Dating In London: Why I’m All In

Like most adventures, moving to London has brought with it both boundless opportunity and potential predicaments in equal measure.

Dating included.

Akin to being met with a supermarket cereal aisle, unless you know specifically what you want and can smugly beeline for those bran flakes, the choice is frankly startling and the process of choosing, tedious.

There are so many people! I would ponder to no one in particular. The streets and their restaurants are crammed full of them. How am I ever going to filter out all the debris and find a suitor worthy of my company?! Where does one possibly begin?

One word. Tinder.

I began, as so many my age do, with the careless, almost indifferent swiping of fellows that fell into my selected criteria. (24-31, 5 mile radius, in case you were wondering).

North London has thrown up some woefully inconsistent options in that arena. For every match, you then have to endure the boredom of small talk, and one you get past that stage actually pinning down a person for an actual, face-to-face date can prove tiresome. I frequently waste a week, two weeks, if not more, vaguely getting to know someone in a casual back and forth way that often peters out like a lazy basketball as it dribbles into the corner. There is no momentum or spark on Tinder; you’re free to come and go as you please with little repercussion and it’s proffered more dead-ends and disappointments than it has candidates.

It’s fun to fallback on, like a memory foam mattress, but reliable it is not. The net is cast so wide that meeting someone with similar interests or ambitions, or who even wants to message you at all, is frustratingly scarce.

Another option, however arcane it may seem, is to head out to an alcohol-serving establishment and pluck up the courage to talk to someone in person, using your actual tongue.

Since moving to London I have done this on two occasions, (forgive the bragging), both with moderate success. On the first, I was playing darts – a sport which oozes sexual allure if ever I’ve known one – and struck up a repartee with a man whose eyeball I almost had out with a rogue throw. I continued chatting to him for this anecdote alone.

He was perfectly charming and at the end of the night we exchanged numbers, if just for the confidence boost. Yes, he was a pawn in my own game of self-assurance, but I have no regrets about the fact it felt good and I knew there and then it would be nothing more. The whole process took about one hour, and it was merely a side order to the delicious main course of a fun night out.

The second night took place at a pub known for it’s retro tunes and I boldly approached a gentleman whose shape throwing I greatly admired. We twisted, shouted, shook it up and worked it on out for a good few hours and come the end of the night I knew he was merely a dance – as opposed to life, partner. Ultimately I came with my friends and I left with my friends, but it was good to know that there are guys out there and that meeting them doesn’t have to feel like a covert chore or an arduous elimination process.

Beyond that, I have plans to attend a speed-dating night hosted by The Book Club and may or may not have signed up to go on a Guardian Blind Date (watch this space….), because why the hell not. Both provide environments where you’re guaranteed to meet someone who has similar intentions and desires to your own. Sure they might not be a cat-person (essential), or enjoy lie-ins (non-negotiable), but they are there to have a conversation and asks questions about more than you’re attire or cup size, which can only be a good thing.

Like streaming platforms (because this is a film blog and I love a metaphor) there are several options to account and curate for different taste. Netflix, much like Tinder, provides you with an overwhelming sea of options – not all great. You have to scroll/swipe for what feels like hours before coming across something which still runs the risk of being subpar. Mubi, on the other hand, professes to provide highbrow, art-house cinema; like the Guardian Soulmate of the VOD world. You might be narrowing your options, but in the hopes that every selection will result in an enjoyable experience or at least a  talking point at your next dinner party.

Just as I don’t commit to one viewing realm, I’ve come to explore a plethora of ways to find a companion (if just for the night… sorry Nan) in the big city.

There is no longer a right or wrong way to meet your match. Yes I’m still more likely to whisper Tinder, than I would be if I met the future Mr. Davis at a bookstore and both our hands reached for Richard Yates at the same time, but alas if the outcome is positive and brings happiness, surely the origin of our romance is irrelevant? And if I can boogie to Bruce Springsteen with a good-looking gent or two in the meantime well then dating is something I’m all for.

5 Female Directors You Should Know…

The paucity of female filmmakers has almost reached the point of media saturation. It doesn’t take long to find statistics or editorials decrying the severe scantiness of a female perspective in the film industry. As well as being an all-white affair, this year’s Academy Awards are once again male-dominated, with zero women being nominated in the Directing or Cinematography categories. However, I would contend that it’s not because there is an actual lack of talented, insightful and masterful women helming films but rather fewer opportunities presented to them.

