I’ve always written. But for a long time I thought I wasn’t much good. Partly this is because I’m not great at writing dialogue. As much of what I was writing was film scripts, I became less and less sure of my ability.
When I started at CalArts, one of the courses I took was Film History, led by Berenice Reynaud. Every week she showed a film, or films, and every week she wanted a paper on them. The second film we saw was D W Griffith’s Broken Blossoms.
I came to CalArts determined to learn, to work hard and do well. I had given up my career and house in London, my life there, my friends and family- and it was expensive. I wanted to make it worthwhile. So I struggled with that paper. I went to the library to watch the film again, and I wasn’t that pleased with it when I handed it in. But when it came back, Berenice had written on it, in her bright red pen “This is the best paper in the class on Broken Blossoms. Thank you.” I have a feeling she may also have underlined the word ‘best’.
Now, I had been called the best before, but not that often, not as often as I want, and never till then about something the mattered so much to me- film and writing. And that comment galvanized me in a way that few things have before. For one, having been best, clearly I had to continue to be best. The stakes were up and I really had to work at it. And as I worked I found that I could write- that I knew what I wanted to say about the films I saw, and that I liked the way I said it. The process was intense and intoxicating. Writing is now central to what I do now. It hasn’t replaced my desire to create film or art works, but it now stands equal to it. It’s the same desire now- the same process.
Another of the great favours that Berenice did me was to introduce me to the on-line magazine Senses of Cinema, a great source of serious and intelligent writing on film. They have published a number of my pieces, the links for which can be found here. I am also making available unpublished pieces that I particularly like.