Written, directed and edited by Josh O’Brien
Music by Stephen Frost
The window rattles loudly. Judge Dunn wakes from his slumber, greeted by a figure at the window. A woman. She speaks. He asks her name and she replies, “My name is Sarah Hayward.”
Sarah was born into depravity. She bore a child to a man from whom she ran, into the arms of another. Happiness was short lived however, her partner passed not long after and the child’s father came back for his revenge.
What good can come? What fate will pass? The Judge ponders frantically as four sour words spill from the woman’s mouth. “I KILLED MY SON.”
“When you want to make films the people around you break into 4 distinct groups. The people that love you will come to you with blind support. The other people that you know will smile wryly and say “good for you buddy!” A phrase heavily loaded with a subtext of “Keep dreaming, friend.”
The people that you know who already make films or are involved in the practise in some capacity will smile at you sincerely, hug you tight and tell you to ‘Just do it’. Then they will step away and leave, safe in the knowledge that they’re jobs are safe because let’s face it, most of us will never make those films we’re always preaching about.
Then there’s the rest of the population, the strangers, the friends you haven’t met yet, what do they say? Well they don’t say anything because they’re too polite to tell that they don’t care, they have no interest in you or your poxy little film.
To actually fight through all that and actually get a film into production takes dedication, tunnel vision and great friends. Friends that will ride along with you and push you forward and give you a kick up the arse every now and then to remind you that, hey! It ain’t that hard! It’s not like you’re trying to set up live aid or anything. All you’re trying to do is setup several unrelated variants and bring them all to one place at one time for 3 days of shooting a picture. You’re not out trying to save the world.
“My Name is Sarah Hayward” or MNISH to it’s friends was a passion project of mine that I had planned to do for a long time and I can say now, with all confidence, it would still only be an idea, an annoying plan to berate my friends with, had I not had that support to step in and push me forward and tell me it ain’t so hard.
The project has gone through some stormy weather to get finished. The first time around, we had decided to “Just do it!” for whatever cash I had in my pocket, using any location and equipment we could scrape together. Just desperate to get anything done. Unfortunately we hit an unavoidable bump in the road which slowed the production to a crawl.
The halt to the proceedings forced me to take stock. I was determined to get this thing done and I had no idea how to produce a film but I was, at least prepared, to try it myself. I can only imagine what kind of atrocity would have come from that situation.
Luckily a stranger came forth, sweating from the heat as he rode toward me, taking an awfully long time, on the back of a camel. Dressed from head to toe in black, he said nothing but “I’m going to help you.” He dropped the fabric on his head, revealing his face. It was my good friend Ben Williams. So happy to see each other, we wrestled each other there in the desert (I won), vowed never to speak of it again and moved on.
Taking the bull by the balls, the new team decided that it was time to do this thing right. We raised the budget, got our money and started about making this thing.
My previous projects have been a one man show. I was doing everything. This time things were different. I had a crack team of specially trained experts in every major field of production. Pete Wallington took on making stuff look good, with his crazy, damn ideas. He wanted to film the whole thing by candle light! Luckily I myself knew that this would have been a bad idea considering all the circumstances. So I slapped the idea down, chained Pete to a chair and electrocuted him with small current and a wet sponge. Pete was strong. He only cried when I smacked his toes with a hammer and pulled out his fingers nails. Some people thought I was going to far but an unruly, free thinking cinematographer is a danger and a liability to a small scale production.
I had beaten him. I had stripped him down and built him back up into a perfect machine for cinematography and we all agreed that the measures I took were right and just… I subsequently had to apologise to Pete when I remembered that the candle light was my idea… He accepted the apology.
Unfortunately for the entertainment purposes of these poorly constructed, not at all thought out production notes, my team was I fear rather too professional and talented leaving me with a very well run production leaving no hilarious anecdotes in it’s wake. We had our nervous moments, of course. The ridiculously small timeframe for set construction, the “not having an actor to play the judge until the weekend before” incident, the “not having a child actor to play Charlie until the day before” debacle, the 1st A.D. disappearing for a day and that time a midget came charging into the studio on the back of a cow, wearing a cape and shouting “I am the walrus! Hello.”
These are things you can’t prepare for but the team survived and even flourished under pressure. One thing you may find as you, yourselves take up ‘the megaphone’ to direct is that, you are not the best one for writing such notes as you are too busy trying to control everything and get everything right to enjoy the experiences happening around you.
So… What did the project leave me with? Well, I learnt more about directing in one day on set than I got from 2 years of college and a trillion books. The experience was nothing but a joy.
Did I get it right? Did I make the film that I wanted to make? Well… Yes, largely, I did. Am I happy with the film? Definitely. Would I change anything? Abso-bloody-lutely!
I once heard a story that Mel Brooks told a colleague, my memory fails me at this point, I cannot remember who the other party was. I do however know that he was shooting at the Paramount lot.
In conversation with Mel this other guy asked him, “what is it like? How does it feel to be a director?”
Mel asked “Is that flower shop still around the corner from the paramount gates? The one with the red poppies on the sign?”
Somewhat bemused the man replies “Yes. Why?”
Then revealing more about directing in one sentence than I could sum up in a book as big as the bible, Mel says “Well, that flower shop means a lot to me. When I worked at Paramount I used to walk home past that store everyday and Every time I got there I would suddenly realise how I should have directed that scene today.”
My aim at the outset of this project was to create a show piece, something to show people what I can do. As it went along, my motives changed. I realised what I wanted from this was the experience, to be part of something bigger. I had the time of my life. Not because I got to be the boss, not because I had people at my beck and call. It was because I got be at the heart of a team, a group of people who were there to do something to the best of their abilities and to make something we could all be proud of. In my opinion, that is what we did.”