My debut feature film, Spaceship, comes out in cinemas this month. It’s about a cyber punk girl who disappears in an apparent alien abduction and her father’s journey through her strange group of teenage friends to find her. It’s been described as ’magical’, ‘emotional’ and…‘completely bonkers’. Which pretty much describes my journey in making the film.
After graduating in archaeology, I was working on an excavation when I started hearing voices. I was in the bottom of a pit on a Bronze Age settlement dig down in Southampton, and while I was used to unearthing people’s stories from the past, these voices seemed to be alive and from somewhere inside me.
When I was 14, like many teenagers who fell between the cracks, I wanted to be beamed up to another world in which the usual rules of life didn’t apply. I wanted everything to start again from scratch. Like those zombie movies where there’s an apocalypse and the world has been devastated so you get to be whoever you want, because who’s there to stop you? All the sporting show-offs and charisma-filled ‘leader types’ are too busy having their brains eaten out.
Making Spaceship was an attempt to go back and discover what those voices coming from my teenage years, still with me now, really meant.
I went to Guildford and Farnborough, trying to randomly befriend teenagers. I found them surprisingly open and accepting of this adult stalker. I should probably have chastised them for talking to strangers, but I was touched by their compassion for an outsider in their midst.
I met a goth called Max and his neon-coloured friends. One sunny afternoon I was filming them and after a few ciders he let someone smash a bottle and cut his skin with a shard of glass. A girl called Tyler then dabbed a finger in the blood and drew a smiley face on his torso, cyber punk Alexsana dabbed but this time drew a thick war paint marking on his face, and then Derek the punk rocker licked it off.
A smiley face drawn in blood is what it was like being a teenager.
I put that scene in the film as well as casting some of the brightest new stars of acting, because this is every teenager's film – and anyone who’s ever been a teenager. You can’t escape them. They’re a time traveller in your personality – they’ll always be there, whispering in your ear: 'I’m still here'.
Maybe you had an easy ride and life’s more difficult now or maybe you had a tough time – it made you stronger, and now you’re smiling. Everyone’s different but we all went through those formative years and came out the other side…or not. I know, or knew, more than a couple of people who didn’t make it.
Making the film was like going through those years again, reliving those feelings, so I had to gather a family around me who I could trust.
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Alexa Davies (Harlots, Raised by Wolves), Lara Peake (Born to Kill), Tallulah Haddon (The Living and the Dead and Taboo) and the River Pheonix-like Lucian Charles Collier – I put this film and my life in their hands and they never let me down.
My partner and I now have a seven-month old baby now and life moves on – but you can’t escape those teenage years.
Don’t ask me what the message of Spaceship is, because teenagers don’t have a message…other than ‘I won’t do what you tell me’. Which is kind of what the film is like. It’s it’s own person and refuses to conform.
Since I started hearing those voices while digging under the ground, they haven’t given me a moment’s peace. They’ve bugged me every step of the way, and now, like suddenly realising it’s not a teenager anymore, the film is about to go out into the world and live it’s life. I have to let it go and hope you’ll be friends with it.
Spaceship, I want to tell you that you’ll be alright, nobody will judge you, you will be accepted for who you are. But that’s not true. You’ll be judged, loved, hated, cared for, owned or you might be discarded. That’s what happens when you’re alive – just don’t take it personally. Find the joy, find your people, everything else will fit into place.
Which is where I find myself now.
In the words of a cinema in Derby: ‘Alien Abduction, Unicorns, Teenage BDSM role play and Nordic Metal. First time British director Alex Taylor unleashes his day-glow examination of teen ennui in the affluent Surrey commuter belt. Alexa Davies shines as the ethereal Lucidia, who spends her days with her misfit community of cyber goths. When she is seemingly abducted by aliens, her metal loving Finnish father must search for her among the strange world she inhabited. For fans of Harmony Korine (Gummo) and Gregg Araki (Nowhere), this is a bold debut feature.’
If that isn’t completely bonkers I don’t know what is. But it’s also been magical and emotional, and I can’t wait to see where the next stage of the journey takes me.
'Spaceship' is showing in Central and Ritzy Picturehouses, Rio cinema, Genesis, ICA and in towns and cities around the UK from 19 May. A full list of showings can be found here www.spaceshipfilm.co.uk
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