Tag: creativity

Dire Straits

 Okay, this post is about my less-than-fortunate living situation here, but I am fully aware that I am in a position of  privilege as a white middle-class person with a British passport and a good university degree. Please, as you read it, play the song below, a song which is not by the band, Dire Straits, but by a different band called Pulp, Common People, to keep my words in perspective.

Once again, I am homeless and extremely jobless, which is actually the most authentic way to experience Berlin so that’s good, isn’t it?

Basically, in Germany you need to register with the municipal council (Buergeramt) in order to get an official address, a tax number, and get a proper contracted job. I’ve not been able to do that because I’ve been subletting all this time, because I’m too poor to get a proper place, so I’ve also had to get jobs that are cash in hand or based in the UK, which means I stay poor, so I can’t get a flat … etc. It’s frustrating, and not uncommon, and going from place to place has made this year very bizarre.

There was my friend Rafael’s place, a charming flat near Treptower Park with classic hipster pallet-shelves. I electrocuted myself in this flat! Definitely my favourite of the year.
Then there was the flat I sublet from a friend I met on Tinder. His apartment was a 2.5 room place where most of the kitchen was a shower. (Gross, but very good if you want to eat a hot lunch immediately after washing.) The flat also had many digital canvas prints, apparently of early 2000s Windows desktop backgrounds.
Then, there was the place I shared with up to 200 DJs. (Only one on the lease but he kept loaning his room out to other strange young men I wouldn’t even know were there until I bumped into them in the kitchen at 1am.) I was going to stay there till spring but then the boiler broke and the toilet broke and the gas was shut off because the stove broke and then I was told to the best way to get the landlord to fix everything was to move out immediately. That was just before my trip to Edinburgh, so I’ve now found a floor to sublet for this month while I try and scrape some money together and get somewhere permanent.

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I’m now quite used to scraping money together by whatever means I can. Over the last seven months, I have scrubbed floors and toilets, proofread dissertations, and took a background role in a porn film. (Me and a friend had to walk past a couple on the stairs and *react*. We’re both English so basically we just giggled nervously at the floor.) Most of my income has come from a couple of freelance jobs I picked up as a tour manager for youth choirs, amounting to about €1,200. A lot of the time it’s been very difficult, I’ve struggled, and I really didn’t know what the phrase “living hand to mouth” meant until this year. (But in fairness, it is a bit of a weird phrase.)
When I came back from Scotland to find myself back to square one, realised that I wouldn’t even be able to host my own brother and sister-in-law, who’ve been planning to come and stay with me since May, honestly – I felt truly ashamed.

[Feel free to start playing Common People again at this point.]

But I am, let’s not forget, incredibly incredibly lucky! This year has been really really tough at times, but it’s also been brilliant – when I appealed to my friends, looking for somewhere for Ben and Sasha to stay, so many people got in touch to offer beds, both for them and for me if I needed one. People offered to cook for me. People offered me airbeds even if they have some foot-blood stains on them. Although I am homeless, this city is really starting to feel like home, with the ace network of people I have here.

This year, somehow(!!!) I’ve even made money as a stand-up comedian, something I’d never have expected. The original motivation behind founding SAUCE, my own open mic night, was just to make ends meet and truly it’s one of the best things I have ever done. (Please don’t mistake this as an endorsement of the dangerous + hackneyed old idea that “you gotta be poor to make art! You gotta be hungry!”. It is rare to be able to make literally any money from stand-up this early in the game – I just live in Berlin where the scene is still small and pretty cheap. Being poor does not help me make art, it makes me sad and it makes me tired.) Making money from what I do, from what I love, is such a joy, such a boost to my confidence, a real f***-you to my imposter syndrome: I need the money to live, but it also reminds me that my voice, my creative output, has value. It’s crucial. If there’s something you love that you get for free, think about if there’s some way of sponsoring or supporting it – if it’s an artist, see if they have a Patreon or a PayPal or some way of contributing, it is so essential.

