The last time I blogged about my actress/film-producing namesake Amanda Fleming was in October last year when she had just produced and directed short film What a Drag.
What a Drag has now been accepted into 15 international film festivals this year, including Cannes.
Amanda was at Cannes last year too – as an actress and facilitator representing a 26-minute short she acted in: Titans of Newark.
After Cannes this year, she is probably returning to Los Angeles.
“I want to set up a Theatre In Education company over there,” she told me.
“What other projects are in the pipeline?”
“When I go back to the States, I’m going to put on The Countess, the one-hour show about Countess Báthory. I was thinking about doing it as a movie, but then I thought: D’y’know, I might put that aside and stage it at the Los Angeles Fringe. Because I want to do something a little more gritty. I was going to do a 10 or 15 minute comedy horror film to begin with – The Fingernail That Never Grew – a sort-of Carry On spoofy Hammer.”
“You seem partial to a bit of Gothic horror,” I said. “You must have interesting dreams.”
“I’ve always had very vivid dreams since I was a very young child and, when I was 18, I started writing them down. Now I’ve got about 280 written down. Some are just a typical dream mishmash of what’s happened in your day and your brain is sorting it out. But there are others that, when you read through them, it sounds like a really, really good storyline. Some are supernatural; some are emotional.”
“Next week,” I told her, “I’m going to some Dream event, but I almost never remember my dreams. I wish I did. Can you string your dreams together to make a single narrative?”
“Yes,” said Amanda. “Or it could be a feature-length film of short Gothic horror stories.
“Not all the buyers at Cannes are looking for feature-length movies. Some are looking for short films to put on their TV channels between the main shows.
“Last year, Titans of Newark got picked up in Germany and I think China.”
“Would you prefer,” I asked her, “to make an anthology of your dreams rather than a single narrative?”
“If it was a single narrative,” laughed Amanda, “people might think: Is this person off her head? Some the stuff: you’d think I was on drugs.”
“Non-naturalism is perfect for a film, though,” I suggested. “If you’re in the area of bizarre, surreal horror anyway, then the more visually ridiculous the better.”
“I had a recurring dream,” said Amanda, “of a black panther in a tree. It was always round a corner. I had to try and go round – it was like a forest – a little cottage on the side. And I had to go round there and every single time – even though the panther would disappear – I would know it was there and then I could see its eyes and then the full body would appear and it wouldn’t let me pass until, one day, he did.
“And another dream was about a white house on a hill. That was one of the most terrifying dreams I’ve ever had. It was a recurring one and the fear I used to feel from dreaming that dream was unbearable at times. It would wake me up.”
“You couldn’t,” I asked, “get to the white house on the hill?”
“I got closer each time I had the dream,” explained Amanda. “Each time I used to see, when I got closer and looked up at the house, the silhouette of a woman in the house, looking out of the window.”
“Sounds a bit Psycho-ish,” I said.
“You know those old Victorian houses,” asked Amanda, “where they used to have a huge greenhouse? – like a big hothouse and the lady of the house would go in there and water her plants – it was beautiful, domed, but long – and the main bedroom, which was hers, there was a door which went onto a balcony overlooking this huge hothouse. But I didn’t get to that point until just before the dreams stopped.
“Eventually, when I finally managed to pluck up the courage to open the door, I walked out onto the balcony and it was almost like an invisible force was trying to push me over it.
“The next time I dreamt that same dream, I went back onto the balcony again and I felt a strangulation round my neck. Then, the next time, there was the strangulation AND I felt like I was being pushed over the balcony. But, as I was seeing this happen in my dream, I also saw there was a rope hanging above the balcony and I realised whoever I was dreaming about had been murdered and hung there.
“That dream was terrifying because it was recurring. I was so scared of going back to the house every single time. I still remember how it looked. There was a narrow road with a brook running beside and I remember a small pub and a grove with trees and then you could see the white house on the hill.
“And I’ve been writing poetry since I was 12. I’ve got all those – over 500 poems. I’d like to put them all together with dates at the top and collect them in a book. If it makes money, that’s OK; if not, that’s not an issue.
“There’s an old saying: You try and you fail and you try and you fail, but the only true failure is when you stop trying.”