5 Ways to Survive a Trexit Winter

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It’s been a tough old year. As we face up to the double jeopardy of Trump and Brexit (Can we be punished twice for the same crime?) it’s hard to know how to comfort each other, to step up and do what’s right when we feel demoralised and silenced. How can we use the winter months to recover?

  1. Zone out the Noise.  Reading my social media feeds, I feel like a horse grazing in a field of rubble, stubbing my nose on shards of opinion, starved of real information or cheer. While it’s important to question untruths, we use a lot of energy consuming and reposting the same news or venting our (understandable) anger. Yes we have to grieve but then we have to get on – with the work. Take time out to recover, take stock, reflect. So we can hear our own voices again.
  2. Trust yourself.  After Brexit I felt I had got something very wrong, safe in my online bubble, sharing my values with my friends, unaware or dismissive that others felt differently. After the result I felt my voice didn’t matter, had no effect. Now I know it does but that I need to do more.
  3. Get Active. Donate, Promote, Engage. It’s relatively easy to sign an online petition, but more rewarding to volunteer time or support. Help Refugees are looking for help right now. We’re all busy but doing something yourself breaks the cycle of helplessness. Positive action is worth a thousand words.  And yet –

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  4. Keep writing. We need voices to articulate what is happening. To challenge the bluster of the far right. To expose simplistic arguments and reach people with stories that move and engage them. To give us comfort and hope, to reaffirm our true values.
  5. Support each other. Organise. Vote. Plan for a future without Trump, connected to Europe and the wider world, where prosperity for all, not fear, is what drives us. Set up an action group  like House of Cards writer @BeauWillimon if you don’t like what’s on offer. Protest in all ways, and don’t forget your greatest weapon- your heart and mind – your words and actions matter.

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Take heart. You’re not alone.  And don’t forget. There’s always chocolate…

 

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The Road We Travel

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I woke up feeling militant today. When it comes to my film career, have I taken The Road Less Travelled? But if so, why do I meet so many Fellow Travellers? Today it feels more like The Road We Travel. Here’s where we’re going and why:

In Search of Alternative Structures. After years of riding those two horses of being inner-directed as a writer and yet respecting the market, I believe there is a third way – to build your audience as you write and make your film – and create an alternative distribution path. The internet has made this real, but it also builds on a far older model where stories rise up to meet the needs of the community – we seek out the stories that help us understand our universe and survive it, maybe even transcend it for a few moments.

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Away from Predictability and Routine. It is not our job to sell the old paradigms of existing shows and tried and tested formats. It’s our job to originate new ones. No one under 20 admits to watching TV. Yet they do watch heavily authored and beautifully crafted series that speak to their own tastes and values. Nothing is ever truly new of course and those shows stand on the shoulders of others and have their own ritualistic formats and tropes. But at least for the moment they feel box-set fresh, a story we want to collect, like golden breadcrumbs.

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To Meet Fellow Travellers and Collaborate. Communities of filmmakers, actors, writers, musicians and other creatives are getting together online and in the real world to create, distribute and cross-promote each others’ work. The freelancers have got together and as Billy Bragg would say, ‘there is power in our union’. Our manifesto is simple:

This is What We Want to Make. This is What We Need to Say.  Choose your dream project and make it happen. ‘I want to invite you to join me in making a story I care about.’ Few can resist those words and so artist speaks to artist directly without mediation or need of cumbersome management structures that falter at the first hurdle of making a decision.

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Make a Choice. Stand up for the stories you want to tell, the people you want to work with and the causes you believe in. Build value into your movies – not just monetary (though that would be nice) – but true value that supports our community and makes us stronger.

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Diversity is Who We Are. It is not a special interest group or a catch-all phrase for troublesome outsiders. We are a truly diverse nation and we have the opportunity like never before to reach a global audience by writing, making and distributing our own stories. There is a huge pool of talent already trained and ready to be a part of this– don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.

May Your God Go With You. All belief systems are valid, even those we despise have a function for those who hold to them. To contemplate a network of stories and storytellers that span this incredible world of ideas, to connect emotionally to even one human being is extraordinary. How much greater is it to connect to millions with our words, our images, our lives?

Let’s Get Together. And make something great.

Red River Screening

I’m in the usual places – @emlin32, and right here. Leave a message. x

RED RIVER – My New Drama for Directors UK

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It started with an image. A tiny girl chased by a giant red veil. But it started before that, at a Human Rights Watch talk at the Frontline club, where I first heard about child brides, the number one issue facing human rights campaigners.

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It stuck in my mind. A girl, clever girl, young, still at school, who didn’t want to get married. Not yet. Not to a man much older than her. Not when she was ten, twelve, thirteen. So I carried this idea around, waiting to write it up. And in the winter, just before Christmas, it came out – this dream, this chase, this story. A runaway child bride, here, in London, on the River Thames. And then this story was made real. ‘Red River’ was selected for the Directors UK Challenge ALEXA scheme, sponsored by ARRI.

