It's pretty impossible at this time of the year to browse the internet and not see posts about wrapping up 2017 everywhere. In a way I guess it's healthy to look back at all that happened. It gives me a sense of achievement and failure and it's easier to weight things up. I can have more of an objective view.
I feel like this 2017 has been a full year. In good and bad ways. I don't remember on the top of my head most of the things I actually did, so I'm not going to lie, I have to rely on socials like Instagram and the photo gallery on my phone to bring me back to the memories of all that I assumed was important to mark or collect from this year.
At the same time, do you take photos or post that much about the negative things that strike you during the year? They are a bit more difficult to retrieve, but I will try.
In January, with its cold weather that jumpstarts you like a cold shower, I kept working on my career as an Assistant Camera but also I got contacted by a production company who was interested in my Directing. I worked on some potential projects with them for a few months and the result was Relief, later on (which came up from a pitch with them). The fact that the company reached out in the first place felt like a little step in the right direction, and I remember I was really excited.
At the time I was seeing someone that brought excitement and warmth to what was still being a rather grey time. He definitely gave me a boost in terms of will to do things and being productive and alive, but eventually turned out in a bitter, very sour blur that made me realise how it was not about me at all.
On the other hand I got to visit Italy, Austria and Germany in a day and be on a frozen lake surrounded by what looked like being on a set for Game of Thrones. I swear. We walked on the ice praying for it not to crack while chuckling like idiots and jumping because... why not challenging life while you are at it?
I was feeling very down at this time of the year. From September to half-February I was in a very dark place in terms of knowing what to do, what I needed, what I wanted, self-esteem, relationships and understanding what I wanted as well. At some point in January I spontaneously bought tickets to go to California in April for two weeks with one of my best friend, as I usually do, to give me something to look forward to in the following months.
In February I tried to work as much as I could taking headshots for many actors. The film industry, in case you didn't know, dies at this time of the year, which meant I had to experience the side of chasing clients, having them cancel last minute because of no money while I budgeted with that in my virtual pockets already.
On another note, I worked on a music video where there was a shot of a motorbike from the back of a van which, I'm not going to lie, was good fun. And exciting! Man, filming can be so fun.
Still, I found myself at the bottom of the pit with my mental health. Stress and all that jazz. I needed to find my balance again, I was completely off and sliding towards total black. So I did something crazy for someone who was really struggling badly with money: for the first time in my life I bought a last minute next-day ticket to go home.
While all of this was happening - and according to Instagram I bought a pink jumper - my nan was in the hospital not doing that well at all. She periodically ends up there because of pain/depression/pneumonia/cancer complications so it's never so new. But it still sounded pretty bad.
I also don't know if I said this before but I don't have a great relationship with hospitals. I would love to volunteer in one though. I tried before, a bit to overcome this feeling, and a bit because I remember my sister when she was in hospital when we were stupidly young. She loved the clowns and entertainers, they made her day and I think I would love to do that. And eventually, if you can do something nice for someone else and it's only going to cost you some spare time, why not? As soon as I have that spare time I actually want to do it.
Seems like March was full on days of work, which was amazing. I normally love being busy, I love being tired because of working on good sets, feeling like I'm growing as a person in my own career and that I am actually moving towards somewhere. And then of course I enjoy it.
Alongside this I was also working on RELIEF, producing another film for my friend Will - therefore trying to balance university and full on work as usual - without freaking out over trying to start production for my own short.
So I was very tired at this time. I was barely seeing my friends. I reached the point that I decided to make some drastic choices and start turning down some work to focus on people, what I realised really matters in life. I keep reminding this to myself and I still mentally tell myself off for when I don't give them priority. I know how much they mean to me, and as much as I am very work and career driven, I know I can't function without them.
I coincidentally went to the Victoria and Albert museum with a friend of mine from Brighton. We had a lovely day and that reminded me of how much I had to keep that kind of things in my life.
