Oral Tradition

In the third year of my filmmaking degree I realised that my screenwriting lecturer was a bullshitter. What’s worse is that I also realised I kinda admired it; it didn’t really matter if the stories he told were true, only that remembering them makes me howl.

One week, he needed a last-minute sound recordist for his PhD project. Having zero interest or experience in sound recording, but having quite a lot of interest in spending the day with this man, his 15-years-junior fiancee, and their baby, I decided to volunteer.

On the day I wore my brand new white trainers. Experimental musician-slash-actress Keeley Forsyth was there, too. We spent the day driving around Halifax and walking through fields, and alleys, and ginnels, and mud.

At midday, on a staircase running up the side of a pub and towards an overpass above it, he bent over to tie his shoes. His glasses fell off his face and into a tidy pile of literal shit. He picked them up, gave them a sniff, assuredly proclaimed this is human shit”, and threw them aside.

During the drive back, he explained to me the one time someone had cursed him. Famed actor Donald Sutherland, specifically, had cursed him because he refused to foot the bill for a £150 bottle of wine. Donald ordered the waiter to open the bottle and pour a glass; he dipped his thumb in the wine and leant over to draw a cross on my lecturer’s forehead. Whether the curse has come to pass I don’t yet know.

My brand new white trainers were fucking ruined and, in retrospect, I think I got cursed by proxy.

But that was one of the lessons of film school I’ll never forget: stories are fun. I love to embellish and pretend and reframe and bullshit, sometimes. All you have to do is call it oral tradition and nobody bats an eyelid.

September 16, 2023