In 2004 I spent a few months in Shanghai and within days of arrival I wanted to make a feature film about life in that legendary city in the throes of awe-inspiring, terrifying expansion. It took me until 2011 to get back there and in some ways the city had already changed beyond recognition, but in the space of two months I wrote, produced and shot the majority of a twelve-minute short film with a local crew and a cast including myself, intending to complete the film in Europe and use it as a springboard to that feature film or at least a demonstration of what I could do.

The short’s working title was EVANOUI, ‘vanished’ in French, because it was about a vanishing world and about trying make connections with other people that, ultimately, proved elusive. Also, I thought I would have more chances to get the film finished and shown in France than anywhere else.

What’s in a name…? Through lack of time, bad advice and a couple of decisions against my better judgment, I missed shots I should have got and even with the best of editors in London and Paris the material proved to have holes in it, which I lacked the partners and the know-how to fill. The following years presented me with a series of curve balls, then other projects took precedence, and after a decade of doubt I decided to let this one go; see also my little piece 'Residue' in Other Writing.

I learnt a huge amount on this production, made classic mistakes, and I suppose I came away from it with important insights into who I am as a storyteller and a person with ambitions in many corners of the creative field. I did get a few things right. Two of my extras who met on set later married each other; he proposed to her using a dolly shot from the film. And although I never want to produce or direct on my own again, I seem to be good enough at it to get decent assets for excellent value and to put the entire budget where it belongs: in what will end up on the screen. Would I do it again? If I don’t have to be a one-woman band, sure. And as my father would say, it was still cheaper than business school.

The script has gone into my portfolio. My broader Shanghai experiences are becoming a book. I’m finally editing together the footage I shot wandering the streets with a Sony DV cam in spring 2004, because it was a magical experience and even if it’s not professional quality, who cares? It encapsulates a little dream. And I am leaving this teaser of EVANOUI up because I like it even in this short form, and above all out of enormous gratitude to the kind and generous souls who helped me along the way.

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