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We went into pre-production in February and have just shot the film over three action-packed days in March. Alongside my writer-director role, I put my producer’s cap on and started to pull the elements together that we needed. There was a 12 year old girl in a boat on the river, a VFX dream sequence involving a giant veil, a chase sequence on the River, involving mud, more boats and water, and a series of driving scenes across London. It seems I had written a rather complicated ten minuter. But mostly I thought about the girl in the boat. The boat and the girl, drifting away in my dreams. And the Risk Assessment…

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Nikhita Mani and Munir Khairdin

The best thing about producing as well as directing is you get to pick the best people as your team. 90% of directing actors is great casting – and I had an amazing cast thanks to our clever casting director Shakyra Dowling, including  Goldy Notay, Munir Khairdin, Simon Nagra, and our two young actresses – Nikhita Mani and Mia Rolfe.

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Goldy Notay with Mia Rolfe and Nikhita Mani

So I do believe that directing a crew depends on – well – that crew being something special. Which of course they turned out to be.

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Abigail Berry at Directors UK provided invaluable production support while ARRI gave us an Alexa XT camera with a set of Master Anamorphic lenses and a generous lighting and kit allowance – plus a terrific amount of goodwill and technical know-how from Milan Krsljanin and his team of Challenge Alexa camera trainees (and all trainees are Met Film School graduates!).

So we hit the River running – and then God gave us the weather.

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Light on the water, captured on those beautiful lenses by expert cinematographer Patrick Duval.

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Footfall and dialogues caught by our very own Sam Cousins.

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And production design by creative dynamo, Sam Sharma.

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Then 11 year old Nikhita Mani ran on screen and became that character I had dreamed of all those months before. That clever girl, that girl who didn’t want to get married so soon, so young…

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So now we are in the edit, with my old friend Alex Morgan, and in a few weeks time I will have to let her go – to the composer, the VFX compositor, the sound mixer and the colourist, ready for our Challenge Alexa screening in May. And then she will be off again, across the screen, running for her life, towards a new life.

Catch her while you can…

For more updates on RED RIVER, you can like our Facebook page here or follow us on Twitter: @emlin32, @golday_notay, @Nikhita_Mani, @ShakyraDowling, @Directors_UK

HUGE THANKS  to everyone who has worked with us so far! Emma xxx

Emma and Nikhita

 All photos by Doris Zajer..

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Seeing out the Old Year

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Why do we need New Year’s Eve? Or rather why do we have to party so hard that New Year’s Day is short, miasmic, a hungover non event?

It can feel overlong, that carefully organised party with too much booze that has to run til midnight. Not to play Scrooge but couldn’t we all just go to bed as usual and wake up refreshed and genuinely ready to welcome a New Year in?

Because before that we have to usher the Old Year out. We are celebrating our survival of the darkness.  In these moments we say goodbye to all that ails us, the deaths and illnesses, loneliness and departures. We forgive those that trespassed and our own petty and larger sins. We look for comfort in food and drink and each other, in one long night of the soul. For who knows how and who we will be next year and who will still survive and who be gone?

Celebrate being alive and loved and at home on a cold night.

Eat a little, drink a little and love a lot.  For tomorrow, we cleanse.

HAPPY 2015 – May you and your loved ones be healthy and hearty, and may the good things you want find you easily and keep you company throughout the year.

 

Emma x

WAITING…

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Forgive my silence. You see I’ve been working hard – and waiting – for news, an event, inspiration. How best to use this period? When it’s not quite Christmas but the world is running down and emails lie unanswered ’til New Year?

Here’s a small guide to winter living (with added Kate Bush vitamins…)

  • Rest, Recover, Repair. Like athletes at the end of the season, training doesn’t stop – it just takes another turn.  When your body gets sick on your one weekend off it’s telling you something – STAY ON THE BENCH! Eating right and resting up are an investment in your future well-being. Get well, listen to your body and take care of yourself.images-311
  • Try New Things. Yes, it’s cold outside and you don’t want to miss Strictly/The X Factor/ that online shopping delivery, but as the world of work winds down, you finally have a window in which to have some fun or at least set up some entertaining stuff for the holidays. Treat yourself!images-312
  •  Sleep. Yes we are all sleeping (or wanting to sleep) more now it’s dark and cold. Don’t fight it. This feeling we always have to be alert and at the top of our game, is a myth. Sometimes it’s good to just be quiet for a while and take comfort in family and friends.images-305
  • Don’t Dismiss the Silence. That script that refuses to find a shape on the page just needs a little more time to emerge. Don’t force it. Trust your mind to do the work – or let it play. Like a dog off the leash it will run further without you holding on tight trying to control it.
  • Believe in your capacity not just to survive the winter but to develop new shoots come Spring. Take time to relax and acknowledge what you already have. So don’t wait until Christmas to open your gifts…
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Emma x

 

 

 

 

 

Walk Away from the Wi-Fi

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I can give it up any time I choose.

The Wi-Fi that is.  I just need to check this one email – OK, I confess, I am an internet junkie – but going offline for just a few hours a day has brought me to my senses. The search for free wi-fi can’t compete with a life that’s wi-fi free.