I guess what I’m saying is, pay artists always, and life is very very strange. I didn’t expect to be living like this at 26, or even this late into this year, because I sort of figured it would have worked itself out by now. But I also didn’t expect myself to move to Germany, start doing stand-up, and start my own show, so really, I shouldn’t underestimate myself, and anything is possible, and uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh reach for the stars I guess

Fringe Diary #11

Folks! We’re approaching the finish line! My final gig was last night! I am very sleepy! I tried to nap instead of write this but I’d already had a coffee so I couldn’t stop thinking about dipthongs!

I’m not sure that’s a common problem but it’s the truth!

My friend James brought a bunch of friends to Cosmic last night which was super sweet of him, especially since the place was totally totally rammed. The streets were all packed last night with people in town for the last weekend of the Fringe and so even Cosmic was sold out, standing room only.

I’m both pleased and a little annoyed with my set last night. After all the shows I’ve seen and loved here, my old material just seemed even less palatable to me than it did before I came to Edinburgh. Yeah, it’s neat and compact and witty, but that isn’t me! I want to do something that’s energetic and vulnerable and ecstatic not just like “did you guys hear that men … are bad?” There are loads of people who can do that kind of sarcastic cool thing really really well but I don’t think that’s me. So I sort of threw together a new way of delivering the set and it didn’t go over too well, it was too sloppy, but I’m so glad I gave it a go. Really. After how much I’d enjoyed emceeing the night before, the thought of going back to my old routine just didn’t feel right to me. Although the new stuff I tried wasn’t perfect, it felt like a step in the right direction though and I think it has legs. And who doesn’t like legs?

Now all I want to do is sleep but when my head hits the pillow it’s just bubbling away with ideas and plans and – and dipthongs apparently – but that feels right. It’s what I imagine having loud early-rising babies is a little bit like: you really want to sleep a bit longer and wish they could be quiet until you’re fully rested, but you’re very happy to have them regardless. I’m really optimistic about the next year to come! Can’t wait to have my own show here sometime! Can’t wait to get better at what I do! Can’t wait to be the best at what I do!

I’m going to dredge my adolescence for some funny trauma and think about venturing out into the rain for bread. Catch you later!

Fringe Diary #10

Hi again!!!!!

I feel incredible today. Yes I do. The sun is out. I just ate some avocado toast and some yoghurt and some grapes and I have had two coffees. I had a fancy brownie even though I definitely can’t afford a fancy brownie but I just love fancy brownies. I could eat 100 fancy brownies. Just try me. Especially if there is something weird in them like nuts or flowers or bits of gold.

Does anyone know a fancy brownie company that would like to sponsor a penniless comedian + her blog with a readership of 10 people? Let me know!!

Aaanyway, yesterday was one of my favourite days at the Fringe so far. After some flyering in the rain for Slanty-Eyed Mamas, who remain very great and cool megababes even if I was totally drenched afterwards, I saw Elf Lyons’s show ChiffChaff with Andrew and Kwame. It was Kwame’s choice and his treat actually (such a dreamboat!!!!) and I would have been so sorry to miss it because it was just a total delight. Again, in common with Rose’s and Demi’s shows, it was so silly, so vulnerable and absurd and mad and great and with so much talent behind it. There were a couple of technical faults at the start but because Elf completely took them in her stride. One element of the show that I really liked is that she gave some of the audience members tasks, at the beginning of the performance, e.g. one person had some maracas that they would need for a rendition of If I Were A Rich Man to come later on, Elf told another man in the front row that she would be “very sexually aggressive” towards him and asked for his consent, gave a woman a little bell to ring every time she found something funny “[so] you are totally responsible for my self-worth”. Everyone was already super invested in making the performance work, is what I mean, so when there was a problem with the microphone or something, the vibe in the audience seemed to be one of “we’ll get through this together!” I mean, Elf was obviously also super charming and charismatic too otherwise it wouldn’t have worked. Ah, it was so great. I was cackling away the whole time.

