Category Archives: Film/TV

Girls on Film

As an aspiring screenwriter, one of my greatest pleasures is watching films (unsurprisingly) but some of that joy lies in the fact that I can now classify it as ‘research’. In fact, most of life has now become ‘research’ which is brilliant… you can’t write about life unless you live it, right?

I decided it would be fun to write about all of the incredible women who had influenced me in film starting from when I was a young girl.

  1. Fraulein Maria in The Sound of Music (1965)

Oh dear.

It seems there weren’t many inspiring women in the films I watched as a child. I should quantify here that I was a weird child. I didn’t really like cartoons and was therefore not a shoe-in for the fairy-tale propaganda spouting of Disney or other overly simplistic tales. I liked Rapunzel because she had long hair. And also because it had a bittersweet ending (blindness, a long-time before redemption etc) but there has never been a good film made of it. I also liked the naughty twin in The Parent Trap, particularly when she covered the cabin in string and glue, but the eventual reconciliation in that film jarred with the reality of my divorced household, so I only watched it once or twice.

Fraulein Maria however was rebellious and brave but with an enchanting vulnerability which Captain Von Trapp just couldn’t resist and neither could I. She also ended up facing her problems, after The Reverend Mother asks her, “What is it you can’t face?” (insert in-joke here) which was a very valuable lesson for me, which I still rely on once in a while.

The theme of righteous rebellion continued with later films that I could relate to but the trouble is, I can count them on one hand. When you look at the huge films of the 80’s and 90’s it is genuinely shocking how few of them had strong female leads.

The first one which I remember making a big impact was Emily ‘up your bum’ Lloyd in Wish You Were Here (1987) set in wartime England, which I was obsessed with anyway, it about a girl who was just a little bit wild, liked boys, and wouldn’t do as she was told. I have a horrible feeling that something deeper was revealed later in the film which explained her behaviour, like a dark secret, but this wasn’t necessary for the plot of the film, she didn’t need some form of forgiveness or redemption, she was the freest, most honest, and engaging character I had ever come across and I loved her.

This was closely followed by Beaches (1988) which featured another free spirit in Bette Midler and one of the most heart-breaking studies of friendship ever, then Mermaids (1990) with Cher as the crap but ‘free spirited’ mother – I never understood why Winona Ryder complained about her so much (but I wanted to be Winona so I forgave her), then Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Café (1991) with the very definition of free spirit in Idgie Threadgoode and A League of Their Own (1992) which featured a full baseball team of free spirits.

Basically there was one film a year during this period which was of any interest to me and my friends. Not even sure if there was ONE in 1989…

Later I caught up with other brilliant films with recognisable women and friendships in. Heathers, Working Girl, Steel Magnolias, Mystic Pizza, even Scarlett O’Hara in Gone with the Wind! I probably (definitely) missed a few – after all, films for women never got a very wide distribution and they were often only in cinemas for a week and then not bought by the TV channels for years, if at all.

It seems that the female film-going market is only recently being recognised as a potential money-spinner. ABOUT TIME!

As much as I still love and admire the characters I grew up with, I am disappointed that I was so happy in my own ignorance that I didn’t even realise how under-served women have been in cinema. There were still great films with great characters and heroes, Indiana Jones, The Goonies, The Breakfast Club, all of which I loved dearly, but often the women in them were pretty pathetic. There were a few films in the early 90’s which seemed to threaten the status quo, but nothing really came of them.

The first 18 film I saw in the cinema was The Silence of the Lambs (1991) my friend Rachel and I sneaked into the cinema in Bristol. We were so enthralled, and terrified, we hid behind our hands most of the time, but Jodie Foster as the main protagonist did not look remotely out of place and I don’t think we even commented on it, she did a great job, and was a great character. Rachel and I had been brought up in such an isolated world that we didn’t understand this was ground-breaking, we just thought this was normal. We simply didn’t realise how much work there still was that needed to be done for equality. It appears as though the tide is changing again and hopefully today’s tweenagers will have a much wider selection of heroes to look up to. Right, I’m off to see Lucy (2014), wish me luck.

