I think it’s high time I started blogging and talking about my work. The best way to do this has to be by talking about my latest short film; Bliss (CW: Domestic violence).
After answering a short commission from Channel 4’s Random Acts, I secured the project and began developing Bliss. The most interesting thing about this film is what I learned about project development. When I initially pitched this piece, it was to be a domestic abuse story, shot in the style of a 1950’s sitcom, juxtaposing the “domestic bliss” with the darkness underneath. Kind of playing off how people in an abusive situation to will go to great lengths to make things seem “normal”.
I was really in love with that concept until someone reminded me of this scene from Natural Born Killers. I don’t know if that scene was rolling around in my subconscious before or what, I had seen the film, but I didn’t make the connection. So, I’m screwed right? No because one of the great things about development is how much your original concept can change, evolving into something new.
First thing to do was drop the sitcom angle, in retrospect that was never going to work as I don’t have a great deal of knowledge about sitcoms beyond the big ones like Friends or Scrubs (never even seen Seinfeld). What I did know is that I needed an aesthetic, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t heavily influenced by this Scroobious Pip poem. One of the things I was going for was to surface the minimalism and the performative nature of the video. In Pip’s it’s the way the lighting showcases the stage, in mine it was the camera.
But that’s the aesthetics, what about the story and theme? When I initially pitched I thought this film was about me making my peace with growing up around dangerous people, after an intense development period I realised that was redundant, many years and bottles later I have made my peace with that, this was about something worse, the fear that I will grow into an abuser. I remember once as a child, an adult told me that “all men are the same”, it was a throwaway comment, but it really stuck with me. Now I had a film worth making, now I had a piece of art that if it meant nothing to anyone else, it meant something to me, something real.
The shoot was amazing, taking a day off from my miserable call centre existence and reminding myself that I had skills was a mental health spa day. Script to screen went flawlessly working with a pro crew made things go so smoothly, especially since I’m used to 1 person doing 5 different jobs but it’s the actors I’ve got to give the biggest shout out to. Jennifer Goudie and Jacob Anderton (hire them) where cast very late in the day and where rehearsed on the morning of the shoot and got what I was going for straight away. One of the things that showed me how much an actor can bring to a character was when Jacob asked to do an extra take, after professionally doing it as directed, delivered the line “I’m sorry” in a ‘get over it way’ rather than the sincerity that was in the directed take. I remember getting angry that it was so good and I’d never thought of it.
I’ve talked about how I changed the film, how others changed the film, but what about how it changed me? After we’d cut the piece I went back to my 9-5 existence taking whatever time I could to go with the Playback Festival. As a bit of background, for years I haven’t taken trigger/content warnings seriously, bear with me, because I had the attitude that “it’s supposed to make you sad”. That was until I saw someone get upset over it digging up their past. I was able to talk to them after and make sure they were ok, but I knew I never wanted that to happen again, there’s being emotionally affected, and there’s beaten over the head with trauma, the latter is not artistic, so I’ll always go for the former.
I think that’s all I’ve got to say on this, what do you think? Lemme know. Peace.