I am on a train hustling westwards towards Swansea. The fields of England are a scorched, biscuit brown and I’ve just entertained my fellow passengers with a medium length, experimental audio piece of my own composition called James Snores Loudly After Reading; the critical notices have not been posted yet but I am guessing the reaction will be lukewarm at best. I have made this trip several times in the last year but today’s journey is a special one. This time I am not returning a day or so later after a frenzied bout of scribbling, planning (a little drinking) and worrying, no, this time I am staying for over two weeks in order to make our debut feature film High Tide.
It has been an extraordinary year for Jimmy and myself. A year of ambition and dreams and nonsense. We’ve impressed many; we’ve upset several more (none deliberately); we’ve worked unfeasibly long hours and neglected our families in pursuit of this one goal. There have been some wonderful highs where we’ve been giddy with excitement, one time even dancing a special dance along the streets of Covent Garden to the presumed bafflement of passing tourists and cheese enthusiasts (you simply must make a pilgrimage to Neal’s Yard Dairy at least once in your life to worship at its cheesy altar – not a euphemism) but we’ve also had darker moments, times when our daily phone calls would be punctuated with long sighs and mutterings of “I don’t know, I really don’t”. A couple of times we came very, very close to calling the whole thing off.
However, one of the many benefits of working in a partnership is, for the most part, at least 50% of the team is feeling positive on any one day. Many times Jimmy has picked me up from the murky depths of pessimism with one of his typically brilliant pieces of production or just his uncluttered Westcountry charm but likewise, I’ve been able to scrape him off the floor (not literally, although I did come close to having to do this after his birthday party once at the Red Lion in Ealing) with words of encouragement and a call for fortitude in the face of the latest missives of bad news.
This blog, although necessarily more irregular in recent weeks, has been an effective means of documenting the past six months (although often by way of rambling anecdotes about 90s music, cheese and being nearly killed by cricket balls) and I am glad that they will remain archived here on the WordPress site as much for me as for anyone else, so I can read them back and be proud of how far we’ve come.
I am also grateful for the “Freshly Pressed” WordPress recommendation of my post about invented inspirational quotations for writers; being featured on the WordPress site sent the readership figures into nonsensical levels for a week or so and I regularly received wonderful comments from people around the world who urged me to write more posts like that one. Despite my attempts to break it to my new readership that the quotations post was a bit of a rogue one and they should prepare themselves for my more-usual swamp of overly-long ramblings that occasionally had the merest of relevance to independent film making, one can only imagine their disappointment as the following few weeks’ writing was served up to them. Readership numbers of the blog are now largely back to their pre-freshly pressed levels although I do still think fondly of my brief international following. I hope they are well and have found someone who can tend to their satirical needs.
Anyway, we’ve got there. We’ve reached the end of the pre-production phase of High Tide and on Saturday we are actually going to start making it. This is an enormous relief but it is also exciting and pretty terrifying. Thanks must go to our wonderful casting director Briony Barnett who has supported us throughout this year; she really is one of the very best and her fortitude in the face of what might euphemistically be called “challenging circumstances” has been the stuff of legend. Through Briony’s tireless efforts we have assembled a wonderful cast, not least the superb Melanie Walters in the role of Bethan. Elsewhere we have Sam Davies in the role of Josh, Claire Cage playing Tess and Charlotte Mulliner appearing as Sophie. All of whom are going to be brilliant.
So thank you Briony. We are sorry for the sleepless nights. You have done an incredible job and we salute you.
The remainder of this week will be taken up with last-minute preparations, praying to the Gods of good weather, briefing our talented crew and plus I will be continuing to wage my as-yet-unsuccessful campaign in support of buying Long Arm lanyards for the whole team. Jimmy thinks this is a waste of money. But I will have one. Even if I have to make one myself. Which it looks like I will.
As we move into the shoot, the likelihood of me having the time to write regular updates on the blog is as great as the chances of Jimmy changing his mind about the lanyards. However, we will use this site to host various photos and videos that we will take on set. You will also be able to connect (if not spiritually then at least electronically) with the High Tide shoot via the inevitable social media pipes of which Nat is our plumber on-call. She even has social media overalls, making her look like a sort of Sci-Fi Super Mario. And man, you should see her jump! And eat mushrooms.
So, deep breath, here are those pipes in full:
And I think I should end with a thank you. A thank you to the huge numbers of who have supported us on this adventure so far. Your constant good wishes have been a huge help to us and just the (gin and) tonic when things have been difficult. We realise that there is a certain amount of arrogance implicit in making art; a sort of necessary but not entirely edifying bragging that what you’ve got to say is worthwhile or, and I shudder to use this word, important. And then you ask your audience to have faith that these brags are with substance, that they are justified. Very few of the people reading this have seen the script for High Tide and yet so many have great faith that Jimmy and myself are going to do a good job. And I suppose all I can say is that we are going to do our very best to repay this faith; we are going to be meticulous and hard-working, we are driven and we back ourselves to produce something wonderful. Something of which all of us can be proud.
Although tonight we are going to the pub. We live in different cities. We don’t see each other very often. And we’ve got this far. And so we are going to have a few Welsh pints to celebrate. Please don’t begrudge us this little indulgence.
This is the end. And this is very much a beginning.
Keep watching. Keep in touch. And thank you.