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All The Young Dudes

I am good at a few things in life, but sadly networking is not one of them. At a BBC event recently, when a very important executive producer said to me, ‘Are you having fun?’ I thought he said ‘Are you the fun?’ – and responded that of course I was the fun – ‘Don’t worry, the fun is here!’ I trilled, and did some jazz hands to prove it. Mortifying. The time before that, I arrived at an industry party at 7pm, knowing no-one and somehow found myself at 2am in The Groucho Club singing ‘When You Get Caught Between The Moon And New York City’ on my knees, round the piano, with my 5 NBF’s (none of whom I’ve seen since) and forcing one of them (a vegetarian) to eat sausages. So I’m not sure what possessed me to go to another networking event last night, apart from the certain knowledge that if I am ever to succeed as a screenwriter I have to meet some people who might actually read my stuff.

I’ve been a member of the brilliant Raindance Film Festival for nearly a year and every month they hold a “Boozin’ and Schmoozin’” event, which so far I have avoided attending. But when it fell on a night when I was in London and had no plans, I decided to drag my fellow screenwriting friend along to sit in a corner, not make eye contact, and catch up on gossip – that is how you network, right? Hmmm, it turns out Raindance don’t allow that. Fortunately they don’t do anything like speed-date networking, or God forbid, name badges, but they do ask you to gather round while the energetic Rory jumps on a table and invites anyone else to jump on the table and say something – anything! The hope and enthusiasm in the air was almost tangible and wide smiles eagerly surveyed the crowd. Geeks, freaks and ne’er do wells (my favourite demographic), mostly young, shuffled to the front to have their say. At 18 I knew everything (I actually remember having that thought), and at 35 I probably know half that much but I enjoy seeing epic confidence in action.

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After a slow start some people moved forward, inviting actors/producers/musicians to help make their zombie/horror/eco-thriller film, other people selling their own services as actor/director/producer/writer/cinematographer/musician (that was all from the same person) you know – the usual stuff, then something unsettling happened. There was a group of female film students there and one by one they jumped on the table and declared they were desperate for work experience (fine) but this was followed by “I’ll do anything you want, I’ll be your bitch, I’ll be your slave!” which was followed by…laughter from the crowd, and applause. Now. I KNOW the film industry is in a dire state and I KNOW the only way to get your foot in the door is from experience and I KNOW it is almost impossible to get experience without working for free, but I have two issues with what these young women were saying. The first is that no-one should have to work for free, and the only people who can afford to work for free are generally people with money/some family support. This is how the industry has been fed for years and I think it is poorer for the lack of cultural diversity which this practise has encouraged. Work for expenses, work for £20, just don’t work for free, and producers will stop expecting people to work for free – do you think they would ask the DoP to work for free? (obviously if the entire crew are working for free a runner shouldn’t insist on £20, that would be weird). The second issue I have is, of course, with the language used. I know it is just a figure of speech but it is one that almost convinced me to jump up on that table to tell them to get some self-respect! I didn’t of course, because I would have fallen off and landed head first in the candle simply because it was a networking event, FACT. However, if I had, I would have said this:

In my 15 years of working I have learnt a couple of things. Mainly that the film/television industry is actually one of the best industries for women to work in (despite the current debacle at the BBC), but it is still not good enough, women still earn less than men and this is partly because women are going round offering to be people’s bitches and slaves – in 2012! Say you’re a hard worker, say you’re willing to learn, say you make an excellent cup of tea but never ever offer to be anyone’s bitch slave. It’s time to make a difference – people about to enter the industry might actually see equality in their own lifetime so why don’t they start believing in it now!

Of course I didn’t say any of this, I just laughed and clapped like everyone else but that’s what I would have liked to say, so that’s why I am saying it now. So, networking events…hmmm, maybe I’ve changed my mind, and maybe next time I’ll get on the table, what’s the worst that can happen? Ok, so I still need to work on my actual networking skills as we only spoke to two people after the table sharing, but one of them was super interesting, and I managed not to make a massive dick of myself. Bonus.

Coffee and TV

Last week was supposed to be my first full week working in Glasgow and my first full week actually making a TV show for the first time in 7 months. There’s nothing like a week of firsts to shake things up a bit. Here’s what happened.

Day 1 – Monday

I’M IN LOVE! I don’t know why I didn’t see it before. You see, he has made me coffee in the past, a couple of times, but I had never noticed the eyes until today.
I’m pleased to say Glasgow has not faded in my estimations and it continues to remind me of New York for many reasons, one of which is that it is full of independent coffee shops. Yes, my new-found love is a barista, and boy, is he good at it. I haven’t been there for a couple of weeks, but he remembered my coffee order and asked me how the weekend was. I told him I’d been sailing and we laughed about the fact that he never got a day off because he was too busy running the café… I melted into his eyes as I handed over my £1.50 (really? He must be under-charging me because of the chemistry) and our fingers brushed against each other gently. Tomorrow I’m going to wear the nicest outfit I have with me, I must get this man.

