The Green, Green Light

The first days of 2019 have been unusually busy for this unemployed housewife; work on the script for my new film, Tilo in Real Life, a submission – a long shot – to the US in relation to a major project about Tom Polgar/CIA which I’ve been researching over the last eighteen months or so. I’ve begun to sketch out another script idea, potentially my first live action film since 2003. I’m also fielding requests about screening Voyageuse with my usual cautious pessimism.

After the high of the BIFAs the film attracted a small amount of publicity and comment; an interview with Phil Miller in The Herald, plus a very welcome mention by Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian, coming shortly after his four-star review of the film. It was truly special to swap messages with him during the BIFA ceremony after he tweeted how pleased he was that the film had won. I was surprised too when Siobhan Synnot announced me as her Person of the Moment on STV’s Scotland Tonight. Seems I have a lot to live up to.

As mentioned in my last Voyageuse blog post, while in London I met with the BFI to discuss my possible inclusion in their Filmography. After over a year of swapping emails and an exasperated letter to their CEO, Amanda Nevill, within days I discovered that not only am I now included but that I’m listed among the ten most prolific female directors in the UK of all time. Well, for now.

Reading this back I’m struck by my, frankly, remarkable achievement. My one regret is I have no family to share it with, as I was reminded on Hogmanay when, celebrating with a few friends at home, I excused myself for a moment to privately grieve for my father who died shortly before the Bells only a few years ago.

As I write this, I’ve no idea whether Voyageuse will be seen again, apart from its low-profile presence on Vimeo. On the train back from London in early December, out of the blue I had an email from Paul Williams at Burning Bridges. I met Paul during the EIFF Industry event, Distribution Rewired in June and felt he was simpatico to both me and the film. That he’s bonkers in the best possible way also helps.

We had swapped erratic emails to no particular end but when he contacted me to ask how I was doing and I mentioned the BIFA, he told me he had – finally – watched V. and loved it. The following day he called and we spoke – speculatively – about the film’s future prospects. There’s talk of cinema screenings of V. this year, possibly tied to a launch on a prominent arthouse platform. Of course, I’d love if it happens but in the meantime I’ll get on with making another film.

Like everyone else, I’ve thought about New Year resolutions but knowing how self-sabotage works, I’m cutting myself some slack. With every new project I begin again and Tilo is no different. Of course, given my aversion to a system of funding stacked against me, (not that I’m eligible in Scotland) I’m pursuing the film regardless. To be out shooting on a cold, very dark Saturday night – as I did this weekend – is more fun and thrilling than a night out in Glasgow’s finest hostelries.

Like many, I’ve considered crowdfunding but my heart just isn’t in it. Uncharitable as it sounds, there’s a few people I follow on Twitter who’ve been crowdfunding their films for what feels like aeons. More irksome are those who, on hitting their target, seek stretch goals, post production funding and festival/marketing funds. How many times can you shake down your potential audience yet not produce the goods?

Not that I doubt the sincerity of the filmmakers but I do wonder whether they’ve really thought hard enough about their strategy or their motives. That I’ve managed to make a feature film entirely on my own with no funding in a shorter span than it takes most crowdfunders to fail speaks to a dyfunction, though I’m not sure if it’s mine or theirs.

In weighing my options for Tilo, I’ve decided to keep it really small but (hopefully) inventive. I’m shooting in my home city, or at least, not too far from it. I’ve also got the kit, the skills and the time needed to physically make it. Apart from earning a wage, (as if) the only money required is for hard costs so by working in the same mode as V. this amounts to putting petrol in my ancient car and the odd sandwich (or salad).

Possibly there will be some fees along the way but the big ticket items will be my choice of actor, a good translation of the script into German (I’m already 12 weeks into my German course at the Goethe Institute, by the way) and music clearances, plus the usual legals and accountancy stuff. At least that’s the plan. I’m content in the knowledge that my next film is officially greenlit – by me.

As I say, life’s too short not to make movies, so why make it complicated?

The above image is a one dollar bill, a potent symbol of America and a source of conspiracy stories. It’s also a great piece of graphic design. The current exchange rate pegs the dollar at 97 UK pence.