One of the frights/delights of writing background for Rufus Stone here is how easily the character takes over when I am writing him. I have heard and read about this phenomenon from fiction writers often, but never experienced it personally before. As researchers, we often (too often?) speak of the ‘embodied’, but when do we actually physically experience it? I think that I finally have in writing background story for this film’s characters.
Through developing the craft of ‘fictive reality’, I have learned to let the characters take over. One example is Abigail. Her character began from two directions—first, the contemporary neighbour of Rufus. Secondly, the character of young Ellie, Rufus’ sister, who came to me in a dream. I subsequently incorporated her into the story. Then, at the suggestion of the film’s director (who will create the final script), young Ellie became young Abigail and a triangle between the teenaged Rufus, Flip and Abigail was born.
We are now at the stage in the film’s development where the director and I are consulting on the ‘treatment’ or plot of the story. As each twist and turn develops, it is my responsibility to ensure that characters and their behaviour are grounded in the research. Fortunately, because of the thoroughness of our investigation, there is a plethora of background and story from which to create composite characters and actions that move the story forward. Because of my familiarity with the research and its biographies, this information has become part of me, embodied, in a sense, or at least at my fingertips. It is subsequently over to the director to then use his skills and creativity to come up with the best ‘story telling’ from this material.
Writing gay characters can be a challenge as well. Because I love it, but also because it is crucial to biography, history (social, political, cultural) is central to this film’s story. The characters in Rufus Stone ‘came of age’ at a time when homosexuality was illegal in the U.K. Although the law changed in 1967, history had a profound effect on the particular generation whose story we tell and the film will describe that. In speaking recently with a young reporter from a UK gay news source, the other end of the phone went very quiet when I said, ‘When they were youths and “coming out” (or not), the term “gay” did not even exist; neither did the concept of “coming out”’. Our story is enriched by these facts; with this knowledge, the characters’ actions become more understandable.
How much of Rufus Stone is my story? This is a difficult question. As an older gay man, of course I identify with the characters. Nonetheless, I grew up in a different country in a different time and under different circumstances. Still, there are similar memories and these are helpful in writing the background for the film. It also makes it easier for me to say to the director, ‘No, they wouldn’t react that way, rather this way’. There are certain experiences (or perhaps ‘memories’ to be more exact) that we share in common. In conducting a biographic interview with one of the volunteers, I recall clearly his reaching a point in his story when he was also telling my story. It was quite a moment for me and reinforced a fact that is so often overlooked in reporting on lesbian and gay experiences: outputs are not simply findings on sexual encounters; they are stories about relationships which are often complex ones with histories grounded in family, community, place and time.
I am loving working with Josh Appignanesi, who was chosen to direct Rufus Stone. His creativity and enthusiasm coupled with his skill and knowledge of filmmaking, guarantee that the film will be exciting and worthwhile. I am enjoying learning about the intricacies of bringing a story to life on film and picking up a few new skills as well in the process.
I know that I have left readers here hanging with a story without completion. Is it fair of me to say that all will be revealed in the film? After all, I never promised more than background story here. Writing these short essays has been beneficial to me and, I hope, helpful to the director as well. Rather than diving directly into writing treatment or script, it has allowed the characters of Rufus Stone to become more rounded and defined in my own mind.
To make up for this a bit, we are creating a website for the film and a dedicated YouTube channel (URL soon to be announced). We will post background information on the film, crew and cast, once they are chosen. We are also planning to have daily video reports from the shooting locations during filming the week of 11 July. There is already a facebook group where you can also keep up with our progress (Rufus Stone the movie).
For those who love story (I am one of them), I can tell you that things in the countryside do not go smoothly for Rufus. His becoming reacquainted with his childhood companions, compounded by memory and retrospect, creates a caldron of disappointment, disruption and suspicion. In the end, is Rufus a better man for this experience? Does he transcend these encounters and revelations, disappointments and complexities? Or does he succumb to life’s tragedies and become bitter?
We will have to wait for Rufus Stone, the movie, to know.
Read the first instalment here:Rufus Stone: 1.
Read the second instalment here:
Rufus Stone: 2.
Read the third instalment here:
Rufus Stone: 3.
This is the fourth instalment of the background story for the short film, Rufus Stone, to be produced as the key output of our three-year research project, "Gay and Pleasant Land? -a study about positioning, ageing and gay life in rural South West England and Wales ". The Project is a work package in the New Dynamics of Ageing Project, "Grey and Pleasant Land?: An Interdisciplinary Exploration of the Connectivity of Older People in Rural Civic Society" and funded by the British Research Councils.
The first of several articles on the research process is now available: 'Connecting Participatory Methods in a Study of Older Lesbian and Gay Citizens in Rural Areas' in the International Journal of Qualitative Research.
A second article, 'Exploring Sexuality, Ageing and Rurality in a
Multi-Method, Performative Project' is now available electronically from the British Journal of Social Work.
Two short A/V pieces we created for conference/workshop dissemination are also available. They both give the background and an overview of the methods used in the project.
Gay and Pleasant Land?
Exploring sexuality, ageing and rurality in a multi-method project
Watch the film here: https://vimeo.com/109360805