A Writer’s lover…

Listening to Neil Gaiman on Tim Ferriss’s podcast “The Interview I’ve waited for…” was quite a joy. My favourite over used adjective word came to mind, it was “inspiring” but no that was not the word to use here. There was a sanguinity to his tone of voice, something decadent about the way he spoke, his reverence for notebooks and fountain pens; and esteemed love and sadness for his friend, the late Sir Terry Pratchett.

To be honest I didn’t know what to expect from this interview and for the first fifteen minutes I was thinking, really…we’re going to listen to Neil Gaiman talk about the materials he writes on and pens he writes with (long). But as the adoration of using these tools to craft one’s art went on I realised that I share the same love for notebooks and passion for writing. I do enjoy typing but there’s nothing like a pen in your hand and writing on paper, gliding the words on the page, the continuity of thoughts.
I worried that my love of stationary was a fetish and I had an unhealthy obsession with pens but what I have discovered is that they are my lovers, and I am just a lover who requires the tools to play with. I know what you’re thinking but I am talking about the  form and process of writing.
Journalling, story-telling, screenplays, poetry – I love words. My vocabulary may not be the landscape of the seven wonders of the world or overwhelm you with colours and shades of the Sistine chapel but I’m sure there is a place for me as there is for you. I guess I feel “normal” and less “abnormal” to be a lover of writing, is it a form that is dying out?

When my partner gave me ‘Neverwhere’ for my birthday, I remember reading a few pages, found myself bored and put it down. It didn’t interest me. I came back to it a year later and couldn’t stop reading, what had changed in a year? I’m not sure, sometimes I’m not ready to read certain books which is why I buy them and shelve them for years. I might read them one day, my aim is to read the ones that I have on the shelf and in storage (gulp).

I love London and reading a book that weaves inside and outside of London streets that I know captured me, I could relate. Whilst working for an old Livery Hall that dates back to the 15th Century, even more stories were animated in my head.
(SPOILER ALERT) I remember leaving the bus just as I finished ‘Neverwhere’ and looked up. I was astonished as there in front of me, I caught a glimpse of ‘The Marquis de Carabas’. I was grappling for my mobile phone lost in my bag as the bus stopped at St Pauls to take a photo, and I thought there it is, London Below has come up to visit London Above. I was so excited I tweeted @Neilhimself

 

I became even more of a believer in fantasy, wonder and possibility. I thought of my “inner child”  not the psychologically damaged one but the “innocence of youth”. It had taken me back to Edgar Allen Poe, Hans Christian Anderson and the Brothers Grimm. Dark stories that I read in my childhood, stories of truth with characters not so beautiful and perfect but those that questioned thyself and others. I grew up with horror and  thriller influences (poor me). I look forward to ‘Good Omens’.

I loved Neil Gaiman’s honesty in what friendship was for him and the loss of a loved one. The beautiful memories of past conversations, accents, admiration, devotion, hearty laughter and an emptiness of being when they are gone. Death reminds us of moments we’d almost forgotten, a period when we experienced happier times. A soulmate of another kind.

Have a listen.

‘The Good Enough Mother’

With a background in acting everything I write has music to it, or rather in my head as I write. Cancion De La Noche

I love reading and I don’t ever read enough but there always comes a time when perusing a book from someone you know can make reading that bit more special.  ‘The Good Enough Mother’  was certainly a piece I was looking forward to reading as I hadn’t spoken to the writer, Anoushka Beazley for some years; and was just genuinely excited to see someone who I had crossed paths with doing extremely well!  I think sometimes, the worry is that someone will read/see your creative output and dislike it. But we put ourselves out there, sometimes with our hearts on our sleeves and not only take risks but hope to connect with the reader in some aspect.

The story opens with Drea who becomes a single, non biological parent to Ava over night due to her Teacher boyfriend who runs off with his Research Assistant to live in France. Drea’s character is funny, dark, sarcastic and shows the sad complexities of humanity that reside in all of us. Why did I love this novel, well firstly I could hear Anoushka’s voice, and even though I hadn’t seen or spoken to Anoushka, it was great to hear her voice in Drea. Secondly, the story of Drea has so much heart and made me seriously think of ‘Motherhood’.

I lost my Mum several years ago and it’s still difficult to know she is not here anymore, that I can’t take her shopping, meet up in a coffee shop, have family get togethers, or simply share my life with her. I contemplate whether I will be a ‘Mum’, ‘Mummy’ or ‘Mother one day, to my kids or someone else’s. Do I want to be a Mum? I ask myself “why this has not physicalised?” I blame the notion of not meeting the man who has wanted to have this “lifestyle” with me, but is this fair?  Did I meet him but not clarify my needs? I always said “never say never to kids” when someone asked me, but then some how the cycle of men in my life that I attracted were the guys who could never commit, disliked children maybe because they hadn’t grown up themselves or possess the required emotional maturity,  or had kids already and didn’t want anymore.