I was reading a piece in The Guardianthe other day about a film critic who is vowing to watch films only penned, or purposed by women. Her justification for including male-directed, but female-written film is as follows:

“A lot of times a woman will write a script and in order to get it made, she’ll need a male director. If she goes to a financier, as a female screenwriter with a female director, she will be turned down. But if you have a female screenwriter and a male director who has one or two films behind him – or even if it’s his debut – financiers are more likely to back a film by a man”.

And in that brief statement, Gates articulates the core issue. Gender discrimination in Hollywood is pervasive, and destructive. It’s like a community sitting atop a vast field of untapped oil, and being told it doesn’t exist – that those resources are somehow inferior, or less visible than the ones they have access to. That would be a massive squandering of potential, and quite frankly, ridiculous. Yet the difficulty women have making movies, or making money making movies, is often viewed as ‘just the way it is’.

Here to prove that point – that it’s not a lack of female directors, but a lack of opportunity – are 5 up-and coming or established directors who are doing their thing, and doing it quite brilliantly. Of course there are plenty more that deserve your curiosity, but these are the ladies currently capturing my attention…

5. KKat+Coiro+Case+Premieres+Tribeca+Film+Festival+a1ZquC2imW_lat Coiro

With three feature-length projects under her belt in as many years, Coiro is perhaps the most prolific director of my selection. Her films And While We Were Here, (which I review in my last blog post), Life Happens, and A Case of You, often focus on the difficult choices that women are faced to make, such as between career and family. The critical response to her films has been mixed, however her female leads are all intriguing, flawed but ultimately likeable people that don’t necessarily have their shit all figured out. Particularly interesting in A Case of You is how the male lead (playing by the affable Justin Long) is the one trying to change, and mould himself to lure his love interest, which is so often the other way around in romantic comedies directed by men. Her films are in turn delicate, nuanced, witty and beautifully realised. And While We Here particularly showcases an artistic vision and her potential as a director of great potency.

In_a_World_poster4. Lake Bell

If you haven’t see In A World… steal a friend’s Netflix password immediately. It’s hilarious and relevant, and reveals actress Lake Bell to not only be a great comedic performer, but also a very astute director. It’s a satirical piece that charts a young woman’s attempt to compete in the male-dominated world of voiceovers and Bell never misses a beat nor an opportunity to underscore the double-standarded nature of the entertainment business. In A World… is a pacy and well-crafted feature length debut for Bell, and one that has me incredibly, insatiably excited for her collaboration with Noah Baumbach for her next project The Emperor’s Children. 

Amma Asante3. Amma Asante

Belle might be better known for launching EE Rising Star nominee Gugu Mbatha-Raw into the spotlight, but behind her confident, multi-faceted performance is Ghanian-British director Asante. Tackling the slave trade – especially after awards-sweeper 12 Years a Slave – in an original and sensitive way, is no mean feat, but it is one that Asante achieves with the deft of a director considerably more experienced. This is her first big-budget film, after her smaller 2004 debut A Way of Life, which won a handful of awards and lots of praise. Powerful, poignant and intelligent, Belle is a mischievous, and much-needed divergence from traditional period costume-dramas and one that has me hoping it doesn’t take Asante another 10 years to release a film.

fid131102. Haifaa Al-Mansour

Al-Mansour is from Saudi Arabia, a country where extreme restrictions and limitations are placed on the female population; where they aren’t allowed to wear certain clothes, drive cars or compete in sports, let alone direct a groundbreaking and thought-provoking film. But against these curtailments of her freedom, that’s exactly what Al-Mansour did with Wadjda in 2013, a courageous, endearing and important film that picked up several awards nominations on the film festival circuit. Al-Mansour is to make the cross over to Hollywood with a Mary Shelley biopic, in which Elle Fanning is slated to star in the titular role. Let’s hope she continues to push boundaries upon arrival.

