Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass … here I come!!

March 13th, 2014

DSCF0939This weekend is the wonderful Guerilla Film Makers Masterclass 2014 and I am so very excited.

Now it’s not the first time I’ve been to the masterclass. It’s not even the second. In fact I try to go every year. There is a metric tonne of information about filmmaking to be had and it’s true by now I know some of it by heart, but that doesn’t mean hearing it again isn’t useful. In fact if I’m to meet my goal of getting my first feature made in 2014, then I really need this info hammered in big style this year. Of course Chris Jones can do that. He is just so inspiring. And he has all the tales to tell, of both the triumphant and the cautionary varieties.

Guerilla Filmmaker's Handbook

Guerilla Filmmaker’s Handbook

This year I am taking my trusty assistant with me so it’s guaranteed to be both fun and creative. I am positive we will come away with a truckload of creative ideas to get busy on in the coming weeks.

If you’re at the masterclass, make sure to say hi!

Happy New Year! Now get up and write!

January 7th, 2014

Happy new year to you all!

Natural Posture

Mindful posture – good for writers and all who sit for too long!

I’ve been out of action a while after a spinal injury. I’m on the mend now and finally back to work. I’m not allowed to sit for long periods following surgery and this has been a major blow to my writing.

It’s been so frustrating not only being unable to sit, but also having to stay on the move for half the day and lying down trying to give my spine a complete rest for the other half. It’s been tough to figure out whether writing fits into the mobile half or the resting half. Many people suggested a standing desk and I did try to write upright, really I did, but I find after a minute or so my posture would slip and I’d be resting on one hip or the other. Keeping good posture at a standing desk is not easy and needs building up gradually over time. I quickly realised that post-surgery was probably not the best time to build up duration in these muscles.

I tried writing lying on my back, but as it turned out this was just as short-lived an activity as writing standing up. And that’s the thing about recovering from spine problems, you’re going to be frustrated and uncomfortable and what you’re just going to have to accept is that you can’t do the things you want to do for some time. Accepting not writing as my path back to writing was a hard pill to swallow.

An ounce of prevention…

If you’re writing (or editing film or processing pictures or making music or working in any job where you’re sitting in a chair for any length of time) prevention is much better than the cure! The moral of the tale, if there is one, is to mind your spine. Get up regularly, move around, stretch, do some squats, walk around your desk.

If you’re working from home you have more opportunity to do other activities, not less. Go put a load of laundry on, make the beds, put a stew in the slow cooker, run the vacuum cleaner round. These are all activities that can get our bodies out of those stuck positions we get into when our minds are occupied with work.

Remind yourself to move!

The Jawbone Up

The Jawbone Up – bracelet pedometer that connects to your smart phone and monitors your exercise and sleep as well as being a great way to remind you to move when working and writing

The Jawbone Up is a good way to get you out of your seat. You can set the bracelet to vibrate every 15 minutes. You can even plug it into your iPhone or Android to track the number of steps, the depth and length of your sleep and the intensity of your workouts.

Maintaining good posture while you work is important, as is having a good supportive seat. But, the main thing is to move regularly.


Happy Writing! And Happy Moving!!

Some things I found that helped:

Book - Treat your own Back

Book – Treat your own Back

Treat Your Own Back

Physiotherapy cushion - posture wedge

Physiotherapy cushion – posture wedge which helps to take pressure off your spine when sitting at a desk

PhysioRoom Seating/Seat Wedge Posture Spine Cushion

Physiotherapy cushion - lumbar roll

Physiotherapy cushion – lumbar roll which can help to prevent slouching in your chair by supporting the curve in the lower back.

The Original McKenzie Lumbar Roll – D-Shaped (Packaging Varies)

Ginger, Curcumin and Boswellia

Ginger, Curcumin and Boswellia – I found this very useful for joint inflammation and pain relief along with Omega 3 Fish oil capsules

FSC Ginger Curcumin & Boswellia 120 Tablets


How Characters Meet

July 18th, 2013

In story, people meet easily.

Stories are based on characters meeting one another, being inspired by one another, taking on a mentor, finding a love, making a friend. That is story.