Lets get Fiscal.-2 - Elfy Lyons
*not representative of eyebrows in the actual performance

After the show, I rushed over to the Mash House for Free Footlights, which I ended up hosting at the last minute because somebody dropped out. I tell you guys, because I am trying to be as honest as possible here: it was by no means perfect. But it was hands down my favourite show I’ve done here. Watching Rose, Demi and Elf made me so much more excited about getting onstage, made me so much more confident in the sorts of things you can accomplish with a crowd, I don’t know. I just poured all of my energy into it, threw out my sarkier material, stuck to the sillier stuff, was honest about how I was unprepared but made sure to keep it funny. I hared through the acts to begin with which is a bad habit of mine, just because I’m not great at doing the patter in-between acts, but made up time partway through by getting everyone to join in with a knock-knock joke from HerInterest.com (I will blog about that another time). It was just so much fun. I did end up bringing on the last act by looking at my watch and saying “err um okay so how much more ado do you guys want?” which is by the way not a good question to ask a crowd who generally responds best to things they can either woo or shout a one-word response to. Little tip for you there.

It was a great vibe though and I left on such a high, the best best high I’ve had definitely. Ah, this is such a fun stupid thing to spend so much of my time doing. Fab.

Fringe Diary #9

oH NOOOO! no fringe diary yesterday???? have you deserted us?!?!?!
I hear you folks and don’t worry, I did write you one but didn’t have time to finish or publish what I was typing as I walked so here it is now!! 

The special feature of today’s fringe diary is that I am writing it on my phone as I march the two miles from Hetty’s into town. My legs are getting quite the workout in Edinburgh but don’t worry: I am still eating terribly!!

Yesterday was – excuse my French – flippin’ GREAT, once it got going. I’d booked tickets for Andrew and I to see Rose Matafeo and Demi Lardner and although I was pretty positive Andrew would like both, I hadn’t really told him anything about either of them so it was all riding on my taste.

But of course they were both just brilliant. Just sublime. Both just delightful energetic impassioned performances, simply joyous, wow wow wow. Andrew and I were talking about what felt so different and electrifying about the both of them and I think it’s a larger question about people’s underlying motivations for doing comedy in the first place.

Okay so forgive the mini essay here but the reason why I am generally less interested in straight stand-up by cisgender heterosexual white men is not because I dislike them or anything like that, nor that anybody’s voice has any less value. I think the reason why I would naturally be more interested in stand-up by women and people of colour, LGBTQIA+ and/or disabled performers, is that their motivation for performing stand-up is more likely to come from a compulsion to communicate something about themselves and their world that other people may not understand. Their voices are from the margins. (I say “they” because although I am a woman and as such have a somewhat marginalised voice, I’m still straight and cisgender and middle-class so I’m nevertheless in a position of privilege here.)

I have encountered far more “straight white men” comedians who perform in a way that seems to come from a desire to have control over their audience rather than to share something of themselves. Their style is often quite reserved, they are more likely to keep the audience at a distance, and the tone is more likely to be one that edges on cruel or mean-spirited. Again, I’m not talking about the demographic as individuals, I’m just saying that I have seen this kind of stand-up more often performed by this group of people. It may even be a masculinity thing – it’s very scary to get onstage and share something that you’ve written and that you’ll perform yourself, a rejection of it feels like (and sort of is) a direct rejection of you as a person. So it’s easier to try and be cool and exert less energy and keep that power. I mean, I’ve even performed gigs like that before. But a “straight white man” keeping the power and trying to be cool onstage is just the norm. They’re retaining their high status and it isn’t exciting. Whereas a performer like Dulcé Sloan, who is cool and reserved onstage, who does keep a very high status, is great to watch because her position as a black, plus-size woman means that she is challenging society’s treatment of her. Also, she’s just really funny.

