For a while I toyed with calling my nascent film production arm Sisyphus Films. I even had a little logo depicting a guy pushing a film can up a mountain. In the end I abandoned this because a) it sounded arse-grindingly pretentious; b) that image already appeared in my beloved Lost In La Mancha; and c) as someone who’s likely to be working in digital for most of my career, there’s something annoyingly hipster-y about fetishising celluloid.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been reminded of how apt that myth is for the filmmaking process. Partly because it’s such a slog – and a lonely one at that. No matter how great your collaborators are – be they actors, crew or just encouraging friends – the reality is that most films are the result of one individual pushing them across the finishing line. This isn’t auteurism, the director viewing him/herself as the creative genius. It’s just the reality. All films need that voice, that one determined, passionate voice.
But for me the hardest part of the filmmaking process – and the most Sisyphean aspect – is keeping momentum. Keeping going when there’s no sense of progress, no feeling of achievement and nothing but a bloody great mountain ahead of you.
All of this is a long way of saying that progress on my new short has been a bit slow lately. It doesn’t help that it’s the summer holidays, so I have children belting around the house; add to that a house move, an Ashes series, trips away and a car that seems ready for the scrapheap, and pretty soon the idea of editing a film seems vaguely ridiculous. But the fundamental problem is that I stopped in the first place.
As a writer I’ve always been a fan of giving your work time to settle. When I finish a script I like to leave it for a couple of weeks before hitting print and re-reading it. Adds perspective. And so I had a similar theory with the short – after doing a basic cut and needing to reshoot some inserts I figured I could leave it for a while and come back refreshed, ready to see all sorts of new connections, ready to cut out baggage I’d previously fallen in love with. But those weeks turned into months, and now the prospect of returning to the film fills me with dread. I’ve even made a music promo in the meantime, just as a way of doing something creative other than the short.
How could I have avoided this? Well, deadlines would help. I never had anything like a specific festival in mind for this short. Although the film was being made for a competition I withdrew from that because the Terms and Conditions were a little… fucked – something that has since been proved now the competition has closed… But it is one of the problems with owning your own kit – there’s always the temptation to put stuff off, to shoot additional footage later. It doesn’t exactly encourage professionalism.
So as I start to draw up a proper schedule for getting this thing finished, I at least know I’ve learnt a valuable lesson from this short – namely the importance of momentum. Getting a film going is a massive endeavour, getting it started a massive achievement. But keeping momentum until it’s actually finished – that’s the key.
In fact I may even call my micro-studio Momentum Pictu – oh… hang on…