April... was the month. We shot RELIEF, which was a rush but reminded me of how much I love directing. It was also the month work kicked in properly and I got hired for a year to work on a show for NBC Universal, which meant less financial worries for me. Also, production houses started heavily producing again so it literally meant I was on set non-stop before RELIEF and then I left for California just in time.
Filming RELIEF was a financial and creative stress. It's so easy to doubt yourself when you are doing anything that involves your responsibility in a creative area. I always take everything very personally and I was really struggling with one of my best friends at the time. That made the shoot difficult because of the way our relationship felt like it was falling apart on set and I was working hard to keep it together while making smart and good creative decisions.
It was incredible to see it unravel under my eyes, though. It was so satisfying to see something of mine actually happening. I was so excited and even getting back into the swing of it made me happy. Everyone did such a great job and I was so impressed with the actors. I couldn't have done it without the incredible crew that worked on it. Sometimes, I almost felt like I was the smallest part of the whole chain, for how hard everyone was working. Will, Amir and Ana put their heart and soul into helping me with it.
It was still mad and I was so worried about everything that I could sense would be a problem in post-production (and we were really tight with time as well) but we did it.
I remember April from this year as the time things started working out again. It was like finally the engine started again and my brain, that had turned to mush for months in the meantime, finally woke up from the fog it wrapped itself into.
California deserves a paragraph for itself. It was such a wonderful adventure. I really needed a trip like that: the excitement, the joy, the adrenaline. I needed to walk infinitely and explore and take photos and hide in hostels, drink American IPAs, cook bad food and film everything. I needed to be away and take a break. The States always leave me with a bittersweet feeling, and they did again. San Francisco was wonderful, and Los Angeles had spectacular bits but...
It was also... extreme. The violence you can witness is extreme, as roads are, houses too, people's voices as well, food portions, prices, the amount of homeless people and crackheads on the street, the contrast between poor and rich and black and white and all that. I needed to see it, but I can't help but feeling like here in Europe we are living a lie about the "wonderful" US.
Still, exploring the gay boroughs, tripping on someone's ashes in a Buddhist temple, eating more udon that I could stomach, falling asleep on the beach, being followed by a "photographer"... all things I needed to experience (well, maybe not the ashes bit). Together with the sunburn and being stuck in that ranch for 6 hours while waiting to be rescued on the bus.
(If you are wondering what happened there is a video on the channel waiting for you.)
May started like a fury. One of the craziest things that happened was that I started working for La Repubblica. After having seen my work online they contacted me to create a web-series about Italians abroad together with the incredible journalist and writer Enrico Franceschini.
It was such an honour to be introduced to him. I remember being really worried about what kind of man he would be, and he turned out to be one of the most wonderful people you will ever meet. He always almost behaved like a father to me, and I have incredible respect for him nowadays.
Anyway, that took a lot of time of filming and interviewing and sending briefs back and forth but it was an incredible project that I am extremely proud to be part of. La Repubblica, really? I would have never expected that. And there they were, on an email, asking to collaborate.
From May - I realise now going back and scrolling all my old photos - the TV show started taking over my whole life. It seems like that's most of what I've been doing. I am not sure how I feel about it.
Sometimes, when I think of it, it almost feels like someone else's life. Someone who can't have done all those things too. And do YouTube. And write books. And make films herself. It feels... off. In a positive way, mainly, but also in a 'who am I?' sort of way.
I started going back to therapy, taking the antidepressants and meditating. I was fully ready to go back into being myself, and for a good reason. I saw that unhappy-anxious-me didn't have to necessarily be me, but I was allowing it to. I was determined to get back into being the person I had started to doubt I was. So I took everything in my own hands and worked on it with every mean I could.
But most importantly, I fixed things with one of my closest friends that were broken before. We had a painful chat where I started crying at some point. I never cry in front of people. I just seem to cannot. But it needed to, and eventually me and him managed to fix it.
MCM Comic-Con happened and went in a flash, as usual. Grading sessions for RELIEF were happening too. The excitement to see the film all cut together, working on the colours and giving feedback on sound design and composing was making me feel nervous as a teenage boy before his first kiss. Excited and terrified. Disappointed and in awe.
