20 March 1996
1) Showing Michelle as the Innocent she might have remained
As we have discussed, I’m not sure if we should show more of ‘Michelle as Innocent’ or not. Does showing more of her innocence make the tragedy the greater? The scenes currently deleted from 7 and 8 were one attempt at this.
Another way of doing it would be to start the whole film:
1. Montage of photos, as before.
2. Outside school. Michelle and other schoolgirls wait for school bus.
Trevor, a ‘straight’ young man drives up: ‘You coming out raving tonight,
3. At the Rave Club. Michelle quickly picking up the style, but evidently getting bored with Trevor. Gish, who is in the Club dealing, briefly cruises over, says ‘Hello!’
4. Outside school. Another afternoon. Michelle and others wait. Gish draws up in posh car. ‘Hi, Michelle, coming for a drive?’
5. Michelle and Gish enter The Club. Fifi asks ‘Who’s this? Hello, Michelle. What’s your story?’
Title: MICHELLE’S STORY
Then we go into the Montage Sequence; Cardiff Night, and the film continues, roughly as is.
2) Nature of the Film
The film as it develops appears to be becoming a film of dramatic action, rather than primarily a film of atmosphere or character. Do we feel alright about this? It has elements of melodrama rather than drama. Undeniably, however, it is beginning to have pace and style.
3) Michelle’s Journey / Ordeal
The scene which culminates in Michelle failing to give Gish the money is central and crucial. Michelle needs to experience real fear and danger and the present scene is not bad in which:
(1) She has to stay up all night with a mobile phone, servicing drugs deals.
Possibly better alternatives would be:
(2) She herself has to drive a van filled with stuff, from the coast? Amsterdam? Morocco? because Gish says his face is too well known.
(3) A journey by air.
All of which three scenarios bring us to the interesting question of:
4) What is Gish really up to, exactly?
It may be that Gish is bringing stuff in from Amsterdam? Morocco? Jamaica? As well as the sea drop. Michelle may go with him and on the second trip he persuades her to bring the stuff through, as he feels his face is too well known.
5) Michelle’s ‘Mistake’; How does she come to lose the stuff?
The Drugs Run; Journey Option
Michelle’s trip may be successful, but after the trip she may fall asleep in a café and the stuff is stolen. The stuff might well have a street value of a million pounds and would explain better why Michelle has to die. Her ‘mistake’, as it is in the present version of the film, doesn’t really seem grave enough to result in her death, even if that death is partly an accident.
The story would continue; thinking its value only £300, she thinks she can make the money back through offering sex. Fifi, Gish, etc. know the true value of the package. They also know that police have intercepted the package and it is only a matter of time before it is traced back to Michelle (via the airline she was travelling on, perhaps) and thus to them. Therefore Michelle has to die.
6) Michelle’s ‘Mistake’; The Rape/AIDS Option
Michelle, victim of a rape while working as a prostitute, is unknowingly infected with AIDS. Unknowingly, she passes it on to Fisher? Gish? When this is discovered, she has to die.
She could, alternatively, have been raped by Fifi and friends.
7) Michelle’s ‘Mistake’; The Hedlw Cwmru Option
More is certainly going on than meets the eye. Slowly it transpires that various of our protagonists are involved in the Hedlw Cwmru movement. Gish is working for them, or in their power through blackmail, or his addiction to the drugs they supply him. Gish is to blow up the Elan Valley Dam which services Birmingham and England.
Gish is harmed or scared and unable to do it. So Michelle steps heroically into the dynamite role. It is she who blows up the dam.
But disaster follows:
The message to the press gets lost or scrambled. In the mist they’ve got the wrong dam. The one that Michelle blows up serves a Welsh town, and what is more, drowns a number of people. Michelle herself gets swept away in the rush of water.
OR: Michelle doesn’t die but leaves her handbag on the dam. This is seen on television and police are asking after its owner. If found, Michelle will inevitably lead to the others. Therefore she has to die.
OR: Was it Trevor, who we saw in the new start of the film, who we also have seen at intervals through the film, and Michelle has now got together with? This seems like a rescue for Michelle from the world of drugs and prostitution. But Trevor gets swept away by water and so it is Michelle who becomes a Welsh national hero and martyr by blowing up the dam.