Day 2 – Tuesday

There is a certain spring in my step as I march down the rain-splattered streets to get my morning coffee, wearing the nicest outfit I have with me. In fact it’s the same dress I am wearing in my headshot on theconversation.tv so maybe he’ll recognise me from that and admit he’s actually my biggest fan and how refreshing it has been to get an insight into a modern woman through my musings, especially one so beautiful… As I enter the coffee shop, a woman turns around to help me. That throws me. I order my coffee, she’s nice but the chemistry just isn’t the same as it is with him. She charges me £1.50 and I leave hastily.

Day 3 – Wednesday

Time to pull out my second best outfit, and freshen up with some dry shampoo since I overslept. But it’s ok as I’m going to see my destiny this morning – he doesn’t care about clean hair, although I’ll still wear a hat. There he is, my heart skips a beat. He is a little bit skinnier and paler than I had remembered from Monday, but that’s ok – after all, we are in Glasgow. He asks me if I’m late this morning – he even knows what time I normally come in! For some reason I find myself lying and telling him I walked to work. But it was the right move. He asks me where I stay. ‘Dennistoun’ I reply. I don’t know if Glasgow has the same East/West End divide as London but I hope it makes me sound edgy as if Dennistoun is Glasgow’s answer to Hackney. I don’t mention that I’m staying with my Mum. Or that the entire area smells of hops from the Tennents brewery next door. He smiles, his sweet honest smile. £1.50. This love affair is going to cost me a fortune. As he hands me my change I see a marked difference in his expression… I only notice when I step outside that my second favourite outfit is gapping open at the breast, a lot. Damn, I wasn’t planning on using that one so soon.

Day 4 – Thursday

Another morning, although no more lovely outfits, I do manage to wash my hair…not that it matters as it’s raining anyway and I have to wear an anorak. When I get to the counter he remembers my coffee order again and I smile my best smile, although there is something missing from our interaction. He goes on to say how all of his regulars seem to have a cappuccino in the morning so it makes it easy to remember – although he does remember that I have one sugar. But something has definitely changed. The spark that was so strong on Monday has faded, he’s just making my coffee, and I’m just one of his regulars. I spot a lemon meringue cupcake on the side and try out my favourite joke on him: (in a Glaswegian accent) “Is that a cupcake or a meringue?” He replies, “No you’re right, it’s a cupcake!” Bedumdum…Only he doesn’t, instead he gets distracted by another customer, chucks the cake I don’t want into a bag, I pay for it and scuttle away without saying goodbye.

Day 5 – Friday

Everyone’s happier on a Friday so the spring in my step has returned. I am hopeful that the previous day was just a glitch in our universe – after all, every couple have their off days. I enter the shop and stare directly into those eyes. NOTHING! I feel nothing. I feel cheated. Where has it gone? He smiles at me in the same way but whereas four days earlier that smile had made me mentally design my wedding dress, today, at best, it makes me want to smile back. I ask for my coffee with no sugar (which is actually how I take it) and hurry out of the shop, in the knowledge that the next time I enter it will just be a coffee shop and not where I met the love of my life.

How fickle be the human heart. Or rather, how mental be the world my thoughts inhabit about 30% of the time? As you may have guessed, this tele programme I’m working on is taking a while to get going, allowing time for daydreaming. Idle daydreaming can be wonderful but it can be dangerous, I reckon I fall in love once a week. I suppose there is a chance I’m too quick to dismiss every spark as just a daydream –  as being all in my mind, could I have missed the ‘real thing’ somewhere along the way? Hmmm, unlikely but as a hopeless romantic I know there are going to be more coffee shop romances to come and maybe one day I’ll stop shallowly taking away and actually commit to sitting in – who knows what might follow…

 

Going Back To My Roots

Dramatic weather, DM boots in fashion, football fever, landline phone calls, streaming hayfever… during the last week I have been successfully transported back to a simpler time in my life – the 90’s – when the anticipation and expectation of the future meant that every moment of the present was lived in a heightened state of exhilaration….or so it feels with hindsight.

