Crikey. How about this for a piece of emo history?
I’d not seen this in years. It’s a short film written and directed by a seventeen-year-old me, back when I was studying A-Level Media Production, and deputied by Mike Aaron and Danielle Whitaker, who I’ve probably not seen for almost as long. The star is Jennifer Durrans, who I believe is currently acting her way to bigger and better things. Aside from one preposterously awful delivery about half-way through that we didn’t have time to re-do, she was absolutely the star throughout, except for refusing to smoke a cigarette out in the field. Man! One cigarette never hurt anyone.
Except it probably did.
Anyway, do excuse the subject matter. Our 6th Form was collaborating with the NSPCC in a student project centred on the word “vulnerability” and the brief was to create a short film for 16-18-year-olds using that title. We probably tangented a bit from the NSPCC thing, but hmm. I didn’t want to do something too horribly clichéd, and the bullying-and-abuse throw-it-all-into-the-mix one seemed to be what everyone else was doing.
Of course, it still is horribly clichéd. We were seventeen, after all. And self-harm was the hot media topic at the time, so my ever-sensible mind bought into the hype (Christ, that sounds insensitive, doesn’t it? Didn’t mean it that way at all. Spectacularly can’t be bothered to go back and edit). If I could zoom back in time and do it again? Well, as unequivocally horrible as it would be to become a teenager again, I’d make it far more subtle. The parents-arguing thing is just as horrendously presumptuous as the other kids’ work, and implies that people with emotional problems are automatically triggered by an actual, tangible issue in their lives, as opposed to just a chemical imbalance, which seems to be the popular opinion but is absolute bollocks. But it did provide for an absolutely hilarious shoot involving both my folks, who cameo (as does their house). If I remember rightly, the faux-argument was about whether or not Mother Denby promised to tape Eastenders.
But aside from all that, and the inherent awfulness of trying to shoot with a handheld camera in the dark on a hilltop… it’s something I’m still, to this day, quite worryingly pleased with. I think there are some really nice filmic moments in there, and I’m still dead chuffed with the choice of music (until everyone in the world started using that Massive Attack piece, anyway). But I’m most impressed with my script. Away from all the teen-angst symbolism, I think I managed to capture Sally’s character pretty well. “You hear it all the time: ‘I hate life!’ I don’t hate life. I just find it hard to deal with sometimes. I guess we’re only programmed to cope with a certain amount, and when you reach that limit there’s nothing left to do, except to just walk away.”
She might be hurting, but she’s wise beyond her years, that lass.
Anyway, I’m stalling. Oh god, I can’t believe I’m about to show you this. Consider it a bleak piece of Denby history, something you can point and laugh at me about for many years to come.