me. It has made it all worth while. It seems almost taboo these days (at least within the world of film) to say you are not aiming for mass appeal, but rather to touch a few people deeply. But if I am honest this was always my aim, Tt make a film like a poem that occasionally touches people the way poems occasionally do.
There doesn’t seem to be a particular kind of person who is moved by the film and most find it hard to articulate what is that has moved them, sometimes it is a sense of connection to my journey, others a moment of reflection on their own lives. There seems to be an equal amount of people who simply come away puzzled, who have approached the film more intellectually and are not sure what the message is that they are meant to have ‘got’. I have also had more than one declaration of love which I certainly didn’t expect after all those cold early mornings outside with no make up on! Whichever way I am eternally grateful to everyone who has shared a response.
My own response has changed over time. Watching the film with an audience has been really interesting, sometimes wonderful and other days unbearable. Some screenings it feels like I am tuned in to the audience – sensing the moment where people decide to go with it, others I feel claustrophobic I can’t stand to be in the cinema with myself on the screen and I am glad I am now coming to a time where I don’t have to be at all the screenings! That said a highlight was watching the fim from the stage at the BFI Southbank when I could see see my dad’s reaction to watching the film for the first time.
It is, for the most part, the film I set out to make and I am very very pleased with it and thankful to all of those who helped me particularly Fraya. I am continually gaining insight as to why I made it and what it was I was trying to express. I am often asked to speak about this, but I too find it hard to articulate without resorting to cliché. It is my own small attempt to express something about the experience of existing, to add my contribution to the many voices that have done so in the past and will do so in the future. If I could sum this up in a few sentences, then I would not have needed to make the film. What I am reminded of each time I watch it is that everything passes; sometimes this is painfully sad and sometimes this is for the best.
Whatever my emotional response, the film has now placed me in an interesting position. In my original pitch to the film council I said the film had cross-platform potential and might get exhibited in art galleries, but I’m not sure I actually believed this. There are lots of artists who move into filmmaking, but art is a closed world not usually open to those who haven’t been to art school. I haven’t really even been to film school (I did an MA in Screenwriting at Leeds Met a time when the writing department was quite separate from the filmmaking bit) and have had no practice based training. Now the film is in an exhibition at the RSA, which I think in art world terms is quite good.
Am I an artist or a filmmaker? Does it matter? Is it even within my power to decide how I am defined. Having been to festivals for art-films and festivals film-films for there are definitely two different approaches and breeds of people and I am not sure I feel entirely comfortable being either one. I want each film I make to be part of a wider practice building on ongoing themes and ideas, equally I want to make films part of the wider world of the cinema, OK these might not be mainstream, but equally are not purposefully obscure. There are not many models of this out there (I am inspired by Agnes Varda, Doris Lessing, Margaret Tait) and certainly there is a sense of both my background and my current location making me isolated whatever I position myself as. It is also true, however that wherever I am based and whatever my background was I would probably be doing my own thing; sometimes this is painful and sometimes it is for the best.
In the meantime I will be working on two new feature projects and am planning to set up a new especially dedicated webspace for blogging and publishing which I will link to here when it is up online.
Please do share your comments and thoughts on the film either here on this website or on the facebook page. And thank you again to everyone who has read the blog and been so supportive of me during the process of making this short film.
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