When I look back at my teenage years there is a sepia tinged haze, as if I’ve been using the Hipstamatic App in my mind to create the memories. One of the first images that comes to mind is of me actually skipping through a field of buttercups with a boyfriend…as if that ever happened! I know for a fact that I was actually quite miserable for most of my teenage years, but somehow the Pollyanna in me has taken over and redefined that decade as one of joy and hope. I think on balance it probably was, so am happy to go with this interpretation… as long as I can recognise the pain and difficulty that was surely there, if not actually than surely in a hormonal teenage angsty way…all that longing to grow up and desire to remain a child was so confusing!

If I think about how I viewed the world it horrifies me how naïve I was while doing such worldly things in my quest to become a woman. For example, here are three things which I strongly believed:

  1. That men and women had equal opportunities in all aspects of life.
  2. That there could never be another war, that genocide couldn’t ever happen again. (we learnt about history at school but not current affairs so I had no idea these things were actually happening as I sat in class)
  3. That we had invented everything we could possibly need in the world so there was no point in inventing new things and technology would not advance much further.

Can you believe what a moron I was? Sometimes though I would love to still believe these things, if only for a moment. This is why a return to 90’s sensibilities has been a welcome distraction this week.

I promised myself I wouldn’t go on about ‘pickpocketgate’, but from the initial gut-wrenching feeling of anger and failure having lost every contact I’ve ever had in 2.5 seconds, I have now reached a state of transcendental acceptance about said loss and feel grateful to have had the opportunity to let it all go. My current date is not scared to use the phone. He has called me a few times for a chat this week, on the landline, and there is something so ‘normal’ about answering the phone and not knowing who it’s going to be, and then just having a chat about nothing in particular. I know this is hardly a revelation, but when you are so used to being connected you are just, well, connected, and there is nothing you can do about it so having a chat often feels like a chore. Not having a phone has also meant that I haven’t been able to bail on appointments with a single text like I might have done in the past – you make an arrangement and you have to be there, you can’t even be late, I like the finality of that.

I also realised this week that I have been essentially recycling the same favourite outfit for twenty years. Flowery dress and heavy boots is my staple go-to look. It was only when I caught classic teen rebellion flick ‘Pump Up The Volume’ at the weekend, in which Christian Slater plays a late night radio DJ who fake masturbates to his listeners (really), that I noticed I had copied Samantha Mathis’ character’s look and have never looked back, or, clearly, forward. Not an easy thing to admit, but fortunately fashion does return, and DM’s are back…if only I hadn’t chucked those amazing bottle green ones.

When you spend at least 40 hours a week in an office for years you start to forget the power and beauty of the weather, especially in London where it is usually bland. Back in the 90’s though I saw so much more of it. Much of it was spent outside on the Upper school playing field in the wind and the rain, knees knocking together and knuckles barely able to grip the enormous hockey stick. I stood there on the left wing singing ‘More Than Words’ under my breath, fantasising about the novels I would write and how it was ok to be tortured in this way because one day I would use it for inspiration. Then, one day, the ball suddenly appeared at my feet and I had no choice but to run with it…as I heard the crowd and my teammates going wild, I reached the goal and swinging with all my might took a shot… GOAL!!!!! Only it wasn’t. When I looked up to bask in the glory my teammates were just walking away shaking their heads. Oh yes, I had scored a spectacular own goal. As you can imagine that was the end of my sporting career, but I do miss the weather those forced games sessions subjected us to, time to get out of London more often.

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When I was living in it, I thought the 90’s was a nothing decade. There was no fashion or music to define us (of course there was, I just couldn’t see it because I was it) and the disenfranchised youth really had nothing to be disenfranchised about. But now I recognise that was the beauty of it. Compared to the world today it was innocent, and in 20 years time the world today will seem innocent to the grown ups of the future, that’s just the way it goes. So be it.

I had a joke about Southgate taking a penalty (remember Euro ’96?) to end on, but sadly times have not changed that much and the England team have bowed out already so the joke might be in poor taste. Instead I’ll leave you with a link to THE song of the 90’s which still has a tinge of rebellion to it, compared to the manufactured music of today.*

*Gawd – I knew I couldn’t finish this post without sounding like a grumpy old woman saying ‘wasn’t like this in my day’, sorry!

