In 2004 I spent several months in Shanghai and within days of arrival I wanted to make a feature film about life in that legendary city, which was in the throes of awe-inspiring, terrifying expansion. It took me until 2011 to get back there and in some ways by then the city had already changed beyond recognition. Nevertheless, in the space of two months I wrote, produced and shot the majority of a twelve-minute short film, with a local crew and cast, including myself, with the intention to complete the film in Europe and use it as a springboard to making a feature film.
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 which, ultimately, proved elusive. I also thought I would have more chances to get the film finished and shown in short-film-friendly, cineast 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. 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 areas 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 the teaser-trailer of ‘Evanoui’ up (click SEE MORE below) because I like it even in this short form, and above all because I am enormously grateful to the kind and generous souls who helped me along the way.