Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Jenny Ringo Saved My Life: The Sad Part

So it's been a while... I stalled for a few reasons.  I hit a bit of a wall with my most recent 'Jenny Ringo Saved My Life ' blog, crucially, the one where in fact she saved my life.  And I had a baby.  The two things aren't exactly unrelated.  One of the reasons I've decided to blog about this now is to stop it hanging over me so I can get on with changing the world again!

I have been asking myself a lot if I am using Wolf and Fox's deaths for self-promotion, which is what has stopped me publishing it in the past.  But the truth is, I'm probably using self-promotion to tell the story of Wolf and Fox's lives, which doesn't get told very often.  The Virgin Media Shorts competition voting closes on their 2nd birthday.  They are as much a part of Jenny Ringo's story as they are mine.  So I'm publishing it now.  It focuses on the 2nd film as that's where we were when I wrote it, but follow the link above to see the 3rd installment too:

I warned you in the prologue that there were sad bits in this story.  This is the sad bit.  I guess the over-riding theme of this series of blogs is the hidden personal story behind a public work of art like a film; and I've had many internal debates about how and what to blog, and whether to blog at all about this.  But the fact is, there wouldn't be a Jenny Ringo and the Cabaret from Hell without it.

It starts a bit sad because when we made the first film we thought that was the end of our brief career as indie film makers.  But it's not that sad, we deliberately planned it that way.  Because we wanted to start a new project; raising a family.  Eight months after we finished shooting, while the first film was still in post production, we discovered I was pregnant.  Two months and an epic bout of morning sickness later, our first scan revealed not one but two babies.

I'm sure very few of you will ever be told you are having twins.  Let me tell you, it is an enormous shock, and completely terrifying, and you forget for a week or so that you are at all excited.  I worried that I wouldn't be able to give them enough cuddles.  And then you start to get your head around it.  But it's a massive process, coming to terms with it.  Going to Mothercare, which for many expectant mums is a thrilling experience (you can't drink or go to theme parks, remember), just left me teetering on the edge of a panic attack.

But there's something pretty special about expecting two babies at once too, and when you see young twins together you know its going to be something worth going through.  And as we started making adjustments to our lives to prepare ourselves for this mammoth change, and as post production on Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw finally finished, we discovered at a scan that we had a complication which occurs in about 10% of identical twins.  The next day I had surgery to try to put it right, and the following day I went into premature labour.  It was just 6 days too early for the babies to have any chance of survival, and they lived for twelve and thirty four minutes.  Let me just add that Chris rarely gets the opportunity (or has the inclination) to talk about it, but its important for me to say that through the whole experience, he was a hero.  Although that word seems rather inadequate.

I could write a thousand blogs about the thoughts and feelings I've had in the two years since, managing the grief, making another film whilst pregnant and then the safe arrival of Eric less than a year after the twins death.  Suffice to say it is mostly not as bad as you are probably imagining it to be, and I can't take any credit for the world keeping turning in the meantime, it is merely following the path of least resistance.  I just went along with it because frankly, there weren't many other options.

We owe the existence of Jenny Ringo and the Cabaret From Hell to four people.  To Darren Berry, DOP on Jenny Ringo and the Monkey's Paw, who went for a drink with Chris not long after the twins died and planted the idea of making a second Jenny Ringo film in his head.  When Chris came home and suggested it to me, I think it was probably the first time I'd thought more than a week ahead.  Suddenly the future wasn't just something to be avoided.  Secondly, to our old friend Geraint D'Arcy, who introduced Chris and I, whose relationship with Jenny Ringo pre-dates my own by about 18 months, whose kind and calming presence, along with his wife Jeneatte and lovely son Liet, gave us a short holiday from grief when we needed it most.  As he'd had an idea for what at the time was a proposed future episode of a Jenny Ringo tv series, Chris invited him to write it.  It is different from the first film, unsurprisingly, a script of light and shade; you see both Geraint's natural humour and the shadows cast by our experiences of the past few months.  I think its a richer script for all of that.

And of course, we owe it to Wolf and Fox, our little girls, without whom it would never have been made, at this time, in this way.  I have learned that the answer to the question 'would I go back and change it all if I could?', is 'It doesn't matter'.  It is how it is.  People called me brave afterwards for getting up in the morning, accomplishing the small task of being me and most days remembering to smile.  It is very kind, but to me rather misses the point. I have produced 3 films on zero budget with zero professional experience, whilst also having a reasonably demanding full time job.  I don't want credit for something bad having happened; what I'd love is some support for the fact that I'm getting out there trying to make something good.