We just found out today that the dark horror script for IMPRINT has won its fifth award! Nice. This time it was for Best Unproduced Short Script at the Fantastic Festival of Los Angeles. Many thanks! that’s great news.
Let’s hope some producers, keen to get involved in helping bring this to the screen take notice. And I am super grateful for these 5 awards.
We’re very happy to be able to learn that the super dark horror Short Script IMPRINT has been awarded its 4th award for Best Script at the LA Sun Fest. This is huge news and so many in such a short space of time. We’re very grateful.
Well this is a first. It’s the end of the year and I am just so underwhelmed that I’m not sure how to do this. I mean, what a year we’ve all had… and to think it started out so well.
[I’m well aware that many have had really bad year and suffered much loss. My heart goes out to you and yours. I really hope that next year is much kinder to you; especially kinder to those who’ve suffered economic hard ships, bereavement or have been directly affected by the virus.
SECONDLY – And to those of you who are new here, please note this sin’t a humble brag kind of thing, this is just my assessment of 2020, how I’ve done as a [creative] human being and me trying to work out what I want to focus on in 2021, assuming any of us have a choice…. that being said, I know there’s a group who believe we shouldn’t share what we’ve achieved, because it might depress or stress others out. If you’re one of those people, don’t read this. Simple…. This is merely my story and how I have always recorded progress over the past year.Unlike many people I do set goals for myself and I do try to hold myself accountable. – it is the only way I can force myself to achieve anything. I am a firm believer in celebrating your success if you’re lucky to have any, and to acknowledge the effort you’ve put in where it is due.]
Travel – I had such high hopes. Sadly there wasn’t any, save for January when Darwin and I shot a film in Italy and then in February when Suss and I had a weekend in Karlstad for Valentines. Because once the pandemic hit, I was either on lockdown, or I couldn’t travel to any of the regions we’d planned on, due to how other countries viewed Sweden’s approach to controlling the pandemic. And we ended up cancelling three trips this year and didn’t get complete refunds on two of them. But other than seeing family, which I very much wanted to do, I also hoped to do quite a bit of travel to my first film festivals abroad and network with other filmmakers and none of that happened.
Family – luckily there were no serious family illnesses or deaths this year, everyone has stayed safe and well. But I did miss my Mum’s 70th and the birth of two new additions to the family due to cancelled trips. At this rate, they might be in college by the time we get to see them…
Health – I know my mental health has suffered. And I’m not as fit as I was, despite doing some training. I’ve definitely drunk more this year, to kill the boredom / break up the day, and missed out on the gym, since the virus hit and I stopped going in March – I mean people at my local gym were unhygienic before Covid and never cleaned the machines after use, so no way was I risking it during Covid. But I’ve done my best to meditate, get some exercise and dose up on vitamins and light where possible. But this especially dark and warm Swedish winter has been brutal on everyone’s mental health.
Filmmaking – See below for a blow by blow rundown of all my filmic adventures across the last 12 months. There have been many and for that I’m truly thankful. it could have been the complete opposite and no one would have blinked. So I am aware of how lucky we are. But also acknowledge how hard we’ve worked to get here. The key high level detail is that we achieved our three goals for phase 1 of our plan: 1, Make films worth of festivals. 2 Win some awards if possible. 3. Get distribution / find an audience. All three of those goals were achieved this year. And now phase 2 of the plan can begin, to move into doing feature films / more ambitious projects. Currently, we’re on track to finding that audience and launching bigger things. I think the 15 awards this year, getting a lot of writing done and making 5 short films this year, despite the virus, has really helped. And if it wasn’t for this, God knows what state I’d be in now. I think although it caused some stress, it also got me through some hard times. But I’ve also not been so focussed on my own goals, putting other people’s projects forwards above my own desires, mainly to keep moving forward when I hit some initial roadblocks of my own and that’s got in the way of some passion projects – so I need to keep my own goals in mind next year. But also none of this would have happened without the trust, faith and passionate contributions from our collective teams on these projects!
