Over the past year, I wrote, pitched, developed, shot, and edited an 8-minute short film for Sky Arts, having never done four out of those five things ever before. It’d been several years since I had decided that I wanted to make films, and I had almost nothing practical to show for it, other than a few dusty scripts. Part of it was a money thing (I had none), part of it was a confidence thing (I had none), and part of it was a home thing (I was unofficially crashing in my girlfriend’s student flat). But apparently, you don’t need any of those things in order to make it happen. You just need an idea, and enough belief in that idea to convince talented people to help you fill in the gaps.
The film in question, Losing It, is a very odd, very dark sex comedy that pulls on the seedy visuals of Gaspar Noe (it’s very red), and surrounds a drunken hook-up gone wrong. You can look a little deeper and see that it’s really about consent, and gender roles and failing masculinity, and all that fun theoretical stuff. But mostly, it’s prime goal is to make you laugh/squirm, in that classically British “this-is-so-awkward-I-want-to-tear-off-my-own-skin-just-to-make-it-stop” kind of way.
It’s not particularly deep, or even remotely family friendly (to this day I’m still terrified to show my own mum), and after finishing the script, I was fairly adamant that it was too screwy and weird to ever actually get made. But it was what I wanted to make and in my gut, I knew I had to at least try.
A lot of filmmaking is just putting yourself out there. It wasn’t something I was very good at at the time (and even now I still need a pretty big push), but explaining my idea to even just one person was a huge step in the right direction. It helped me climb out of my own head and actually rationalise the things I was thinking, and put some grounding to why I was thinking them. At a bit of a crossroads, I ended up entering a Creative England/Sky competition called Shortflix, which helped newbies like me with no industry know-how get their films made. Again, I didn’t have an awful lot of confidence, I just figured it would be a great step towards becoming more comfortable in sharing my ideas.
Lo and behold, I was not laughed out of the pitch room. When you’re surrounded by strangers who have the power to totally change your life, and you’re pitching them a story you consider far too dark to even share with your own family, it’s pretty much an all-or-nothing style situation. You just have to own it, and never apologise. It was probably the fastest life lesson I ever got, and every time I had to talk about or explain the film from thereon, it got easier and easier. A few more pitches and workshops later, Losing It was funded, and in pre-production.
I’m not ashamed to say that from thereon out, I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was however, surrounded by an unimaginably lovely crew of people who did, and step-by-step, I explained how I wanted the film to look and feel. Over several months, it came together; we shot it all over two days in Peckham, edited it over a month (with feedback), scored it, graded it and at the beginning of this year, finished it. I had no idea what different camera lenses were, or how editing software worked, or any of that technical sorcery, but when you’re surrounded by people who do, you learn. You ask questions, you work together, and you come away with not just a film, but an entire experience that you can draw from moving forward.
Making a film in abstract seems virtually impossible. There are so many moving parts, so many things that you’ve never done before, and almost always that creeping suspicion in the back of your mind that whatever the hell you’re trying to make is actually terrible. There’s no real trick to making it happen, you just have to find an idea that doesn’t let go of you and put yourself forward.
If it keeps you up at night, and you keep coming back to it, there’s a reason. You jump in the deep end. You learn what you need to learn, ask who you need to ask and stop giving yourself excuses. You’re reading this on the internet, which means you have access to hardware powerful enough to write, shoot, edit and distribute a film. So why not use it? No matter your background or even your sense of humour, everybody has stories they want to tell. Own yours, and tell everyone who’ll listen.
Losing It airs as part of Shortflix on Sky Arts, Thursday 24th May from 10:30pm, and will be available on Sky On Demand and NOW TV straight after.