In 2010 when my son was a week old my friend Corinna McFarlane came to meet him. She also wanted to tell me that she was going away for a while, to write a script about her unknown ancestors in Scotland. She didn’t know when she’d be back but said she’d send it to me when it was done. With a week old baby in my arms I was pretty sure I’d never be of any use to anyone again.
But when Corinna returned a year later with the screenplay for The Silent Storm, I loved it, I remembered that I had some useful skills outside of parenting and I was ready to take it on. Through those early days of getting it going Corinna would often babysit so I could dash out and pitch. She knew immediately that the only way I was going to be effective was if I knew my son was well looked after…sometimes that meant he had to come to meetings too.
Two years into the process of putting the film together we were finally getting very close to having the full package, but I realised that I really wanted a second baby. Because we were filming in a secluded bay on a remote island in the inner Hebrides, we knew we had to shoot in the Summer months. So as 2013 rolled round I thought…well if I get pregnant now, we have to shoot in the Summer anyway, so then I can have a baby in post and it won’t disrupt the schedule. In February I went to NYC for meetings with agents and financiers and the smell of the sheets made me want to puke so I knew something was up. Simultaneously the cast and the finance all came together. And there we have it – shoot July, due November.
The shoot was physically tough on me. I was massive, it was very hot and we were in the elements in the middle of nowhere. But I had an amazing team to support me, a fantastic crew, and crucially, my husband had taken the time off work to come on location and look after our son (and me) full time. My mother-in-law visited and helped out too. So that network and support made it all very possible. I do remember being so tired at the end of the shoot that I had to invent a range of games that my son could play with my foot, as all he wanted to do was play with me and I could hardly stand.
My daughter arrived during the grade. I was quite beaten up from the birth but so desperate to get back into work. Even a bit cross that people had stopped emailing and calling me for a few days. So as soon as I was strong enough, when she was two weeks old I went in. Again I was very, very lucky that my husband was our post supervisor so he was able to be there with us. At first people made a big fuss of me “do you need some water?”, “can I get you a chair”, “should we order you a taxi”. This level of attention is very unsettling for somebody who is normally strong and in control. I also really didn’t want people to think that I was diverting attention or draining resources from the film.
My general response was “No, thank you, I’m okay”. In truth, I was still in quite a bit of pain and obviously hardly sleeping. I was also realising that somehow two children is more than double the work of one (how is that even possible?) – especially if the second is way more demanding than the first (who you’d originally thought was demanding anyway). What I learnt is, that if you keep saying no to help, support, advice and hugs because you’re trying so hard to keep it together, then eventually people stop offering.
So it’s AMAZING to be part of Raising Films, where all of that is on tap 24 hours a day through our website, and to be part of a movement that enables parents and carers to participate fully in our industry. It’s also amazing to finally see The Silent Storm in UK cinemas this Friday 20 May. It’s been a long old journey, but I’m so proud of the film, I’m so in love with my family, and I’m so grateful for all of you. And I think I’m a better producer now too, because I finally know how to say, “I’m not okay… so let’s fix that before we fix everything else.”