“I think, coming from a stand up background, you are always operating in this really weird, blurry place, where it is you on the page, but it’s not, and it is you relaying your experiences, but it’s filtered how you want to filter it. You’re very much presenting – so for me I think I’m presenting the very best version of myself a lot of the time. Or present a version of events that has to be slightly simplified, or angled slightly.”
“So for me, I think that’s how I’m trying to write now. It makes sense that the character’s called Josie, and is very similar to me and is very similar to my stand up persona, but isn’t me. And it makes sense to me that Darren’s character is called Darren.”
Drawing from Experience
Long’s transition from stage to screen has been a long time coming. Now 31, she recalls taking meetings during her mid-twenties and discussing her desire to direct. “now I’m like, ‘fuck that’” she confesses, “I’ll write a film for me to be in, that is great, I love it, but especially meeting Doug, he’s such a natural director, his personality is so suited to it, mine is just not.”
Instead, Long’s focus is on telling stories that reflect her experience of life, “The reason I’m doing it is because, for a long time I’d wanted to, but it’s only preceding the first one that I felt like I had something to talk about. I’d gone through a big break up, and I’d basically lost faith in my life and felt very lost, so I wanted to talk about that. I also wanted to experiment with using my stand up voice, and trying to put that in a whole world.”
“In the first film it’s mainly her on her own, and it’s about this woman who jettisons her life in London to move to Glasgow, because she has this fantasy about it being this indie paradise, theme park where she’s going to fall in with this band she loves and walk into the sunset. The reality is she’s very lonely and she’s not facing up to any of her problems. And then the other character in that film is Darren, who plays this guy in a coffee shop who she’s in love with, and he doesn’t feel that way at all.
“The second film is sort of 18 months on from the first film, but they’re not exactly the same characters, but they are called Josie and Darren. And it’s about their friendship as flatmates, where Darren is Josie’s best friend, and Josie is Darren’s flatmate. And how much you can rely on that.” She pauses for a moment, “It’s about giving more than you’re getting, and how much you can rely on platonic friendship.”
For most production teams, the next step after completing a short film is a festival run. For Long, who laments that the twenty minute running time of her shorts, “is not the right length to apply for film festivals”, that’s not the only option. Consequently, she’s taking the films on a nationwide tour and, as she puts it, “presenting both of those films with a bit of stand-up to explain me, and where I was in between. And then, us getting to tell the story of us making films, and hopefully that’s of interest to people. A lot of fun things happened.”
Blurring the Lines
In both cases, the ‘Josie’ the audience are presented with isn’t quite the ‘Josie’ sitting in a basement with me on an autumn day, discussing these films, “It’s not removed from me, but I feel very comfortable on stage. Sometimes I feel more comfortable on stage than I do in my life,” she confesses, “I can be so fucking awkward in my life, but when I’m on stage I do feel, quite often, so unconstrained and so playful and so happy, like I could go anywhere with it. So it’s definitely well established. I wouldn’t say that it’s super-defined in terms of what it is or what it isn’t, I feel quite free with it, but maybe I’ve just got this one writing style that I’m developing”
So is there a difference between ‘film’ Josie and ‘stand-up Josie’?
“Definitely. The characters that I’m writing are not me; and they’re not even as much ‘me’ as my stand up persona. But I do like this weird blurring that we do, I don’t really understand why we’re doing it, but because it’s so new”
“You can’t hide. If you’re going to make anything creative, you will lay yourself bare, even when you think you’re being sophisticated and clever and shrouding it in different characters, whatever you see fit to make says something about you, you can’t help it. And I don’t mind, truthfully. Neither of these films are 100% autobiographical, obviously, and they are – what’s nice about the filmmaking process is you start out being really ‘splurgy’, and it builds, and goes off, and the collaborative process takes you off.”
With two short films under their belt, Long, and her filmmaking partner, director Doug King, are currently developing a feature, “It’s the same characters, more or less” she explains, “In the first one Darren and Josie don’t really know each other, in the second, Darren and Josie are sort of pals, but it means more to Josie, and in this one Darren and Josie are really close friends. And I suppose that’s partly, in a way, like me and Doug are friends now.
“I want the feature to be about friendships and taking people for granted, and also about family, ad feeling like you don’t have a family, and feeling like you have a lack of connections in your life, and what you do when you feel like you don’t have enough love and support in your life, where you reach out to.”
“I don’t even know if we’re going to get it screened, let alone distributed,” she confesses, “but I feel like I want to develop a style with the crew, that I’ve found, with the director that I love, and see where it goes.”
Was it worth it?
“I feel like, with these films, it doesn’t matter what happens as long as we get to make them. Making those two films was the best thing that happened to me last year. It was such a fun, brilliant process. We made them on no budget, and very few people will see them, and yet it was as fulfilling as anything I’ve ever done. And they’re there. They won’t disappear. And that for me is quite good compared to stand up, which is so ephemeral.”
Josie is currently touring both shorts around the UK. If you’d like to see them, and you really should, you can find your nearest show here.