I Am Not Someone Else - by James Schlesinger

A confronting yet moving drama about Peter, a Father who has been estranged from his family after being convicted for a child sex offence. We follow him as tries to reconnect with his daughter. But can he ever find forgiveness? 

BUREAU: When you decided to make this short film, where did you start? 

Schlesinger: I'm forever fascinated by the complexities of humans. But we live in a world where everything needs to be simplified and labelled. The media paints everything as black or white but in reality it's all grey - or more accurately it's the entire spectrum of different colours and shades of those colours. And that's what I like to explore in my films. I like to to look at things from a different angle. To look beyond what we see, or what we're told we see, and examine what's really going on. I guess that's why I'm a filmmaker. I don't claim to have the answers, I'm not taking a position, I'm not trying to tell you what's right or wrong (whatever right or wrong means...) All I want to do is to show a different perspective and if it makes you think about something in a new light, then great. I'm happy. 

The idea behind 'I Am Not Someone Else' had been swimming around inside my head for a while, but it finally stopped splashing around, dried itself off and got the hell out of my head whilst I was at film school in Sydney, Australia. The idea was inspired by the real life story of a British comedy actor and writer who was found guilty and imprisoned for downloading and watching child pornography. What I found interesting about this case was that someone who was fairly well known and liked, suddenly morphed in front of our eyes. He was now a paedophile. But what about the person we knew before? Had that person suddenly disappeared? Of course not. He was the same man we'd enjoyed watching before, but now we just knew about his dark side. The problem is the media circus put all the focus on the dark side and the rest of his personality was forgotten about. He became his label. So with this film I wanted to take a character that 99% of people would agree is despicable and try to humanise him. People hear the word paedophile and immediately think, "Monster!" But the reality is they are just humans with flaws like you or me. The problem is, their flaw is catastrophically destructive. What would you do if you had a sexual desire that you could never act upon? It must be a horrible place to be. 

What came out in the trial of this actor was that he was a very damaged guy. As is often the case with chid sex offenders, wherever they sit on the spectrum, he'd been abused as a kid and this had haunted him throughout his adult life. He'd been an alcoholic and a drug addict and eventually he'd downloaded child porn on the internet. Whether he'd just done this to confront his demons as he suggested or for sexual gratification, I guess we'll never know. But whatever the truth, it was clearly much more complex than it was presented. And it fascinated me. What must that be like? What would that do to your family? How would your own children see you after that? And that's where I decided to focus my film - on a man recently released from prison for a child sex offence trying to reconnect with his broken family.

In terms of the actual production of the film, this was a film school project, so I was lucky enough to have the infrastructure in place to make it happen. But we had virtually no budget so we did what every self-respecting short filmmaker has to do - we begged, borrowed and stole whatever we could. Although mostly begging and borrowing. I don't think we stole much... All the actors worked for nothing, many of the locations were kind enough to let us use their places for free on the strength of the script. It was pretty hectic. It was a 27 page script shot over 4 days with several locations, extras, action vehicles and children - luckily there were no animals or stunts but we still had our hands full. I was having to produce as well as direct, which is not the easiest thing to do. Thankfully I had a great 1st AD which helped me massively, but I don't recommend trying to split your roles like that. Focus on directing while someone else deals with organising water and sandwiches for everyone or you just end up pissing people off. 

BUREAU: What kind of hurdles do you face as a filmmaker working in short film? 

Schlesinger: For me, the biggest struggle making short films is money. Most of the hurdles I face come back to that. There's not a huge amount of money floating around for short films, so you need to find a way to make your film for little to no money. And then you need to find a way to persuade people to work on your film and give up their time for little to no money. But if there was an endless supply of cash flying around for filmmakers, it would be easy and where would the fun be in that?

The first solution is to try and write shorts that are easy/cheap to make. Unfortunately, thinking of ideas that are short and simple to make is not my forte. Even the ones that start off simple in my head end up getting out of control. Damn you imagination! It really is an art trying to write a short film and you need keep your producer's hat on whilst writing your script - you know, the black trilby in your wardrobe. If it's too complicated/expensive to make it might never get made - as I'm finding with one of my short film scripts at the moment.

You also need a lot of energy because you'll spend as much, if not more time and effort fundraising for a project as actually making it. When you're out looking for financing what you really need to sell is you. There's obviously very little to no return on their investment for anyone giving you money, so people who do are investing in you as a filmmaker as much as the project itself. So make sure you're not an asshole.... If you're not good at that side of things, try and find a producer who's less of an asshole. Be creative and do whatever you can to get your film made.  

There will always be obstacles when making any film - not just short films - and one thing I've had to learn is you need to be adaptable. Hone your improvisational skills and really know what story your telling so that when something does jump up and bite you on the ass, you know exactly what's needed to solve the problem and best serve your film. Padded pants are obviously a bonus if something literally jumps up and bites you on the ass, but fingers crossed that won't happen. 

BUREAU: What projects are you working on next, and how can people who are interested best support or share that work? 

Schlesinger: I have a few projects on the go at the moment. A TV drama that I've been developing with a another writer has just been optioned by a UK production company, which is very exciting. I'm writing a feature. And I'm looking for financing for a couple of shorts. 

The most imminent project is a short film called 'These Broken Wings'. It's a moving and confronting drama about a man struggling to cope with the guilt of a tragic motorbike accident three years earlier. We're looking to shoot at the start of September, and are going to be starting a Kickstarter campaign in August, so keep your eyes open and if you're feeling generous and want to support a fellow filmmaker we'd be extremely grateful. All donations welcome. Every little helps!

The other short film is an ambitious project which was a recent semi-finalist in the BlueCat Screenwriting Competition. It's called 'The Key To A Man's Heart' and it's an imaginative and touching modern-day fairytale about love loneliness and cake... We have some exciting UK cast attached to the project and we're actually looking for an international co-production partner at the moment, so if anyone is interested, please do let me know. 

Mike Ambs

I love to film things, tell stories, and read on the subway. I'm pretty sure blue whales are my power animal.