I’m writing this in my shed, the place I retreat to when trying to work. On the wall in front of me is a series of index cards as I plot out my next film, Tilo In Real Life, an urban fairytale that I intend to shoot over the coming months. Strange to think that this is where I wrote Voyageuse a few years ago, not knowing if I would ever make the film.
So when I heard the news yesterday that Siân Phillips has received a nomination for Best Actress (Film) in the BAFTA Scotland Awards, I sat in my usual chair, pleased in the knowledge that not only did I make V but that it’s given pleasure to a lot of people and gained recognition from my peers, many of whom wish me well though some, I’m sure, are perplexed by my no-budget, outlier movie.
When I texted Siân with the news, knowing she’s busy on another film, I was surprised when she responded immediately – ‘Ohmigod!’ she wrote, ‘that’s an unexpected cherry on the gorgeous cake.’ Needless to say, I’m absolutely delighted for her.
And so it goes. Returning from my London trip to screen Voyageuse, last week I received an invitation from Allison Gardner, Programme Director at the GFT and co-artistic director of the Glasgow Film Festival, to show the film in Dublin on October 23 as part of a showcase in conjunction with the Dublin Film Festival. This is great news, as is a further screening at the Watershed, Bristol on October 31 where I’ll be doing a Q&A. It seems the film, rejected by several festivals last year is – at last – gaining some attention.
Over these last few months I’ve done a lot of soul searching as to whether it’s worth the time and effort involved in attending these screenings. After all, Voyageuse, like so many other indie films, has no sales or distribution – not that I’ve attempted to secure a deal. As everyone in the business tells me – ‘it’s tough out there’ – meaning not only is it virtually impossible to get a meaningful release for the film, by which I mean theatrical, VOD and TV sales in various territories, but also how difficult it is for films to attract an audience even with a deal, made all the harder with no festival selections and reviews.
This, I remind myself, was never my intention. Sitting here in my shed, contemplating Tilo and the impossible task I’ve set myself: another film made with no resource apart from the little I can summon from within, I realise I might just as easily be making a piece of furniture or painting a landscape. Working in this way, I try to see the upside. To shop Tilo as a conventional film to potential backers would rob me of the time, energy and focus needed to make it. To attempt to crowdfund would be a major task and it’s not one I’m equipped to handle.
Frankly, it’s enough of an effort – but still a privilege – to sit in my shed, stare at the wall and find the will to bring Tilo into existence knowing the decisions I make now I’ll have to live with for the next couple of years. I know too that I might fail but how else am I going to find out? Judging by the test sequence I’ve shot and edited, I’m very encouraged. In the end, however, I recognise the fleeting, seductive but ephemeral nature of film so for now I’ll go with the flow.
The above image is of Siân Phillips standing outside Picturehouse Central in a splendid yellow coat. Her agent, Simon Beresford, was quite stunned by the film and offered me his entire roster of actors. If only I had a project that could put their incredible talent to use. One day…