BN-FZ257_ava2_DV_201412111612591. Ava DuVernay

If there’s one name you should remember from this year’s awards season, its Ava DuVernay. Though she just missed out on a Best Directing nomination for her Martin Luther King biopic Selma, she has done something arguably much more admirable – broken through the glass ceiling. Historical films such as this are predominantly the reserve of a male director and it’s rare for a woman to be charged with detailing the events surrounding one of the most important victories for the Civil Rights movement, as spear-headed by the most important figure of the Civil Rights movement. And yet she does it in blistering, gutsy and and complex style. She’s got filmmaking verve by the bucketload, and shows great amounts of restraint and intelligence in her formal approach. DuVernay might not pick up any awards, but she should win herself a legion of fans and cement her position as a talent to take serious note of.

Ageing in Hollywood

Ageing in Hollywood is a double-edged sword. Either you embrace the graceful climb over the hill and vie with Meryl Streep for all the peachy roles coming your way. Or you try and stay looking as youthful as possible for as long as possible, because let’s face it, there are more roles for those lithe, glowing-skinned, and eternally energised monsters known as ‘young women’ than there are for their predecessors (and most likely, trail-brazers). And if you do beat one of those taut beauties to the part, then you have Russell Crowe breathing down your neck saying that ageism isn’t a problem at all and you should just embrace the whole getting older shebang. Sigh.

MIC wrote a very accurate and incisive piece on the issue with his comments, which initially appears as though he’s encouraging (more like demanding that) female actresses to be happy in their own skin. And rather than selling themselves short by competing with all the up and comers of the film industry, they should focus on playing women their own age.

Oh Russell. How funny you are. All those intelligent, wise and elegant elder ladies of Hollywood must have bypassed the reams and reams of intelligent, wise and elegant roles written for them, in search of bit parts as muses, girlfriends, manic-pixie-dream-girls, supporting wives and leggy prostitutes. Oh wait.

He appears to have glossed over, and trivialised the issue at hand – the fact that roles suited to older women in Hollywood are few and far between. According to a 2013 study, It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World: Onscreen Representations of Female Characters in the Top 100 Films of 2013, researcher Martha Lauzen found that:

“Females comprised 15% of protagonists, 29% of major characters and 30% of all speaking characters. Female characters remain younger than their male counterparts,” Lauzen writes. “The majority of female characters were in their 20s (26%) and 30s (28%). The majority of male characters were in their 30s (27%) and 40s (31%).”

The hard fact to face is that it’s easier for men to sustain careers in Hollywood simply because there are more roles for them. Whereas their trajectory into fame might remain pretty consistent, or even soar as they age, for women it’s more likely to decline (unless you’re Amy Adams). Paul Rudd, at the age of 45 is playing the hero in Marvel’s latest outing Ant-Man. Whereas the only superhero roles currently available to women are being assumed by the significantly younger Scarlett Johansson. For guys over 40 like Crowe, 55% of all male characters on screen are for guys who are his age or older. Flip the side of the coin, or undergo a sex change operation (and besides making headlines) he would discover the number of roles available to him decreases dramatically.

His comments also do a disservice to the fantastic actresses that do live in their own skin, and consistently turn in performances that celebrate the process of the ageing, and the complexities that come with it. Generalising actresses that are only in the market for youthful roles, neglects the fact that are many talented thesps besides Streep that showcase their capabilities, neuroses and wrinkles – and are all the more fantastic for doing so. Here are a handful of my favourite characters/role over 40 played by terrific, multi-faceted actresses over 40 in the past few years. From ball-busting bosses and gun-toting assassins, to pill-popping anti heroines and everything in between, these women are fierce, vulnerable, sharp-tongued, witty, acerbic, badass, and most of all, show strength in the face of adversity. They are role models not just for women their age, but for a younger generation of women and actresses who demand longevity out of their careers.

movies_skyfall_update_8‘M’ – Judi Dench (Skyfall, Casino Royale, Die Another Day, The World Is Not Enough)

Meryl Streep (Doubt, Mamma Mia, The Devil Wears Prada, The Iron Lady, It’s Complicated)051abba1MOS_468x641

‘Nic’ – Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right)

‘Dr. Alice Howland’ – Julianne Moore (Still Alice)

rotator_gravitycover‘Ryan Stone’ – Sandra Bullock (Gravity)

‘Penny Chenery’ – Diane Lane (Secretariat)

Kate’ – Catherine Keener (Please Give)

