A couple of months ago I produced a blog about a film-making project for the over 65s called Cinage. A friend of mine, who was many years ago one of my college lecturers at art college, had taken part in the initial trial run of the project. He wrote about his experiences in the blog which I made into two blogs. Last week he invited me to a showing of all 12 short films, 3 from each of the UK, Italy, Portugal and Slovenia. I’m not usually a short film fan, in the same way that I prefer novels to short stories. I think it’s a length thing, bigger is better and all that type of shallowness. But I went along because I’m trying not to turn down new experiences in my retirement in case one of these experiences turns out to be the missing link of my retirement about which I have often written. I’m pretty sure that this project won’t fill the gap in my retirement but the get together was enjoyable and not just for the coffee and mince pies.The purpose of the meeting was a) to show all 12 films together and to see if there were cultural differences between countries (I couldn’t discern any but then maybe I’m a bit thick, and none the worse for that of course, the films that is) and b) to promote the project to new people who might be interested in forming the next cohort of film-makers. The trial run was free – European money apparently – but it wasn’t clear, at least not to me, whether the next course would be. We were told that the project was promoted by the World Health Organisation, given that people were living longer (we were told this by a very young man who was obviously one of the organisers of the venture) and the idea was to promote life-long learning and active aging. Both laudable concepts I think you will agree.
The organiser might have been young, the rest of us certainly weren’t. Given that the project is aimed at the over 65s that’s not surprising but really did we have to have people in their 80s making films. I mean to say, that’s very old isn’t it. But there they were having written, organised, filmed, edited, starred in etc these short films. What’s not to like, you ask. Well, a number of things. Yes, it was, for me, another one of those, ‘is this my tribe?’ moments. And no, it wasn’t and they weren’t. Don’t misunderstand me, they were a perfectly pleasant group of people, at least as far as I could judge while we struggled to pour out the coffee and fight over the excellent mince pies but I do have to say I find being in a room with 25 to 30 other actively aging over 65s, a bit off-putting. In addition, from my friend’s description of the project, that’s him in the photo above left, modestly or should it be ironically, wearing the director’s baseball cap (very Steven Spielberg), the project involved a lot of work. Much of it under pressure and hence quite stressful. At the moment I don’t need any more stress in my life. I’ll tell you about this and the gardening business at some later date. I digress.
The panel of last year’s course were also at pains to point out how a person needed to be prepared to work as a team. Again, I have to say, never a particular strength of mine. Apparently not everybody was happy with the end result or the process of getting to it. A person was named who was the writer of one of the films. It was pointed out that the script writer was very much ‘the bottom of the food chain’ and had to be prepared for director, editor, even actors, to screw around with their (the writer’s) concept. Or worse still improve on it. Collaboration is doubtless a wonderful thing, but just as long as it’s not me doing the collaborating. In case you think I’m being a bit bleak about the working together concept, let me give you the example of the difficulties the ‘panel’ presented to us the audience.
One of the UK films was entitled Know Thyself. It had been originally called Swansong and it was the brief story of a man coming to the end of his life supposedly with a bizarre kind of slapstick, humour although it didn’t make me laugh, and, at the end of the film, which was very close to the beginning, he was supposed to dive off a cliff and be carried away by a swan. Unfortunately, as one of the panel reported, they ‘couldn’t find a bloody swan anywhere’. I’m not sure how they thought they were ever going to, you can’t just pop down to the pet shop and buy / borrow a swan. Anyway, they gave up trying to get hold of a swan (not a good idea I’m told) and changed the script such that, at the end of the film, the guy just dives off the cliff minus the swan to catch him. Very different ending and a very unhappy writer who felt, not unreasonably I would say, that the very heart of his film had been trampled all over. Hence change of title. Part of my difficulty with collaborative working is the certainty that when it comes to making decisions, I know better than anybody else. So my sympathy is very much with the writer. Who, incidentally wasn’t at the meeting and had since gone off to make a film of his own. Quite right.
So a marvellously well-intentioned project and one in which the motivation was to present the process of aging in a positive light. I didn’t get this message, the films all felt a little bit desperate, lonely people looking for love or at the very least companionship (phooey, I say to that), sometimes getting it and often not – companionship that is. I did like the film with a variation of, is that a banana in your pocket or are you pleased to see me? It was a tube of his heart medication in his trouser pocket which he shared with his new love. I found them a little trite and forced but then, in a three minute film, perhaps this is inevitable and what do I know, I’m not Barry Norman (who he?). One of the films, Trapped, was about an oldish guy who locked himself, without his mobile phone, in the porch of his daughter’s house, I think. After a few hours he’s desperate for a pee and when a party political leaflet is pushed through the door (he’s asleep at the time, he looked dead but then probably so are most of the people who push leaflets through the letterbox), he rolls it into a tube, pushes this through the letter box and pees through the tube presumably onto the step. I’m guessing he didn’t trust the letter box not to trap his private part if he simply pushed this through the opening. Now call me Mr cynical but I do not find a film about a man of a certain age wanting to pee, a positive image of old age. Realistic, yes, encouraging, no, or maybe it’s just me. A little too close to a home truth perhaps
So there we have it, not my missing link, much as I applaud the project. I was pleased I went along and, after my last blog about meeting somebody in a café, I’m pleased to report that the meeting was in a café albeit one partially run by Age Concern. So not a solution to my retirement problems but a decent attempt to try out new experiences. I’m not at all a stick-in-the-mud retired person.