June meant university was over, and I could focus all my energy into work. The weather got better and the sun peaked. It was actually nice. I spent most of my time - you guessed it - getting back into reading and on that damn TV show. Literally. Working with frogs, crows, stinky dogs, spoilt cats, mainly in the tiniest rooms with multiple huge lights on so that all I could perceive was sweat. But I was better. I was definitely a lot better.
I think it's around this time I allowed myself to started seeing someone else. It felt weirdly good
and I thought I was been treated nicely. Turns out I am a bad judge of things and it turned out very different pretty much out of the blue.
But it was fine. It's that kind of thing that you are very glad, now, it went that way because it was not what you wanted. I also ended up on one of my favourite music videos I worked on, and one of my favourite film projects.
I was slowly apologising to everyone I had been retreating from, trying to get back into seeing friends after neglecting them for so long. They knew I was busy, they knew I was not in a good place and never pressed. The only one who felt pressed was me. And I knew they were being wonderful. They deserved the real version of me and that was the one I was planning to give them.
Also, I got introduced to Hot Fuzz and Edgar Wright's work. Better late than never, they said.
Summer felt like I was reborn, since April I had witnessed getting my life back. And I was the only one who could do it, so I did everything I could and I did. Nothing happened casually, certainly there was a sprinkle of luck, but I also want to acknowledge for myself that I did a lot of work to make that happened. And I should be aware of it.
July was another intense month. Other days of infinite work and burning sun and black set clothes and hot lights and pools of sweat, but also a roadtrip with my family. It was my parent's 25th Wedding Anniversary and my Birthday (yay me, I'm 23), so we decided to celebrate the whole thing together on a roadtrip around Austria, Germany and France in our good old camper van as a proper family (and not one that's scattered around the world). But before that... I stopped seeing the person I was seeing exactly on the day of my birthday. What can I say, at the end of the day it's just another day.
Also, before leaving, I worked on Dodie's music video for 6/10 with friends, which always makes it a lot more pleasant (a part from one of the locations being on the 4th floor without any lift).
And for my birthday my flatmate got me a spiralizer for vegetables. Which is probably the most vegan present ever and also the reason why I loved it so much and only cooked with that for a good two weeks.
It was good. Summer was being good. I had a big chat with my usual close friend and he really made me think about who I was and who I was relating myself to and the expectations I was putting on myself. Sometimes you just need someone to tell you the right thing to snap out of a loop like a spring.
But yes, France. It was a weird experience. Overall, it was an incredible trip. We went all the way to Strasbourg, then headed Calais, Dunkirk, Lyon, Boulogne, Paris and the whole of the Loire Valley.
The only problem was being so close to my family. I truly love them, and I think they are incredible humans, but at the same time I don't think I fit with them anymore. Not sure I ever properly fit. I'm more of an independent person. I tend to need my own space, my own things and my own thoughts. Being so close to them again reminded me of the things that weren't okay when I left the country for the first time 5 years ago.
Like, the issues were still there, just hidden by time. Nothing to do with anyone, I just need to be from afar, sometimes. Especially being so close to my mum, who's always been one of my best friends, was tedious.
She and I are very similar. In many aspects. So we understand each other very well. But I also see things in her I really dislike and instead of being understanding - since I know I am the same - I start getting angry at her and - because I want to be compassionate and kind and I project what I see in her in me - I start hating myself too.
It's a vicious cycle that I want to break, and I try to every time I'm home, but it's a loop that has been trained for years, and it's not that easy. It was difficult and nice to play being a whole family again, though. It was a nice trip and I think they are all incredible humans. We are just meant to be together in smaller doses. One day, still, I hope to meet someone who looks at me the way my dad looks at my mum because I won't lie.... it's pretty disgustingly adorable.
The best thing was that I took a break, even though I couldn't wait to be back in London. I managed, as usual, to catch up with my best friends and I felt like, even though I had a bit of a tough time, that holiday taught me loads about me. From then on, once you know something you can only work on improving it.
