It took me a good few months to actually say the words, out loud, without apology: I am making a film. Colleagues would ask me what I was working on and I would mumble something about Ebola, something about partnerships, and then a new project starting in September. August arrived and I progressed to an apologetic laugh and a Hugh Grant-esque ‘Actually, I’m making a film about HIV/AIDS in Tanzania, but you know sort of, oh er, and anyway, how’s your book?’ Even though I said those words I didn’t really believe that was what I was working on or that it would happen. By the end of the summer I was confidently able to say this, the money to make the film had arrived at my university, and people were not laughing back at me, but were starting to ask questions that I could answer. Now I will bore anyone I meet about it (this is clearly why I set up this blog – better to bore the unknown than lose friends), this is happening: I am making a film.
Part of my reticence to say anything is that I am an academic working in International Relations, not in film or cinematic politics. Academics not working in film studies or related aspects of the arts are funny about film. In my experience they either see it as a non-academic endeavour to be tolerated for the purposes of the now-dreaded impact but not really the work of an academic; or there is the other academic who may share some of the concerns of the former category but recognise the worth of film in teaching, research methods, and changing perceptions in a range of audiences. Across both camps are those who would quite like to be on telly or filmed in front of their books offering expert opinions for a documentary. Hence if you tell an academic you are going to make a film the response tends to be ‘what and you’re not teaching?’ ‘who gave you the money to do that?’ or ‘Are you going to be in it?’ The answer to all three if interested is: No, Axa, No. A lot of people just laugh, smirk, or ask to be in it (you know who you are): I really blame Brian Cox and his galaxy amaaaazingness for this.
It is also tricky telling people from the film world that you intend to make a film if you’re an academic from International Relations with no experience in film. In some cases this has led to everyone telling me how much everything costs and how important their stage in the process is, and then hit me with the names of crew members or gadgetry that I don’t understand that are both apparently essential (never the case) and will increase my budget by £5000 (seemingly always the case). However in most instances people are so happy to hear that I have already secured funding that they have given me a lot of free advice in exchange for coffee (incidentally the film world knows better coffee shops than the academic world – I understand such a statement may get me kicked out of the academy but it’s true, up your game academy!) and offered me their services for a highly reasonable fee. Now that I know the difference between a focus puller and a Director of Photography I am a regular sipsmith sipper at the new Picturehouse Central loudly recounting pre-production plans to friends in an ex-and-shoff (excited and showing off – an excellent phrase, courtesy of my boyfriend’s Mum) manner to any potential film people that may want to think I’m a bigger deal than I am.
Of course nothing is as yet on film. We have no central characters. Or script. Or full crew. Two flights have been booked to Tanzania but we still don’t have a location/team of interpreters/driver. But I do have the best Director ever signed up. And I have the best line up of advisors I could ask for, so mark my words, this is happening: I am making a film.