Characters meet one another with ease all the time. How often do we see characters who are lonely or sick or have little confidence suddenly meet someone and the adventure begins. Ten minutes in and they are sharing their innermost secrets and bearing their souls. It’s all so easy and it gives the impression that all any of us need is a call to adventure with the right compadres and we’re away, the heroes of our own journeys.

In real life making a friend, meeting someone, or really talking to someone, is a rare thing. Maybe that reflects more about me, the writer, than it does others. I am quite an outgoing person but on my journey, in my experience, meeting people is rare. Talking to people is commonplace sure enough.  But connecting with people is rare and unusual.

If you don’t agree, think about how often people talk about the weather, count coins into  another’s hands, hold doors open, say thank you.  That’s meeting someone in the most basic sense. But in those situations are we really talking?  Are we really embracing that individual or the experiencing of meeting them?  Are we really connecting with a person on a deep level?  Are we even acknowledging that they are a person rather than a shadow on the wall or a part of the furniture of the outside world? Are they just a representation? A figment of reality perhaps?

And just how many people do you dismiss, fail to meet or disregard? Dustin Hoffman spoke very honestly about his role in Tootsie  and said that if he met himself (dressed as the character) at a party that he “would never talk to that character.” Of course we all make similar judgements and we all value our time and our attention. When did you last dismiss someone?  Were you meeting them as a person? Did you even recognise their individuality? Did it even occur to you to find out they are as a person?  And why not?

What it takes to embrace a person is something deeper. Maybe I can acknowledge the sovereignty of you, your individuality and the uniqueness of interaction with you. Maybe you are acknowledging me in that same moment. But unless we interact on the level of sharing our interaction – the meta conversation – of making it clear that we both realise we have both met a person, lets see what other ways we can interact, have we really met a person?

Unless that happens have I really met a person? Has a person really met me?

Meeting on Film

Stories are often about great individuals who meet people each and every day easily, but should all stories be about those great people? Can most of us relate to them? Can they really teach us or inspire us?

I believe stories for the screen need to have an element of greater truth in this regard. They should reflect the struggles that most of us have. People for whom meeting people, let alone connecting with them on any deep level, is a big challenge.

Characters aren’t real people of course. Mostly people display the parts of themselves that fit – that mask of sameness that is required by society. On the tube train we keep our heads down and our headphones in. Yet in front of our colleagues and our friends we pretend that we meet people easily, that we are open and non-judgemental.  We meet people mostly through introductions and then we take a long time to get to know one another. If we only have 90 minutes for a movie there isn’t a lot of time to build a realistic friendship.  We learn how to interact from what we see on the screen and it’s not representative of real life.  And it is in this area of realistic human interactions that I feel the media does most damage to individuals.

If someone came up to you in the street and started talking to you about a recent death in their family, would you take that opportunity to really meet that person, or would you excuse yourself with the reasoning that grief had rendered them temporarily unable to behave as society expects by keeping themselves to themselves. Yet how often do characters in stories take the time, make the connection, give of themselves, get involved? Let’s be clear here, I’m NOT saying characters shouldn’t do that – my belief we should all be interacting that way as real people! –  I’m saying that in order to make stories more real we have to show the extraordinariness of the situation.

Stories must at the very least demonstrate how hard it is for most people to meet people, especially if our eponymous hero has any kind of arc. If he’s brilliantly charismatic from the start then maybe that’s a bit different.  If we’re watching James Bond then it doesn’t matter too much. For stories that purport to be realistic, gritty, dramatic, romantic or tear-jerking, then a certain level of angst at man’s inhumanity to man is to be expected. And maybe relating to the common man’s loneliness is a touch stonethat should require more than the standard shot of a lonely individual walking down the street.

It takes more than that lonely character just talking to one particular individual to get over their loneliness, their isolation. To meet each other on a “I realise I’m alive and I realise you’re alive, let’s interact” level. HOW is their conversation any more than exchanging the weather?

Subtext comes into it a lot here, as does performance. Dialogue takes many edit passes to get that depth in terms of building both connection and discord.  How can we learn to invoke those nuances that make the difference?

