Friday, January 25, 2008

The Curse of the Creative Itch

What is it with me? I had five must-do projects already. But here's the thing - you never know were a new trail will lead. And you can't pass one by untried.

It's like when I'm writing long fiction. I have a general idea of where I am going. But if new characters pop up out of nowhere and do unexpected things, I'm too curious to stop them. Is that any different from the situation where I have five projects on the go and a sixth flits into view? I have to follow. Both cases are manifestations of the same character trait. Creativity, I like to call it. Lack of focus is what others say.

So there I am, having a perfectly rational week, editing the book on dyslexia that I stumbled upon writing just before Christmas, when a shape shifts on the periphery of my mind. Not an idea - that would suggest something formed. This is a half-formed thing, or less. Suggested initially by another writer, Ms D.

Well, Ms D. and I batted this formless thing back and forth across the Internet for a couple of days and it started to have shape and colour. And wouldn't you know it, I now have six must-do projects to follow and I'm grinning with the pleasure of discovery.

That creative itch.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Gone Fishing

There are two unusual things about writing this film review. The first is that Gone Fishing is a short. The second is that I have to declare an interest. I’m an associate producer - one among a very large number of others.

But then, there are plenty of unusual things about this movie. Shot in widescreen by a hugely experienced director of photography, Vernon Leyton, it presents itself as a Hollywood epic. But no Hollywood moguls were behind its creation. Last year, Chris Jones, of the Guerrilla Filmmakers Handbook fame, sent out word that he was going to make a short film good enough to win an Oscar. Anyone who wanted to be involved had only to donate £50 and become one of the associate producers. If they were film professionals, they could give their time and expertise as well. All for free, of course.

It says much about the character of Chris Jones and the strength of his vision that the money came flowing in from around the world. So did the people. And last night hundreds of them, along with many of the great and the good, attended the world premier of Gone Fishing at BAFTA in London.

The film follows an elderly man who is coming to terms with bereavement, helped by a young boy and their shared love of fishing. It was the cinematic scale of the movie that hit me first - the epic widescreen vistas, the depth and subtlety of colour, the crisp and powerful soundtrack. The gravity of Bill Patterson’s performance as the bereaved man is beautifully counterpointed by the innocence of the young boy, played by James Wilson.

But all this cinematic and acting excellence would be useless if the story itself failed to deliver. The magic of narrative is, and always has been, its ability to take an audience from their ordinary lives and immerse them in another world, in other people’s emotions.
To do this within 10 minutes is a big ask. Perhaps that is why so many short films are deal with shock. Easier to write a short about vampires or suicide than one dealing with subtle emotional transitions.

And yet Gone Fishing delivers an emotional load that matches its aspirations. I, along many others in the packed audience, laughed in moments of humour and felt the prickle of forming tears as the story delivered its promise.

If you have a chance to see this truly beautiful short film, grab it. And watch out for Chris Jones in the future. If he can deliver this in 10 minutes, what will he be able to do in a feature length movie?