Jeremy’s Thoughts After Reading Clean Version of 3rd Draft
(amended: 20 March 1996)
I feel the shape and drift is better and shows the glimmerings of a poetic reality.
I find the scenes where Gish justifies prostitution and leads Michelle down the garden path rather deja vu and simplistic, although I’m sure it often is like that.
Recent research suggests that the number of girls and women coming into prostitution from local authority ‘care’ is far higher than had been thought - as high as 90% for young prostitutes in some cities - and that pimps target children’s homes. Something to think about.
The drugs related sections of the film are getting a little less sketchy.
Sections to do with Michelle’s mother are moving in the right direction.
Although I know some prostitutes of whom you could say, they’ve had a better life like that than they probably could have had any other way (and appreciating that there is some sort of parallel somewhere between those who sell their bodies and those who sell their souls, such as much of the media and most of public relations, I suppose), I still feel that those who do it at street level, like Michelle (who ‘graduates’ to a sort of call girl at the end of the present story line), do let themselves in for a life which is dangerous and hideous, and erodes their actual personality. Sexual prostitution is not like other professions and the nuts and bolts are not (as Gish would have us believe) just similar to the carpenter’s brace and bit, or the secretary’s word processor and filing cabinet. We have to grasp this reality in a way that, say, ‘Band of Gold’ or ‘Pretty Woman’ did not. In discovering/uncovering the true reality and how it affects Michelle, we could also uncover a powerful film.
Although the film covers very thoroughly one type of Cardiff nightlife, there is another, mainly younger, type of nightlife which it doesn’t touch on. Although the two don’t cross paths often, the worlds of the villains and the ravers do sometimes meet and it may give a rather period feel to our film to leave the ravers out altogether, so it’s good to now have a rave club scene and Gish is, of course, servicing this.
October 3rd, after meeting with Philippa
A prostitute asks; ‘would you go with a Somali? I wouldn’t.’
Drugs are laundered through pubs, up the valleys.
Off-boat people are called donkeys.
Bent customs and excise men.
Original club was called The Showboat.
Club contained a gay element - it’s all about glamour.
Part time leather men - actually councillors.
Francine Cordell, she was an actual corrupt councillor.
Gish - in love with Marlon Brando thing, but actually he’s as lost as Michelle. She respects his first kiss ‘cos he doesn’t try to go further; actually that’s because he’s shy. Gish would do anything to look good in public. His father in Jamaica quite a big cat, inside for something macho, probably drugs smuggling. He is a coke addict, therefore paranoid and upset at little details and becomes difficult and touchy.
Apart from Afro Caribbeans and other minority groups, the majority of our characters and the way they speak will be:
Welsh speaking Welsh (i.e. Elspeth?)
Cardiff Welsh (i.e. Michelle?)
English living in Wales (i.e. Fifi Le Marr?)
We talked of the disenfranchised English in Cardiff and Wales as a whole. Elspeth will always be alright because she comes from a ‘right’ family and speaks Welsh.
Gish: ‘What do you get in a pub? £25? You get £150 down Bute Street.’
If asked ‘what do you do?’
Gish: ‘I’m a businessman.’
Michelle: ‘I’m waiting for an opening.’
Michelle acts out of expediency. She sees each next thing as a step up the ladder (of life). Doesn’t realise that some of the steps will mean she’ll never get there, (i.e. they’re rotten, will let you down).
Philippa sees Michelle as quite passionate, very loving and generous, but also with a great deal of anger (at her Mum abandoning her, perhaps?). She wouldn’t ever let on to Gish that she was frightened.
She won’t give money to Gish at the end until he treats her proper. We must show other acts of standing on her dignity and standing up for herself; one of these, now inserted, is when she storms round to Elspeth’s place at midnight asking, ‘where’s that fucking job, you bitch?’
Super 16 or 35 mm, grainy black and white, fluid documentary style. Black and white roots it in timelessness. 40 ASA (Fizzy Oppe).
After meeting with Ben Gibson
(This is not including the many points made in Ben’s letter of 14 September).
‘There are a million stories in the naked city.’
Make more of rent boys and ‘a mistress’.
