Having spent an intense time writing the first draft of my new novel, grateful indeed for the space that the Arts Council Award afforded me, I decided, in the interim, before turning back to face the manuscript afresh, I needed to get something else going. This became a two-pronged attack and one that took far longer than expected, in getting ‘Greys Inbetween’ updated, transferred to Pro-Res, the requisite deliverables and onto the FilmHub shopwindow for TV distribution worldwide: It felt time. With #BLM, it felt that there was an avenue open to me as a non-white filmmaker, with a Black female lead, to get it out there and to an audience that is hungry to see themselves reflected on the screen.
But I also decided it was time I made another feature film. To this end, I took another look at Mental, I did another draft and set about creating a mood board and pitch deck for it. These days it seems, these are prerequisites. It makes sense. No one knows who I am and I need to illustrate how far, how deeply I’ve worked on this project already, not just in terms of the script development, but also the design, camera, lens, lighting, soundscape, soundtrack, cast, set, directing process and budget. I was going to need to think about a casting director, about finance, a producer, and how I approached them.
Making a film, any film, you’re going to have to love it, because you’re going to be with it a very long time before you come out the other side. Years, quite possibly more than a decade, as in my case. ‘Offending Angels’ was seven years of my life. Greys, after being ripped off by the initial distributor, but still tied into a contract, has taken 13 years to finally achieve distribution.
It’s a long, lonely trail, with the job transmogrifying beyond all recognition from how it starts out. It’s a ultra-marathon, not a sprint. But all any filmmaker wants in the end is for their film to find its audience, whatever that takes.
Mental had a rehearsed reading at the Pleasance Theatre. Great cast: Tony Rohr, Sandra Voe, Danny Sapani as the eponymous lead, Marene Miller and Julian Rhind-Tutt doing the stage directions. It was then workshopped by RADA first year actors. I was relieved to find they could find no holes and were in fact pretty enthusiastic, putting the characters through their paces.
One actress chose a speech for her Beerbohm-Tree Agents Evening and the youngster playing Mental -possibly unknowingly- went a great way to saving his place at the school, cutting loose and delivering a superb, volatile performance the tutors hadn’t seen in him, prior.
It was stirring stuff. It was this, plus the realisation that the dedicated page I started on Face Book had been shut down that made me realise I had to make it. All I had done was paste stories of Police brutality- iniquities, deaths whilst in custody, or at the hands of the Police.. all this of course long before the murder of George Floyd. We shall never know whether Chauvin would have been convicted without the searing, unblinking footage so bravely captured by Darnella Frazier. There are many more who never will be.
But to be shut out from my page, when I’d done nothing inflammatory, written no copy, just pasted a horrifying and rapidly growing list of transgressions by police here and abroad.. it was sobering.
Wish me luck…