The Death of an Idea

How to feel like an idiot.

The talent

We just had the cast & crew screening of our short film ‘Stealing Second’ and it was a bloody wonderful night. We had friends and family there. We had backers, actors and crew members… there were laughs and drinks and at the end of it all … I feel totally scunnered.

That’s a particularly Scottish word for it and there is no exact translation. It’s not as serious as depression but it’s not as mild as feeling blue. Scunnered is the emotional equivalent of the flu. You are washed out but you don’t have the physical pain. Just this mental fatigue that might or might not lift. You can work, but be unable to find joy in it. You can function but there seems little purpose in doing so. Is it possible to smile whilst scunnered? Yes, but only briefly and not spontaneously.

And then you read your last blog post – which starts with images of children suffering in war zones – and you think; well aren’t I the feckin’ snowflake with the first world problems.

And then you go back to feeling scunnered.

As much as I had a brilliant night and it was great to see all my friends the screening of the film is actually the part that I enjoy least. Do I like the atmosphere? Yes, up to a point. I like the getting ready, I enjoy the anticipation. I like going to the cinema and doing the tech check and sorting the logistics and all of that. Those things are all work that doesn’t feel like work. Those things are work that feels like fun – and I guess it must be fun because you don’t make short movies or independent films for the money – that’s for damn sure.

I like checking the poster and making sure I have everything before I go to the screening. I especially like seeing the faces as they arrive. People I haven’t seen in ages, people I saw a while ago,people I saw last week. Then it’s into the auditorium and that’s the end of that. Lights go down and pleasure vanishes.

Because there’s nothing left to do. There’s not a single thing I can contrive at that moment to make the film (or the event) better.

A cast & crew screening is especially painful since you are presenting the combined efforts of the entire crew. They have gathered to see what you came up with using all their fine work and no matter what happens… they’ll say they loved it.

You can’t gain anything from a cast and crew screening except some people telling you how well you’ve done – and because you know that they would say so regardless then you can’t believe it. Thus you sit in the darkness and wait for laughs because they are the only currency you can count on – and there are never enough laughs, or they are all in the wrong place.

I know, I know… first world problems.

Truth be told the work isn’t finished in any case. It just changes into different work. Now we send it to festivals and get told no. And we show it to producers and get told no. Same with agents and commissioning editors… we go in search of a yes. And that’s fierce work as any writer will tell you. Rejections are far more common than acceptances.

It is remarkable how slow I am on the uptake though. The last film we did was Electric Man – and that was released in 2012.

Electric Man got a limited Picture House tour around the UK and it went to San Diego Comic Con International Film Festival and a variety of other festivals. It got good reviews and bad. We worked it for two years trying to get it to go.

Which was a mistake.

It had meant so much to us that we were loathe to just release it into the world. Like over-protective parents we accompanied it everywhere and so, when we could do no more, we were utterly spent. And not in a good way.

We’d taken our eye off businesses, family, health… and so, when people said ‘What’s next?’ we just laughed. It was time to take a step back – we didn’t have the heart for another fight. Which, for me at least, is a shameful thing to say.

It took me five years to get the energy back. Sure, there was other stuff on the go. Busy with the charity, busy teaching myself how to edit and shoot in this modern digital era, busy… wasting time. Busy ducking the fight.

So in 2017, having pottered about on development scripts with other people; having attended festival after festival trying to get into rooms to pitch. This went on Facebook…

Forgive the blur, it’s a small screen grab at best. But that small screen grab was a public statement of intent – Dave and me were back in the filming things business.

And now that’s done. And it moves into the realm of other work. It’s early days but it looks to be just as painful as ever. Seriously, for two days after the cast and crew we were just empty. The pattern repeats. So we said, ‘Fuck it!’ and put it in for Cannes.


Which went just as well as we expected.

The beautiful thing about being slow on the uptake is that this also applies to rejection – we aren’t stopping at Cannes.

And the other beautiful thing about repeating the mistakes of the past is that some of those mistakes are worth repeating. I don’t write just so that it can be filmed. I write because I need to fucking write. There are notebooks and notebooks full of ideas – some complete scripts, some less than half a page of scribbled nonsense I no longer understand.¬† As I said at the start – the screening of the film is the least pleasurable part of it. The best bit is in the early days of a project, because that is the only time where I get surprised.

I get to sit in my office and just stare into space for ages. And misty figures appear in my mind. Sometimes I can see them and other times not. Sometimes they stay and move into action and sometimes they vanish before I ever really knew who they were.

And then, as the phantom cast assemble – and give themselves names – I try to move them around. Which is thrilling when it works.

But not the best bit. The best bit is when they move on their own (this is rare) and I get to watch in the cinema of imagination. A perfect story, that has not been rendered worse by my conscious interference Рa flawless  depiction, a purely conveyed message.

Which is where I am now.

Stealing Second moves on in the world – and yes, it must be helped as it goes. But even a slow fecker like me finally gets the idea. I am starting to write the next one – and because I like surprises this is not going to be in my usual genre. There are a couple of options – change genre or change medium. Go for prose or perhaps film once more… only horror this time.

A public declaration helped focus the mind last time so that’s what I am doing this time. The family are heading abroad on holiday, so I have only work and writing to occupy me. Stealing Second is gone for now… long live…

I know, I know…eventually I will have to let this one go as well. Like, I said. I’m an idiot.