A creative year

As promised in my last post, I spent the last year trying to pursue something of a creative and career reset, and I’m proud and happy to say it seems to have paid off. In addition to rejoining an old client here in London, and starting a Masters degree (goodbye sleep!) in a field that I love, last year gave me the chance to make real progress on some of the creative projects I had been hoping I could deliver for a long time.

I left my Paris-based law firm in February and spent March in Lima, Peru, where I sat on a rooftop for a month and turned my ideas for Robert Armitage into the better part of a novel. Sitting in the sunshine without a care in the world, in a city with amazing food and lovely people, was bliss and I very nearly stayed out there. The change of scene helped my writing, not so much by way of reference (the novel is set in London and Paris), but by giving me some physical distance from the memories of work, commitment, and depressing weather. It is easy to write 3000 words a day when the sun is beaming, you have a cold pitcher of orange cold brew beside you, and you can see the ocean from your perch on the roof.

From one adventure to another, I returned to the UK in April and was immediately off to Snowdonia with Ashley and Lily (Beachcomber) and Alex (Citric Acid) to shoot our latest film. Adapting to the change in climate was a battle but the challenges of the shoot were so rewarding (with hindsight) and it was amazing to see a project that has been two or three years in the writing come to fruition. Over the past few months, we have secretly been squirrelling away on the edit and the score with the amazing Jordan Dobbins (Beachcomber) and I am so proud of what we’ve achieved. We’re starting to launch our material this weekend, so watch this space for more.

I recently started preparatory work on my next script, while also chipping away at the final couple of chapters of Robert Armitage in moments between classes and work. It’s a struggle some days to find the headspace to do creative work, particularly in the hustle of London, but it is always rewarding. So did I succeed in a creative reset? I think I did, and if I ever find myself detached from creativity again in the future (though I really hope I don’t), I’d do the same thing in a heartbeat.

Robert Armitage in Paris

After a hectic few months in which Ashley, Lily and I have managed to switch jobs and (in my case) move country despite the best efforts of the UK’s weather, it’s good to be settled and starting a new string of projects to carry us through 2018 and beyond.

The first is a new short, Robert Armitage is in Town, which Ashley is coming out next month to discuss before we proceed to shooting in July. A vignette that builds on the bar-worlds we learned to create for Red Ribbon | Blue Suit several years ago, Robert Armitage is a bringing-together of two bodies of work we’ve been interested in for a while. The first is the character, who I wanted to bring to the screen in this oblique, mysterious way after first writing about him when I was in China in 2013. Then, Robert Armitage could have been a spy, a drug runner, a petty hood, or a businessman or a diplomat or even just a washed-up American lost in a dive bar in Yangzhou. Now he’s back in my work and still elusive. The mystery works well given the second source of inspiration, which Ashley brought to the table last year – Hopper’s painting Nighthawks, which perfectly captures those bar-dwellers who might be full of stories and conflicts, but who are trying so hard to come across as nothing at all. We are drafting a script in earnest this month; watch this space for news of locations, plotlines and casting calls.

Beyond Robert Armitage, we are excited to be working in London’s Kew Gardens in the early autumn to shoot another project building on a Virginia Woolf short story, after the magic of producing The Beachcomber (inspired by Solid Objects) last year. It seems unbelievable that an entire year has gone past since Lily was standing knee-deep in the freezing Atlantic at sunrise, but it will be wonderful to return to the rich language and intricate visuals that Woolf’s work demands.

Both of these shorts are further stepping stones to help us master the skills we need for a significant project we have slated for the winter and into 2019. At the moment, we can’t say very much about what it involves (other than that it brings Lily, Ashley and I back together and is – by a long way – our most ambitious film yet), but as the year rolls on we’ll have plenty of news to share. Robert Armitage sees us working once again with Super8 film and synchronised dialogue, a new challenge but in the familiar and controllable environment of a quiet bar at night. Our Kew Gardens project will see us develop the same skills, but bringing 16mm film into the frame thereby massively expanding Ashley’s canvas and allowing us to move into one of the industry’s most popular film formats.

On the writing front, expect plenty of news as we all chip in regarding our latest reads, adaptations, reboots of old favourites, and more.