Writing – I wanted to get a feature script written and I did. I ran into problems on my own but found that I could definitely help others working on their projects, when their stories were sufficiently developed but needed refocussing. But I knew I needed more work on developing better feature plots and I’ve devoted a hell of a lot of time and energy to doing so. There’s still aways to go, but I’m putting the work in and it is paying off; day-by-day I am less of a pantser. Overall I’ve worked on 8 shorts and 2 feature scripts this year and developed /fleshed-out some interesting ideas to follow-up on for future projects in 2021. And there’s been a refreshing amount of potential new ideas.
Self-development – I’ve done a total of 19 webinars and courses, read a screenplay a week, and a number of useful books to help develop myself, despite work and lockdown depression. I’ve sadly missed two key targets (one regarding a physical challenge, which ended up being missed mainly due to work demands / meetings booked when I usually preferred to do this thing, and another that was just not possible due to lockdown). I basically bumped those last two into next years’ goals when the year went south.
Work – this has been a real ups and downs kind of year, as I’ve been put on notice of unemployment twice, on furlough once and I’m notice of unemployment again. Who knows if I will be working or not in 2021 beyond February. Everyone’s got it tough and other friends have lost their jobs. But it’s a shame when you’ve had some glowing client feedback and gone through some tough projects this year, to be constantly looking over your shoulder. But with Brexit, a global Pandemic and the shit show in the US this year, it’s no surprise that things are bad the World over. So I’ll take what’s coming on the chin. But I was happy to throw every bit of energy into one particular rush client project, that was an indirect part of this new technology and scientific techniques that helped fight things like Covid. So at least some of my work has helped create positive change to combat this pandemic, even if the project nearly broke me.
Temperament / happiness – I’ve also had ups and lots of downs this year. Some real anger and stress. I’ve done well over all, trying to combat it, but I’ve also had periods of not following through on planned meditations. Partly this was down to work, but also down to real low periods, where the anger takes over. I like to think that over all I’ve been kind to myself and to others. But I know that my drive to achieve, and being on lockdown, has come at the cost of my energy and made me less willing to socialise; less of part of the human race sometimes. And as a result, less able to even enjoy some of the good times, as much as I would have liked to. Sorry to all for that. Maybe I should be less of a hermit next year, once lockdown is lifted.
House – We ended up spending shedloads having the windows and doors all redone, once we were in lockdown. And the only good thing about the pandemic, was having no money to travel and ended up managing to recoup much of the cost, just by saving up and doing sod all. I definitely did not achieve as many of the other projects I planned on the house, as I would like, but I’ve done maybe 50% of the things we set out to do due to putting the film stuff first. But it’s also been a pain being on lockdown this year, with constant construction nearby. We’ve had to put up with a fuckload of blasting and drilling and construction noises, due to the houses they’re building nearby and they’ve also taken some of our views. I’m hoping for a quieter and more productive year of DIY.
[You might want to skip this bit and jump to the end, as it’s long! Seriously, go on, no one will blame you!
But please note, I’ve added links where possible to previous posts, if you’re curious to find out more]
And at the end of January, Darwin and I did a test shoot for COMFORT HIM, which was a lot of fun. And then we went to shoot MAI PIU (aka NEVER AGAIN) in Italy. This was to return the favour to Alessandro Fiorucci for starring in our short LOVELY TO MEET YOU, that we shot in December 2019 – the latter was planned for release this year, but Darwin’s still wrestling with it, but it will be coming soon! Whereas MAI PIU is finished and we hope everyone gets to enjoy it in 2021.
…At this point, there was already a virus looming – despite various Government’s claims to the contrary – I’d been following its emergence in the press…
In February –
MR CLEAN got 2 new posters, Finally finished MR CLEAN the short film (which was a huge deal for me to finish something), and submitting to film festivals and reviewers – and got our first and 2nd review. And we worked on preparing for our cast and crew premiere screening – where I had to learn everything I could about creating my own DCP screener.