(On a side note I wore a bikini for the first time in 4 years without feeling uncomfortable, and that was a huge achievement for me. )
August came - as it does - right on time for me to fly back to the UK and go straight to Summer in
the City! I was a guest talking at the Travel panel there and also the official photographer for the event (look at me), which I spent mainly running around between bits and bobs I needed to snap (I totally wrote boobs there).
It was tiring, VERY tiring and being socially active all that time is always exhausting for an introvert like me. It's also the best way to see some of my friends I don't get to see that often and especially for meeting new people. Sometimes you end up getting along way better than you would ever expect with new people at events like that.
SitC was good, it was a nice rush of energy and tiredness and party and feet-ache and many SD cards filled. But simply I had a good time and it made me realise and accept the fact that I am just a quiet human. I get silent in big group situations and that's absolutely totally goddamn fine.
I still got to meet incredible and unexpected people this year. You always go with the idea that at such an event there is just loads of small talk - and oh, there was - but it's always pleasantly surprising when you find those people you can actually talk to in a real way. Like, a conversation that's worth it. SitC gave me that, this year. People I will get to keep seeing even after the events is over.
On a side note, I got a new tattoo. A big one. And I love it.
I worked at a wedding sparked from Tinder too! Who would have ever guessed I, the most skeptical person in the world about it, would have to somehow recheck my thoughts about it after listening to their speeches and seeing the kind of families they united.
Plus, I got even more back into reading and listening to audiobooks. And studying. Getting to know things and being curious about the world. This started earlier in the year, luckily.
August also meant finishing working on RELIEF, finally. What a journey that film has been. We had a final cut but wanted to tweak some shots, edit the grade, sound design was an absolute nightmare and everyone seemed to be at the busiest time of their year. So it was a rush against time to have it completed for Buffer Festival and we submitted just on the edge of the deadline. I was really excited about it and even more when in September...
RELIEF won and got selected to be screened at Buffer Festival in Toronto, where they were going to fly me and make me take part to the festival as a guest! It was incredibly exciting and I couldn't believe I was being flown to Toronto. I had never been to Canada and I somehow saw the chance of going there as a recognition of my work. It's not easy in this industry to feel like you've done something good. Or maybe I'm just not that good at that.
I left at the end of the month and was there for 5 days. Toronto was insanely beautiful, but I wasn't staying in the snazzy hotel everyone else was staying at. They run out of rooms so I had to get an Airbnb in Chinatown. From one side, that allowed me to see the best parts of town. The walk from my room to the hotel let me go through the whole of Chinatown, the Red Light District or Soho how you want to call it, and the Financial District.
It was a weird experience for me. The whole festival itself was great, but I somehow hardly felt like I fit in. It was difficult to be around people who were so used to that kind of stuff, and especially it was very difficult not to compare myself (I seem to never learn).
Anyway, I screened the film - which I hated to see on the big screen as I had seen it so many times I could only notice the negative bits - but the response (both from friends and audience) was really good. That made me happy.
I spent a lot of time walking around, as I always do. There were so many spots where to eat vegan food and especially I loved just spending time exploring the foreign food shops. I have a thing for that kind of markets, and it was great. I spent a lot of time with Connie, who was wonderful all along, and also bonded with new friends. I can't totally lie, though, I felt a bit lonely.
But September was also the months of some other new things happening. One of them was that I took part to a Blade Runner 2049 event and for the first time I went to an IMAX cinema to watch Blade Runner, which I had never seen. I fell in love with the film at the first scenes. It was so much my genre I could barely believe I had not seen it before. Nonetheless, I misjudged the amount of free whiskey cocktails I could drink before the film started....
Most importantly, though - aside for the first month of uni starting again - I was happy with the people I was surrounding myself with.
October came in a rush, as if it was almost never September. This whole year just seems to have flown by. I went to an Erdinger Beer Fest that was supposed to be a sort of Oktoberfest in London and ended up eating all the pickles and radishes from the meat dishes plus drinking from those litre pint I had never used before. And there was probably a reason for that. Especially if there is very little food for me there! But it was fun. It was a fun time.
