The initial entries to this blog have chronicled the birth of Small Creatures back in 2009, but today I’m going to jump right up to date and even look a little bit into the future. Nevertheless, the idea of the film being my cinematic offspring is no less pertinent.
I’ve just come back from LA where Small Creatures was given the Grand Jury Award Honourable Mention. Next, the film is up for the Michael Powell Awards at the Edinburgh International film festival.
All good? Yes, but sadly none of this generates any money. In fact, servicing the film so that it can compete in festivals (posters, couriers, subsistence etc) all costs money; not to mention the time spent researching, applying and liaising with the fests.
So, although I was thrilled to have ‘finished’ Small Creatures in November 2011 (after a two year slog that nearly killed me), it seems there’s an endless list of thankless tasks when it comes to trying to give the film a bit of a platform, a chance to connect with an audience and hopefully – finally – a way to recoup costs. And frankly, at times, with its incessant whining for attention, the film begins to drag you down, until you begin to resent it. It’s like a millstone around your neck; you wonder why you ever bothered.
When recently I reached such a low point (whilst recovering from ankle surgery, struggling around on crutches with blistered palms, sunburnt in a sweltering LA and lodging in the noisy hotel where Janis Joplin topped herself) I was spared from tipping into full meltdown and following in Janis’ espadrilles when I was suddenly reminded of what has now become an almost legendary expression in our house: Tie my laces, wipe my butt!
Although it’s blatantly a daft phrase which has now become a joke at home, I once uttered it in all seriousness as a protest – desperate and close to tears, suicide, murder or both.
I’ve got four kids and when they were small we’d driven to Spain for a six-week camping trip. Inevitably, it’s a pressure cooker: to keep themselves from getting bored, the kids instinctively take it in turns to piss you off, naively unaware of the cumulative effect that’s gnawing away at you, turning you into Jack Torrance from The Shining.
So, on the back of mammoth drives, practical disasters and after being hassled and harried by a long succession of tedious demands from tiny mouths (including requests for the tying of laces and the wiping of butts), I reached rock bottom and yelled the immortal words out loud, a broken man in a static caravan….
It was years before anyone in our house dared to recall that dark moment – let alone test the water by giggling at the absurdity of it all. But now it’s out in the open and rightly deemed to be one (of the many) touchstones of the deep bonds that tie a family together in a way that no amount of democratic agreements ever could.
It was only reflecting on this – the way something traumatic can imperceptibly transmogrify into something humorous – that, in my hour of need in LA, gave me solace and reminded me I needed to take a deep breath and accept there was still a long way to go with Small Creatures; gave me hope that, in the fullness of time, maybe my current despair would yet raise a smile.
Nevertheless, right now, Small Creatures seems to have gone from being my bundle of joy to being something akin to a clingy, unreasonable, whinging, snotty-nosed toddler. I’m sick to death of it; sick to death of tying its laces and wiping its butt. Sick to death of its inanimate dependency. This is not what I thought I was getting into when the film was conceived, back in March 2009; not the vision I had when I made the final lurch to ‘complete’ it in 2011.
So, as the film prepares to take it’s UK premiere in eminently flattering circumstances at Edinburgh, I cling to the perhaps vain hope that one day soon Small Creatures will fly the nest, leave me be and allow me to simply be a proud parent, basking vicariously in its self-perpetuating glory.
Then, maybe, finally, in my old age the film will perhaps become profitable and the proceeds can go towards the costs of caring for my spent body, the tying of my laces and other such personal needs.