Satsumas are back in the shops. This is very good news, because I love them (I’m eating one at the moment in fact) though it’s a sure sign the year is moving towards its inevitable conclusion. This week also saw the graduation of the Central Film School students, of which I was one, at BAFTA on Piccadilly. What I’ve discovered over the last year is that film-making in general, and scriptwriting in particular, is very hard and requires frankly preposterous levels of commitment in terms of time, perseverance and emotional energy, so it’s nice to experience a little bit of the glamour that goes with it from time to time. I was also extremely surprised, honoured and grateful to be selected as the school’s screenwriter of the year, particularly as there was such a strong cohort of fellow students. What this means in practice is that after months of keyboard-bashing, soul-searching, tears and parental neglect, I now have a small plastic trophy on my mantelpiece – yay! All in all, my time at CFSL has been intense, emotional and massively instructive. During the year I spent there, I’ve learned a huge amount from some of the most incredible tutors in the business, so I hope they won’t mind me taking this opportunity to say a big thank you to all those involved.
One of the things I’ve come to realise is that I need to be braver and less conventional in the stories I create. I have to make my characters do wilder, more precarious, more unpredictable things and I have to put them in more interesting places and situations. Structure I can do more or less and I think I’m beginning to get the hang of characterisation, but what I need now is to find what’s magical and surprising in terms of images, actions and ideas that will set my stories alight and make them unforgettable. I’ve been working on a short screenplay for a friend. Basically, it’s a rites of passage story about an old woman who can no longer cope with living in her own home, and her over-worked daughter, who comes to take her to a care home. I like the characters, especially the old woman, who’s wilful and quite obstreperous, but it still needs something extra – a stronger twist, a bigger surprise – to really bring it to life. Maybe what I should do is get my heroine onto a tightrope or roller-skates or perhaps free-running along the roof of the National Gallery, though I recognise that persuading a seventy-five year old actor to actually do this might be a bit of a challenge. Heck, it needs something though!
Talking of character studies, over the weekend I saw Mister John, which stars the amazingly lovely and talented Aidan Gillen. The story doesn’t entirely work, not least because some of the situations set up in the film don’t quite pay off with sufficient conviction or drama. However, as a study of someone who is wholly adrift, both physically and emotionally, it was rather moving. Deftly avoiding any hint of pathos, Gillen was pitch perfect as a man utterly disorientated by a double whammy of bereavement and his wife’s betrayal, who battles despair as he struggles to confront the loss of both his brother and his marriage. I heartily recommend.
Acht – writing this, I’ve forgotten to do the laundry again – damn!