I got asked a few times at the Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass why I attend the class every year. And I can see why new delegates might ask this - surely you do it once and then “zoom!” you're off making films.
That viewpoint makes sense - it's a class so why would you want or need to take it again?
My answer is this and it takes you on a little bit of my journey since beginning:
The decision to make films for me represented a massive shift in direction. It was also, through my family's eyes, completely left-field. Chris advocates taking massive action - which is great and some people can plow through and take all the necessary steps to make a stage 3 film in one long process.
Where are you starting from? My story…
Massive action is an honest process. You have to be honest about where you are, what you have and what you're capable of. When I first made the decision in 2009 I wasn't ready to do it. It was just an empty dream. I hadn't turned it into either credible goals or manageable steps to achieve it.
In so many ways.
I started by signing up for a masters degree in Screenwriting at Bournemouth University. But no way was I ready to do that. In fact in 2009 I even found it hard to sit in the classroom with 20 strangers for the entire first day. It was too uncomfortably far outside my ordinary world. I was used to working in my office with Adrian. The only other people I would see in a day were my children, who were home educated. We lived in a bubble. Freelancing allows you to do that. It's a trap and I didn't realize how much of a trap it was until I tried to step outside the bubble.
I ended up deferring my uni course for a year and undertaking a plan to get myself ready to do things that many other people take for granted: being in the room with other people. In my twelve months preparation I got out more taking screenwriting courses and exercise classes. I had therapy to help me with the social anxiety I had realized had been with me my entire life. I read everything I could about screenwriting, filmmaking and read lots of scripts. I took courses at Raindance and sent my kids to Met Film School with strict instructions to come back and teach me everything they learned.
When I went back to Bournemouth I surprised myself by being able to sit in the classroom and participate in discussions. It was brilliant. I loved my course. My teachers and my classmates were and still are an inspiration to me. I hope they always will be. The people we meet along the journey and collaborate with stay with us. If you're cynical this is called networking. I call it making friends. For you perhaps that is normal, for me it was wonderful and new, for I had lived almost all my adult life (all my life if I’m honest) in a type of isolation of my own making. And for me it was a way to step out of my bubble. At least for a few days a year.
My journey takes me to the Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass and the London Screenwriters Festival every year - to top up those friendships, make new ones, to learn a little bit more. And, lo and behold, each time I find I am that little bit closer.
The Effect on my Family and Friends
By 2011, my decision to become a filmmaker was having a massive effect on my life and who I was, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, this was having an effect on the lives of people around me. I just hadn't noticed.
Now this is where my journey may start to sound familiar to those of you who haven't lived as isolated a life as I had:
As you come away from Gfilm with new aspirations, your friends and family will be noticing the difference in you. And they may not like it. Change breeds insecurity and things that are out of our control create fear. At the start of 2012 my husband, best friend and business partner of 18 years moved out - suddenly and out of the blue. My secure little bubble of existence had popped, leaving the kids and I inexplicably shivering in the real world. A place we hadn't really been before. So much to learn. So much to overcome.
But we did!
It hurt a lot though and I had a whole new set of problems and heartache to deal with. Attending Gfilm became a lifeline for me, as did the London Screenwriter's Festival and completing my MA.
But rather than dealing with all this alone, I now had many friends from the filmmaking and screenwriting community to help me get through it. I thank each and every single one of them for the wonderful support they gave. You are all dearer to me than you know. Especially Chris – you see he’s not just a guerilla filmmaking guru, he’s a mentor on the journey. And he’s been a wonderful friend.
My Return with the Elixir
My adventure has certainly taken me some places I didn't expect. But it's my path and I will walk it. We each live our own hero's journey.
For me in 2013, returning with the elixir was returning to GFilm this time with Adrian by my side. After the acrimony of a divorce, him being beside me represents 18 months of heartache, therapy, couples counseling and a shitload of soul-searching. (All good grist for the writing mill!)
Adrian are both different people now. Life outside the bubble does that - just like in a movie, the characters are forever changed at the end. But the surprise is we are both better prepared for the filmmaking journey that I am on. And we are back in business, which is great.
Including those I love in my Journey
By attending GFilm with me, Adrian was able to see what it was all about, meet some of my friends and watch me network.
He realized I hadn't been mad or crazy over the last few years. And that there were in fact lots of people just like me sitting in Tuke Hall.
Best of all, he got to learn from Chris - first hand - the things I've been saying about filmmaking. And I watched again as Chris worked his usual magic to plant the filmmaking seeds in all our hearts during the weekend.
And I watched it happen to Adrian. On Sunday evening he came out blinking into the June sunshine in Regent's Park, and I could see it in his eyes, that most blessed thing at the end of any story: a call to a new adventure. The start of his own journey into filmmaking.
And that’s a path we can walk together.
The magic worked. Thank you Chris!!
Here’s my advice for new delegates:
- Do the audit! Do that inventory that Chris suggested. What ARE your strengths? Where ARE your passions? What are your weak spots? And be honest with yourself. That way you are more likely to succeed because you are starting from a firm base. Even if that base, like mine was, is zero. Zero is a lot better place to start from than a lie!
“There’s no point saying there are no weeds in your garden.
The weeds will take your garden!” – Tony Robbins
- Who will walk beside you?
Understand that your family and friends may not understand the change in you as you undertake your journey into filmmaking. Let’s face it, for most people it is kind of odd! Take notice of the feelings of the people in your life. (I didn't realize the effect my changes were having on the lives of those around me - but that didn't mean that we weren't able to get onto the same page in the end!)Talk to them about movies; find out what they like, use their strengths and their interests to include them in your filmmaking. (Consider making a film about your partner's sports team or your children's drama production. Let them see the benefits of this new you!!)
And maybe consider taking those you love along to the next Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass with you. Who knows, maybe they will catch the bug themselves. Then you not only have moral support - you have a production team!
Have fun with filmmaking. And enjoy the journey!