 

 

Great Expectations

Ambition. This is a very new phenomenon to me, and I’m finding it somewhat disconcerting. I’ve always rather proudly announced that I don’t have ambition, I’m not a go-getter. I just ‘fell’ into the day job, and I’m quite happy as long as I’m having a good time and my family and friends are well and happy. This has all changed in the last year. I now have something which wanky people might call ‘drive’.

Since March 2011 I have, somewhat unwittingly, set myself various goals. What is remarkable is that I have, almost without exception, achieved them all. I’m not going to turn this post into a list-blog about how brilliant I am (at showing off), but they started off small and achievable and have recently become much larger and more difficult to achieve – yet I am not daunted. I have become a go-getter, I am just like Veruca Salt – I want the world!

When I was 15, I thought I was going to be an actress. I always liked performing, and participated in every school play, even the terrible Spring term ones which nobody really put any investment into. It was in one of these plays, on opening night, that something happened, dashing my expectations of becoming a board treader. I was playing a girl in a nightclub and I was supposed to be slow dancing to the Oleta Adams hit song, Get Here (oh the irony!), with a boy who was in the year below. Our cue arrived, but he wasn’t in the wings – he was nowhere to be found. I had to go on stage and slow dance, in front of an audience of my peers, on my own. I then had to deliver my line, to nobody. There was a pause the length of eternity and he suddenly ran onto the stage, doing up his flies, and delivered his line. I remember so vividly the mortification I felt at that moment, and the knowledge that no matter what I had done to make sure my performance as a nightclub filly was the best it could be, I could never have predicted that he would decide to go for a piss at the exact moment we were supposed to be on stage – it was outside of my control. Of course I continued without blinking, despite the giggles and the awkwardness the show must go on, but it was at that point I decided I couldn’t pursue a dream if I was not in control of the outcome, no matter what that outcome was. It was much better to just have no expectations and then you can avoid getting hurt or let down. Thus I carried on my career at school and then in life.

For so many years I was scared of humiliation, scared of failure, so I never invested any of myself into anything I did, I just sat back and enjoyed the ride. But I’m not scared any more, I’m putting my dreams out there and it looks like my dormant megalomania is about to erupt spewing hubris across the internet, and then the silver screen.

I’m alive and excited and completely self-obsessed, but thankfully this is all happening at an age where I have enough self-awareness to know I don’t want to be a bad egg, like poor old Veruca. I need to manage my expectations by managing my perspective.

Here are some things that my 15 year old self expected for my 35 year old self.

I expected to be a grown up, I expected to have children, I expected to have met my soul mate, I expected to have visited every country in the world, I expected to have stopped expecting. None of these things have happened. However, I do not feel disappointed because…I didn’t expect to have such solid and enduring friendships, I didn’t expect both my parents to still be alive, I didn’t expect to have such a good relationship with my family, I didn’t expect to have been to so many countries (yes I am aware of the contradiction here) I didn’t expect to be pursuing a dream. These surprising revelations are so much better than my youthful expectations, how could I have any regrets? So before I take over the world, I need to remember what a wise man once said:

‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while,
you could miss it.’

It certainly does Ferris, and I’m not gonna miss a minute.

She’s Like The Wind

This week, I have mostly been thinking about Patrick Swayze, weird but true. There has been a mantra going round in my head about fear versus love and his character in Donnie Darko (who turned out to be a raging paedo) was obsessed with this idea too – and had this to say about it: ‘You are a fear prisoner’ or something like that.

I’m inclined to disagree and would argue, as Donnie himself did that without fear we would be unable to love, and also to live. I have spent a lot of this week terrified, and I have never felt so alive – not since I went swimming with Whale Sharks in Mexico (I was of course very scared then too). Writing about The Demons last week helped to dampen the fear a bit but they have been alive and well in the middle of most nights due to my idiocy in writing about and GETTING PUBLISHED something unbelievably personal and sharing it with friends (there are still people I won’t let read it, you know who you are).

The strange thing is it doesn’t stop there – I have so many stories to tell, some of them even more embarrassing secrets, that I can hardly justify going to sleep because it will waste valuable writing time. When did this happen? 14 months ago I was on a plane to New York in an absolute flap because I was supposed to be turning up for my screenwriting course, which had been planned for a million years, with at least one idea for a screenplay, preferably three. I couldn’t think of a single thought, let alone an idea for a whole film. I hadn’t written anything, except budgets and schedules for 12 years and I had absolutely no doubt that I was going to be a crappy writer – I had no imagination, I had no originality, I had no confidence in me, let alone sunshine or rain! (another Sound of Music reference, sorry). Anyway, a year later and I can’t write the ideas down fast enough – I am still working on that first script which started as a seed of an idea which I probably chose while drunk in Milady’s but grew into this mental romp of a rom com – and a few other hopefully mildly amusing concepts. I still think they are all crap but at least I have the confidence to finally write them down.

