The history of making a film

Artists studio

My studio in the sunshine

Years ago, I worked as a Children’s writer for a very interesting charity called Tearfund. Fresh out of University, it was my first proper job. It was very exciting, if a little nerve-wracking. I had to properly move out of home and be truly independent.  My wonderful future Mother in Law drove me round the whole of South West London, looking with me in horror at accommodation in varying degrees of unsuitability that I’d found advertised in Time Out. We eventually found lodgings in the spare room of a welcoming, gentle and friendly… rather famous, piano virtuoso. (She had two grand pianos in the back room, and I woke up every morning to her practice. It was such a treat.)

And so I started work. I was in awe of the rest of my team from day one. Photographers, cameramen, writers, designers… and I didn’t even know how to turn my computer on. Why on earth they gave me the job is still a mystery, but there I was, and I did my best. I quickly discovered that working is HARD work, and it was all I could do to stagger home on the bus most nights, to my cosy little room, whereupon I would fall asleep immediately with my Winter coat and shoes on, and my feet hanging over the end of the bed.

I worked there for 2 years, writing comics and magazines. I went once on an amazing trip to North Eastern Brazil, following the photographers around and grinning and holding up the white light board for them and just soaking it all in. I asked lots of children lots of important questions like ‘What’s your favourite colour?’ and ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ and I scribbled it all down like a proper reporter. When we got home I wrote all about the Brazilian children in my little magazines, so children in the UK could see how similar they were at heart. I’m still grateful to Tearfund for sending me; it changed my whole worldview.

Playing games

Me playing games with Brazilian children, 1998 Photo: Richard Hanson



Fond memories of Richard Hanson. He wrote this on the back of the photo for me.


I left Tearfund to have a baby, and always meant to go back, but somehow never did. Eventually, some very sad circumstances put me back in touch with one of the photographers – Geoff. Geoff also makes films. And he writes! He’s very talented. I’m still a bit in awe of him. He suggested that we make a little promotional film in my studio. I was a little bit nervous. Could I do it? Was I cool enough? I don’t know! And it’s been 17 years since we saw each other. Would we get along? What the heck. I said yes.


Artists studio - paintbrushes and tools

I dusted everything 🙂 Photo: Juliet McKee

We set a date, watching the weather forecast closely,  and talked on email about ideas and possible shots. I quickly realised that as well as being the subject, I was also the stylist. I needed to tidy up a little bit, maybe. Dust, possibly, and make things sparkle. Arrange all the pretty objects in my studio, make it look fresh, but also natural, as it usually is. It’s a fine line between prepared and over prepped. And… try not to get a spot on the end of my nose and other such awkwardnesses (what to wear??!). It all took ages, but I did a little bit every day until I felt ready. And it was exciting!

On the day, Geoff arrived bright and early with all his camera kit and we worked all day long. It was so fun, and fascinating to watch the process, and how patient Geoff was to get just the right shot. I fetched and carried and painted and moved things and made tea and poured tea and giggled and picked up paintbrushes NOW, and we had a lovely catch up at the same time.

Teapot and teacup on a tray

The best things start with a cup of hot tea.

It’s ace when you rediscover a friendship, especially with a creative person you have always held in the highest regard.

The finished film just made me squeal with delight. It’s so me. I love how Geoff took hours of filming and came up with 3 minutes that tells a story, and that represents me so well. I love that I am laughing throughout! I love the movement in it. It’s engaging and fun. I love how although I was nervous at points, Geoff got to the heart of me and my work; how much I love painting. The reaction to the film has been overwhelmingly positive. Countless people have written me such sweet messages saying how nice it was to hear my voice, to hear me laugh, to watch me paint. I hope it will reassure people in this self contained, internet age, that I’m not just a faceless brand. I’m a person, really alive, and I love life (and painting. Did you get that bit?).

Geoff said to me at one point, ‘When you pay a professional for a film, or for photographs, what you’re getting is talent, consistency and years of practice.’ All of that shows in how he made my little film. Thank you, Geoff. I’m so grateful. You’re an absolute pro.

If you’re interested in Geoff’s work, you can find him here. If you’re a small business looking for a promo film, I recommend looking him up immediately. 🙂



2 Comments on “The history of making a film

  1. I love it!!
    As the other people have said, love to hear your voice and see your joy, feel your joy too!

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