We can learn a lot by observation, listening to conversations in the street, by watching people. Notice how ill at ease they are. Is it real or is it a mask? Notice the people that don’t interact or who are dismissed by others.  Do you think they were really interacting? Did they even realise they were talking to another person?

We can learn a lot by paying attention to ourselves. Did you notice your last interaction? What did you say? Did you feel like you met someone or were you just passing by?

When did you last have a conversation with someone about life and death? Did you share your existential fears? Must people or characters always be facing some trauma, illness or death in order to discuss these things? Aren’t we always facing life and death? Isn’t the potential for trauma always just around the corner for us all?  Why wait to have that conversation? We put our characters through it all the time and yet we never do it ourselves. We think we’re being realistic when that conversation is based upon imagination. It’s not. Put yourself in the situation. Try it! Then you can write not only from authority but with a whole host valuable information and experience to share.

My daughters decided to buy and give away balloons on the street recently. Not for any reason, just to be nice. To make people happy. It must have taken some guts to go up to strangers. I’m not sure I could do it. Would they be rejected? Would people understand or would they throw the balloons in their faces? But the people were delighted and I’m so proud of my daughters for both coming up with the idea and for actually doing it.  It was a pleasure to hear them tell the tales. They met some great people and really seemed to have connected with them. People were surprised, I imagine, to have someone notice them. Some of them even asked why they had been chosen.

Maybe you could try something like this? How does talking to people make you feel? What are the emotions? The bodily sensations? How did they react? What did they say?

Does this change how you think about your characters meeting?  Let me know.

Is the Crisis of Confidence Part of the Creative Process?

July 15th, 2013

It happened to me today. A project I’ve been working on for a long time no longer made sense. Suddenly my mind was deluged with questions. Am I spending too much time on it? Is it likely to see any return that equates to the investment of my time? And, er, what on earth were my reasons for doing this in the first place?

All my reasoning and motivation were gone. It’s like hitting the wall in a marathon. Nothing makes sense to you and everything that has driven you this far has abruptly and mysteriously abandoned you. Sound familiar?

These crisis of confidence moments are uncomfortable. We may even end up searching the web for the answer to our sudden crisis. (Maybe that’s how you ended up here. Thank you Google!) Anything to help us feel a little better and get us out of this feeling and back to the task at hand.

But stop! These feelings are here for a reason. At least let’s give them some time to settle before dismissing them.

A recent article in Scientific American says that negative emotions are key to our well-being.

I think negative emotions are key to our success!

It’s time to let these emotions linger awhile. Sit in that discomfort. It’s an important part of the creative process. For example:

  • The crisis of confidence helps you to re-examine what you’ve got.
    What does your project actually consist of? Is it a bunch of incoherent ideas (which your negative critic might tell you) or is there something more to it?  This is the time to evaluate. It lets you ask if this project is really right for you. You can look critically at the potential of the project and whether the return is worth your time and investment.You don’t need to act on your answers just yet, just let yourself explore the possibilities of passing on this project and moving on to something new. How would that make you feel?Explore and let yourself feel it.
  • It’s a perspective outside of yourself
    When you’re in this state you effectively have your worst critic giving you feedback. Use it!If you only think positive thoughts about your project, there’s a higher chance that your positivity is clouding your judgement.  Being negative for a little while allows us to improve, work harder and realign. You don’t have to beat yourself up, just let your inner critic rag on you for a little while, write down anything useful, then tell it to go away again, thank you!Then get to work!
  • It’s a release of negative emotions.
    Negative feelings, especially ones we are repressing or trying to hide from, have a habit of building up. Once they hit a critical mass they come out, whether we like it or not. As long as you’re not throwing things or yelling at your kids, catharsis is good.Let yourself feel bad. Feel the hurt. It’s safe to allow the release. If you need to yell at the sea, punch a cushion or sob into a whole box of Kleenex, let it out!
  • Positive Self-Talk
    Now that you’ve got those negative emotions out of your system, your inner critic has had his say and is safely relegated to the attic, it’s time to employ some lurve. Self love. No not that kind. I mean positive talk, a chance for your flagging ego to practice the art of positive nurture and compassion. Be kind to yourself!Do something nice for yourself. Take yourself on a date. Buy yourself a treat. Talk to yourself as you might talk to a child or someone you loved. Visualise hugging and supporting the younger version of yourself. Would you tell them it’s ok not to be perfect? Would you say that they’re doing their best? Say what would you say to them to make them feel better and more confident again.Give yourself that gift!
  • Talk to collaborators
    Your crisis of confidence is a chance to find out how your co-workers and collaborators feel about the project. Sharing your doubts as well as your nurturing process shows them you are human, which is never a bad thing.It gives them the chance to relate to you and share any doubts of their own – chances are you’re not the only person feeling it. You find out the level of their commitment and dispel any concerns.The crisis of confidence, if honestly approached, creates a natural opportunity for everyone to re-invest and get excited again.

