Parallel Worlds

I’m not sure what this post is going to be. Certainly it will be a recollection of major events of the last twelve to fifteen years for me. I think it’s more a way to straighten out in my own mind the things I need to go going forward vs what I have been doing in the past. It’ll also possibly help explain my own recent decisions going forth.

Around 1999 my life basically collapsed for various reasons, some self inflicted. My entire direction wasn’t working and I was in deep trouble. I ended up working as a cashier in a Maplin Electronics (now gone bust) in Newcastle and my experiences there aren’t worth speaking about other than if I didn’t pull my head out of my arse then I was going to remain in low wage retail work. There was no real way I was going to be anything other than a wage slave in that world.

I met a guy called Rob in 2000. We were friends for a while. Described by other friends of his as “wildly creative” I found that to be true. We’d have late night film watching sessions and we’d discuss plot, characters and the like. He’s the one who suggested actually making a film and we bashed out various concepts. It occurred to me that it’d be worth actually learning some filmmaking technique before actually filming anything, so I enrolled on a HND Media Production course. (that’s an associates degree for you USA folks).

Two years later, a slew of awful student films that’ll never see the light of day because I refused to keep copies of any of them (except for the documentary final project) and I’m now qualified but still unemployable. Work on some shoots, learn how to do things, learn how not to other things.

The important rule that kept coming back is “No Bucks, No Buck Rogers”. I certainly didn’t have any at that time.

Some out there might be familiar with this and in particular this . You might be wondering how my film actually got made from the position that I’ve just described.

IT jobs. Lots of them.

I worked in a call centre in 2004 and used it to springboard a career in UK IT contract work. I went everywhere, and it’s easier to list the places I didn’t go. Liverpool, most of Scotland, Shrewsbury. I ended up living out of a suitcase from 2005 to early 2007. It’s a habit I’ve kept of having only enough stuff to pack into a maximum of two suitcases.

It also is a major contributing factor in the death of my only relationship where I actually got engaged. I wish that I’d learned from this experience more than I did.

Rather than retype a lot, i’ll quickly point you to the Mayfly production blog and specifically this post:

Mayfly has an imdb completion date of 2009. This isn’t actually accurate and you can use my film of evidence of how imdb can get things quite wrong. We had a failed funding round in 2006, had a “the word is no, we are therefore doing it anyway.” moment, prepped, filmed and edited by August 2007.

Needed an IT job to keep things funded and running. I got ripped off on (more than) one, got another. This turned out to be the former EMAP Publishing and I spent August 2007 to July 2008 going down to London, spending two weeks living out of various B&B’s, driving back to Newcastle on the Friday, spending Saturday night doing post production work and driving back on the Sunday. While also doing other things like finding a composer (the insanely talented Alex Parsons), finding a VFX guy (Russ Wharton – not sure what happened to him), working on Chris Jones‘ short film Gone Fishing and so on.

A lot more detail of those times is on the Mayfly production blog that I ran.

Two careers running in parallel.

Mayfly was roundly accepted by two US festivals: Burbank Film Festival and Houston WorldFest. We won an award at WorldFest. I met a lot of cool people and a couple that turned out not to be. The next logical path from here is the feature film right?

This is where things went horribly wrong.

Myself and Neil Scandrett had a feature script ready to go. I’m going to glance over a lot of what happened but finding the money for a cheap (100k – 1.5mil) feature is difficult in the UK.

It’s impossible when the following factors all land at at once:

  • The 2009 financial crisis landed
  • Film Financier Companies in the UK came under intense scrutiny from HMRC
  • A few people attempted to defraud HMRC
  • All the IT work dried up
  • The initial success of my film got me effectively blacklisted from my local area

Some examples of the above:

We approached financier companies. They never say “No”. What they do is things like have a six week response time to emails. I know of no other business that would do this. The net effect is to say NO without saying NO! You go away out of frustration.

Eventually this caused NatWest bank to attempt to wind up my company and force me bankrupt in early 2012. The film eventually collapsed, and I went into IT full time to pay off the debt which I managed by 2014. (Company was eventually dissolved in 2016) My credit was shot to pieces and I’ve spent the last five years rebuilding myself, my finances and my projects.

It really didn’t help that people were attempting film tax fraud against HMRC, usually with really badly faked invoices. I did wonder why two people I’d met suddenly disappeared.

Those two are the bigger catches but plenty more tried and utterly poisoned the well for the rest of us. Really says something about the UK if fraud is what it takes to get projects financed. Hence my attempt to move to the USA.

I’m now 40. I’ve been on the rollercoaster of all the crap that can be flung. It’s cost me at least two relationships, the chance of owning my own home, my retirement savings (although that’s technically more Gordon Brown taxing pensions you utter bastard).

I also got to travel to places like Saudi Arabia. I’ve managed to see and experience life in other places both inside and outside the UK. I’ve still got projects and no doubt some of you have read my US immigration experiences. I might be down but I am not out yet.

Both sides of my family are known for being “bloody minded”. It’s the only thing that’s got me this far and i’m relying on innate stubbornness to carry me forward still. I’ll say when it’s over, not anyone else.

If you made it to the end of this post then congratulations! This is my life and I don’t see it changing anytime soon. Happy to help on other projects where I can but I do not want to run two careers in parallel anymore: my time in IT is now over and it’s time to do what I actually set out to do back in 2000.

“Forever and a Night” is up on imdb pro with a US based producer attached. “Fallen Angel” (working title) is also coming along nicely and there are other ideas slowly percolating away. I started down the journey for a US EB-1a Green Card at the end of 2016 and i’m looking forward, not back. (this blog post excluded obviously)

Now if my US visa stuff can hurry up before Brexit hits, that’d be nice too. After all, that Tesla isn’t going to buy itself …