Category Archives: Short films

Saturday

Most of us have had that “I remember where I was” moment, when we hear of something that is so dreadful, the memory imprints itself forever.  It’s like  we’re outside ground zero but caught in the aftershock.  That’s the way I remember Hillsborough.   It was a sunny afternoon twenty seven years ago; I was in the garden with the kids.  They were digging in a flower bed and I was promising them a sandpit.  The phone rang. I went indoors to answer it. It was my sister-in-law – her son had gone to a football match and something terrible had happened and she couldn’t get hold of him. She didn’t know if he was dead or alive. I switched on the television. Outside my children were playing in the sun. Inside on the TV screen, other people’s children were dying on a football pitch.

It was a terrible day, waiting, listening, not telling the children what was happening,  until the news came – my nephew  finally arrived home safe but the shock and the horror of those scenes of what started as an ordinary Saturday didn’t go away.

A week later I took my children into Liverpool to buy them that sand pit. I can remember there being few people about and there was a strange atmosphere. Half way across Clayton Square in the city centre, suddenly everyone stood still. I can’t remember if there was a signal, a church bell or a ship’s horn but suddenly there was silence and nobody moved.  It was the exact time that the football match at Hillsborough had been halted seven days before.

I stood, holding one end of this large plastic sandpit with my son holding the other end while my daughter, unnerved by the silence, moved closer and grasped my hand.  Then through the stillness came footsteps and a man hurried past, staring straight ahead.  He didn’t look to left or right.  It was almost as though he was alone in that whole city, as though we were all of us invisible to him.   In a way it was symbolic of how the next 27 years would be as the families of the men, women and children who died at Hillsborough fought for truth and justice.

In 2005, I started a short film festival to showcase the work of new film makers and amongst the entries was a film, Bar to Bar from Mike Forshaw, a local emerging Director.   I saw a lot of films over the next few years but the ones that stand out are those that strike a chord.  I remember the images on the screen and connect to the characters and their emotions.  I remembered the clarity of the images and the honesty of the characters’ portrayal in Bar to Bar.  A few years’ later, we showed another of Mike’s films, Slippin’, which had been shown at the London Film Festival the previous year.  Again  I found this same connection to the characters in the clear story telling.

Next month in London, Mike Forshaw’s most recent film, Saturday, will be given its UK premiere at the London Sundance Film Festival.  Saturday is a powerful retelling of that day in 1989 through the eyes of a young boy who stays home in Liverpool, whilst his brother goes to the match.  It has already been shown at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in  the US but could not be screened in the UK, until the enquiry into Hillsborough had reached its verdict on the deaths of those 96 Liverpool fans.  Finally their families had truth and justice after 27 years.

The day after the verdicts, 30,000 people stood on Lime Street, not silent this time, nor invisible to the passer-by but singing the Liverpool FC anthem, ‘You’ll never walk alone.’  A scene that is beyond description but burned into the being of everyone who saw it.

I understand that the filmmakers of  Saturday  will be bringing this powerful retelling home to Liverpool after its UK premiere. I understand this because for in that strange way that Fate links and connects people and events, my daughter, Jennifer Monks, the little girl who held my hand nervously in that silent city, 27 years ago, became the Line Producer on  Saturday. 

Sundance Film Festival: London 2016 – Short Film Programme

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Filed under Characters, Film writing, Short films

A picture’s worth a million words

Back from an energy sapping but riveting four days at London Screenwriters’ Festival, I settled down to the working week and the chores and joys of clearing the inbox. The beautiful short film, Moments, directed by Chris Cronin and produced by Andrew Oldbury and Phil Meacham with Mike Clarke as Executive Producer was definitely one of the joys and a brilliant reminder of why I began screenwriting in the first place – the power of pictures alone to tell a story.