Something I love about the show I run in Berlin, SAUCE, is that the whole vibe is joyous, energetic, silly and a bit girly. (The 7-min spots are reserved for minorities and there are two 5-min show-up-to-sign-up spots that generally go to straight men.) But the difference in the vibe, the fact that no one will come across as “cool” in that setting, it’s not a very hetero, macho bar or club setting but a community salon with home-cooked food, means that sometimes the “straight white men” or more bro-ish comics can really loosen up with their material. The last show I did before the summer, we had three young guys all turn up for the second of the open spots. They all have a somewhat similar, cool and reserved tone to their stand-up. I said that if they wanted to, they could split the time between them somehow and they agreed and disappeared up the street to rehearse. They came back just in time for their spot and said “please introduce us as ‘No Direction’,” and came on in formation as a boyband, each one performing about 90 seconds of their stand-up while the other two clicked their fingers behind them. It was so silly and the best I’d ever seen them, and I wonder if they’d have felt comfortable enough do that in a different setting, with a bunch of dudes trying to outperform each other.

I just love comedy that tries to reach out to you, something really earnest and mad and unashamedly absurd, something that wants to give a laugh to you rather than extract a laugh from you.

Fringe Diary #8B

Hiya folks, welcome back. My last post got a bit too long and if I’m doing 500 words for every 24hours then 900 words on a 4-min conversation is a lot.

So, to yesterday. I recovered from my verry emosh day by talking to Josiah on the phone for an hour. Josiah is brilliant for many many reasons but one is that they’re the kind of friend who will somehow make you feel better by just relentlessly making fun of you. I also rang them because I’ve got a storytelling show almost the moment I get back to Berlin next week and I’m thinking of telling the story of how we became friends and they basically showed me how being a girl is actually really fun. (We didn’t discuss this at all because we were too busy chatting about boys.)

My gig last night was a bit rubbish to be honest. It started out fine, I got some pretty big laughs, but then it just trailed off and died by the end? I’m trying to figure out quite what went wrong and it might have been that I didn’t get straight to my set but did some like “hey how’s it going?” stuff at first, but I’ve got a gig-free day to think about it. Comedy’s not as much of an exact science as you’d like, but also, I don’t like science.

Andrew’s spot onstage was just after mine and he won them back no problem, so I was really pleased for him (if a little jealous! but not really. but a bit). But the guy who headlined the show though, oof. I’m not one to throw shade, really, but this guy’s jokes were just so hacky and offensive. It was upsetting how he managed to get some response from the audience with jokes about how “men who identify as women and expect everyone should just accept them as that should have to take a test. Can they break into my iPhone in the time it takes for me to go to the bathroom?” and then closing with like a full minute of a fake Indian accent, talking about Bollywood dancing and squeezing women’s tits. It was frustrating because there are so many people who hate comedy shows because they’re full of people just easily getting laughs by playing off how some people are different, just reinforcing harmful stereotypes and it’s offensive, it’s boring and it’s unoriginal. There are so many really amazing comedians who are from a minority and who don’t get the time or space to tell their side of things, or to make fun of the perceived “norm”, because they’re still marginalised. They’re kept to a minimum on the bill, so that nobody thinks it’s a show for anybody other than this same “””norm”””. Representation matters people!

Phew okay by now my mum will be upset by how angry I sound so let me say also that I bought a lot of fruit today and that later I’m seeing Rose Matafeo’s show Horndog and then Demi Lardner (again), both super great and amazing comedians and WOMEN OF NOTE. I’m going to go eat an orange now, it’s good for scurvy

Fringe Diary #7

I feel tender as all hell today and every song makes me want to cry !!! Honestly, I never used to get why people wanted to watch films or listen to things that would make them cry until the split second I first got dumped and I made a whole playlist on Grooveshark called “no” that was just old old songs from the past of people who sounded like they were on the verge of tears? Mmm!! Top-notch crying!!

Great okay so a good and positive start to today’s blog. Yesterday I was asleep for almost all of the time, besides watching To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before on Netflix and it was very very good. More rom than com, arguably(?). But so so rom. And so great to see a WoC in a lead role, even if I have to say that all of her clothes are frustratingly good for someone who is supposedly 16. Of course it is great to have the Asian-American teenage experience represented onscreen but what about the shit clothes teenage experience? I once sewed a red studded belt to an old lilac floral dress of my mum’s and wore it over red skinny jeans with tartan Converse and thought “yes, this is good”. (In fairness, I first started become aware of fashion in 2002, so who could really blame me?)

