Before I explain where we are with Ferried, and how we got there, I want to talk a little about the point of short films.
Short films, to me, are like short stories. They are not longer forms (features, novels) in miniature, but self-contained works with their own point to make and tale to tell. In many ways they are easier to put together than their longer-form cousins, but to master, they are trickier beasts.
There are four core elements that make a good short film: the idea; the writing; the acting; and, the direction [which includes direction of photography]. Many shorts films are bad because one or more of the core elements are missing, and these elements are often dependent on the money available.
Short stories do not require good acting or direction, and are rarely affected by the duress of mammon. All dramatic films, unlike pieces of written fiction, must balance the artistic and the commercial, often to their detriment.
Learning this, and trying to make all of the elements work, has already taken eight months.
The idea of Ferried – to show loneliness in older people, the importance of relationships with them, and the way society excludes such a large, but quiet population – was with us as far back as February or March. For Michael to have one regular visitor, and for that visitor to be both a symbol of the structural problems older people face, and a person not bound to him in any familial or societal way, we always thought pretty strong. The script – the first version of the script – followed pretty soon after. I wanted to write a piece of social realism, and because I drew on my own experience of older relatives, it came together quite quickly. As a short story, I could have had the thing sewn up by the Spring. However, we wanted to make a film, and we wanted to get this message out to people, so we approached charities in the hope that their support would mean we could reach a broader audience. Further, it showed that we knew what we were talking about, and cared about the subject: it gave us credibility. This, we thought, might help to convince talented actors and crew to work with us where otherwise they might skip-over the first short from a new company. That was in May.
So, what have we done since then? Well we’ve put together a production pack, secured funding, approached potential media partners (newspapers), hired a fantastic director, and almost secured a great actor for the lead role. Writing that it sounds like a fortnight’s work with a half-day on Friday, but to make sure that the core elements of acting and directing are done well [brilliantly, we hope], a lot of back and forth was required.
Ollie has done a fantastic job securing funding, putting together the packs, and getting in contact with people who might be able to help us spread the word about loneliness in older people, but the real work has been in finding really talented creatives to work with us. This part has not been about money, it’s been about perseverance, confidence in our idea and script [confidence bordering on arrogance], flexibility, and a lot of hard work.
In the last two months we’ve worked with the director to re-write some parts of the script such that the protagonist’s arc is better defined. Lots of people talk about collaboration, but this is the test, when you shed your attachment to the thing you’ve been guarding so closely, and take on board criticism and notes and the views of others. I’m glad I’m not as precious now as I was about my writing three years ago, because the script is better than it was in April, and we’re on the verge of something really exciting.
All we have to do now is film it.