Reflections & Resolutions 2017/18

[With some of the Night Owls team at Beeston Festival - and looking very shocked to have won a trophy! - in March 2017]

   What can I say about 2017? Last January, the world seemed to enter the new year with a sense of cautious optimism.  2016 will doubtless go down in history as one of the most depressing years; it gave us a constant stream of celebrity deaths and potentially disastrous political results. But, from the off, it seemed like 2017 would be worse, with the previous year's media-friendly deaths replaced by one of the most shocking and distressing terrorist incidents in UK history (the Manchester bombing) and the catastrophic fire of Grenfell Tower. 

   Luckily (and I use that word lightly) the rest of the year seemed to be an extended 'slow news month' - minus the constant bumbled attempts at Brexit and the continued concern that President Trump may in fact start World War III, at some point, when he's less distracted by Twitter and sexist comments. Which leads us nicely on to the final news event 2017 will be remembered for: the Weinstein scandal. 

   2016 gave us celebrity deaths; 2017 gave us a slew of 'dead to us' celebrities, with a whole ream of beloved male figures (including Weinstein, Louis CK, Dustin Hoffman and - the one I found hardest to accept- Kevin Spacey) accused of sexual misconduct. Stomach churning as it may be, I can only hope this current media frenzy results in positive changes for the future. Women will be more confident to speak the truth, stricter sexual harassment rules will be enforced in the workplace, and the film production 'big leagues' will no longer think they can do whatever they want without repercussions. That's an element of our industry that has been commonplace for too long, and I welcome the change.

   For me, there are a few things I will remember 2017 for, starting with the good events in my personal life. I finally moved out of the city, to a beautiful little cottage in the countryside, which has made me immeasurably happy. On top of that, Edward and I managed three mini holidays (that's a record for us!) including a trip to see one of my favourite singers, Kyla la Grange, in concert. Also, my second nephew was born, and my uncle finally married my wonderful new aunt. On top of that, I received a small work promotion (and took on the extra responsibility that came with it!), and I'm now 'Head of Post-production' at the creative agency, Dynomite Productions

[Mastering Janet Devlin's Songbird tracks at Abbey Road was definitely one of the highlights of 2017 - and of my career in film so far! Photo by Rick of Insomnia Music Management] 

   But, as with 2016, the majority of my year was taken up by Songbird, including a lot of weekends and late nights. At the start of 2017, we were more than half way through the edit, and optimistic we'd have it finished by summer at the latest. Flash forward to late November, and that is when we finally finished the film. 

   As the saying goes, 'it was the best of times, it was the worst of times'. I may write a separate blog post about the film's post-production, as I learnt a many things from it. A lot of the delays were for the good of the film, to make it the best it could be, but there were line-up changes and bitter disappointments along the way (all of which we managed to overcome) - and every week we went over our intended finish date, I felt more and more guilty for making our backers wait longer. But their support along the way (and constant twitter banter!) was a highlight of the project - and every month spent in post-production was another opportunity to work with another artist who was bringing something new to the film. The late nights spent on the sound design in Autumn, recording broken beer bottles and staged 'fairy noises', was particularly memorable! 

   Now I can sit back (or rather, step away) and watch how the film does during its festival run. We're working with a brilliant Festival Doctor team who I know will open doors for us, and I hope Songbird brings happiness to audiences around the world.

   There was one other sizeable project this year - my art department work on Superfreak Media & Siskamedia's horror short After Party. I hadn't worked as a production designer in a while (by choice), and this was a particularly challenging return to the format, featuring a low-budget set build and multiple props that had to be hand-made. Although it reminded me how time consuming art department work can be (and sadly it's not something I have time to do as much as I used to), the film had a really cool concept,  and the team was so lovely to work with, as always. I really hope to see After Party at more festivals in 2018.

[Me, looking overly serious while decorating the set on After Party, Easter 2017. Photo by Ben Wood of Aperture Alternative.]

   Night Owls continues to do me proud, even at the end of this year. No short film is ever going to be a smash hit, but we've consistently had nominations and won awards from February to December (with lots of those given to the film's actors, which made me incredibly happily). And, for the first time ever, I actually got to take home physical trophies. The film has screened as far away as Poland and Kew Gardens in New York during its festival run, and now that it's reached its final destination online, I hope it will continue to reach new audiences. In the next few months, the film's producers and I will be looking into digital sales options for the film, so it may be available to buy soon.

   I still live in hope that one day we'll be able to make the feature-length version of Night Owls. 2017 was the first year I made progress in that department, as I managed to garner some interest in my feature projects - including a very exciting phone call from potential developers in the Spring, which led to months of writing, budgeting and sizzle reels. But you win some, you lose some, and eventually the line of contact went quiet. At least we've had the experience, and we have the materials in place to fight again in the future.

   Finally, but above all, this year has been a bit of a soul searcher for me. I asked myself a lot of questions, including, 'why do I do what I do?' and, 'am I good enough to do it?'. As laid out in my 2017 resolutions, I also spent a bit of time trying to improve and progress myself as a director: I applied for various opportunities, and took a directing course at Raindance in February. For a while it even looked as though I'd get a business mentor (which was my prize when I won a Rising Star award for my work on Night Owls), but unfortunately that didn't progress past a few initial emails.

 Ultimately, I realised that while my skills are gradually improving, my mind set has gone in the opposite direction. This year has been exhausting without giving me space or time to actually be exhausted. The last few months have been particularly challenging - and I'm really grateful to the people who went out of their way to bring me wine and keep my neurotic behaviour in check (you guys are my heroes, and you know who you are) - all of which has led me to think long and hard about what I want to do next year.

[I'm spending the last of the year at home in my cottage - and we've just seen the first proper frost in years. Goodbye, city life!]
  I do have one project coming up quickly - a secret, exciting project that's set to film at the end of February, providing we can bring everything together in time. Although we can't say anything about the film publicly, I'm completely in love with the subject matter, and my wonderful cast and I have already had some incredible rehearsal sessions, so I know it's going to be a brilliant shoot.

  I'm also supporting another filmmaker with her upcoming production. I've followed the work of the brilliant young director Jess O'Brien for while, and last Spring I sent her a script I'd written. With her latest draft, she has already elevated the material to something greater than what I gave her, and I'm really looking forward to seeing the finished film - now called 'Hidden' - after it goes into production early next year. Be sure to follow Jess's page for updates.

  One more thing I have to look forward to in 2018 is the fact that my production company, Triskelle Pictures Ltd., turns 10 years old! That makes me feel very proud (and very old!) so I'm sure I'll be sharing lots of reflections and new media content to mark that milestone. I'll also continue to work with some of Triskelle's wonderful clients, and I hope to gain some more in 2018.

   But, apart from the work mentioned above, I do plan on doing less next year. When the secret project is complete, I plan on focusing on my clients and other paid work, giving them the best films possible, but that's all the work I intend on doing next year. I need to get myself mentally and physically in shape again; I want to find time to exercise and cook meals from scratch rather than microwaving my tea at 10pm most nights; I want to be with my friends without saying "it's been ages since I last saw you!"; I want to walk down the street without feeling constantly stressed about all the work I'm juggling; and, most of all, I want to bring genuine enthusiasm to every project I undertake. I'm dying to start work on my next short film (currently just called 'The Barn'), but until I feel as though I can make 'art for art's sake' again, and love every second of it, I need to hold off and keep working on me. It won't last forever, but it's something I need to do.



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