So next time you’re finding yourself doubting, when the entire reason for your enterprise has suddenly turned into a question mark, don’t fret. Let yourself go through the process. Feel those feelings. Let yourself examine it. Don’t be afraid to let yourself see where you end up.

Your project will be all the stronger for it.


Your thoughts?




Rant: High Concept Microbudget Feature Writing

July 8th, 2013

Booze 1I hear it time and time again: it’s all about the concept. And that concept is what everyone is chasing.

It seems to me that all anyone wants is high concept. Something new. Yet not too new. In fact, if it could be very, very like a product that already exists, but yet is somehow different in a new and refreshing way, that would be just great. But, and I can’t stress this enough, not TOO refreshing or TOO different. So really kind of the same. But different. Better. We don’t want the audience to have to think too much and we definitely don’t want the film executives to have to think at all. Or take any risks.

Oh and we’re not going to pay you very much. Or even anything.

It’s no wonder screenwriters like me are sitting round staring at the keyboard and sweating into our cheap liquor.

It’s perhaps why most of my screenwriter friends are still aiming for the big tamale … the impossible shot-in-the-dark of their script getting optioned by someone with a proper budget, with a proper cast, by a proper production company.

Champagne on iceTo my mind I would be better off buying a lottery ticket. I mean the odds are 14,000,000:1, right? That HAS to be a better chance than selling my high concept heartwarming, gangster, animal, rom com script to Hollywood.

It is all too much to consider and too, too depressing. So we sit at our keyboards after doing our day jobs, quietly turning profound messages and interesting characters into what we think are great scripts (even if in the present climate they are totally unmarketable) in the vain hope that one day soon things may change. The market will come out of its slumber, someone somewhere will decide that it’s OK that filmmaking is a risky business and decide to take chances once again. And maybe then the wheels of the industry we love and want to be a part of will begin whirring back into life.  And new movies will start to flow again. Fresh movies, wonderful movies, full of intrigue and adventure and humanity and with really great writing. With titles and taglines that contain none of the following words: “reboot”, “sequel”, “prequel” or “amazing”.

Of course Steven Spielberg thinks the whole movie business is about to implode and we’ll all be stuck watching reality TV, with our boredom only occasionally relieved by trotting off to the nearest big city to see a *movie blockbuster*, like the coach trip I went on once to see “Cats” and “The Phantom of the Opera” on stage. A once in a lifetime sort of thing, perhaps.   (And Steven Spielberg has a yacht. A big one! So I figure he knows something about where the film industry is headed.)

For me and my hopeful, hard-drinking screenwriter compadres, it’s all pretty depressing. Make mine a double!!

More boozeFor me the only glimmer of hope is in independent filmmaking. That is picking up the camera and doing it myself. I have what it takes, except quite probably the talent, but apart from that it all seems sort of doable. I like that.

And with that in mind my scripts are starting to flow again; I can put down the cheap liquor and write to produce, right? Well no, not really. Screenwriting is an already lethal cocktail: concept, marketability, fresh but not too fresh, different but not too different, with really great characters, great male leads and lots of scope for actresses to get their tits out. In indie filmmaking all this still applies, because the movie-going public’s taste has been shaped that way, but now we have to add in the vital ingredient of low budget filmmaking into the mix, and suddenly you have a truly terrifying concoction.  Prepare to be feeling the effects of this brew for a long time to come.