Anyway, back to Edinburgh. My boyfriend got into town yesterday, he’s also a stand-up so we’ve sort of found ourselves on holiday together but separately. I went to meet him at the first gig he’d booked which turned out to be a 6-9pm “rolling” show with no emcee, which basically means it was a microphone in a corner of a hotel bar. Now, that’s not really how a comedy show works. Giving someone the basic technology needed for a comedy show doesn’t create a comedy show. Street preachers also have microphones but no one is psyched to watch them for 30 minutes. In the end Andrew didn’t go onstage so we just went in search of something to do before my Cosmic gig.

Yikes, it was a rough crowd. It didn’t help that I was pretty woozy and was using a lot of energy trying to pretend that I was definitely 100% well, but yikes. The two acts before me and the host had all had very tepid responses, but then I was a little scattergun. It sucked though because I know I could have turned them around if I had been feeling a little brighter, but ah well. At least I get to go up again tonight! Comedy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

oh p.s. I am better now thanks all good just needed to sleep

Fringe Diary #4

Ah, yesterday was lovely, just lovely. But also I think I have scurvy? Like, really really quickfire scurvy?

Or I just ate a really pointy chip and it’s making my gums bleed.

Anyway, don’t panic, Mum and Dad.

Back to yesterday! Yep, fab day, chilled out, got a little taste of the mad world of flyering for punk rock comedy, Happy Lucky Golden Tofu Panda Dragon Good Time Fun Fun Show, which yes I can say five times fast, thank you. I turned up to the Location at 5pm sharp to be ushered upstairs by Kate and Lyris. They handed me a Hello Kitty hat, some flyers, some stickers, a promo t-shirt for their band, Slanty-Eyed Mamas. (They said it would be fine for me to wear.)

Now some of you reading this may think you know me. But you will never truly know me until you have seen me react to someone trying to hand me something in the street.
Usually I will automatically beam like a toddler at anyone smiling at me, before suddenly I realise what’s going on and make a split-second decision (split-second decisions are decidedly not my strong point) whether I want the flyer or not, whether it’d be best to just take it to please the person or leave it with them so that they don’t waste a flyer, and usually what happens is whether I take it or not, I’ll yelp something like “THANKS SORRY YOU SEEM NICE THOUGH BYE!”

So it was nice to be on the other side of that for a change, doing an hour of intensive flyering on the Mile as Slanty-Eyed Mamas (sorry) played some great and obscene music about stereotypes of Asian feminine sexuality. For some reason I only handed flyers to 100-year-old people with furrowed brows, and tiny children.

My gig that night went well, too! I’d briefly met up with my brother, his fiancee and some friends at The Auld Hoose, home to the largest nachos in Edinburgh which ARE THE VERY SAME NACHOS FROM THE PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT OF THIS DIARY. I do know this city! So I was in a cracking mood before the gig, having wolfed down an egg-cress sandwich very much behind a wheelie bin and definitely in the rain, which is my favourite meal. I unexpectedly opened the gig and it was no problem. I felt amped, a little tense but calm and excited for the show, i.e. the ideal mood.

By this point I’d realised that however well the early part of the set goes, to my mind it hasn’t been a success unless I get that big closing laugh. The length of my slot increased since there weren’t as many people, going up unexpectedly went from 5 to 7 minutes. So I did at first just chill out, riff a little, and talk to the crowd, which I’m getting fonder and fonder of doing as I get more confident on stage. But the extra time meant I didn’t find my way to an ideal, heavy-hitting closing line. I got a laugh at the last joke but it felt like a connector, not an ending.

Now … I could have just said “thanks, I’ve been Josie Parkinson, goodnight!” and felt a bit stupid and lukewarm about the gig.

