There’s a story that my mother told me when I was, I think eight or nine. It was a very strange story for a mother to tell her child at that sort of age and I’m still trying to figure out exactly why it was that particular story she chose to illustrate her message of Be very careful not to be seen as ‘different’; just fit in. It’s a story that involves sadistic bullying in a charged environment where pack instincts came to the fore; of how one person’s difference became the focus point for the level of abuse to escalate further; of how that person tragically ended their life as a result (or possibly became a murder victim) and of how the authorities acted in a way that might not have been altogether compatible with finding the truth.
My mother knew this story because she was there as it unfolded and I’m sure she felt a degree of shame on at least three counts: that she’d done nothing to prevent what happened; that she was herself intimidated and humiliated by the perpetrator; and that she accepted the effective exclusion from giving evidence that followed from her being offered a posting immediately after the event – a posting that she desperately wanted and that she’d been told only a week or two earlier would be ‘impossible’. Now I was no stranger to bullying at that age, yet this was something utterly beyond my experience, as was the particular ‘difference’ of the victim. It set me to asking questions that were too difficult and scary to pursue far, so I pretty much shut down thinking about it, or anything in any way associated.
Roll forward to now.
The realisation that for pretty much my whole life I’ve been sitting on potentially one of the most meaningful, dramatic, shocking, game-changing and heart-rending true stories ever; was something that came to me as a flash of inspiration, a lightning bolt, a moment of the most intense and pure clarity. In that moment it also became clear to me that the appropriate medium for telling this is film and that my vision of how it unfolds means that I can’t entrust Direction to another… or at least, not wholly (but that’s a matter for negotiation with those who know how such things are done).
As that vision has developed, as more about the setting, the characters, potential sub-plots and diversions reveals… and as other parts of the puzzle fall into place (I know exactly who I want doing the soundtrack – and intend to tempt them with a cameo and a spin-off album… and maybe an Executive Producer role too) the clarity grows further and I realise that this is exactly what I was always supposed to do.
So I am committed to this project in a way that I’ve never been committed to anything before and with a clarity that I’ve never had before. I’m aware that I have a mountain to climb, that I have many obstacles to overcome; not least of which will be the credibility gap and getting past the Who do you think you are? and What makes you think you can Direct without having worked your way up in the industry? objections will need to be negotiated past somehow. I don’t have all the answers yet, but I’m willing to listen to those who do have them and I’m not taking NO for an answer. Rather, I’ll be interpreting NO as an indication that I need to make the pitch better!