The trailer for LOVELY TO MEET YOU was released – the screening was scheduled for April, and then again later in the summer, but ultimately hasn’t happened as yet. But we did get to do the cast and crew screening for MR CLEAN just before the lockdown. It was a great event, and amazing to see our shorts on the big screen and share them with friends and family. But people were already cancelling attendance due to the virus and I ended up feeling ill for a week afterwards… and suddenly I wasn’t unemployed after all, despite that being dangled over me…
Sadly there was no screening in Spain for us, nor a trip to see my family, once the virus hit and travel became impossible. And rather than be unemployed, as I was originally supposed to be, I ended up having my busiest period at work for a good while, as a weird direct result of the pandemic. I had to work some insane hours, for science!
Sadly, we also had to cancel a 50th Birthday trip to Andalucia for Suss, a trip we’d been planning for months. A once in a lifetime trip… bugger. But it was happening all over the World. Why should it be different for us?
So I decided to start working on MR CLEAN the feature script. But it was tough to get going, with all the work I was doing for the day job. I was focussing on writing, as it looked like I probably wouldn’t get much filming done, with the pandemic.
I started running into a few road blocks on MR CLEAN the feature in ACT 2, so I started doing a much deeper dive into Story Structure / plotting tools. But also had to sort out storyboarding our next micro short and rewrite HUSH MONEY TOWER for Darwin. I definitely felt the new planning approach / story tools I’d been working on were helping me understand this story and gave it what it was sorely lacking – but such time invested is also time away from writing / projects.
And we had our first Midsommar celebration in lockdown. It was lovely to spend it with a few friends, even if under such weird conditions and limitations. But let’s hope the usual pagan sacrifices can continue next year in public. 😉
In July –
COMFORT HIM was released both online, and to film festivals – something that to my knowledge is rare if not completely unusual, but was intentional so that people could get to see some of our films and not have to wait for so long. And I avidly watched the stats to see if this film, as a Micro Short experiment, would find an audience and would it get rejected from festivals that prefer the premiere for short films, or would my gamble to release it first, so people could actually see it, pay off? Although it began to slowly amass views, it was tough to get anyone to actually review it. I mean, even the team thought it was a trailer because it was so short. And once released the inevitable “when can i see it?” requests followed people viewing what they thought was a trailer lol!
We also shot NO TELL – a film I co-wrote / polished with Darwin. A short that was a bit of a surprise for me, as originally I was too busy to help produce it and then kind of cut out of it altogether, and then suddenly back in on the production to try and pull it off at the last minute. And we tried to observe Covid conditions, but it was tough to do. But it was a great chance to meet new talent / collaborators and work with some old friends and I can’t wait to see it in 2021.
I also started work on project called HEAR SOME EVIL, which was supposed to be a first collaboration with a new friend and fellow Swedish creative; and a chance for me to try out some new techniques re plotting and planning. Ultimately it ended up being a solo project and getting shelved on completion due to lack of interest / collaboration / bad timing. And Darwin shot DESEO EQUIVOCADO (aka ROAD OF LUST), a project I helped rewrite for him, without me – as I had zero money for travel due to a major house refurbishment, and was sadly back at work and working my butt off. At least my gear could help get it made.
MR CLEAN got more festival rejections and festival cancellations and delays, and I then gave up on trying to get the feature script finished. And I got sick, but don’t know what it was, whether it was the virus or not or just being run down. It was all just a bit poop – despite being on vacation. I was at a very low point over all. I had already pushed myself so hard…
And the month ended with a screening of COMFORT HIM in NYC, and me being depressed about another cancelled family trip, too much stress and zero feature script to show for it yet.
In September –
We fared a little better – although I was still depressed, due to the continuing lock down and returning to work. But what helped me get through it was the selection of MR CLEAN to the H.P.Lovecraft Film Festival – a project I had always consciously intended it for, before I even wrote it. And sadly, although it had long been a dream to attend that fest, I could only attend online. But it was good. I saw some amazing films and it was an honour just to participate, although sadly after the fact, as the films were on at times that weren’t good for my work schedule. And it wasn’t the only fest selection. SVEN GUNNAR also did well, being selected for Cyprus.