I guess what I am saying is even if you think you will be crap at your dreams, don’t give up, even if you’re the only one getting pleasure from it, that’s still better than not doing it. I am inclined to sympathise with 70’s feminists more than Swayze on my earlier point; Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway, is going to be my new mantra, or, basically, suck it and see.

One of the things I have been told this week is how brave I am. It is an amazing compliment but I honestly don’t know what it means, I have never felt less brave (apart from maybe when that bug entered our tent while camping in Amarillo) but there is a definite freedom in doing something which makes you so effing scared.

On the day I got the email telling me my article was going to be published soon, I was just walking into the cinema to see new horror movie Silent House. I was a little bit excited by the news, but tried to calm down and get into the film, it was good but I wasn’t really scared, I’d faced much bigger fears recently. Anyway, about 15 minutes in I could hear this really annoying music coming from somewhere – I was certain the man in front of us was listening to ‘Simply The Best’ by Tina Turner and I kept giving him evils to get him to turn it off. It was only when my friend nudged me that I realised it seemed to be coming from my bag, which indeed it was – I’d left my phone on shuffle after I got the news so with a wry smile I shame-facedly turned it off. Sure I was feeling cocky, I was simply the best! But I was also, and will always be, a bit of a nob.

By the way, I have been in Portugal for 3 hours and have already had 3 beers and 3 Marlboro reds – you’ve gotta love Europe. I’m sure the high will dampen soon, but even when I get those much needed rejection letters, I’ll remember and be glad for what Patch said cos at the moment it’s true on a daily basis ‘I’ve had the time of my life.’

Lost In Music

I’ll be honest with you. I suck at commitment. Really suck. A mere five weeks into my blogging career and I really don’t feel like writing today. No offence, but I can’t be arsed. Is this the beginning of the end? The classic ‘Janey gets really enthusiastic about something for 0.5 Seconds before being distracted by other things’ syndrome?

Squirrel!

Sorry I’m back. No it’s not. Stop being so negatory Ballantyne, I may be tired but I am here and I am writing.

Ok, I’m tired because I just spent five hours salsa dancing, which was the last thing I got really into before I started writing again. But I haven’t done any dancing for 6 months. See? I suck at commitment. Anyway, it was great to do it again, and it was with a terrific group and a fantastic teacher but I have to say, over five hours we danced to about six tracks and the music for the most part was not good! I actually like salsa music a lot. And after a few years and several Spanish lessons I can now tell the difference between good Latin music and bad, and this didn’t hit the spot, or rather, the soul. Maybe it just wasn’t loud enough but instead of feeling every beat in every inch of my body and letting the music propel me through the tiredness, I found myself too aware of my surroundings, knackered and sweating in a basement club off Tottenham Court Road on a sunny Sunday afternoon, to dance like no-one was watching.

I’ve been thinking a lot about music this week, mainly because music helps me write and I am currently writing my second screenplay, exactly a year after I wrote the first one with a wonderful group of people in New York. Spring seems to be an inspiring time. Anyway, the first screenplay, entitled Come As You Are, relies heavily on a score by Nirvana. I knew before I sat down to write it that Nirvana were one of the hardest bands to license. But I carried on regardless as I never thought in my wildest dreams I would actually finish it, let alone want to send it out to competitions/agents to try and get it made. Idiot. Nirvana’s back catalogue is owned by several people, mainly nutty Courtney Love and poor old Frances Bean and they are very protective over it. At least they are in good company, like The Beatles and Dylan they are one of the most use-restricted artists. Fortunately the new screenplay has a large 1950’s influence so I hope the music will be slightly more usable. One of the best tracks I’ve found so far is called ‘London Is The Place For Me’. Check it out, it’s a classic… But I do hope it’s displaying 50’s irony at it’s best. If you compare this to what was going on musically and culturally in New York at the time, you might get a glimpse of why I am so drawn to that city, over London where ‘the English people are very much sociable’ apparently. As I say, check it out.