There are probably too many scenes, we should present our story with longer and less.
Very Welsh but getting away from S4C Wales which doesn’t allow any good mornings in English. ‘Loincloth movies’.
See Richard Price, ‘Sea of Love’.
Ben asked, ‘Does she need to lose herself? Does she need to be stabbed?’ (Philippa I think still feels she should, Jeremy not sure.)
Ben pointed out, ‘We shouldn’t feel disaster is inevitable, she has a chance up to the last minute?’ We are beginning to achieve this.
Who are we following? Michelle? Michelle and Gish? Or Michelle and Gish and lots of other people? i.e. How much do we see it entirely through Michelle’s eyes?
Ben feels the story could be seen entirely through Michelle’s eyes, entirely from her point of view.
Ben spoke of the noir-ish type of film in which the city has a personality. You can survive or not, depending on what it wants.
In noir-ish film you often start in the middle of things. Things may be hidden from view to start with which you then go back and find out. (Tried to do some of this in 3rd draft.)
Ben spoke of having spent time at Narbeth, the idea that there’s an angel looking down at you. (For me the image, often found over Welsh fireplaces, of a little innocent girl crosses plank over ravine or reaches for butterfly by ditto, while angel hovers nearby, watching with concern.)
Memories of Methodist choir at Narbeth (and Jeremy’s of the evening ending with ‘Land of My Fathers’), a character up there saying, ‘How’s she doing, is she doing alright?’ with a terrestrial character in the movie echoing this.
In a noire film someone often creates disaster who is dumb and dangerous; need not be a lover; confuses events in the direction of tragedy, (i.e. Weedy).
Society’s tragic flaw - male lust?
Fulfilment in this life possible for some - not all?
A tragic flaw in all of us - the need to be loved?
The goody; Michelle? But it is not wise to portray her as wholly ‘good’.
Candidates for our ‘baddies’;
The ‘inner city’ culture; wrong values.
Hypocrisy of her Dad and ‘middle Wales’.
‘The irresponsible society’.
Sexism; using and perceiving people as things.
Society in a state of breakdown.
cf London Fields, the idea of grazing in the city.
We discussed ‘expected behaviour’ in middle Britain and middle Wales. Establishment Cardiff denies any of what we show goes on.
Somebody (Archie?) watching S4C in a corner while jacking themselves off.
The area under the 125 subway is called the ‘Johnny Run’ and on Sunday morning is littered with used condoms.
We talked about the view that prostitutes are self selecting and that, including Michelle, do not initially go in because of a pimp? Or not?
Take in Cardiff Bay Regeneration Scheme. Helicopter ride, Michelle and her mother?
Jeremy mentioned; there have been 27 prostitutes murdered since 1990, which have not been solved.
Alternative ending; At the last moment she finds Mum - is accepted into a safe place but there’s someone at the door; could she see Michelle? She owes her money. Michelle steps out into the night into the ultimate disaster.
‘The lazy life of crime’ is a fallacy. Crime is often hard work and we must show this.
‘The nobs have got a better scam.’
Philippa says; ‘Michelle thinks always in terms of “making it”.’
In addition to the full treatment, do a powerful 3 or 4 page version soon.
See Drugstore Cowboy. ‘All of story turned into personality’.
Plain clothes cops with grappa in boxes from Quicksave.
Fairy lights in bare room (?)
Late night police office (?)
Equation of self worth with high cash price.
For Club and streets around use material from ‘Synthetic Fun’ and ‘Prostitutes’?
Not sure I believe in Michelle as artist/muralist. Could she be a poet? Karaoke? Rap artist? Present view, she does collages or metal sculpture.
Welsh gays - manual class gays?
Hayes - is that the right name for Michelle?
Gish must do things that show why Michelle loves him.
Expand Tams’ attempts to be comic, sing, etc. We seem to have lost Tams for the moment.
Start with the servicing of the 20 Johns? Now down to five? Have at start as well as end?
‘This is Michelle and we’re going to tell you her story.’
cf Rimbaud and also Mahagonny. Brecht’s poem about a girl, ‘And so it came to pass that the good Lord forgot her.’
A visit from emancipated hippies (perhaps wiser than anyone else in the story). They could be the ones who live by the sea.
