I’ve been struggling a bit recently. I’ve been losing faith. Things seem to be taking too long: romantically, professionally. Financially. Not in a wandering-in-the-wilderness way, I’m not in the boggy slime of despair, I see possibility, still. It’s all just - qualified. So, for instance, I love someone who loves me, but we never seem to love each other at the same time. My work is being considered at the highest levels of commissioning in the Queendom, but no word yet. And I have money coming in but I can’t buy the yacht.
True, a month ago I had the best birthday ever in my whole life, I found out a talented actor of fame and renown is attached to one of my scripts and in January- remember team? - I flew back to London from Canada first class.
Still, I showed up at the MYPC office yesterday, struggling. Christine, my producer, fed me tea and lunch and shared my chocolate and listened. She heard how discouraged I felt, how I was losing confidence. She was sympathetic and she didn't give advice (best producer, best friend, best choice).
The next day I found an email from her entitled ‘For moments of doubt’. I opened it and read:
Print it out, pin it on your wall. It's all we need to remember:
And I cried.
Because this is a photo of Joss Whedon. Do you know who Joss Whedon is? He directed Avengers Assemble (third biggest grossing movie of all time, over $1bn worldwide) and his adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing opens in UK cinemas on 14th June. He created, wrote and directed Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse and the galactically brilliant model for all superior web-series to come, Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Blog.
So he’s a talented writer, director and series-launcher. But the world is full of them. You throw a dart the width of a laser-beam in Soho and you hit 20 talented writer/director/series-launchers. Joss is more than that.
He’s a visionary who bets on love. And he wins.
He hasn’t always. He has had series cancelled (Angel, Firefly), his original film script for Buffy was so extensively re-written that he disowned the movie and was kept in the dark about the producers’ plans for his non-realised version of Wonder Woman. He said in an interview with Maxim magazine:
I wrote a script. I rewrote the story. And by the time I’d written the second script, they asked me…not to. [Laughs] They didn’t tell me to leave, but they showed me the door and how pretty it was.
His experience in mainstream cinema was chequered, his desires for his stories on television felt constrained by studio decisions. He was and, in the UK still is, a cult figure who has to be introduced. But he has to be introduced. And I’m introducing you to him now.
Because Joss never gives up. He has kept his eye, his heart, his cosmic-sized energy on the stories he wants to tell. He is in love with feeling. He revels in the human struggle to be whole, to be known. He sets things on space ships and in mutant worlds of super heroes and vampires but he cares most about how a teenage girl feels the night after she makes love for the very first time and the guy never calls back.
If Jane Austen finds the extraordinary in the ordinary, Joss finds the ordinary in the supernatural, and they meet in the same still point of the turning world: where the human being gropes towards her unseen greatness. Felt, but hidden, the heroine battles monsters, machines, cold-hearted bureaucrats and malevolent institutions, all to discover there is something no one can hurt and that she need not defend: the bigger, stronger, better self who calls to her on the other side of the pain.
Joss knows you don’t give up on that self. What would be the point? It’s all there is.
I subscribe to a series of inspiring on-line quotes that arrive in my in-tray every morning. I like them. They cheer me, focus me and remind me what I’m doing. After I received Christine’s JossPoster, I opened the Quote for Today:
When a child has a dream and a parent says, "It's not financially feasible; you can't make a living at that; don't do it," we say to the child, run away from home... You must follow your dream. You will never be joyful if you don't. Your dream may change, but you've got to stay after your dreams. You have to.
About ten months ago I dreamt I had left my bag on the top floor of the London Film School. I was in a bathroom in the basement washing my hands when I realised the bag was missing (though luckily, not my valuables), and I knew, annoyingly, I would have to ascend flights of stairs to get it back. When I glanced in the mirror I saw to my amazement that I looked like -Joss.
Now, you might think it isn’t cool for a woman to look like the guy in the photo above: hirsutely-challenged and growing a beard, but I was thrilled. ‘I look like Joss’ I said to myself in the dream. ‘I love this, I love looking like this.’
As I stared at my Joss-Face I thought of all the work I wanted to produce and the people I wanted to produce it with, all the characters I love and the reality I wanted them to have; I thought of my desire to feel the joy of telling the story of a heroine who doesn’t give up, who only knows herself because she has breathed through the pain, no matter what monsters or bureaucrats or fears arise. I thought all of this as I looked, fixedly, pointedly at my JossSelf in the mirror. I felt better.
And, because of this dream, ten months ago, I realise I am now able to answer Christine's deathless question 'What would Joss do?' for, as I felt better, my Joss-reflection smiled.
Favourite Joss moment:
Daily Quote from A. Hicks workshop San Diego, CA on February 7. 2004