Edinburgh in August is one of my favourite places in the world
The first time. I can never forget that. Shunted to the outskirts of town to watch Robert LePage juggle love and war in his heartstopping multimedia devised play the Seven Streams of the River Ota, which would eventually run at 7 hours by the time I last saw it at the National, years later. Stuart Lee and Richard Herring in pre Jerry Springer the Opera days chumming with Jenny Eclair. The street theatre. The train ride back home. Next time was a step further with the theatre company formed at school on the wave of inspiration that followed me back from that first visit in 95. This was Simon Armitage's first play, Eclipse, about the meeting of the sun and moon one afternoon in 1999, and the effect it had on the teenagers who witnessed it thereafter. Our venue seated 20, sold out some days, and convinced us eager bunch of 18 year olds that anything, really, was possible if you set your mind to it.
That time I had my first glimpse of the film festival too. A brutal innocence smashing group trip to watch Cronenberg's Crash.
A day's workshop with Daniel Batsek and Richard Jones and an insurance
salesman-like man from Winchester Films, talking through the process of
making and marketing a film. There was the time we blagged our way onto
BBC2's Edinburgh Nights to promote our play, and spent the day clogging
the Royal Mile with a circle of leaflets covering our bodies, and the
evenings after the show bouncing off the walls like Daleks as we
discovered DJ Shadow and Portishead and cheap resin out of the watchful
eye of our parents.
Later again, to the city for Hogmanney, scrambling Arthurs Seat in the dark to watch dawn rise on the millenium over a sleepy bruised city. It has always been the most magical place.
And then back that same year for the Edinburgh Film Festival - my first expensed trip as a journalist. 8 parts Roookie to two parts gonzo I blagged and bluffed my way around parties and press conferences, interviews and photo calls. Stephen Daldry stealing my lighter, watching Jamie Bell receive his first stack of photos to sign ('what I just sign them all?'), Rachel Weisz asking for a dance, Mike Figgis talking to me about the camera I filmed him on. Timecode, Dancer in the Dark, In the Mood for Love, Dark Days, Angels of the Universe, Ring, Miss Julie, Billy Elliot, The Last Resort, One Life Stand and Big Brother Season 1.
And now back again. The delegate centre has all you can eat frosted glass and embossed lettering. The list of celebrities and 'talent' coming has ballooned (another thing to thank JK for?). There are more delegates, more money from Scottish Screen and the FIlm Council for next year. There are glitzy minimalist entrance lobbies and red carpet areas and a dark 'world is going to get worse so lets all escape with a film' opening editorial from festival director Shane Danielson.
But what of the films? Well after a day of wondering around trying to get into see something, I end up forced to enjoy the theatre of real life. (Please phone back in 5 minutes.. please come in in person.. please try a different desk.. please go to the film house.. please go back to the press desk (it's closed).. oh then we can't help you, you have the wrong kind of pass.)
Within minutes of wondering around the frosted glass ice palace of the delegate centre, I feel lost, awkward, wrong. Every encounter with a member of staff seems to reinforce that sense - I'm doing something wrong, asking in the wrong way, at the wrong time, to the wrong person.
minutes ago I'm giggling with delight as I film the world floating by.
Catching the sun of the hair and profiles of people ('real people' in
the 'real world' as some in the industry call them. or is that you?),
street performers doing magic tricks and laughing kids in crazy
mirrors. What fun. And suddenly I'm a filmmaker. Then I step into a bar
and meat a bunch of industry folk and now I'm a one sentence
introduction.. 'this is Nic, he did Jess's book, you know the Shooting
People Book, with the Bananas'.
Oh dear reader. Forgive me in advance. Forgive me if I spend the rest of this festival crouched at the sidelines, peering in, struggling to clear the sneer of indifference from my brow as I watch another red carpet event I'm not walking up. I am wearing the camouflage of various shades of grey and black. I am here. Waiting. Patiently. But I fear the worst already. That of leaving begrudging a talking shop where filmmakers are either treated like rare gold, or ignored and ridiculed, where political issues are ripped apart in debate each night and then forgotten each morning over breakfast in a coffee chain. My experience with Netribution, dear reader, has perhaps bolt rivitted cynicism into the corners of my smile when it comes to this so called industry.
People, on the other hand. I'm sure I'll meet plenty of those, and where there is personality and delight in that ahead of obsession over status and pecking orders, that smile will disolve into a real one. Please do say hello if you are around...