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In Director Chris Cronin’s own words, Moments is “a love letter to all those Disney classics that used dance to express powerful emotions that simply couldn’t be described by words alone.” From the moment the first dancer flies across the screen, you’re swept up in that perpetually sunlit, magical world where all Disney stories live. Love is not only all around us but makes us want to leap and dance just like Cronin’s leading man, hapless Joel, played by an engaging Simon Hardwick, who keeps missing out on love and even unwittingly sabotaging the feel good factor for everyone else.

It’s skilfully paced and plotted, with charming, funny scenes and there’s the feel of a potential feature film here. There’s comedy and pathos and Simon Hardwick hits just the right note in his search for love and Madeleine, the girl he keeps missing while Lauren Harvey plays Madeleine with a humour and gentleness that complements Simon Hardwick’s mixture of wistfulness and gung ho enthusiasm.

“Moments” is currently screening at film festivals around the world, but do look out for it in the future once it’s released for public viewing. It’s most recently won Runner-up in the short film category at Screen Stockport Short Film and Television Festival, UK.

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“Moments” was shot over three days with cast and crew drawn from all over Britain and shows what fantastic talent we’ve got in the UK.

And one last word, before I get back to my inbox – this is a writer’s blog after all, so I can’t finish without mentioning – Chris Cronin for story and Joanne Gardner and Tina A. Wake for screenplay.

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Filed under Characters, Dance, Film writing, Short films

Never, ever, ever throw anything away.

NEVER, EVER, EVER, THROW ANYTHING AWAY

A writer I knew once, in the depths of despair after a snowstorm of rejections – like buses, they always arrive together – took every single thing she had ever written and made a bonfire in the garden and burnt it all, and swore never to write another word again.

First of all, let me make it clear, I was not this writer, as in “There’s this friend of mine …” I’m not a good liar, which is why I probably write fiction. Everyone knows you’ve made it up, so it doesn’t matter and you also get to practise the lying part. And secondly, if I ever set fire to everything I’d ever written, I’d need a far larger location than my garden.

But the thing I admired about my friend, the writer, was the certainty with which she could decide to destroy all that time and effort, all those ideas, all the emotional input and give up writing. I wished I could be that brave, that sure of never needing to get those infernal words out of my head. If you can stop writing and not miss it, then you are very lucky. I’ve taken breaks from writing and filled them with travelling, working abroad, jam making and allotments and finally children before I gave up and went back to writing, bizarrely when I had the least time of all.

Just because you’ve had something rejected many times over, doesn’t mean that there isn’t a market for it somewhere, (see Rejection and the Boomerang post). A few years ago, I wrote a short film script. It was a coming of age story and it attracted some interest but never got made. It garnered its own little pile of rejections but I’d rather have that than dust and then out of the blue, an opportunity presented itself. A friend needed a script for a group of actors. Did I have anything that would fit? I had something that was almost right – that coming of age story. Since writing the original, I’ve changed computers several times and whilst everything’s backed up on disks, it was much easier to open a filing drawer and put my hand on the script.

There’s something about hard copy that’s satisfying – the feel of paper in your hand and it’s harder to ignore or pass over in the way you can a title in a document file. You can’t delete it in a temporary angst driven aberration. Like my writer friend, you have to give it a proper funeral pyre and if you expend all your energy in blue sky thinking like me, that’s a deterrent in itself.

But when you unearth this old script, be prepared. It’ll be a bit like seeing yourself in an old photograph next to a mirror – you’ll have moved on a fair few years but it’s what’s inside your head that matters not the exterior and best of all, your story gets another chance and you, another bite at the cherry. So whatever way you store it, hang on to it – all that person power and imagination. Don’t consign it to the digital dustbin or add to global warming. Keep it safe.

“Last Tango” is now in post production at ALRA North, Wigan.

There’s a special summer offer on my Anthology, “Life, Love and Holidays” on Amazon – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Life-Love-and-Holidays-ebook/dp/B00B1EP2FC/ref=sr_1_2?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1376140013&sr=1-2&keywords=Life%2C+Love+and+Holidays

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Filed under Film writing, Short films, Writing and rejection