As I write this I am preparing to get on the 22:45 sleeper bus to London where I will be attending the East End Film Festival as someone who actually has a film screening at the festivities. It is a very strange feeling. When we were shooting Take It Back and Start All Over in December 2013 I had no idea where the journey would take us. If we were very lucky I thought that we might get into some small local festival or at the very least I would be able to host a screening in the Banshee here in Edinburgh but at no time did I even consider getting the film into a festival of the magnitude of East End.
Anyone who has ever made a film knows that the hardest thing about making movies is actually getting them seen. Sure you can post them on Youtube and hope your pals, colleagues, hated enemies and perhaps the odd stalker might watch them but getting your work screened in an actual cinema to a room of strangers is a very tough task. The number of film festivals has exploded as has the number of films being made but many of these festivals have very little attendance and more than a few are scams (I’ve seen a “short film festival” which was in fact a laptop in the cupboard of an arts festival – and they charged £40 submission fees).
When I started daring to send Take It Back out to festivals I had a mix of emotions. Was I completely wasting my time? Could this be the one that maybe breaks through and gets noticed? Am I completely delusional? You hope in your gut that someone will see something in your little movie and when the rejection emails start rolling in you begin to believe that your film is a steaming pile of shit and in fact that you yourself are a steaming pile of shit with more shit piled on top.
This is exactly how I felt as one, two, three, six, seven, nine, ten rejections filled my email inbox; £100, £300, £600 down the drain as the submission to rejection ratio climbed up. I had all but given up on having a screening of the film that I didn’t facilitate myself when on Sunday 22nd February I got an email from Andrew Simpson, Head of Programming at the East End Film Festival, with the title “Invitation for ‘Take It Back and Start All Over’ to screen at the East End Film Festival” I very near peed my pants. I was on a train back from visiting grandparents in Carlisle, on a serious low about the whole film and feeling terrified about a cast and crew screening we were having in Edinburgh the following night. I could not believe the email was real and I had to prick, pinch and punch myself to make sure I hadn’t fallen asleep on the train. Andrew had said of Take It Back that he “thought it was fantastically realised and very touching, and very impressive given the budget and time constraints that you were working under with the project. We’d be delighted to invite the film to screen at the festival”.
What the fuck!!!!!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!
In all honesty I never believed any of it was happening at all until the programme was announced and even then I was wondering when I was going to be outed as a fraud or that this was all an elaborate hoax, a Truman Show style plot to see my reaction when it was revealed to be one big prank.
But here I am about to travel down to London, getting emails telling me who will be conducting my Q&A and how delighted they are to have me at the festival.
I’m screening at fucking EAST END FILM FESTIVAL. The coolest festival around. A festival my boss and good friend Graham Fitzpatrick won Best British Short Film at last year.
Here I am, shoulder to shoulder with other filmmakers. Recognised and yes validated (the ugly word none of us want to believe we need but crave above all else). I know what Take It Back is. I know the kind of film we made. I know it’s not a masterpiece but I know it’s a start, a beginning, something to grow from and something to celebrate.
I am so so thankful to Andrew and the whole team at EEFF for taking a chance on our little film. For believing in it enough to include it on their amazing programme. I will forever be grateful to EEFF and I cannot wait to be at the Genesis Cinema this Saturday 4th July, 1.30pm, to see the little film that a bunch of us worked our asses off to make finally get a platform to the world.
As a bonus, also screening at East End Film Festival on Thursday 9th July, 6.30pm, is Elsewhere, NY, the debut feature film from Jeffrey P Nesker, written by Tom Wilton – my Bootleg brothers who have supported me so much over the years and without whom Take It Back wouldn’t have been made. They inspired and supported me for years so to be sharing a festival with them is just the icing on the cake!