Helen Mirren (Gosford Park, The Queen, The Tempest, RED, Hitchcock)

‘Abby’ Rosemarie DeWitt (Touchy Feely)

‘P.L. Travers’ – Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks)

19JPKITTREDGE2-articleLarge‘Olive Kitteridge’ – Frances McDormand (Olive Kitteridge)

‘Claire Bennett’ – Jennifer Aniston (Cake)

‘Liz Gilbert’ – Julia Roberts (Eat, Pray, Love) and ‘Barbara Weston’ (August: Osage County)

‘Maria’ – Naomi Watts (The Impossible)

jasbreakdown‘Jasmine’ – Cate Blanchett (Blue Jasmine)

‘Elizabeth Taylor’ – Helena Bonham Carter (Burton and Taylor)

‘Cathy’ – Allison Janney – (The Oranges)

tilda-swinton-as-mason-in-snowpiercerTilda Swinton (Only Lovers Left Alive, Snowpiercer, The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Women Write Comedy: Underwire Film Festival, November 13th 2014

underwire_logo_resizedOn Friday, I battled harsh winds, torrential rain and ceaseless puddles that resembled something biblical to find comfort in the cosy surroundings and encouraging words of The Yard Theatre in Hackney Wick, where the Underwire Film Festival were hosting an all-day conference on ‘Women Writing Comedy’.

Served coffee and blankets on arrival, the event’s tagline “finding confidence in the collective” felt immediately applicable, as the intimate space of the theatre buzzed with the chatter and chirping of meeting new people who share the common theme of wanting to write. Like literary speed-dating if you will.

While they remain a rare creature, female scriptwriters are being commissioned to write sitcoms, screenplays and continuing series on both sides of the Atlantic. Nevertheless, as a collective and a society we should never mistake that for the job being done. Women are inching towards media and pay equality, but it’s incremental and not at all representative of our creative capabilities.

This event provided an all-female space, where energy, aspiration, ideas and laughter were the common currency. Effectively we had a room of our own to share our doubts, our questions and our successes and hopefully come away more resolute in our desire to become writers.

As women we need to blow our own trumpets more, and put an end to self-deprecation or asking permission to speak, or be heard.

Here are the top tips from the day:

  1. Vocalise your goals. Saying what you want out loud gives you the clarity and focus required to achieve them.
  2. Set yourself a specific target every year. E.g. finish editing that short film, put together a showreel, get an agent. Regardless of whether you take steps to achieve completion of this task each day, it’s unconscious presence in your mind often helps you streamline the opportunities you grasp.
  3. Apply to competitions. Whether or not you win is irrelevant. The looming deadline often helps you galvanise ideas that have been drifting around your imagination for months, and formulate something tangible. Success in a competition then becomes a bonus. Regardless of the result, you’ve written something and built yourself a platform upon which to improve. BOOM.
  4. Having several ideas/projects on the go at once is the key. It can become easy to get disheartened if you pour all your being into one passion project that for some reason doesn’t get made. If you disburse your emotional investment and keep several things on the go at once, not only will you look like a multi-tasker to potential employers, commissioners, agents e.t.c, but that rejection will be easier to swallow. It’s like having a favourite child, but never telling their siblings that’s the case.
  5. Never bin your Baked Alaska. If a project gets rejected, don’t think it’s because you’re a worthless, talentless writer. (Though that remains a possibility). It could simply be that the producer has recently taken on-board a similar project, that your narrative isn’t in fashion right now, or you’re not sending it out to the right people. There are plenty of reasons besides being in the wrong vocation that results in rejection. Put the script away, work on something else and when the time is right, success could be putty in your hands.

sarah_brocklehurst-0791_10x8Sarah Brocklehurst, a BAFTA-nominated theatre and film producer, was also on hand to discuss the writer-producer relationship. Her production company, SBP, champions new writing, and takes a particular interest in collaborating with female artists to create stories driven by women. Indeed, she emphasised the collaborative, symbiotic nature of her production process that involves working closely with writers and directors to ensure their visions are compatible and the original ideas remains intact on the screen.

Her advice to young filmmakers: “Don’t wait around for others to give you the opportunities you seek. If you want to produce, go out and produce. If you want to direct, then get hold of a camera. Trust your ambition, learn from your mistakes, persevere and work very hard”.