To most Joes in the street, low budget simply means no helicopter explosions, no CGI, no big name actors.

To the independent filmmaker low budget means one location, no money for professional actors (so nothing requiring too much emoting), no catering (“well maybe Mum can put on a pan of stew, but no, she’s never heard of vegan”) and absolutely no budget for makeup, props or hair. “Oh and can you bring your own clothes? Preferably several identical sets. They may get damaged so nothing too good.”

To go to that much effort all on your own credit card limit, auntie’s life savings and the coins you found down the back of the sofa, you need to have a really really good story.  Which is where I came in at the start of this rant, but now rather than selling it to an industry that doesn’t want it, we’re investing our own money and that of our family and friends.

It has to be a story that’s so profound and heart-warming or so horrifyingly scary that it’s going to enthuse every single one of the people you’re going to need to cajole into crowdfunding your project or giving their time and effort for free.

The story is going to have to be so important that you’re going to see it through the long miserable edit stage when all your hard work is in the can and you realise it looks like shit; the even longer harder and more disheartening getting it shown stage where the distributors are going to do their absolute damnedest to get you to give them your movie for free. Zero, zilch, zip, nada.

And the story is going to have to be so ingrained into the very fibre of your soul that you’re going to stick with it right through the stage where your ego demands that you drop this absolute millstone of a movie immediately so you can move on to new projects because this one is really just holding you back from being the truly great filmmaker that you are.

Is your story important enough that when you tell your backers the eventual truth which can’t be avoided, that they still feel like they’ve been part of a worthwhile project?? Because let’s be honest, the sole purpose of making most films is to give *me* a shufty up the ladder a bit, or get *me* some attention as the brilliant screenwriter/director/filmmaker/producer/actor etc that I am. It had absolutely nothing to do with giving anyone a return on the financial investment they made in the film. “Sorry Granny, didn’t I tell you? There’s not actually any money in movies.  Only egos and self interest.”

Does your story have the legs to make it through all that?

I see so many stories that just aren’t going to go the distance.  And the project is going to be doomed from the start.  Just because it’s indie, doesn’t mean it’s enough to just make a movie. It has to be a good movie from the off and that is starting with a really great script, a really valid concept and something worthwhile. It’s worth getting it right!!!

The quality of independent films has to improve and that starts with the script.  And if the guy with the yacht is right, and I happen to think he is, we are running out of time. If the concept of the movie is to survive the coming implosion then the quality of independent films must improve fast. We can’t take our lead from the film industry because, let’s face it, that system is screwed. Independent filmmakers need to show solidarity by refusing to play the distributer’s games and by embracing the new methods of distribution that are available. It’s absolutely vital to do it together as the film community, which I think is a much nicer phrase than film industry.

A community is made up of individuals. And for me that’s the fun. I like pootling about and doing it myself. The challenge as always is in stretching me.

Kind of like this guy:

Anyway, rant over. Bottoms up!! 🙂



“Help! My granny is on my Facebook!”

June 20th, 2013

Tips for when Business, Social Media & Family don’t mix

Social media changed everything. Our work, our relationships, our families.

Family get-togethers that took place a few times a year are now daily occurrences. Uncle Joe’s lurid comments that were once tolerated around the yuletide dinner table aren’t so welcome when they crop up in reply to a Facebook comment by your boss.

This is all new stuff for families to deal with, and while some of us are canny, most of us are not. Social media makes it all too easy to air dirty laundry in public, inadvertently let the skeletons out of the family closet or rekindle old feuds with a quip that the commenter thinks is in private.

For those of us who work in social media or who use it as a tool of our work this is all potentially disastrous. Do I really want my carefully crafted PR campaign brought down by Auntie Maud commenting on her longstanding grudge against Cousin Gertrude? No!

But we’re all human and short of blocking our family members, what can we do?

I believe that education is the key. We must accept that not everyone understands the nature of the newer communication methods. Here are my thoughts on how to approach this if it is a problem for you:

Have the conversation!

Sit them down and talk about it.

