Tuesday, 26 May 2009

What Is It And What Is It To You?

Why do you do it? That seems to be a question occasionally asked about my film making. As to why, I'll do my best to answer later, but first it may be worth asking, as did Talking Heads, "How did I get here?"

I'd have to say via Stephen King. He was the author who I became obsessed with around the age of 13 or 14. Although the name was already familiar to me, via articles on him and the film adaptations of his work in the computer magazines I read as a child, it was a random book which pointed me to him and set me off on this path. I was in Nottingham town centre with my dad and we were in one of those overstocks book stores, much like "The Works" (the nationwide chain of overstocks books and stationery in the UK.)

For some odd reason I picked up a book on horror films. I wasn't a particular fan of horror films. I wasn't a particular fan of any particular genre of films, I could pretty much enjoy any type of film. I was flicking through the pages and stopped on a double page spread - on one side was a close up of a pair of eyes from Brian De Palma's "The Fury" and on the other was the grotesque decaying corpse of Alice Krige from "Ghost Story" (a film I've still never seen.)

There was some old man walking behind me who looked over and saw what I was looking at and made some comment along the lines of "That will rot your brain/ That's disgusting/ etc" Perhaps it was an act of teenage rebellion, of confirmation that getting this book would set me apart from them, those who were so outraged by a "disgusting" photo from a film. I really have no idea why, but I bought the book, read it hungrily, took it on holiday with me, read it some more, even copied the film stills from Carrie into a sketchbook...it became pretty much my bible and I did my best to try and see as many films that were featured in the book as possible.

So from this it naturally lead to Stephen King and Carrie was the first book I picked up. It blew my mind. Maybe to a teenager who already had feelings of alienation and not quite belonging it struck a cord. I lent it to my friends who all loved it instantly too. From this I started to read as much King as I could, with Night Shift probably being the collection I returned to again and again, and The Stand er...standing out as possibly the most impressive book of his I'd read.

This would all lead to reading lots of James Herbert, which lead into a dabbling of Shaun Hutson. One of my favourite lessons at school was English and from reading these books I'd have daydreams of being a writer of some kind. But for some reason, probably the usual doubts that some teenagers have, I suddenly came to the conclusion that I had no style or flair to my writing. Of course, it didn't occur to me that most people at the age of 15 don't...but it was enough to put me of at that time attempting to be an author. What an ass.

So if I wanted to tell stories, what was the next medium I could do it with? Comics seemed to be the answer, so my friend and I decided to make a comic together. I would write and illustrate "Armour Geddon", the story of a narcissistic misanthropist cyborg law enforcer, which was supposed evoke the anarchist humour of "Marshall Law" comics. The fact I couldn't draw very well didn't stop me, until my friend's comment about my drawing ability got back to me second hand...and that seemed to kill that idea.

With that in tatters (and our proposed fanzine comic "Bad Apples" of course never materialising) I figured film making would be the next logical way to tell a story. Here it wouldn't matter that I couldn't draw - I would "paint" with the camera! Hurrah, I thought...which lead to the debut opus of "Agent 008.5 and Fez Head", as mentioned in my first post. From there it lead to a college course where my main reason for going was just to get my hands on their equipment.

So really, this whole wannabe career and aspiring madness came from a simple desire to tell stories.

As to why, I don't know where my desire to tell stories comes from. I was thinking about this a while ago, recalling musicians being interviewed and they'd say portentous things about "living and breathing making music." I don't think I have that same drive. I know some people who seemingly dedicate every spare minute to films and film making, but that's not me - I like to have other interests too, which some could say are a distraction. Maybe I won't "make it" because I'm not one of those using every spare moment to work on their film making career. Maybe.

But what I have realised is that when I'm not expressing myself in someway, either by writing a script or making a film, I get grouchy and miserable. The irony being that the fighting with production logistics, or tedious post production periods where I'm convinced I'm an appalling film maker makes me pretty miserable at times too.

So I can either be miserable and grouchy doing nothing, or potentially miserable and grouchy with something hopefully half decent to show for it at the end.

Its not a great reason, but it makes sense to me.