The first record I ever bought was Girls Just Wanna Have Fun by Cyndi Lauper. It seems my 8 year old self knew what was important, even then. I clearly remember going into Our Price in Southgate Mall, Bath, with my pocket money in my sweaty palm and going home to play it over and over and over and over again. What’s brilliant about that record (and I know a lot of people will say nothing is brilliant about it) is that I still own it. And it gives me goose bumps every time I hear it because of that memory, and that knowledge. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, kids ain’t gonna remember the first song they ever bought any more, in future formative memories are going to be very different. This is why I was so excited yesterday, on National Record Store Day when I walked into Rough Trade West and went straight to the counter and asked the owner (now a celebrity in his own right) if I could buy the new Good Cop album, which is beautifully pressed in clear vinyl and comes with a clear CD as well. The staff there were all very excited, a man behind me saw me buying it and got very excited and there was such an amazing buzz about the place, that it made me yearn for the old days.  At least there is still a rebel alliance alive and well and trying to hold on to those memories. People with kids, take them to a record store to buy their first song, and if you no longer have a record player, buy one. They’ll love you for it.

Squirrel!

Don’t Stop Believing…

It’s been a busy week. I’m trying to write a screenplay in a month with Script Frenzy, hold down a full-on day job, and support my amazing friends whose talents know no bounds. Consequently, I have yet again neglected to push ahead with New York plans… but that’s what happens when London gets fun.

This week I’ve been to see Good Cop, Lorna Blackwood and Haiste and Lawrence all utterly entertaining and brilliant in very different ways. A lot of my friends are talented artists and I am in awe of each and every one of them. To hang out with creative people, who know what they want and spend every day in pursuit of their dream is pretty inspiring. I have always assumed they followed their dream because they have no choice, making that classically wanky assumption, that their talent dictated their life’s choices because they simply had to find an outlet. I am now revising this assumption, not because it’s necessarily untrue but because there is a lot more to talent than that. You need passion, determination and a little bit of luck to make a living out of your talent. Sadly many talented people have never succeeded because they lacked one or all of these ingredients, and some ‘less’ talented people have succeeded simply because they possessed them.

I always wanted to be a writer, always. One of the reasons I never tried and took a boring office job instead is because I believed I wasn’t talented, or at least not talented enough. I could never be like Shakespeare or Toni Morrison so why bother trying? (I incidentally saw Toni Morrison give a lecture a few years ago and when she walked on stage… well, I don’t believe in God but if I did, she would be it). What I have now come to understand is the exquisite pleasure that you get from trying, and – what an idiot you were, younger Janey – if everyone thought like that no-one would ever write a word! Maybe this talent idea is a little bit overrated.

After such a busy week, I decided yesterday that the tension in my right shoulder was not going away and thought it would be a good idea to have a massage. I am not a regular patron of the massage parlour so when the lady on the phone asked me whether I wanted aromatherapy or deep tissue massage, I plumbed for deep tissue thinking aromatherapy sounded a bit wet. This train of thought continued when, nearly naked and lying face down on the massage table, the masseuse told me that, ‘My deep tissue is really deep so just holler if you need me to adjust the pressure’. Why oh why did I immediately see this as a challenge? At that moment, I knew there was no way I was going to holler, I was going to take the deepest depth of deep tissue massage she could give me, and I was going to bloody like it. Humph… IT WAS UTTER AGONY! It got worse when I turned over and could no longer hide my intense grimacing and lip-biting from her and had to sustain a face of mild indifference and attempt to ‘breath into the pain’. It was then that I started thinking about determination.

I am not ambitious or competitive, I never had a career goal and I’ll freely admit that I hate games. All games except backgammon, Go Fish, Shithead, Trivial Pursuit and Scrabble from time to time, can be banished to Room 101 as far as I’m concerned. But I am determined. I have this fucked up notion that I have to be bloody good at everything I turn my hand to. Not the best, but the best that I can be. Failure is not an option. I’m like the astronauts on Apollo 13.

It is only now, when I am doing something that I actually enjoy and care about, writing, that I realise failure is actually a massive option and more than that, it’s a probability. What surprises me is for the first time in my life I am not running away from it, in fact I am gagging for my first rejection letter.

So, as soon as this pain deep in my muscles subsides I’m going to jut out my chin and march down to the post office to send off some scripts. And when I get that first rejection letter I’m going to watch this, which was recorded during my ‘sabbatical’ last year. Enjoy.