It’s been far too long since I last posted on my blog. Life got in the way and I’ve been looking at various avenues to explore in the future.
As some of you may know from my previous posts I’ve been researching what happened to my uncle and his crew during WW2. They were shot down on 8 April 1942 and have no known grave. Chatting with my neighbour who works in the film industry as an SFX artist, the idea began to develop that perhaps I could make a short film about what happened to them. I began to get involved on small independent film shoots, helping out as a production assistant, runner or stills photographer, to gain some experience of how things worked during a shoot.
But what was I going to do about the script? Alfred Hitchcock said “To make a great film you need three things – the script, the script and the script.” It is THE most important aspect of a film. If it’s not right, the film won’t be right. I spoke to several script writers about my ideas, but realised that by the time I’d told them everything I wanted to use in the script, I might as well have done it myself.
So I did. Despite never haven written a script before.
My initial plan was to write a 15 minute short, but I found as the story wrote itself, the run time expanded to 45 minutes. Not having done any creative writing since my school days, I was extremely nervous about the results. I emailed it to a friend of mine who is an author and sat nervously waiting at my computer for her response. Half an hour later she Facebooked me back saying she was sitting reading it with tears streaming down her face and that it was beautiful. I was stunned with such a reaction and it gave me the confidence to think that perhaps that I’d done produced something worthwhile.
I then sent the script to a script consultant for their input. After a nervous 3 week wait I got their report back. They had offered several options for me to explore and suggestions to help improve the drama and tension. Over the summer last year, I gradually implemented their ideas. They felt that the script was too long to be a short and too short to be a feature, so they suggested that I make the story into a feature film. A daunting suggestion to say the least. I now had to expand the story even further, developing characters, scenarios and interactions, swapping scenes and changing the way I presented existing scenes to make the story more fictionalised to generate more filmic tension and drama.
Over the summer I spent hours on the tube, at lunchtimes and whilst watching TV tapping away on my ipad, moving scenes around, adding in more characters, expanding scenes and putting new words in the mouths of my characters. Gradually the story began to take form.
But I was still stuck for an ending. The crew died and never came back home. I haven’t yet found the plane. How was I going to end something we already knew the ending to?
I played with the idea, similar to The Others, that the crew didn’t realise that they were dead and when the plane crashed, tried to make their way back to England through occupied Europe. However this didn’t work too well so I deleted it.
Then finally I received my uncle’s Bomber Command Clasp. I included that in the script and an idea began to form for the ending. As I wrote, I got a pain in my heart and a lump in my throat. The tears began to fall. I realised that I was on to something. Finally I had found a viable ending to the largest piece of creative writing I’ve done to date. I had written a screenplay! What an accomplishment.
The script is on hold for the moment, but I’m hoping that after it visits the script consultant for another review and rewrite, I will be able to start to put together funding and a cast and crew to film it.
So while I wait, what should I do now?
Just before Christmas I saw an advert for a competition for 3 minute short films and thought maybe my neighbour and I could enter it. I sent him the details and he loved the idea, so I began to think about what I could write this time. Using what I already know about the WW2 RAF, I based the idea around a WW2 RAF veteran who is visited by his granddaughter. She finds his medals and he tells her about what he did in the war.
Time was paramount as the deadline for the competition was coming up, so I had to source cast members, medals and period photos as props, and locations fast. Actor friends recommended someone for my ‘Granddad’ and he very kindly agreed to help me. Sarah Arrow of Birds on the Blog suggested her daughter Jasmine. Jasmine created a video audition of my script and it was great seeing my words come to life as Lucy the granddaughter. And lastly for Lucy’s mother I asked another actor friend if she was interested and she was, so I had my cast. I bought the medals on ebay and my Bomber Command friends sent copies of their relatives photos and letters for me to use as props.
Then the dreaded lurgy struck. I was laid up for over a week and had to cancel my first ever film shoot. I was devastated as we missed the competition deadline. Trying to look at things on a positive note, I then realised that we were no longer restricted by the 3 minute run time and could now make the short a little longer.
Part of the film (called What did you do in the war Granddad?) is a flashback scene of the veteran during his war days and last Saturday we filmed the first ever scene of my first ever film. I was really excited. The actors we used were WW2 RAF re-enactors so they had all the necessary kit and we filmed in a pub near Lasham called The Golden Pot. The owners were lovely and let us film in the gardens, the skittle alley and inside. The re-enactors are from Ops 39-45 and regularly re-enact RAF and WW2 characters. They were wonderful, so patient and offered knowledge and suggestions. We had a great day.
Our first scene is ‘in the can’ and we’re shooting the first scene of the script this coming Saturday. I’m so excited.
In February I’m taking this interest in film one step further and I’m starting a film making course, to top up the one I did at Met Film school a couple of years ago. I’ve also been asked to direct a short for a friend of mine over the summer. This new direction seems to be taking off and I’m looking forward to how it will unfold.