When sitting down to type this out, one thing stuck in the back of my mind - Roll the Dice by Charles Bukowski. It's one of my favourite poems because it resonates with what I identify with as a writer and a filmmaker.
'If you're going to try,' Bukowski reminds us, 'go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start.'
I sat down to write Nina Nobody in February, 2008. It was six furious days of hammering away at the keys - back then the quickest turnaround I'd ever had of a screenplay - and it just seemed to be the easiest thing in the world to do. You take an idea and you spill it onto the page. I figured we'd shoot it for five grand, lowdown and dirty, and just get it out to the festivals on a heel as my sophomore project.
Of course life, as the saying goes, is what happens when you're making other plans. I could wax lyrical about the ups and the downs of the intervening years of 2008 to 2013, but I fear my filter for it might be a little off. I don't even know how to make it cohesive. I mean, how can you wrap up neatly all the details of five (almost) lost years? How can I talk about finding myself broke and crashing on friend's floors, of busted relationships and painfully false dawns? How can I explain the collapse of a film shoot with less than 24 hours to go, or the ignominy of having to face the actors and crew of the shoot, telling them that we just don't have the money or resources to fix the problems in front of us? But more than that, how can I talk about this stuff publicly whilst having to be brutally honest with myself that actually, much of this was my own fault, my own problems and ultimately, my own responsibility to fix? It's fucken hard to even make it clean on the page. But that's the truth of it. Life is messy, and making simple bite-sized chunks of the preceding half-decade is far too complicated. Especially as there has never been somebody with a gun to my head, forcing me to try and make this film.
I think of it sometimes, that filmmaker's guilt. I'm sure it must be the same for musicians and other artists (but not being one, I don't want to postulate too much here), but getting out your dreams is fucken tough. And yet you're the only one doing it to yourself.
Yesterday, I lay the last shot onto the timeline for Nina Nobody. The first pass of the edit is complete. Yeah, I've got more to do. There's always more to do, right? Notably I have a pick up or two to shoot, I have to fix up the sound, trim the fat, grade the colours and score the thing, all in advance of a little screening I have planned. Truth be told, it'll be a while yet till it's ready for primetime, but having just gotten it this far, man, I don't know how to explain what that's like.
This was my second feature film to be shot this year (there will be three). And even up until the last moment, it almost didn't happen. If it wasn't for my partner, producer and cinematographer Maria, or associate producer and good friend Neil, this film wouldn't have even been shot. For a project that has been slated for budgets ranging between £500,000 and £1.5m, to get it done on less than the cost of a second-hand car has been equal parts embarrassing, liberating and humbling. It was never meant to be this way, and yet, could it have happened under any other circumstance?
You realise that, whilst in this day and age, you can shoot for literally the cost of coffee and sandwiches, money acts as a buffer. If you've got a problem, cash will take the knocks. But when you've got nothing, you just end up covered in bruises and scratches. That's just how it is in indie filmmaking. No glamour. Just hustle. And shooting just a few months after we made Pale Horses in New York has been exhausting. But this really was my last chance to make the film. I'll be back in New York soon, on to other things.
I don't fully know how I feel just yet, realising that we made it. Of course, I already have too many other things to think about (I'm looking at you, Bootleg Film Festival New York), and that actually, Nina Nobody might not even be that good of a movie. Hey, that's just how it goes, right? You don't get to judge it, you just have to shoot the damn thing. But that part right there - shooting it - that's the quietest, most difficult struggle that any filmmaker can come up against. And we got there.
I wish I could say that I learned something profound from five years hustle on one movie, or that I figured out a formula that means I'll never, ever have to struggle to get a film shot again. But the truth is, I'm probably still as dumb and idealistic as I ever was when it comes to telling stories, and that every film will be most likely earned through some combination of sweat, tears and humility.
But the film - Nina Nobody, written and directed by Tom Wilton - has happened. And I cannot bring together the words to explain how fucken happy I am to say that. Of course, I didn't do it alone. I did it with the love, support and teamwork of some truly incredible people - all of whom know who they are. And finally, I can start signing off the last of the of the things I had to do here, ready to to begin my next adventure in NYC.
And as Bukowski finished off, 'do it, do it, do it.'