Writing buddy 1B sneaks in through the kitchen door. I don’t hear a thing.
A little later, she slides down the hall, pauses in the doorway of my work space and, because she’s like that, she poses, grinning at me over the top of my screen.
Kare, she says, throwing her arms wide. Jug’s on. Off your nono. A cuppa and a double feature at the Cuba Lighthouse. If we get going, there’s Florence Foster Jenkins followed by Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
I don’t move.
–It’s ten o’clock on a weekday morning, I say. I have to finish this. And I’ve seen Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
– So? You like watching them again with a mate, particularly avec moi.
– One more man-directed New Zealand movie with a male protagonist and I’ll die.
She shakes her head, beckons.
–I’ve been six hours on the road. Com’on, girl, a cuddle at least.
–I didn’t know you were coming.
–Because you don’t answer your ******* phones. Because you send out-of-the-office emails.
–Saw that the moment I walked in the door. You white girls. You get busy, and your kitchen is a tip and there’s nothing-in-the-fridge.
–I came prepared. Armed and dangerous, with almond croissants.
–I’m not eating sugar. Or wheat.
– **********. 1B is cross.
She edges round to look at the screen.
–What’s more important than a visit from moi?
Distract her. Fend her *off*. I fly to my feet. Hold out my arms.
Too late. She’s little. But even going into a warm embrace she doesn’t miss a thing.
–The Daily Mail? Taylor Swift?
–A comparative study of handbag holding. Her and the Queen.
–It’s been done. A million times.
–Go away. I say, falling back into my chair. Weakly.
She watches me struggle.
–Later sessions, then. I could clean up till you’re ready.
–Nooooo!!! Not the vaccuum cleaner. Please. Please. Yesterday I had to endure waterblasting. Early this morning, leaf blowing and barking dogs. And just now, a gang of wannabe tri-athletes huffing up the track, yahoo-ing as they go. Pleeeeeease. No cleaning.
She rolls her eyes.
–Cook you dinner, after the movies, then? Something with lentils, perhaps?
We know she’s got me.
Over a cuppa and a croissant (yum! regardless), I tell her I’m stuck. Too much complexity, too many paradoxes. If I stop now, I say, I’ll never start again.
–Would that be so bad? How long’s it been, a decade? Laisse tomber, cherie.
–Tempting, I say. But ‘Il faut toujours terminer qu’est-ce qu’on a commencé’, I say, thinking of all that research and thinking, of the itch to make it into something, one more time.
– ******************* Listen to you! Prissy Ms M — no prissy Dr M — rides again.
She pushes her chair next to mine and takes up my hand, and gives it a gentle squeeze.
–Aroha mai, kare. Remember, il faut jouer un peu. Toujours, toujours.
I wait, unable to respond. She examines me closely. I watch her thinking.
–Let’s make a deal, she says. I’ll hum it, with the questions. Then you play it, with the answers. After the double feature. How’s that for a plan?
More than temmmpppting. But I look doubtful, make her wait a few seconds.
Then I nod.
–Thank you, I say. As gracefully as I can (not very).
–Y'a pas de quoi, she says. Have a shower. Do something with that hair. Get your boots on.
What follows is a lightly sanitised and almost digression- and food-free edit of our discussion, over several days and nights.
1B To the keyboard, Batgirl! Flex those digits. Relax.
I take a deep breath. It gets stuck in my chest. 1B places her hand between my shoulder blades. Reaches a long way for appropriate terminology.
1B (delighted with herself) And….action! Make a heading: Inciting Incident.
I take another deeeeeper breath. 1B rubs my back and smiles at me. I take a full breath. She takes her hand away, settles in her chair with some knitting (a lambswool beanie, in soft colours). I start.
ME It’s a Bright and Beautiful Moment. Our taxpayer film fund, called as you know, the New Zealand Film Commission (NZFC), ends its year on 30 June. And, for the first year ever, of the seven fictional features it’s offered production funding, five have women directors or co-directors. That’s extraordinary: 71%. Even if you take out the one co-directed with a man, that’s 62%. Way over 50:50. Take out Alison Maclean’s The Rehearsal (completed) and Jackie Van Beek’s The Inland Road, in post-production, both mostly funded in the 2014–2105 year and the one co-directed with a man and a male-directed project for which the conditional funding has lapsed, it’s still 60%.
1B Conditional production funding?
ME Available if the project can raise the rest of its funding from other sources. The conditional funding was for Alyx Duncan’s The Lonely Girl, Dorthe Scheffman’s Vermilion (used to be Belinda’s Notes), and Miranda Harcourt’s The Changeover (with Stuart MacKenzie). And amazingly, a *second* Jackie Van Beek feature, to be directed with Madeline Sami, The Breakerupperers. I can’t remember anyone else ever being funded for two narrative feature projects in one year, even though most of The Inland Road’s funding came in the previous year.
And it’s a stroke of brilliance that two of the films are co-directed, so instead of five women directors represented, there are six: Miranda Harcourt and Madeline Sami — both first time feature directors but hugely experienced in other screen roles — get to direct alongside people who’ve directed features before. That’s a fabulous way to increase the numbers of experienced women directors and I’d love to know who’s encouraged this.
1B So what’s the problem?
ME Information about this Bright and Beautiful moment came just as I’d finished writing about this invitation. I’m limping, avoiding a Cassandra role. Or a faux Cassandra role.
1B Harden up, cherie. Focus. Let’s have a look.
Here, I say. 1B does her rapid scan thing.