There is the theory of a new ripper abroad, responsible for many of the unsolved prostitute murders. Do we trail him/her(?) as a false lead? At any rate, mention it?
‘Shite snuffed by shite. Who gives a shite?’ A police officer’s comment.
Compare Cardiff with Dublin. The latter a proud capital city. Cardiff could have been too. The anger and violence expressed at a verbal level in Wales and seldom in Ireland. Is it that Wales didn’t dare enough?
Compare the colonisation and exploitation of Cardiff by England with the colonisation and exploitation of Michelle by Gish.
Is this the story of just one of the 29 unsolved prostitute murders since 1990?
Do we need something about the sexual abuse of children - the tragic spiral continues?
Did Michelle have an earlier walk out with a bingo caller?
Does Dad/Dennis as boxer/wrestler try to stage a comeback?
Prostitutes who do hand jobs / blow jobs / whole way in derries.
Bring in the contract to do with the Welsh Garden Celebration in Ebbw Vale.
A symbol of Wales - the Lost Harp.
Get in Mogsy the Monmouth poacher?
Collage she’s made of her Mum.
Philippa’s Notes on 4th Draft
Michelle still an accident waiting to happen.
Although innocent to start with, she needs to wise up.
Unfortunately, innocent or streetwise, she is still out of sync with her environment?
The City. Need to find a visual metaphor for the city - film noire.
Need to flesh out Gish’s drug world.
Need to change Michelle’s jobs? To more interesting ones. Jobs that are very 1995.
Could put Bunny Burgers on the front? If we wanted a less shocking beginning. Do we?
Michelle and Gish, both of them are out of their depth. Both lives dictated by the dark heart of the city.
Shopping, consumerism, bargains, flesh for sale. Everything has a price, nothing is free or felt or genuine.
Talking to Hayley, by day a groom living near Monmouth, by night a frequent raver in Cardiff or Hereford
In Cardiff at Rave Clubs you’d find the door opening at 7.30, people queuing from 6.30. They’re strict about drugs in the club, so a lot of people will be ‘luvved up’ on E, or will be on speed, before they get in.
A club like this will be predominantly white, including white middle class students. These clubs close at 4 a.m., maybe 2 a.m., but people with Gold Cards can stay on in the VIP lounge for a private party. If you are a young woman ‘whose face fits’, you might well be given a card or you can buy them for about £150.
Garage and House playing at these places.
After being turned out of the rave, people say to each other, ‘Are you going on to the blues?’ Here you’d hear jungle, reggae, black music. 3 floored house, quite empty, very little light, blacked out windows, people sitting on stairs in the dark, start 3 a.m. go on till noon. No artistry in the D.J.ing, when there’s a track people like they shout for it again and it goes on again and again until people tire. 90% of the men are black, 55% of the women. The dealers are normally Rastas and they cultivate these very deep voices, ‘so low it hurts your ears’, and among themselves very strong Jamaican accents.
Pimps get their prostitutes hooked on something. All say, ‘don’t ever get in a car.’
Talking of a friend in the clutches of a pimp, Hayley says, ‘you want to shake her that she stays with him, she’s so attractive she could have anyone. He beats her and hits her in public and he’ll turn on you if you try to intervene. He’s been inside for violence. Drives a white BMW. He breaks down the door to get at her. She also works behind a bar in a club.’
Of nice guys introduced to her, Hayley’s friend said, ‘it seems odd when someone is nice to me.’
Of people you might find in our Club (or similar pubs), Hayley mentioned the older Jamaican drinking home brewed pineapple punch and carrot juice, made with Jamaican white rum. Also Scotch. ‘Blow their socks off’. Their women do menial jobs by day, they’ll be dressed up in pork pie hats.
Other categories; ageing prostitute, prostitute’s maid, gold jewellery, 20 necklaces, rings on each finger. ‘Dockland people wear a lot of gold.’
You’d find in the club also dealers who’d go on to service the raves.
Crystal Rooms in Hereford now fashionable again. Friday night called ‘Naughty But Nice’. House and Garage music have replaced rave music. In a general sense people still say they’re going to raves. Going raving.
Marilyn’s, next to the cinema, is for an older crowd.
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