Friday, 20 April 2012

London Independent Film Festival: Small Film, Huge Joy

Chris and I attended the London Independent Film Festival, Saturday 14th April to see HOME MOVIES projected on the big, silver screen.  The foyer was teeming with well-wishers, supporters, punters and film-makers. Our director, DaveAnderson showed up with product in his hair because he was going to answer questions at the end. He looked extremely handsome but kissing the top of his head was like shoving one’s face into the quills of an excited porcupine.

I know this because I kissed the top of his head.

I was almost as excited as the virtual porcupine.

We were a party of ten and as we sat, happy sunshine streaming through the plate glass windows of the trendy-yet-unpretentious ShortWave cinema café, I thought to myself ‘I’m here to see a film we’ve made. I have a company. We made a film.’

My friend Lisa turned and beamed at me.

‘Hello. Film-maker’ she said.

I almost burst with joy.

And I thought of the accomplishments of some of my dear and admirable friends.  I rub shoulders with Oscar-winners, Hollywood feature-producers, actors who star in American telly series and I am two degrees of separation from Joss Whedon. (I worked with an actor who worked with him.) (I KNOW!!!) (When the credits rolled at the end of the Buffy episode and I saw the actor's name I screamed. I screamed. ‘CHRIS I WORKED WITH THAT GUY!!’ JOSS AND I ARE LIKE THIS!) These are all artists of huge achievement, fame and renown.  And here I was waiting to see seven minutes of a movie that we’d filmed in a day and produced for under £5,000, giddy and high as if there were a red carpet, evening gowns and Ferne Cotton on the mic.

And of course, just as yours has done, my mind went to the 1980 winter Olympics and the men’s ice-hockey tournament when the underdog Americans, with a team built of college players and amateurs, beat the potent, dynamic and skilful Soviets who had won nearly every world championship and Olympic tournament since 1954.

(There’s a fabulously stirring moving, Miracle on Ice, that you can watch on-line for free. Do it now. No thanks necessary.)

And aside from the glory of watching sheer will power and self-belief overcoming unthinkable obstacles, I am moved and entertained by the looks on the faces of the Soviet players as the Americans celebrated. Grown men were weeping in joy, flinging themselves into each other’s arms, gappy smiles splitting their faces. The Soviets, who were used to winning, were expected to win – one could even say, at that point in their troubled history, HAD to win – stared at the delirium breaking out at the other end of the ice with a bemused fascination. They do not look like athletes mourning the loss of an important match. 

They look like players astonished at the joy their opponents feel at winning.

It is a marvellous lesson in relativity. There was no gap between what the Soviets wanted and what they achieved. They wanted to win, they did. The Americans wanted to – and never had.

Until Friday, 22nd February 1980 when, by a single goal scored with only ten minutes left in the game, they beat the Russians 4-3.  In that moment they caught up with what had seemed impossible, a cosmos away. And the achievement of the desire that you have set your sights on for years, that you have dreamed of, hoped for, imagined and planned, is where all the combustible, bone-quaking rapture in the world exists.

When I lived in Toronto, just two years after the Americans won their Gold Medal, I went to the movies a lot. I was working as an actor which meant not working as an actor very much at all, but my ambition was huge.  As credits rolled by on screens across the city I remember the audacious thrill with which I would think to myself ‘Someday my name will be up there. I’m going to make movies. I’ll succeed.’

You can do the maths and figure out how many years it’s been since I declared this to myself. And I don’t know what my Oscar-winning, telly-series-starring, Hollywood-film-producing friends feel as their names come up on the screens around the world, but if it is only half the gleeful delight I felt in one cinema on a Saturday afternoon in southwest London, they are gloriously fulfilled, gratified and celebratory. Because people laughed in all the right places and clapped at the end.

And that's gold.


  1. Andrea Montgomery21 April 2012 at 11:15

    Nicely done Stephanie Young.

  2. Loved this! Richly deserved and aptly put. The victory is huge and it is earned.