Autumn it always a fun time, it means more colours and somehow it gives me peace. And, to be fair, this autumn has been quite good. On set we worked with beetles, especially one called Beatrice who was as big as my ear. Terrifying, but definitely interesting and unusual.
I also filmed the first video of the series with Gerard. I'm so glad I started it, because we both have a lot of fun filming it and it got back my enthusiasm about YouTube and making content for it. I feel like I found my own path, in a way, in a topic I really love. I've just been putting effort into everything a bit more. Trying everything. Being spontaneous and attempting to learn new things about myself.
I read a lot this month too. And some of the books I read were just some of the most interesting I ever read. I especially suggest Modern Romance which made me reflect deeply on the concept of relationship and how we perceive it and what we look for in it nowadays. I never quite stopped thinking of it since.
One day we went to shoot in Brighton and that's how I went to Saltdean for the first time. It was a beautiful place with white high cliffs and huge terrifying waves. The wind blows incredibly strong there and, if you get too close to the cliffs, it can be dangerous. I couldn't explore it enough on the day of the shoot, so I decided to go back again, the next time with some other friends.
It was a beautiful day, even though we planned to go to the forest and it turned out to be too expensive.
I think I was kind of trying to find my feet within myself at the time. One thing I will always struggle is feeling like what I am doing is enough. I don't need to speak or to make too much effort to please other people as it's completely pointless. I learnt for the 1,286th time that what I do is enough and people will tag along if they want to. Big lesson, even though it sounds incredibly obvious and childish.
On another note, like, completely unrelated, we had the orange sky day. It was like Blade Runner became 3D all around for free. Not going to lie, it was hella spooky. It felt like we were in a videogame, surrounded by a weird orange-ish area that was not supposed to be there. Surreal and a bit scary.
MCM came around again and I fell ill straight afterwards because of the long hours and chatting to everyone. This time, thought, I was helping out Tom's stall and somehow I felt more relaxed and okay about myself.
If I think of how much I've grown as a person just this year - and it obviously happens every year - I can't believe all the things I learnt, applied, changed, understood, realised and that improved me in terms of knowing who I am and how to relate myself to everything and everyone around me. I worry less and less about certain things - sure, some others pop up along the way to make up for it - but still I feel like there is an improvement on some sides or just a better awareness of myself.
Listen to me, I almost sound like an adult. Or maybe not. Don't listen to me, I don't know what I'm doing.
(photo courtesy of the Kingsman II premiere I somehow got invited to.)
November was a weird month. I focused a lot on work but also on seeing the people I cared about. I worked a lot more on YouTube and - weirdly enough - I ended up being the subject of many photoshoots. I never know how to feel about it. I think in a way sometimes it makes me doubt my skills as a photographer too, but that's silly, I suppose.
The best thing I probably did in November, though, was buying a ticket home to surprise my mum for her 50th birthday. I wanted to come back as a surprise, and it worked perfectly. I stayed at my best friend's on the previous day and in the morning I just rang the bell at the door of my house. I can remember it clearly. She looked really confused and asked me:
"What are you doing here?"
and I replied:
"Selling the Bible."
And then I went in, wished her happy birthday and she started crying (or laughing, I couldn't tell).
I was so happy about that. I felt like I truly made her happy. Sometimes I worry for how much they always helped me and I never quite feel like I've given back enough, so it was amazing to see her so full of joy and knowing the source of that happiness was my gesture. And my surprise. And my presence.
The whole week was incredible. We managed to start it on a positive note and keep it throughout the whole time. It was nice. It showed me that when both me and my mum keep a positive attitude we can manage not to hurt each other. I love her, she's incredible. And going down made me so happy. The hard bit was leaving. Leaving them and especially my best friend. The long-distance friendship with her sometimes gets painful, because we cannot be closer.
It was around this time I also started working on my new book as well. The idea is very exciting, a bit complicated and requires a lot of research and I have been very busy with work and admin and filming and seeing people. But still, it's progressing.
