October 23, 2011 by Rhi
It’s been a funny old few weeks in the Bint household. Thinking about Stuff has featured highly on the agenda, for once. In truth, this thinking has been partly due to an overwhelming urge to avoid returning my house to its previous state, before we were over run two weekends ago. The problem with having your house used as a film set is that it requires a certain amount of de-personalising. My wedding picture is back in place, but is obscured by bamboo in a vase (which should be on the fireplace), and a pile of literary textbooks and anthologies which I had planned to read sometime in the next ten years. But the house has reached the state where in order to make it properly better, it has to become an awful lot worse for a few hours. The worst part of having a clear up – the moment when you look at the chaos around you and realise that no matter what happens, you HAVE to finish tidying now, even if that means another hour of looking for drawers in which to hide sheaves of paper. I have lots of these sheaves – it’s the downside of living with a writer. I’m terrified to throw anything away in case what appears to me to be a scribbled essay note turns out to be a brilliant idea for the entire plot of a novel.
But yeaaaaah. Stuff. Work stuff. What do I do next stuff. Is this a good idea stuff. What is it that I want to do anyway stuff. Nothing serious then. Ho ho.
Anyway, it was a fraught production – more so than usual. The weather was bad, and that meant interior shots. A lot of interior shots. And as my house basically consists of an open plan living room/kitchen/dining room, and two upstairs bedrooms which were full of production kit, it meant we had one room to use as a studio, a canteen, sleeping quarters, and anything else as required. My production office was on the patio, Giles’ director’s office was the front porch. We made it, is the main thing. We handed the film in on time, completed, and everyone was happy. Not only that, two days later we had the joy of seeing our names in large letters on Screen One at the Glasgow Film Theatre. We even had a proper Orange “Please Turn Off Your Phones” trailer preceding the screening. So in that respect – in showing us what the possibilities are, and in having the chance to mix with other people who also spend much of their lives thinking about films – it was a definite success.
It taught me a few good lessons as well, which were timely considering the plans I’m making at the moment. The first is that I don’t enjoy producing as much as I used to. I sort of fell into the production role after I finished university, due to our theatre society having a sudden influx of new talent. By taking on the role of producer alongside an inexperienced director, I was there to hold their hand, do the dirty work (like recasting roles at the beginning of a production week – no, really), and generally be a Mummy to everyone so that they felt confident enough to learn and grow in the creative roles. The problem is now that I working with more experienced people, the role of producer (for me, at least) is nothing more than logistics and paperwork. Which, fun though they can be as part of a wider creative process, left me feeling rather bereft on this project. And it ultimately resulted in me feeling very little “ownership” of the finished product. It was an odd feeling, probably brought on by the time restraints. Not that I felt the film should be “mine”, but I didn’t get that elation watching it back, thinking “I helped make that”. More “that was made in my house. Oh look, there’s my engagement ring in shot. And I’m glad I thought of Glasgow Green as a location.”
After some advice, I came to conclusion that my “finished product” on any project is less ambitious: For people to learn something. Not necessarily for me to teach them it. But to create an environment which is professional, but safe and welcoming. Where not being the best at something isn’t a problem. Where not knowing the right way to do things, or not having the right colour hair for a part, doesn’t matter. When I’m involved in a play, or a film, or a whatever, I feel happier when I think everyone feels equally valued and has an equal chance to be involved. Of course, sometimes this can lead to a drop in artistic standards. But then, I’m not really cut out to be the next Peter Hall. Ten years ago, I think I thought I’d like to be. But old age, and reality, have mellowed my ambition somewhat. In any case, brilliance is a matter of personal taste. Being the best at something isn’t always the most important thing – sometimes the person who tries the hardest, without reaching the greatest heights, achieves more in the long run. Call me a wooly bleeding heart something or other if you like. But for me, theatre has always been about community. It’s no fun unless everyone has a reason to be there.
And so, on Tuesday, I’m heading into Glasgow for a meeting to set up all on my ownsome. And I want to make theatre and films with people and children who don’t get the chance to do it, have maybe never even thought about doing it, and giving them the opportunity to learn something new. A new skill, a new way of expressing themselves. Or just a few weeks of fun and messing around in costumes. Whatever. Doesn’t matter. What does matter to me, in the first instance, is I get to have fun with scripts and stages, and theatre, and film again.
There is a bull just around the corner. His horns are mine.
PS This is my favourite film from the Glasgow 48 Hour Film Project. There were several absolutely brilliant films made – impressively good considering the time scale. But this one just tickled me. If you know Glasgow, you’ll know why.