Building Rome - Lou Hamilton (February 2015)
One of the hardest things about being in the creative industries is the ability to keep going in the face of obstacles, brick walls, blind alleys and dead ends. What helps people to keep on keeping on, to go at it for the long haul? Well, a bit of support from time to time doesn’t go amiss. Recently I have been given the opportunity to take part in a scheme for women screenwriters and directors. There are six of us and over the course of the next 12 months we will be given guidance and support from Northern Media and four top industry professionals.
Last week we had our first residential; two workshops over two days in York with script editor Kate Leys and film director Josh Appignanesi. It was a safe environment for us to rip off our sticking plasters. The message was clear and sharp. To improve we need to get to grips with what works and what doesn’t, and when it doesn’t, we need to use the tools they give to us, to kick-start our project to the next level or to disentangle it and take it back to its roots. They gave no promises that it will be easy, told us there are no shortcuts and warned us that it will take guts to stick it out. But if we’re willing to do what it takes we just might have a chance. A stark truth but actually incredibly encouraging. This is not Black Magic, it is a craft and that means we can become Masters of it.
Being creative means pouring heart and soul into our work, so sharing it with our contemporaries and industry-respected mentors was to place ourselves in a position of vulnerability. But in order to grow and learn and develop a better practice it was something we were prepared to do. We had to give our work willingly and we had to listen to the feedback with an open mind. It was sometimes uncomfortable to learn, and painful to recognize that something we have spent agonizing months or even years on, still needs work for it to be the best it can be. The insights of those with specialist experience was invaluable and we came away with a deeper understanding of ourselves and of our work, a different perspective on the path ahead. We realized more of what we don’t know and the mountain before us now certainly seems higher, although this time as we inch ahead we have a rope to guide us.
Master Builders understand well that without good foundations and structure even a beautifully designed building will fall down. The reason Rome is still standing in all its magnificence is because it took a long time to build and it was built well. The film industry grew from audiences’ insatiable appetite for visual storytelling. It is up to us filmmakers to build rock solid practices that allow us confidence in the originality of our voices and in our ability to tell our stories in unique and powerful ways. We all need the courage to persist against the odds in the pursuit of creating well-crafted films that people want to see.
No, Rome wasn’t built in a day, but the vision paid off in the end. So too may it for us six women as we rise up on the shoulders of our filmmaking forebears and strike out towards the Silver Screen of our dreams with our stories and our visions and our spirit of curiosity, patience and determination.