Or, you could do what I did, which was say [and this is verbatim] “I’m gonna go now, so, um could you do me a favour and just laugh really loudly?”

And they flippin’ well did! Listen, here’s proof:


Anyway I have to go wash a bunch of make-up off my face and get to a show. I’m going to be performing at Cosmic Comedy 19-22 Aug at Espionage Edinburgh. Promo GIF below:

win_20180819_13_08_16_pro-animation

Fringe Diary #3

People are way too quick to just get drunk, when they have a bad show, and it’s like guys – have you tried, um, crying into a Choc Ice? Maybe get a second one as dessert? Sort it out.

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Last night’s gig didn’t go quite as well as I’d hoped – I’d been looking forward to it all day, as I had a 10-min set and was verrry hungry to perform. It was a late show, in the Bier Keller of Frankenstein’s, and it was such a packed and lively crowd. I didn’t bomb, I did fine, but I just didn’t get the laughs you’d want from 100 people. Without wanting to get into another really lengthy piece of self-evaluation, I think the material I did was good, but the style was too polished and reserved for that crowd. They were all very happy to yell stuff out, they really wanted to be involved. Next time I’m in that situation, I’d do better to perform half the stuff I’d prepared and spend the rest of the spot bantering with the audience, or do a bunch of stuff that requires their participation. The crowd was drunk, their attention span was short, the biggest laughs came from spontaneous stuff going on in the room rather than my more downbeat sarky material which is basically me pretending not to have fun. Which is silly, because I am terrible at pretending not to have fun.

I’m even having fun giving myself homework about this stuff every day. You know how your favourite part of fitness is the bit at the start where you think “I’m going to get fit” and you imagine the fit perfect version of yourself just floating into brunches like “hi, it’s me, but I’m fit and perfect now” and all your friends are like “ah, wow” and you’re like “yeah”? Well, that, but for comedy, is what I’m doing. It’s great fun.

Oh, I saw some more shows last night and they were great! I saw The Russian Comedy Experience which was perfect for jokes about linguistics, bears and dogs in space; I saw my friend Kwame Asante’s simply lovely show “Teenage Heartblob”; and then Demi Lardner’s “I Love Skeleton” which was just the maddest hour of my life and it was just incredible. I am going to see it again next week and I can’t wait.

Anyway I’ve got to go, I want to rewrite all my jokes and then I’ve picked up some ad hoc promotional work. I thought it was flyering, now I don’t know what it is but I’ve been promised a Hello Kitty hat, and also some money ?
p.s. I’m sorry for the slideshow I thought it would be like gently funny
p.p.s. Mum and Dad I didn’t actually cry I was fine but I did eat an ice cream and a chocolate bar but I did have a salad for tea

Fringe Diary #2

Good afternoon!! I sat down to start writing this and immediately wanted to apologise for writing this in the first place when nobody asked me to, and that’s #womanhood

(Sidenote: surely more first-person novels should start, continue and end with: “um, sorry, not to make this all about me, but…”)

Anyway, it’s Friday afternoon, baby! and I have no gigs tonight. Yesterday I tried to just sit and hone my set and for those of you who aren’t writers or creatives, “hone” means I spent eight hours eating toast and listening to podcasts. I produced two (2) new lines so, you know, that’s like one new line for every two slices of toast which is really pretty economical. The gig went better than the previous night, but I’m still a bit annoyed at myself for not having more material that I feel comfortable with, that sounds like “me”.

(Everyone says Fringe is exhausting and I didn’t know if it was because of like performing a lot and drinking a lot and staying up late but it can also be exhausting because of RELENTLESS self-evaluation. Enjoy!!!!)

I needed a picture to spice the post up but didn’t take any yday so please enjoy this evidence of me drunkenly eating nachos at my last stint at the Fringe in 2014. A boy made out with me after this because THAT IS HOW POWERFUL I WAS AT 22

I’ve been toying with some new and more sort of dorky, smiley work for the last few months but it’s not ready, especially not with the Footlights where the style tends to be more “hello I am a Clever Student like a Baby Stephen Fry!!” The Footlights as a group do have a definite voice, though, which I’d never have noticed if I hadn’t grown as a comic outside of that scene and outside of uni, and of the UK. I don’t know if I can even call myself a British comedian, stylistically. Does this sound like … er … a thing? Comment below!!! This is an interactive blog, you tell ME what the heck I’m on about!!