November was really good as well in terms of people. I'm surrounding myself with humans that make me happy, empower me and make me laugh and just genuinely keep me smiling. Even with doubts and ups and downs I would be a fool to complain.
I watched many films I had never seen, I'd say I finally get back to dedicating certain nights to watch films, sometimes not alone, to get back into the things I love.
Problem was, as usual, I was not actually going to university because of being too busy. This sometimes stressed me out incredibly because it meant I wasn't really aware of what was going on and what the tutors wanted. So I felt behind and therefore nervous.
It was also the time you had to apply for a Scholarship which would have made making my next film a lot more affordable. Unfortunately, my application wasn't curated enough, so I did not get it. And it's okay. It just means I will have to come to terms with doing another Kickstarter. But it will be fine. I just hate asking people for money.
We jump straight into December. It was a crazy intense month (I feel like I've said this for every month). I was working all days at the beginning, and they were freezing days. Like, proper freezing. This meant shooting outside was a nightmare, and guess where were we? Of course. So I got very ill afterwards, with a super heavy cold.
My parents were coming up with my younger sister to visit me and, because I was stressed about university deadlines and also ill I ended up being quite snappy and sarcastic, which didn't necessarily lead to the nicest atmosphere.
Incidentally, though, snow fell in London! Like, proper one. Thick one. Not like in the mountains, but it almost never snows in London and I love it. Obviously walking for two hours under a snowstorm with a massive cold probably wasn't the best idea but you know...
I even managed to bring my sister to Gerard's birthday, which was one of the best parties I had been at. I left my parents in a tapas bar close to the house and went to Gerard's house.
I felt so comfortable, surrounded by people I love and who love me. We played games, sang, danced, laughed and I never felt like not belonging or simply having to make stupid conversation. I was genuinely one of the happiest I have ever been. That's when you know those are the people for you.
I feel like I realised this more and more recently. All the people I met this year are becoming more and more important in my life.
Oh, almost forgot about the incredibly Summer in the City Christmas Party who had a ball pit. Like, I don't think I have every looked happier in a photo. After that it was my University graduation party which was, weirdly enough, just around the corner from there and we ended up dancing to Jazz music all together. That was a great night.
hell the days before and on the day. But it turned out alright, surprisingly. Every member of the crew was very helpful and it was nice to see the tutor's sexism slowly disappear appreciating some of my suggestions and realising I somehow had a clue about what I was doing. It's the little things, they say, that make you happy.
December meant a lot of partying, with all the Christmas themed ones. The one that highlighted my month was definitely Tom's one. We had a lovely day out in Winter Wonderland - that I joined as soon as I submitted all my university deadlines (Ellie was a free elf!) - and then a party at the office. We played Twister - when talking about bad ideas - and Squidge the dog started going crazy and running around and under our legs. It was hilarious.
The more I go on the more I realise I am writing more and also that there are less cameras on the photos, as my attention shifted.
One thing I absolutely need to highlight of this December is this stack of vegan blueberry pancakes. I thought I had pancakes before, but I actually realised that was the first time I ever had pancakes in my life. And they were great. I am so happy the person I was with brought me to have breakfast there. They tasted incredible and even though I couldn't finish them all they kickstarted a very nice day.
Not going to lie, I'm now going through I mild existential crisis in terms of my direction for the future, but I feel like my year improved massively. I am struggling up and down with different things but I am much more creative, productive, interested, happy, active and I feel better within myself.
I am always going to be questioning myself and other people. I am always going to be impulsive and intense. I am always going to be as I am but I am learning patience and to seek for help when you feel like you need it. I am going on, you know? And with all the things I have done this year - even just looking back at all this! - I feel like I should be proud of myself. Of my success and my failures and stop looking at things with a questioning eye. Sometimes you just need to let things be.
I hope your year as been fantastic or, if it hasn't, that the next one will be. But, if it will be, it won't be because things fell from the sky. Work for them. From a small things can come a big one, but from nothing comes nothing.
This is how I'm leaving this massive post about 2017 and 2017 itself. If you got to the end, well, good on your perseverance!