RATGIRL – a short film Pt 2 (storyboard + script)

First draft is complete and the storyboard is pinned to the wall – so the journey has taken another step towards physicality.

One step at a time…

This may be a three minute piece, but it still requires development. A first draft is not a script. Nor a film. Not even close.

Redrafts are beautiful things

The next step is redrafting and developing the communication of each shot from the storyboard. What am I saying & why? Is there a better my way? (There’s always better ways) but what about MY WAY? Am I choosing the accepted rather than what I really see?

My mum was an artist and I remember her saying, “you just mark what you see because everyone sees it their way” as I sat still for her draw me. You don’t ever draw the models foot, you draw how you see the model’s foot. For me, as an autistic, I’m often told how I see the foot is wrong. So I will be examining my shots. My next stage will be making sure I’m NOT showing you the foot you believe is right rather than the one I see. I’m doing it differently with RATGIRL – I’m being slow, careful, and deliberate with my sight.

Autistic storytelling

I’ve spent a long time making work for non-autistic audiences and still do, I enjoy it. It makes me happy. Plus funders, stagers, commissioners, publishers all chase audience – otherwise no money would be made, no power over collective cultural narratives would be gained, or generalised high status and its offspring legacy achieved. All of which are quite appealing to a wide variety of people for loads of reasons (good and bad).

(TANGENT ALERT!!! I’m told consumers of the “creative arts” are apparently a certain type too. This hit home fully when I was on the Royal Exchange’s Disabled Directors Scheme and we had a workshop with the marketing team – it was eye opening and I possibly cried – I cry quite a bit when I’m overwhelmed).

There’s nothing wrong with this (crying or chasing audience: it’s an industry and being working class I know industry is all about profit and disposability) I just feel ready for more. I’m finally ready for a project which doesn’t require leaving my autistic voice at the door. I want to say something to myself about myself AND say it autistically (whatever that means) but it seems to be the autistic bits that motivate my work and make sense to me are the bits non-autistic (well-meaning) people think is ridiculous: “we can’t have that blurred?” “The transition is insane” or “we might lose them if we do that” or “she can’t be green”

Why is she green?

I’m not actually writing a green person in RATGIRL, but you get what I mean. How I see the world and interpret it is different. I do meet green people in real life, it has significance to me. You also learn not to say “oh I like how mr Smith is green” because the world will kick you to death with “no he isn’t”. Listen, dilution is fine when the audience is neurotypical (ie: non-autistic) but if I’m to create for myself, to give voice and reflection to how I experience my life, then some people are green. Some are blurred. Some have sounds that I can’t be around. Some people sounds I love being around. Some people are hollow.

Masking autism

As an autistic girl growing up I was just chronically overwhelmed and thus quiet. I’d construct games I could control, so I didn’t have to properly interact with anyone. You learn to copy and repeat because autistic you is wrong and weird. As an adult this took its toll, no one can be a chameleon as well as a chameleon.

Many people experience trying to assimilate into the dominant cultures difficult. For me, as a child, I developed reactive mutism. I found speaking to adults and children (other my my twin and sister) excruciating. Even if I wanted to speak, no words arrived. It was hard to spot too, I was a good quiet girl. Reactive mutism still happens now as an adult, when I get overwhelmed, my voice is the first thing to go.

Voice is important to me

So you can see, voice is important to me. It used to be assimilating and storytelling, but since my mum passed (before Christmas), I step into 2020 thinking I need cake now, not later. You can never earn your cake by begging at someone else’s table either. You get crumbs, and crumbs of cake you can’t digest. Besides, assimilation and trying to go unnoticed doesn’t work. Why? Because I can’t help being autistic. And the effort of fitting in (or rather, negotiating bits of myself off) leads to poor mental health and deep anger, resentment, and loathing. This can’t be healthily expressed, so it becomes internalised. I don’t want that for myself, or anyone. I have a good life with good people who love me. Why would I invite ruin into paradise?

I know what people will say, “just be yourself” but they don’t live in the shadow of autistic experience where being different leads to exclusion, unemployment, poverty and more. We have a society that will let you be a bit different BUT NOT THAT DIFFERENT STOP!!! STOP STOP !!! So RATGIRL is my response, she is my voice learning to speak, truthfully.

I think I have a right to speak truthfully

What is art for?

It all comes back to the same old question: If filmmaking or writing or any medium is art – then who is art for? What is it for? And the answer very much depends on which side of the camera you’re standing on, doesn’t it?

The next step…

RATGIRL, her small fragile first draft is saved and tucked away to sleep in the comfy hard drive. As I delve into playtime, dancing with shadows and shots.

I’m softly optimistic I’ll continue…