Bookshop dreams

Some ideas hang around in notebooks for years waiting for their moment in the sun. Some ideas are born and then despatched immediately into the fray. The thoughts and fancies that lay behind Stuart and Kate were actually a rather awkward combination of the two.

For ages I had a silly bit of dialogue written in a notebook where two characters debate a upcoming trip to an art gallery. The fictional exhibition was of the work of Pieter Bruegel the Elder (which I can never spell – I have just had to look it up for about the thirtieth time) and went something like this:

– Who is it?

– Pieter Breugel. The Elder.

– Alright then. But only because it’s not Pieter Bruegel the Younger.  Because Pieter Bruegel the Younger is a cock. 

By rights this “gem” should have stayed buried in the notebook but when Jimmy started talking about making a short based on a relationship then these words were rescued from obscurity and found their way, almost verbatim, into the script that became Stuart and Kate.

You can see the finished film here. We are pretty proud of it.

This film very quickly became our biggest project to date. Our actors were not our mates (or our Dads) but actual, you know, actors. We spent a long time drafting and redrafting the short script and, as ever, Jimmy did an excellent job in reigning in my more ponderous excesses. Like many, many writers I wanted to be Aaron Sorkin during his West Wing pomp but Jimmy was right to patiently point out that what was so right for Josh and CJ was not going to work for an awkward British love story. Even if I could write as well as Aaron Sorkin. Which I can’t. So let’s move on.

This was another of those stories with some sort of “concept” lurking behind the narrative. I am overly fond of such constructions – I am well aware that they can seem showy and smug plus of course they can turn quickly turn on you and make you look like a dick when they don’t work. However, I think short films can be enhanced with a moment of “ah-ha!” at the climax and Stuart and Kate seemed like a script where this could really work.

The original title was “Headspace” which gives more of a clue as to the trick at the story’s centre and we hoped that our audience would all slap themselves in disbelief and wonder at the metaphorical rug-pulling when they realised that KATE DOES NOT EXIST. She exists only in the tube scene and then is only ever in Stuart’s head for the remainder of the film.

Many, many people have watched Stuart and Kate. And many have asked us about the ending. And many many said “oh right!” loudly when we told them what we’d intended. This suggests that we did not get it quite right. This is a shame, clearly.

A decent wide-angle lens would have helped our storytelling significantly. If we could have seen Stuart in the final shot properly isolated in the empty space then perhaps people would have realised that items from the room had been disappearing from the very first scene. It would have also made the cut from the close-up on Kate to that on Stuart all the more effective. Effective and thusly negating the need to reveal the idea behind the film in block capital letters further up this page.

We are really pleased with Stuart and Kate. We had so much fun making it. And we are delighted that so many people have seen it. And enjoyed it. And, lest I forget, I GOT TO ACT IN THE BOOKSHOP SCENE. Surely any competent critic’s highlight.

Let me also give a quick word about my old pal Al Boley’s brilliant song “Up To Me” that we commissioned for the film. It is ace. And Al is very talented and having spent many years writing and performing with him about a decade ago it was superb to have a reason to collaborate again. You can see a film of us recording the song here.

Oh yes, you can also see Stuart and Kate with French subtitles if you wish or indeed if you need them. Although it is unlikely if you did need them that you’d have made it this far through my meandering and imprecise English. But thank you to my lovely (and French) wife for all her hard work on this.

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