Four days at my sister’s in the Irish countryside was going to be a welcome internet detox.  I needed to decompress. Too many emails, social media updates and text messages were part of the problem.

Here’s what I discovered.

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To Disconnect is to Reconnect.

You cannot be fully present with the company you’re in if you’re online doing something else.  We all know this and yet like the smoker in the room we are tolerated as we drag on our devices.  We all pick up our phones the moment our dinner partner nips to the loo, in case we’ve missed something in the twenty minutes since we both sat down to eat.  Yet the company of family and friends is a real pleasure a thousand times more involving than its Facebook facsimile. Be in the room.

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Be Creative not Reactive

I have to be in my own head in order to write, I have to be present to myself and open to ideas that come from inside. I cannot do that if I am constantly taking in (useless) information off a screen. Ten out of eleven emails are not from real people  but junk, a flotsam and jetsam of PR, petitions and the dreaded Reply Alls.  After three days in the country with no e-spam clogging up my brain, I woke with a head full of ideas for my new script, eager to write them down. Of course I did that on my phone…

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Go Outside

Go for a walk somewhere green.  It relaxes you, creates mental space, and visual inspiration.  Borrow a dog if you can.  The act of walking is a form of meditation and I often work out story problems when away from my desk. Being outside takes you away from your workspace and creates room to think – but only if you turn off your phone …

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Walk Away from the Phone!

I was sleeping much better when I wasn’t online til midnight or checking my phone as soon as I woke up.  I started turning my phone off or leaving it in another room to avoid checking it.  When I did check, I hadn’t missed anything, and could deal with my small batch of emails more quickly.  I wasn’t constantly being interrupted by that inbox buzz that you answer only to find a lone email mosquito in wait.  The smartphone is a tool, not a tagging device so walk away while you still can.

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Enjoy Real Life

Drinking prosecco with my sister, playing pool with my nephew and niece, cuddling a dog or tickling a kitten are real and lovely pleasures.  Don’t downgrade your real life in favour of a virtual one.  Now I’m back in London, I still wake up and check my phone – back on the electronic hamster wheel – but I’ve resolved to jump off it more and explore my (real) world.

It’s great to feel ‘connected’ but we need to look at what that word really means – to reach out and touch.  Doesn’t that sound better than ‘going online’?

 

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BOYHOOD – Growing Up in Real Time

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Boyhood  is that most modern of movies. As self-actualisation in the Western world fast becomes our primary goal, Director Richard Linklater offers up a more innocent take on growing up. It’s real and wonderfully refreshing.

This boy is no internet-hooked, selfie taker.  His is a childhood of bikes and hiking, a lo-tech slice of real life.  A wide-eyed, silent observer of the world and his family, Mason is so quiet that it comes as a shock when he starts to articulate his own thoughts. When he does speak it is mainly to express his own uncertainty. This is no hip or cynical commentator, rather a boy lost in wonder at the beauty and sadness of the world.

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Much has been made of the innovative twelve year shooting period that follows the same young actor, Ellar Coltrane, from age six to eighteen as he grows up. Yet there are other points of difference that mark out this subtle, involving indie drama. Linklater is king of the anti-drama. There are no big events – no murders, no rapes and only a little violence. There are no good guys and no bad guys and – some would argue – not much story either.  The film moves us with a series of small but important moments in a family’s life. In the absence of the conventional dramatic climax in a scene, I found myself crying at unexpected moments, during a transitional scene, moved by reminders of my own family.

It is the most relatable of films – in that it takes the standard clichés of the coming of age movie – the ball game, the first love, the graduation, and presents them as fresh and uncontrived.  Many scenes were based on improvisation and the closeness of the on-screen family (headed up by the impressive Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette) means they rub along in an utterly convincing and authentic way.

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This is a world you want to be part of. Linklater’s liberal value system eschews the obvious and embraces contradiction – the educated alcoholic, the decent army guy, the ‘flaky musician’ Dad who seeks out security. This is a loving portrait of America, land of the individual yet also home of the gun and the bible, and he embraces it all with a breadth of vision that takes your breath away.

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The scope of Boyhood’s epic time frame recalls older, Hollywood movies like Giant that tell the history of America through one extended clan. Yet Linklater’s natural, real time ‘fly on the wall’ approach also shares its DNA with the ground-breaking British documentary series Seven Up! which revisited the same children every seven years as they grew up and through adulthood.

Time in a movie is a construct. The idea that a movie unfolds over a two hour period and offers up a few moments in time is pure illusion. ‘Boyhood’ challenges this construct and offers up an alternative vision. It also makes you realise how phoney most on-screen attempts at ageing are. The shock and pleasure of seeing people age for real on camera contrasts with Hollywoods’ obsession with our actors (especially women) looking forever young. We all grow up – and we all age – and while countless films have celebrated the joys of coming of age, it is rare to see so many generations reflected in one story with such a light touch.

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There is great joy in ‘Boyhood’ and I was reminded many times of my own family while watching it. There is a sense of community we get when we watch a film that reflects our own experience. We should celebrate that.

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