And we shot TUMBLE DYING too, and in order to get it done, I made a tower of socks and gathered lots of sock donations to do so. And we tried and failed again to observe proper Covid measures when shooting. But it was a surreal and short shoot.
MR CLEAN had a few more festival selections – some good, some not so good; some where they took place with no announcement of location / dates, and no ability for us to travel anyway, and others where they were online and it was impossible to take part, due to the weird limitations those festivals imposed (like US fests with a once-only live stream at ridiculous times, so we couldn’t catch up and see the films, without missing sleep and work for a week).
I also embarked on a then secret project. I was rewriting a comedy horror feature script – MAGIC IS MURDER – as part of another collaboration. I tried to get it done before my Birthday and was pleasantly surprised that I was able to crack it in time, to hit one key goal of the year, even if it wasn’t my own MR CLEAN the feature. It was still impressive, to get it done on top of the day job and everything else. And the collaboration was fun and I think the project has benefitted from it, based on the feedback from those who’ve read it. And I can’t wait to film such a crazy script with the cast and crew next year!
In November –
MR CLEAN got its 18th festival selection, and then I was finally able to talk about other feature projects, including MAGIC IS MURDER. After a conversation with Darwin, discussing frustrations in launching some more ambitious projects, Darwin and I discussed two potential low budget guerrilla projects, and I had fun breaking the story on one of them, called MURDER TOURS. And I pushed myself to rethink an old legacy project called LAST NITE IN SODOM for future pitches, and had some meetings around developing SVEN GUNNAR as a feature – especially when it won an award, in recognition of it being a proof-of-concept for a future feature in Cyprus, and to see it on the live stream.
GAS! got into another fest. And I made some progress cutting TUMBLE DYING, as the editing had gotten pushed back again. I managed to reduce 2hrs of raw footage down to 25 mins of good footage, in the edit.
And the world said “screw you Trump!” and we all hoped he’d just fuck-the-fuck-off and the World could relax for five minutes, after such a stressful election. Yet the MAGA’s somehow ended up believing in more conspiracies and Trump lies and live in denial that any of this happened. LOL. But I had been very active with some US filmmakers in trying to help do our bit.
And the month ended as I got interviewed by Darwin’s festival, for GAS! And after another chat with Darwin, where he was having trouble working on a new potential short, I came up with a very different take on it, inspired by a mental image of carnage and almost seeing the entire story in my mind right there and then; I just invented the characters and knocked it out in a day, and BLOOD MIST was born. This was a nice fusion of pantsing and plotting, that I think really paid off. And I’m excited to see that get filmed in 2021.
In December –
Work was getting rather frenetic, and yet there was some good news. COMFORT HIM was a selection and finalist at another fest and GAS! got was a semi-Finalist in another fest. There was talk of some actual funding for one feature project… And as a massive package of work was delivered for the day job. As a result, seeing some time off in my future, I felt that I might finally be able to tackle TUMBLE DYING, finishing the edit, and finish breaking the story of SVEN GUNNAR the feature. But time was ticking and my energy was at an all time low. And depression set in.
All of that graft this year had come at a price. I was getting burnt out. I was spending every free minute working on SVEN GUNNAR the feature, and TUMBLE DYING. but it was hard to get through it. Some rest for Xmas was definitely needed and taken. I was now down to 14 mins of half of a rough cut, and it was slowly coming together (not bad down from 2hrs).
And then MR CLEAN appeared online in the STUff MF film festival – for it’s Mexican premiere, to close out the year.
[if you read all of that, you’re awesome! Go You! Phew! You nutter!]
So what about 2021?
As I’ve already been too long about it so far, I’ll try to keep it brief. My goals / wants are as follows:
Enjoy the release / festival run / screenings of LOVELY TO MEET YOU, MAI PIU, DESEO EQUIVOCADO, BLOOD MIST.
