I have a strong resolve and a tenacity to problem solve even the trickiest of situations…I’ll go as far to say that I enjoy it. Sure, these were major set backs but the job of the filmmaker is to persevere in the face of adversity. So why didn’t I continue with trying to make something? There are but a few factors that would make me reconsider pursuing goals and one of these I take seriously. I hope many of you would agree. This would be my health.
I suffer from a severe form of GERD (Gastroesophageal reflux disease), which vastly affects my day-to-day life. The prolonged discomfort that I endure has many side effects that include extreme chest pain, loss of appetite, depression, lethargy and irritability, to name a few. I have taken medication for this and for over the past year, it has practically been non-existent. Around the end of February/start of March, the symptoms returned and began to incapacitate me within a month. I was in constant pain, hardly sleeping through waking up and vomiting. I visited my G.P. a week before filming begun and he immediately prescribed me strong medication, fearing I may have started developing an ulcer. He also advised complete rest for a week with no stressful activity, less I worsen my condition.
I immediately tried to uphold my resolve in the face of even more tribulation but I had to look at the bigger picture. This film is, was and never will be, more important than my health. For that matter, no film should be. I see filmmaking as the career that will give me the utmost satisfaction in life: and what is life without, amongst other things, good health. Life will never get more fleeting than it already is and a balance between the two, that is work and health, must be struck to make the most of it. Christian Evans, a close friend and filmmaker, also championed this sentiment when I sought advice. A line that struck me was “Don’t do this. You can make this film any other time. I’d rather you make films for years to come then to be violently ill for years to come.”
I must give a huge thanks to the individuals who tried to help, especially Matt Allen, a talented filmmaker who was there for me 100% in the lead up to competition. Matt showed an attitude and perseverance that he continued once I disclosed my situation, by entering the competition himself with a small team. I admire that attitude and can only wish once I am back to normal that I can emulate that energy and drive. But, I have to look after myself now for this to be an option. My fiancée was also a fantastic help with looking after my well being and being supportive of my workload. It is rare that I talk about how much I care for the people around me, but I do on occasions with great sincerity for how much they matter to me and keep me going.
So, what I have learned? Was the films downfall through my own failings? Yes, partly…but there were many factors that exacerbated this. I am currently busier than I ever have been and in hindsight, producing another film on top of ongoing commitments wasn’t the most judicious of decisions. My peers were busy with their own academia and I should of considered this. I am nothing if not a resourceful buggar but wearing too many hats leaves little room to balance a level head. Creativity requires discipline; otherwise it will not sustain itself. I now appreciate doing too much is the same as doing too little – it’s not helpful.
So what about the other things? The lack of money, the locations dropping out, offers for paid work over a non-paid passion project? Well, it happens. To come out successfully you prepare your arse off and hope you are savvy enough to fix any problem that comes your way. Otherwise, don’t bother being an indie filmmaker. I have proved that I am capable of this before but this time round, I had to concede for reasons beyond my control.
Health should always come up trumps. I have taken time to recover and I feel fantastic, the best I have felt this year. My philosophy is that you should always take time to be of sound constitution. There will always be time to work thereafter.
I have the project scheduled (amongst many others) once my course is complete and I aim to make a great short. I have learned from this experience and it has only made me a better person for it. I will continue with my course for the time being as another exciting rung to my ladder. To quote Thomas Huxley, “The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man’s foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher”.
These posts were written by Joe Richards, MSc Student & co-producer on the upcoming 72 Project.