Explain that this is your work. It may seem obvious to you, but if they spent the last fifty years going down a coalmine every morning they may not even realise that social media is part of your work.

Explain that the people you communicate with are your co-workers, bosses, business partners or clients. With luck, they may start to behave differently straightaway.

Explain the medium

They may well be using the web but that doesn’t necessarily mean anyone has actually explained it to them.

Many older folks also do not understand that when you share something you aren’t necessarily sending it to them. It’s not that they’re narcissistic or think the world revolves around them, they probably just don’t understand the nature of mass communication as you do. My Mom thanks me for sending her photos every time I share one on Facebook. The difference between sharing something and sending it isn’t necessarily obvious to the octogenarian when a notification pop-up arrives on their iPad.

Explaining that it’s more like publishing something in the newspaper than sending a letter or having a phone call will help to reduce the potential for awkward commentary.

This is particularly important with older relatives.

To many older folks writing a series of Facebook comments really is the modern equivalent of having a phone call. Explain that it isn’t. Facebook comments can be widely seen, easily shared, and are potentially actionable, both in civil and criminal law.

Inappropriate Comments

Explain to Uncle Jim that while he thinks he’s being funny imitating Alf Garnet, those types of comments will offend, and that if the worst came to the worst, Uncle Jim could find himself in prison for making them.

It’s entirely possible that Jim doesn’t know this. Possibly because he can get away with making those comments at Thanksgiving dinner and no one ever spoke up. That doesn’t mean he can say them publicly.  Times have changed and he may not have got the memo. (And you may want to reflect on the pitfalls of holding your tongue before your next family gathering!)

Criticizing Others

People talk about others behind their backs. It happens. But what if they do it on social media?

Often the response is “but so-and-so can’t see your Facebook”. This is where you have to explain that privacy is not guaranteed. What if a friend of so-and-so sees it? Comments are easily shared and screenshotted. Privacy settings can fail. Companies such as Facebook can have faults that show things that we think are hidden.

And the last thing you want to feel about your timeline is that it’s been turned into a minefield of potential problems caused by other people if you change your privacy settings.

Another thing to consider is whether you want to allow your peers seeing your relatives having a spat on Facebook. Will that change how people view you for not handling it better?

If you find you’re spending all your time being a cop on your own Facebook page just because some folks can’t behave, then maybe it’s time to take action. Especially if the miscreants are your family. Your work, your time and your image are important!

Remember the phrase:

“My Facebook. My Rules.”

Sending an email is not the same as sending a letter.

Explain to granny that emails are not like sending a letter.

We take great care writing out the address on an envelope, but an email can easily end up with the wrong person. It may get sent to multiple recipients, be forward or intercepted by strangers.

She may send an email in the heat of the moment or say things that she wouldn’t write on paper. If she understands that actually she always accidentally CCs you in the emails where she’s slagging you off to your sister, maybe she will take more care next time.

Give them a chance to change

Once you’ve had the chat, give them some time. Granddad gets a trial period after the conversation. Watch carefully and be ready to hit the delete key. If they don’t improve then blocking is the best answer.

Remember, you’re not blocking a family member; you’re blocking their account from accessing yours. You don’t let them access your bank account, so how is this any different? There is no reason this should have any impact on your relationship. After all you don’t take your great aunt to work with you, so why should she be included in your social media campaigns and business relationships?

If you have the conversation is a gentle open way then hopefully they will feel comfortable to use social media and you will be spared the discomfort of them sharing your baby pictures with the new client you thought you’d just bagged.

Criticizing You

Another key area to consider is criticism of you. What if the comments are from a relative or friend who criticizes you?  Other people may not notice the comments, or just write them off (after all pretty much all of us have one relative like that!) but those comments will go straight to your heart and slowly but surely zap your confidence.

It’s easy to take those little jibes day in and day out, but what do they do to your self-esteem?? You can work on yourself to reduce the affect the comments have, but by the nature of who they are our families have the ability to wound us, and wound deeply.

Consider blocking that person’s account as a serious option.

Again it doesn’t have to affect your relationship, you’re just choosing to give them less surface area to rub up against you on. Explain that this can even be better for your relationship. You will have more to talk about next time you see them because they won’t know all your news already, and your interaction will be much fresher.

