Just under two years ago, Jimmy Hay and I decided that we’d have a bash at making some films.
Jimmy has watched more films that most people would think sensible and many of these are the kind of awkward, arcane stuff a million miles from a Saturday night film with your lover and a bottle of wine. On this theme, I asked Jimmy for a recommendation earlier this year, something easy of the eye and on the brain, something I could sip a glass of red in front of and escape the rigours of the previous week. Jimmy suggested “The Skin I Live In” and thus the word “vaginoplasty” became an unexpected part of Saturday night. Not something you get on Strictly Come Dancing.
Anyway, Jimmy likes films and I like writing stories. I have written extensively for over a decade now and some of what I have done is not altogether terrible. I won a couple of awards for playwriting a few years ago and have been lucky enough to have various things on stage in various places. So it seemed like a fairly reasonable idea to combine our interests and begin to plan for a long, rewarding and glamorous career in the film industry. How hard could it be?
And so, Long Arm Films was born.
The name was chosen without too much thought. It was taken from a musical that I wrote a few years ago, and on which Jimmy did some sterling production work. “Moon on a Stick” is a musical about a intergalactic fast food company and the attempts of its head of research and development to escape a life of alien patties and slimy thick-shakes made with real slime. (As someone said at the time, “it is the best sci-fi / fast food cross-over comedy musical that I have seen all year”. High praise indeed). Anyway, one of the endangered races featured in the show is the imaginatively named “long armed aliens” who, as you will be shocked to learn, have very long arms. And are green. They were one of the hit moments of the show and as such their name seemed like a good one to choose for our new adventures. In the future I might also claim an allusion to the 1956 Ealing film “The Long Arm” – I live in Ealing and I once wrote a show (another musical with the same team as Moon on a Stick – the brilliant Rupert Waring and Andy Fisher) set in Ealing Studios.
So we got a few quid together, borrowed some equipment, booked some actors, one of whom was my father – willing, cheap and a good actor – decamped to our homeland in rural Devon and made “Sliced” – a short film based on a play that I’d written several years earlier.
Neither of us had made a film before. Actually, that’s not quite true, I had made some bits and pieces during my Media Studies A Level course in the 90s and Jimmy had recently trumped this by making a documentary in Gambia. But in terms of narrative filmmaking neither of us really knew anything and we made numerous, calamitous mistakes. Who needs a sound recordist anyway? We can just hang the kit in the ceiling and press record during each take. Easy.
Actually no. Not easy at all. In fact really, really difficult.
It is funny to think back to this shoot now. Without wanting to show off, Jimmy and I are not stupid. By some measures we are pretty smart but not for a moment did we think that making narrative cinema (and I use this term with a hefty dollop of irony) might be harder than turning up with some kit, actors and a notebook and getting on with it.
We “saved’ Sliced in the edit and we released it to the internet where it was greeted with general indifference.
You can see Sliced below.
Looking back now, I am pleased with it. It is too much like a play, largely because it is a play that we stuck a camera in front of, but there are some great moments and Jimmy’s photography is often excellent.
And it was a start and to quote The Commitments – when you’ve made a start the rest becomes inevitable. More of this anon.