It was my dad’s birthday on the 11th. So I thought a wee bit about it and here are this year’s reflections
Can’t remember if I mentioned this before, at least here, but I started my filmmaking club in my dad’s honour. I’d started writing after losing my mum, and it seemed to work—funneling the energy of her loss into a creative outlet that she enjoyed. And my dad loved films. It made sense. And once again, it seemed to work.
Now I frequently get told about someone who got a sum of cash to make some film or other. I think there’s supposed to be an implication of, “fingers crossed, Leo, it could happen to you!” Or perhaps, kindly, “Your work deserves that kind of recognition/support!”
I’m totally guessing though. I’ve consumed a lot of scripts but I cannot read the ones running in everyone else’s heads. There are forever serious miscommunications, and big disputes about the character I’m supposed to be playing, what he’s supposed to be doing.
I would know best of all of us, and still I have serious doubts sometimes. Though when I do, I can remember the core tenets of what it means to be a Robertson, as learned from my dad.
At his memorial someone said to me, “We were just asking ourselves why Charlie never ended up a millionaire. He was just too generous!”
I realised while writing this (just curiously, no judgment): I have never wondered why anyone I know isn’t a millionaire. I’m willing to bet my dad spent no time asking himself that same question either.
He was too busy sneaking wine gums or enjoying fry-up breakfasts just like his mum used to make for him. Too busy browsing local shops for the perfect cheese, cool new glasses, a book that would fit in the pocket of his new favourite jacket. Too busy browsing the internet, clicking from article to article, in his dressing gown, chilled glass of white wine beside him—looking up to say, “I could do this all day!”
He loved his wife dearly, and was bereft when she passed. His favourite people were his own kids.
He remains a shining guide on how to extract the most value out of life for yourself and others. We Robertsons, for better or worse, are oriented towards gratitude for the ordinary, optimism and romance more than anything.
I’m so very pleased to hear from people that I have inspired them. Truly. Already more than I could hope to help out personally. But you don’t need my help, nor anyone’s permission. That’s always been my message.
I know you’re scared. Do you think I’m not? What even is life? What are we all doing? No time to ask, gotta fill out a tax return or something. It’s so weird.
And hey, you think I’m inspiring? You should have met my dad. Seriously, I’m what you’re stuck with. I am not by nature a people/party person like he was. My energy has to get into the world in its own spikier, more awkward way. But I do it in his honour, and I’m so glad it’s paying off.
And to those of you who have learned I’m a writer/filmmaker and love to tell me about what you will make one day–who enjoy the feeling of a potential story rattling around in their heads—perhaps so much that you delay getting it out of there and taking a look at it—you are in good company. My dad was the same. He told me about this hilarious radio play idea he had, about angels, heaven and hell.
Several times he told me that. Never more than that. Over years. Can’t tell you more about it.
Because like you, he was going to get around to it one day.
In “Searching for Veslemøy”, an inept and narcissistic reporter attempts to capitalise on a local cold case to launch his career. He soon finds himself alienating a community of colourful and bizarre characters and failing to find any clues—even when they’re handed to him.
We’ve been working on this thing since Xmas, when we all came up with the concept 🙂 Watch this space for where it ends up!
Having written for a while, I thought I’d come up with my own rules. They will of course change given what kind of day you catch me on, but here they are today And I promise I’m probably just writing this to myself, rather than to anyone specific. If it feels otherwise, maybe it’s good writing
Get out the house and hang out with people. This addresses many of the needs you might be trying to fulfill through writing. It also solves many different problems that your brain tells you are are very important and tailored to your unique fingerprint of shame, to your unique importance. Which is bullshit. The more you reveal this to yourself, the easier it will be to see through.
Chill out. Lots of writing exists and will exist without you. It’s not that you’re not needed, but you don’t matter as much as it can sometimes feel like you do. Feeling very important, from my experience, doesn’t result in good material anyway.
Go to a therapist. The art, of anyone who suffered for it, also suffered.
Follow what interests you and what gives you energy. Express yourself.
Listen to bad music while writing, to tune out the part of you that wants to criticise what you put on the page. I like 90s techno
If a perfectionist offers to collaborate with you, send them to your therapist.
I don’t want to talk to you while you’re drunk, high or on any kind of drugs. What makes you think I want to read your writing about it?
Writing has nothing to do with “assuming the identity of a writer.” If anything, it might be contrary to assuming that identity.
I know the story feels amazing in your head but it’s not doing anyone any good in there. Get it out, where it is less amazing but at least actually exists.
This works out great since there are people all over the world that I’d like to see it 😀
Here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it yet:
An insanely ambitious project, Burnt Portraits is a 99-min psychological horror film starring Sam Crichton and me.