Let’s face it, it’s pretty disappointing when you tell your great-granny you are getting married and she says “I know. I read it on your Facebook.”


I welcome your feedback so please reply. Or you can drop me an email or via Twitter.


Are we collaborating or loafing?

June 19th, 2013

An interesting article relevant to collaboration on projects from Lifehacker yesterday prompted an interesting discussion as a result. We are told that we should collaborate … on films, scripts, game development, crowdfunding projects, open source coding.

Collaborate is the continual mantra!

But it’s important to bear in mind that our projects mean the most to us. Others just aren’t as invested as we are. They can let us down.

This is perhaps due to the phenomenon of “Social Loafing” – a tendency that has been demonstrated when individuals pull on a rope less strongly when they believe others are pulling with them. If you’re talking about a project that you want to share the load on it’s important to remember that sharing the project means everyone pulls significantly less than when working alone. This includes you!

And it’s perfectly normal and something we realistically have to expect.

I think the moral of the story is that we should be sure we need to collaborate before we do. Could you perhaps be learning the skills required to do a task that you are about to ask someone else to do for you? At least then you would know how to do it yourself next time.

Food for thought?

My Hero’s Journey to #GFilm

June 18th, 2013

DSCF0939I 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!

Thanks for reading. I love feedback so please get in touch or better yet send me a tweet. (If you’re not on Twitter, joining today would be a positive step on your journey!)


Back from Gfilm. And wow!

June 17th, 2013

Wow! What a weekend at Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass!!!

Now I’m home and organising my notes. (I keep them  all and they get a little more detailed every year as more of it sinks in a little deeper!) I’m also networking with my friends old and new from GFilm 2013 on Twitter. (New delegates: remember to follow up those contacts! Don’t just get home and forget about it! Opportunity is knocking!)

Update: What I’m up to…

Screenwriting is going well and the filmmaking side of the business is hotting up quickly with several new shorts shooting in the next few months.

As always I am writing articles on a variety of subjects from personal development to new tech and screenwriting, filmmaking and photography. Also researching some long tail projects too.

I am busy preparing for the London Screenwriter’s Festival. I made a commitment last year that this year I will pitch! I am keeping that promise and my friends will keep me to it!  Pitching is a new step for me (although I did get to pitch to Slumdog Millionaire assoc producer Ivanna MacKinnon as part of my MA course and I didn’t die from the experience!)

Setting Goals

All nicely chunk-able, doable steps with measurable success. (So go ahead make your plan!!)

It’s the start of the journey and, as Chris Jones said at Gfilm:

it’s the journey not the destination that counts

Update … PHP, filmmaking, fun!

May 29th, 2013

20070226zcI’m enjoying working with WordPress again and mucking about with PHP. It’s been a while, so I’m more than a little rusty. It’s like riding a bike though, right? You never really forget … :p

I am finding coding a natural accompaniment to writing for me lately. It’s good to have something ‘doable’ to focus on when either the “blue mist of writer’s block” or the “brown mist of writing bad” descend over my day.

I don’t think I’m going to meet my goal of entering competitions this year sadly. Too much has been happening to get around to that sort of writing. I shall aim for next year instead!

That said, the London Screenwriter’s Festival website has informed me that I have a whole 149 days to get ready to pitch, and presumably there will be a competition this year that I hope to enter (though lord knows how they are planning to outdo the 50 Kisses competition of last year!!) – assuming I can get myself organised in time!

I’m also hanging out for 2013 Guerilla Filmmakers Masterclass, which I’m sure will be another incredible weekend this year, although this time in June. 

On the subject of filmmaking, I’ve sprinkled many and various filmmaking books liberally around the house in the hope that these seeds will grow my family into budding filmmakers. * The Guerilla Filmmakers Handbook also comes in a handy pocket size which is great for leaving in the bathroom – there is no escaping the indoctrination in this house!! 😉

Back to coding for now …

ps. if any London-based WordPress coders happen to read this, London Screenwriter’s Festival are hiring! Scoot on over there and take a look

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