After my show, I hung out with some of the guys from the show, which was lovely, before heading to Stamptown’s variety show at midnight (midnight! I’m such a grown-up). It had loads of clowning in it and although I wish I’d had more energy for it, it was totally exhilarating and a really great refresher course in how comically effective it can be to just play with sound and movement. For some reason, people dancing really energetically to loud music and then the music cutting out unexpectedly for someone to say one thing, before immediately going back to dancing to the music again, can be really funny. I mean, there’s only so much I could take away from it to think about in my own comedy as the show was pretty weird and wild – I don’t think there’s really space in my act to perform ballet butt-naked besides an Elizabethan ruff collar – but it was great to see something different, and cool, and stupid, and really just very, very silly.

So far, so much to think about and work on. This week has been very knackering for me, with more and longer sets than I’ve ever performed at the start of the week hosting two shows in Berlin and performing on a showcase, all to a lethargic over-heated summertime crowd … I went to bed last night at 3am so bleary-eyed, but thinking “lemme back up on that stage!!”

Wannabeing

lolbabyjosie
me, successfully pretending I know how to use a sound recorder. (Copyright Miss Edison 2014)

I love the BFI. I love it so much. I have loved it since I first stepped foot in it, some three years ago now. I love the high ceilings, the swish cafés, the gorgeous red seats in NFT1, and the shop – oh, the shop. For someone who once, as a teenager, sighed with longing for The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and La Belle et la bête, neither of which were on sale at hmv Watford, a place which stocks everything from Georges Méliès DVDs to dorky film t-shirts to books on filmmakers from Abbas to Werner, it’s just heaven basically.

Plus, it’s got an incredible library. I’ve decided to make it my new place of work if I have to do something at all creative and pretend to myself that I am a wildly successful but also little-known filmmaker. I dress in my most creative-but-also-practical-because-I-am-just-here-to-work clothes, sashay up to the counter in the café, and in my most grown-up voice, order myself an “just an espressohh”. Working in a coffee shop is one way of being productive, because I suppose it gets you out of your house and the hubbub of the place can act as a sort of white noise. But when you are also surrounded by people you would like to be one day, you absolutely cannot drift onto Facebook, oh goodness me, no! You have to be working on your screenplay, or editing your latest film, or feverishly sending emails.

But one thing I have noticed when I have come here to read, write or just pay homage in my Sunday best, is that I am far from alone. While sipping my coffee and tapping away at something in a Courier New font, I take sly glances at the people around me and they’re doing exactly the same. Alone and yet altogether, we rake our fingers through our hair, visibly burdened by the weight of our genius. We love cinema but oh, how we suffer for it! (Does it show?)

It even comes through in people’s conversations. Not that I actively eavesdrop on other people, of course, and perhaps it’s the acoustics of the place – but you hear that air of “mm, yes, yes I do do film” in each carefully articulated phrase or better yet, pause to consider. “Hmm…yes, that could work.” That very quiet enjoyment of how impressive you might be to the other person, how clever and experienced and witty you sound.

Now, it could seem intolerable to be surrounded by people trying to sound clever and successful, and sometimes it is. It absolutely is. But it is also completely wonderful to realise that whatever age these people are, they’re all exactly the same as me – just faking it until, or even after, they make it. It’s just like that moment on the first film I worked on when, after having done our best to pull everything together and starting to film, we all at once realised we were making a film. A film! Us! And this excitement hit us all as though out of nowhere and we took a bunch of pictures of the slate, the set and the kit.

If people who have worked in the industry for years and years can still sound like they feel surprised and delighted to be where they are, making films for money, then please sign me up. I will be the one trying to order coffees in a weird voice.