Filmed over 10 days in one location, we recite like 17,000 words of dialogue. I sure don’t do things in halves hahaha…
What’s really cool is that Horrific Hope is a horror festival focusing on mental health, and I wrote/acted in this film to deal with my grief. Seems like there might be a Q&A also, so I’d be interested to discuss that further 😀
I’m coordinating a Saturday afternoon/evening (depending where you are in the world) in March, so I’ll keep you updated!
It was National Coming Out Day yesterday when I posted about Mental Health Day ahaha
What the fuck, is it National Leo Themes Month or some shit? I can only type so fast!
And believe it or not, I’ve been reading loads about gay shame lately. And again, this is the kind of thing you mention and I know anyone reading this would be like, “That’s terrible! There should be no such thing”, but it might even be the natural outcome of living life in a society not set up to benefit you—or one in which the majority without even noticing imply that the way they live life is the best way simply because most people do it that way. Even without the epic weights of gay-targeting pandemics, criminalisation and stigma.
But anyway, before I get into it, I once saw in a review of a James Baldwin book, “Imagine what amazing things he could have written if he hadn’t had to dedicate so much time to the analysis of racism.” So that’s really what I struggle with: adequately voicing my dissent against homophobia while at the same time wanting to spend my time and energy on stuff that isn’t bullshit. I just can’t spend too much time on other people’s hatred. And a little wariness at sounding militant and putting people off spending any time with me at all—I don’t know if this is a real concern, but if it is, it certainly wouldn’t indicate that I live in an equal society if I was being judged on separate criteria from straight people, right? Maybe you’ve hardly thought about it. I know I try not to.
So anyway, quick-fire round (no pun intended): I should never have been in sex education classes where the teacher mentions that some pupils think all gay people should be shot. I should not have had that said to my face by someone else: “You know I used to think all gay people should just get shot. But I see now you can still have fun!” I mean, what the fuck? Would you like a list of types of people I would like to see shot? That list is empty. And I hardly like anyone!!
I should not have had people use the word “gay” to mean “broken” or “lame” used around me. When I came out, I shouldn’t have had it questioned? It was difficult enough bringing it up, and I hadn’t gotten it wrong, but what would it have mattered if I had? You think I would have been like, “Are you telling me I kissed all those boys for NOTHING?!” Hahaha… Except I didn’t even kiss any boys until I was like 17!! All that shame about my nature combined with stupid homophobia probably keeping others around me from coming out. Do you realise how much kissing I could have done otherwise? Shame on YOU!!
It’s easy to feel grateful to those who historically have fought for my rights, but nobody could feel thankful that they had to. Adults loving one another is beautiful and should only ever be promoted and celebrated in all its forms. As far as I can be bothered working out, I think it was okay for huge swathes of history before crusaders decided Christianity was the answer for everyone. Jesus is a major cock block, just sayin’…
Kiss men, women, non-binary and trans people—and just focus on the kissing while you’re doing it, right? Don’t be all like, “What does this mean about me? What shall I now call myself? What will others think?” Nobody should fucking care. From my experience, most people talk about the stakes of their life as if they’re much higher than they are. Nobody is watching, and if they are, they shouldn’t be. There has been far too little kissing going on. Worry about that!!
Oh and for all the time it took those around me to grow and accept gay people, I’d just like to point out that from the moment I met my cat, she didn’t care. She likes to sleep on Juan because he’s cosier. That’s her only observation. I don’t know what to make of this but it seemed relevant
I see it was World Mental Health Day yesterday! (A Sunday in October? Yes, good time to be aware of it!)
I have some thoughts
I take an anti-depressant every morning! I started early 2020, I think? It was after Xmas 2019 where my full-blown Dad grief came back and I thought, gladly, that it was no longer “productive” or “meaningful” to go through that much pain again. See, I had to go through it for the first six months or so after losing my dad because that was a normal or healthy response to what had happened, I suppose. I don’t think anyone would have prescribed me anti-depressants then, nor do I think they would have been a good idea. But I “resurfaced as myself” at some point after that, so when all that pain came back again full force it was like, “Alright, enough of this.” I truly don’t think I would’ve survived another round of it.
I’ve also had pretty bad seasonal affective disorder my whole life too, and at the very least I never want to go through another winter without anti-depressants. (Given that you need to take them months after you feel better, and start taking them pre-emptively again before the winter starts, I might as well just take them my whole life. Who cares if I have to?) I even told my family I wanted to switch my birthday, December 13th, to my half-birthday, June 13th, because I never had anything to celebrate in winter. They managed once but Mum took it as a personal insult that she didn’t get to celebrate my birthday on my actual birthday. Mum disclaimer, she was great etcetera, but I didn’t know about boundaries, growing up.
Side note: I knew advanced calculus but I didn’t know about boundaries? What the fuck were they teaching us? And why were so many of them such dicks? No wonder it took me so long to realise that what I was feeling WASN’T NORMAL when school life was so boring, petty, alienating and often run by people who have let the teeny tiniest amount of power go to their stupid heads. But I don’t let adults off the hook for not realising that life is what we make it, not what it appears to be. Experiencing bad behaviour is no indication of “how things have to be done.” It’s not an excuse for its perpetuation.