As with Drea’s story I could associate with other issues that perhaps prevent us as in ‘I’ from making those clear decisions. Maybe it was never high up on my priority list, maybe I thought it would happen naturally, maybe I didn’t think I would be a good Mum  or be any good at being tied down and didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of my parents. So, “fear” prevented me? Maybe because my parents were so adamant on me having a career and in doing so gravitated towards people who wanted to take rather than share. Maybe my needs became second to their needs?

With main characters in novels, conversations happen in their head which only the audience can hear and identify with. When I started this post I was debating on whether to call it “Conversations in my Head” partly because we all have them and I do try to stem the demonic ones; but this is about how “The Good Enough Mother” stirred emotions and thoughts I have had all of my life. Maybe because my biological clock is ticking, maybe it has ticked? Oh look, there’s one more thing I cannot add to the bucket list but if I could, would I? Probably yes, most definitely yes if there was someone who wanted this with me. But unwittingly I chose and choose the men who do not and that is one of the most painful decisions I live with daily.

Drea’s internal dialogue is utterly insightful, I guess this is why I connect with her. There are reflective moments that made me feel completely broken, the way we compartmentalise so much until we are forced to confront our issues. The mirrored moment is never necessarily with a person or situation but pages in a book, a scene in a film, even down to the most boring of chores can have you crying because something you read in a novel made you think. Denying how we truly feel about our circumstances and who we are, and whom with we can be ourselves. Sometimes, being alone is preferable than being around people who constantly judge you, analyse you or your situation, who offer advice when it’s not needed or asked for – “The fixers”.

Drea deals with her problems internally, and I wonder if this is a symptom of modern life. We feel guilty for sharing our problems, we consider it “dumping”.  We feel a failure if a relationship has broken down, there’s always blame. We feel shame for not being what Society says we should be, in a relationship that leads to marriage, children, financial and domestic security. There’s nothing wrong with wanting them but there’s equally nothing wrong without having them.

The fear is not loneliness or am I settling for second best or wondering if I had made different choices would I be somewhere else? The thoughts are what if there is someone out there who wants to live the life I want to live, should I keep searching? Maybe I do want to be a Mum? Maybe I just want security because I never had it as a child or growing up? Maybe being a Mum will fill the loss of not having one? Maybe I still don’t know and it’s okay to not know especially if you’ve been through the “I thought I’d met the one” phase and they turn out not to be.

Drea wants to be provide for Ava and though there are lots of ways she doesn’t see, in so many ways she does. She’s responsible, she cares, she admits to not being the ‘typical’ parent that gets stuck in with PTA or makes friends with other mothers for the sake of school. But there is something in Ava’s need to belong and be part of something that also resonates with me. Maybe it’s being a Mother, maybe it’s to say I did well, maybe because there is nothing left of me after I have gone and maybe that’s they way it is and should be. Why does their need to be a legacy of Maria Thomas? There doesn’t.

‘The Good Enough Mother’ is definitely about the human condition and the complexities of how our minds work. The trauma of childhood, the confusion within ourselves by not really knowing sometimes who we really are and we come from, our parents/families influence on our lives or non-existent parents/families in our lives. It all seems to boil down to who am I? Who I am can be anything I want it to be, how I live and whom I live it with is my choice as long as I am happy why should it matter? Who put the time clock in my body and do I have to listen to them? Listening to the conversations in my head can be harmful or amazing, and everyday I have to consciously choose to listen to the voice that keeps me going.

Thank you Anoushka, if ever I do become a Mum, I hope I remember like Drea, it’s okay  to fall as long as I remember to pick myself up and carry on.

Mia’s Fears

Coach asked me today why I was holding back, what is it I feared?

“Losing. It’s simple I don’t wanna lose. Why would  I train this hard and for so long if all I’m gonna do is lose”.  Stupid question, he must’ve seen the thoughts cross my face cos then he said  “Mia, don’t be afraid of your potential”. In my head I was thinking “what the fuck” and he must have read that too because I didn’t have a chance to reply.

“Just think about it”. And we were back into training.

So, I’m thinking about it. Why am I holding back? I know I can be the best so what’s up with me? Then…all these memories came flooding into my head, moments from my life where I had failed. Failed to speak up for myself, failed to help or step in, failed to be a fighter, failed to make my brother proud and that was it.

Everything went in slow motion, and I’m crying. Stupid uncontrollable crying in the street, and I’m searching every pocket to find a tissue, a used one even and then I use my sleeve. Come on Mia you’re 27 and you’re crying over stupidness. Fuck this shit, the only person you have to make proud is yourself, now get it together and fight. Fight to win.

Upstart – Mia’s sprint

My time of the morning, cool crisp wind in my face. No fucker bothering me or pushing me to challenge myself.  A few familiar faces pass, we do what we always do, jog by without acknowledgement. Sunday, my day, my time. Church day, their time. He’s praying for me,  gotta push my brother outta my head. Mia – this is your time!