Finish TUMBLE DYING and get it out there and plan the next one.
Write SVEN GUNNAR the feature and help get the production off the ground for the following year.
Write MURDER TOURS and get that on the way, to help me pave the way for MR CLEAN the feature.
I have a silly mission to work on a feature film before I am 50, so I am really hoping that either MAGIC IS MURDER (to be shot in the UK) or MURDER TOURS (for either a Spanish or Swedish production) will happen next year, if not both.
Rather than spread myself so thin on courses etc, I am going to focus on one mega course for 2021, where I will resurrect and finish off one of my novels.
But I also really hope to do some more experimental video projects and focus more on cinematography / filmmaking.
But most of all, I really want to travel and see places and people again.
I want to be kinder to myself and more present / a better partner to Suss etc. But I’m also aware, that I’ve already crafted a huge wish list above that I need to own…
I also want everything to settle down after the US election, Brexit and let’s just get Covid off our backs for a bit…
The year hasn’t been a complete shit show. I’ve achieved a lot, and had fun with collaborating and trying new things, although there are also associated stresses and strains that result from it, especially risk of getting burnt out. But I think a bit more balance might have been beneficial, to have more of a life and not just throw everything into work and try and kill yourself. I think Suss is a saint for putting up with me being so absent / stubborn.
I’m glad that Darwin and I cleared the air around some issues we had and have collaborated much better afterwards. And also that we’ve both been able to work with others on so many projects. It’s amazing and I’ve been very lucky to continue to work with the same talented team for multiple projects. It’s been great to see them all grow and tackle other bigger projects too, including some Netflix gigs for our actors and awards for the creatives. I really appreciate Hasse‘s patience, waiting for me to get TUMBLE DYING done, Simon‘s trust in me reworking his script, and hope to be able to find other successful collaborations. You do need to change things up from time to time, to grow and challenge yourself. But you also need to own it when stuff goes south and try to fix it if you can. Fingers crossed that can happen.
I think sticking to my goals will be key to achieve my end of these more ambitious projects we have planned. You have to leave room for other opportunities, but know when to say no and stick to what’s important to you.
I really appreciate all of the creative friendships I’ve forged in 2020, and all of those people who’ve stuck around to help or even just to follow the journey. And to those who’ve supported me through it, thank you!
Lastly, I really hope that we can step up to secure some proper funding so that we can pull off these future cinematic dreams and reward our team with some actual payment. So far, all of this has been achieved from sheer grit, determination, pure passion and unpaid and often very hard work. But let’s hope everyone can benefit from the fruits of 2021.
[Jeez! I’m finished! Honest! After all that, I guess that I’d better get busy…]
I’m very happy to share that my WWI short script ‘GAS!’ won “Best Short Screenplay” award at the September 2020 Reale Film Festival. It’s awesome! Great news. And as it got selected and awarded on the same day, it was quite the surprise!
It’s confirmation to me that I was right to dust it off and try my luck at resubmitting it to festivals. I only wish that I’d thought of doing so sooner. In fact, I’m beginning to think about revisiting some other scripts for potential festivals. But mainly I am thinking about finally achieving my long term goal of getting one of my existing feature scripts up to spec and a worthy festival contender.
However, long term readers would know that the reason that hasn’t happened is lack of time. lol. So don’t expect that goal to be achieved too soon. But don’t think I’ve forgotten about it either. And I’ll have more news soon re feature scripts…
For now, let’s forget such dreams and goals. And enjoy the fact that the GAS! poster now has 4 laurels. Sweet.
I haven’t forgotten my promise to print some t-shirts (When I said, if it won such an award: “I promise to print some limited edition posters of Karen Keslen’s fantastic art work, and get some t-shirts made – if people are interested.”). So when this is all done, I will indeed do such a thing. Who cares if it means some people wearing a t-shirt for a film that might never get made?