I mean, what could be more mine than my birthday, right? Still today I celebrate it on my actual birthday out of not wanting to cause a fuss, on a day to me that has more often than not felt like “The lights are out, the world is over, ALL IS LOST, DEATH DEATH DEATH” because I’d hate to be impolite. (Doesn’t feel like that anymore though: anti-depressants!)
Maybe all this does surprise you. It’s scary to me how little people notice the difference between my medicated and unmedicated versions. It’s more of a reassurance to them, not me, when they say I “have never been that bad.” Trust me: I have. It’s my depression, so I guess I can say I am glad to have spared others the pain that was in my own head (thus far, here’s hoping the pills keep working), though it probably came at my own further expense. It also makes me feel I really am alone in my vigilance against my own depression, because most people either don’t want to see it or they can’t. If this is new to some, I’m sure they’re very sorry I ever had to feel that way now, but they weren’t at the wedding/birthday/dinner/party when I was ever so quiet or mopey or legitimately-unable-to-attend-leave-me-the-fuck-alone-not-everything-is-about-you.
You’re so quiet, Leo!
You’re welcome! You did not want to know what was going on in my head.
Why did you stop drinking? Was it as a personal challenge to my own alcohol consumption?
What a weird way to have thought about it! Actually I stopped because PAAAAIIIINNN and DEEEAAAAAATH and AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHSTUPIDSTUPIDSHAMESHAME.
Some people around me know all this. Some might be surprised to hear that I still take anti-depressants, because I tapered off them during the summer. It didn’t last! The depression came back, and in a way that was different enough from how it had previously presented for me to not immediately notice. It’s a sneaky one, I tell you. Luckily I still had anti-depressants left so I started taking them again on the off chance that what I was feeling was a new expression of depression—a leap of faith as big as having taken the pills in the first place. Before the pills started to work again, I was fully convinced that they wouldn’t and nothing would ever be the same again and I was trash and all that. Everything I thought I had “learned”, I hadn’t. It was what the medication gave me. Anyway, the only success is my own healthy mental wellbeing, not how it is achieved. If I had stopped taking medication for good, it would have been no kind of victory.
In telling you all this, I don’t feel like I’m “confessing” anything. FINALLY! Depression has had me in a shame-bind for too long! “Confession” assumes I had something to be ashamed of. Should you be ashamed of having to wear glasses? No, your eyes just need a bit of help to see clearly. My brain has an aversion to its own serotonin for some reason. Unfortunately the symptom, unlike poor eyesight, is not that everything looks a bit blurry, but that the world is drained of hope and possibility, the past and the future disappear and all there is is the ever-painful present, OH LORD WHAT A CURSE IS CONSCIOUSNESS, EXISTENCE IS A MISTAKE!
I was reading this non-fiction book by a therapist recently where he was like, “Anti-depressants might keep you in a life that is non-ideal by making you numb to signals that your body is giving you that something is up and you need to fix it.” I think you can agree that’s not the case for me. I’d wake up in my own bed, in a flat I own, beside my husband and cat, about to go to my stable job and think “PAIIIINNN!! ENDLESS PAINNN!!” I’m not really sure what that signal was supposed to mean, do you? I think it’s best to get that out the way so I can go about my day, frankly!
I don’t know who invented anti-depressants but they are all absolute geniuses. It’s like self-worth in a pill. Some of us can’t affirm ourselves happy in the mirror. Going for a walk is a nice idea but to do it you have to get out of bed. Some of us can’t. And when we can’t, you can’t argue against our perfectly legitimate reasons for not bothering our arses.
In my writing, where possible I’ve tried to create sympathetic mentally ill characters. I was particularly pleased about my own character in TrutherNet when audience members said, “No, I don’t want to sympathise with him, he’s so toxic!” Yeah, cause he needs it most!
It’s a toughie! Our horrible behaviour is protection against the love and support we feel we don’t deserve. In earlier parts of this post I might have given voice to my frustrated depressed self who wasn’t receiving the help he needed, but the truth is, we are crafty at avoiding it.
So no, I don’t know the answer, and overall really I am saddened that all of us, either experiencing mental illness or being around those who experience it—everyone, then—are burdened with this thing we have to deal with, without which life would be so much more… joyous, I guess. I don’t know about you but there is this oddly idealising wee guy inside me who can’t stop wishing life wasn’t so damn unfair.
If you’re able to read this, I love you (in some way) and I know you’re doing your best. Keep it up. The world is so much better with you here
This time we’re talking about storyboards 🙂 We recently made “Face Boy”, our third feature film, and I storyboarded it completely before we shot it. How did I do that? And how did I get away with NOT doing it for two whole films before that??