Tune – “you better lose yourself in the music, the moment, you own it…”

I wanna try some MMA, soon. The fight will be over soon. “Mia, focus. This isn’t just any fight, this is a fight that could change your career, take you to another level”. Do I care? Really, do I? Course, I wanna win…come on Mia no complaining. “You’re lucky, you’re good”. So, what I know I’m good. Don’t get arrogant, why fucking not! I’m not saying I’m the best, but I know I can be.

Fucking doooog, can’t you see I’m running. Why stop here, you fucking little shit! “Sorry”, I wanna kick your ass right now and your fucking stupid little yappy gremlin. Ahhh my knee. Breathe, its fucking hurting, not another injury. “Fucking dog, put it on a leash on next time”. My opponent is staring at me with those disapproving but up for the challenge eyes, my pride already on the floor, walk away Mia, walk away…aaaaaahrrrrhhhhhhh!

Maria thanks the Eminem ‘Lose yourself’ lyrics. Great track to work out to!

A Producers observations to Directors and vice versa…

Advice to Directors

I’ve worked with a lot of Directors either as an Actress, First AD or Producer and I’m not saying this is the “be all and end all”. It’s just a little advice from my experiences.

A lot of the time, the filmmakers are the Writer/Director of their own project and because of this, find it frustrating that they cannot find a “good” Producer. I have asked myself why, and there is no right and wrong or blame here. “Good” Producers are difficult to find and “Great Producers” are rare. Again, this is due to a number of reasons, Producers are also writers, would be directors, actors etc. They all wish to be paid for the enormous amount of time and investment they are going to undertake. Without payment, it can feel like a burden rather than one of the best journeys ever! But also just because someone says they “produce”, it doesn’t mean they can..

Many Producers collaborate on Projects as each are skilled in different areas. But these are not only business colleagues, they are people who have become friends and realise their own potential. If you’re “good” and better still “great”, who wouldn’t want to be paid for their time. Your time is valuable and if you are going to invest in it for free, little money or hundreds then you have to know your own self worth and the projects worth.

I find some Directors expect miracles for their short films and attempting to tell a Director that he/she needs to have a ‘shot list’ should be the First AD’s job. But wait a minute, there is no First AD and you realise you have not only been recruited as a Producer but you are now the First AD or Make-up Artist and Runner. Nothing wrong with those jobs and I guess as a Producer your wish is to see the Director create their dream. On the point about having a ‘shot list’, make sure you have one and stick to it. It’s all very well in your head, but on a feature, the adage ‘time is money’ comes to mind. You also set structures in place for yourself and your team, don’t forget that you working are with tomorrow’s cast and crew and the last thing you want to be known as was some “wishes washy Director, who could not make decisions”. 

If the Director wants to shoots a bold shot that involves some fancy camera work and movement, you will either find that Director can adapt to the environment and find the shot within the capabilities of the location or equipment. If not, then “close that idea down”. It will not only waste time and create frustration on set but it will add to the number of hours you are already working on the project. External locations can be cold or wet, the priority is heat and hot food/drinks. If you are not keeping your cast and crew happy, you will only create resentment, lack of focus and an unhappy set.

A Director who has a ‘great’ First AD, will work to make sure the hours of the day are kept to and the breaks are upheld. I know going to the toilet is a basic human right but the amount of sets I have worked on in front and behind the scenes where you work through for 4/5 hours non-stop. Make sure you allow for comfort breaks and whatever the weather, make sure there is ‘hot’ drinks, heaters, big warm coats on set. I cannot emphasise this enough, get a Runner on set to keep your cast and crew fed and watered. As an Actress, I can see  people flagging, in need of a break or so  cold they can’t focus. Why do this to your cast and crew? If you care about your project then you need to care about the people who are helping create that dream.

A ‘great” Director will be fun, open minded and keep the cast and crew positive and driven. A really difficult thing to do whilst focussing on the film, again it’s only a short. Remember to treat everyone with importance and give every person your time. The smallest gesture of shaking hands and acknowledging everyone you work with including the extras will make a difference to how they feel about your project and what possibilities will be done on set.

Once the film goes into post, the Producer will be thinking of festivals to submit the film to and making connections for the Director. They will be wrapping up any finances that need to be paid and budgets will be finalised. In the short film world, the film becomes the Director’s film and  he/she will look into the festival circuit to see where their short film with suit. They will also look for a venue for the premiere cast and crew screening and some social media with the Director unless there is a designated person for this.

For me as a Producer, I want my job to end when I see that film screened at  festivals. I think the difference between saying you “are” a Producer and “being” a Producer is ‘honesty and action’. Being honest with what your capabilities are from the beginning at least tells the Director that you are interested but have limitations. Secondly, go the extra mile to think outside the box with ideas and promoting the film. You need to create that buzz, that build up, that something special but find what works for that film. Don’t forget the Producer will have connections to people you might not, it’s worth getting them creatively involved.  I love to read the script and suggest ideas to the Writer/Director and most people are open to this. Lastly, I hope that I will work with that Director again, not only will it be the start of a “great” friendship but the journey to the red carpet.