Late Splitters - May 6th (test shots and format)
We got together on the 6th of May for our first in a series of script development sessions and rehearsals for Late Splitters. I hardly slept the night before out of excitement as it’s been a long journey to get to this point. Late Splitters is a feature film I have been writing for several years, in 2021 I was introduced to a young writer, Vittoria Benedetti, through my then mentor, Claire Oakley (Make Up, 2020) who I worked with through the Director UK Inspire Scheme, and since then we have writing a treatment for Late Splitters.
The 6th of May was the first time our small cast and development crew had got together. I have worked with Cara Dessaur, our lead actor playing the part of Isobel, and Agnes Lillis who plays her landlord Kathy, many times.
I first worked with Cara back in 2017 and her twin sister, Mia Dessaur. We then went on to work together again to improvise elements of the script back in 2020 just before the pandemic. Then last year we worked with the wonderful John Hales at The Seagull Theatre rehearsal rooms.
Mia will be shadowing me as director on Late Splitters, which is a route I want to take into production working through my CIC, Campbell Cloud Films, to produce the film and offer shadowing opportunities on all crew roles.
The 6th of May was also the first time I had met my assistants Amelia and Aimee in person. We have been working together for about 7 months and up until now it had all been online.
Paul Thompson I have worked with since the mid 2000s as arts tutors and Jonathan, more recently whilst working on Paul’s projects.
So, what did I learn -
For the 6th of May we had written two scenes as starting points and it was great to rehearse and improvise around the scenes. By seeing the action played out, I was able to drop elements of the story that weren’t working, mainly as they felt too convenient or contrived, and develop other story threads to keep close to the overall aims of the treatment. It’s great that I have Vittoria (co-writer) to discuss my ideas with so that I am not going off in an unnecessary or an overly impulsive direction. Which I have a tendency to do!
Actually seeing the actors in the space allows me to visualise new scenes that happen before or after. It allows me to slow down the action and actually think about what would happen in this space, which is something I find so difficult to do on the page. Recording the scenes and then playing them back allows me to expand the scenes on the page and find the nuances.
I have written many short film scripts, however the issue I have is organising information in a bigger project, such as a feature film script. I love films where very little actual action happens, and instead it's character led, but this can be hard to write. For me, plotting and structuring the script always takes over, to the point that I cannot stay in the moment of the story. This process allows me that time to expand the smaller or more subtle moments in the story.
I am working this way to actually write the script as I am neurodiverse and dyslexic. Unfortunately there is little support within film funding for this approach, unlike in theatre where workshopping scripts is seen as a vital and funded part of the development process.
I set up a Patreon account years ago but getting it to this point of actually publishing it has always overwhelmed me. Having an assistant has changed the way I work and allowed me to get organised and not back out of things when they become too challenging!
I have a tendency to put off starting things I find difficult. My mother would always say to me, "you’ll be fine once you get started". She was right, of course. Starting is often the hardest part. My hope is that by sharing my work in this way, it will allow me in time to become more sustainable, start a conversation about my practice, and discuss how and why we make films and art. Patreon works by allowing supporters of your work to become patrons and receive exclusive benefits which contributes to funding your work.
I have opted for three tiers: Fan, Follower & Learner.
With the Fan tier, patrons will get a short film of early access footage. I enjoyed making my first film about our first rehearsal shoot day, of Late Splitters, for me being in the edit allows me to further question the scenes and approach I’m taking. I have also introduced my work on Visual Poems - I hope in time that I will be able to start conversations about my work with people from all sides of the globe! We will see.
The second tier, Follower, receives the same as a Fan but in addition an original piece of art work or a film still. Again, it’s been a joy to choose something that I feel is relevant for now.
For the third tier, Learner, I have chosen one of my films and picked out key scenes and spoken about my approach to making the film and some of the behind the scenes of the production. Again, this for me has been a fascinating process reflecting on a film made several years ago is always valuable. Thinking about the decisions you made and how your approach may be different now. Through the Learner tier I will discuss what I have learnt through a directors commentary on key film scenes, how I work with crew, and what I have learnt about the film industry in general.
The least fun part was filming my piece to camera. I dragged my dog, Junebug in to help me with this part!
I am currently one of six artists in the Rest and Digest CPD & Wellness Programme run by artist Claire Atherton and supported by Arts Council England.
I have been lucky enough to have mentoring with one of the programme Producers, Kaavous Clayton who runs originalprojects, with Julia Devonshire.
For our first session I showed him some of the Polaroids I took in late 2020. It was a fantastic starting point for a discussion which led onto a conversation about how to present the work. The majority of the Polaroids were taken in the domestic setting of my mother’s house. I worked with slide projection, slide photographs originally taken by my father, of my mother, three sisters and me when we were little.
We started to talk about the images being quite voyeuristic which was something I had been concerned about when originally taking the photos. My reason for shooting on analogue was to keep them private. At times I felt like I was eavesdropping and some of the photographs I took I’m not sure I will ever exhibit publicly.
One question Kaavous asked me was - "Why do you want to have an exhibition?" - and it really brought me to a full stop. A great question. Often we do things as we think it is expected or the natural next step. I do want to exhibit the work, but a gallery setting doesn’t feel right. Domestic work like this needs to be seen in a domestic setting.
After the mentoring session I went home and said to my husband, "Oh by the way, I’m going to have an exhibition in the house" - "okay" he said without giving it a second thought.
Another comment was that the work felt like a story and of course it is, but I hadn’t really thought of my visual art in that way.
The work I have been doing is all about memory, family, and place. I wish I had the language to speak more eloquently about the work, but alas I do not, so I will have to let the work speak for itself.
Having a mentor question you and for you to ask yourself those questions, is invaluable. I’ve had mentors for my film practice over the years, but talking about my visual arts recently really reminded me of crit sessions (detailed discussions where the opinions of tutors and peers are shared openly) at art school and then university which at times due to my young age felt so difficult.
Someone said to me recently, it isn’t your job as the artist to explain your work, it is up to the viewers to understand it and take from it what they will. That had never occurred to me before and actually came as a huge relief.