'behind the green'
Before the film, there was a pitch. Before the pitch was a pitch, it was a pub anecdote; a drunken and/or stoned story. I'd do my own lines, then drop my voice an octave lower and put on my best London slang (which was and still is; cultured) to do my imitation of one of my brother's friends then- for distinction between characters- I'd go to a higher octave for a different friend. The anecdote had natural pauses for laughter; gestures, thoughts aloud and a dramatic twist. It killed every time I told it.
I'd remembered the experience and cherished the story for around 8 years. I didn't consider myself a writer or director but I would have thought it a waste (being a student of film and all) to not make a film of it. It was a story that had it's own three act structure, each character had an arc; and depth too (surely no character has depth like a real person does). It had classic comedy running throughout: one-liners, slapstick and of course, self-deprecating humour- which gave it charm too. Mainly though, it wasn't a stoner film, and I never wanted it to be- stoner films are fun but the humour is cheap, the depth is nonexistent and they're repetitive. I needed people to take it seriously as a coming-of-age film otherwise, I was putting myself and my family on screen simply for cheap laughs and judgement. I toyed with the idea of pitching it for a while. I didn't want people to think my family were crazy or irresponsible or that I was just a goofy stoner with a story (although I think my long, messy hair, the fact I seemed half-asleep all the time ((allegedly)) and, the fact I was always telling a story about smoking weed at thirteen years-old- often while holding a joint at twenty years-old- may have already given the wrong impression). I had my reservations though. They say 'write what you know', and I wanted to stay true to that, and this film was naturally personal and honest, which I liked but, it was also naturally personal and honest (and I would consider myself a private person) which also meant it needed to be treated with caution. It certainly represented me as a person and filmmaker better than any other film could.
I pitched the story as it was; the pub anecdote. No mood boards, no references. Just me and my story. I did the voices, I did the impressions, the one-liners, the gestures, the pauses, I even improvised a bit. They say you know a stand-up comedian has the audience in the palm of their hand when they don't even need to say anything, they can just look around or sigh or lift a hand and the audience will laugh. I was there. I ran overtime and the lecturers tapped their watches, I waved them off and continued. It killed and then, I had to pitch it again and it killed again. I'm no stand-up comedian but it was just that great a story. The funny thing about pitching is that it is scary. Of course it's scary. I don't care how secure and confident you are, everyone retains a small sense of stage fright, somewhere. This pitch wasn't scary. It was scary how relaxed and assured of myself I was. I knew the story and I knew it was going to go down well, and that was before I'd even stepped up.
It was all about the story. I shot it in the rooms where the event really took place, at my family home, with the real characters from the real story lurking. Actors met the people they were representing. Real weed smoke from my brother mixed with the actors' fake weed smoke. My brother's music filled the house when we were on break from shooting then, filled the film in post-production. We even took lights into my neighbours house late at night and shone them across into the dark windows of my home (or, by now, our set). Lines from the original pub anecdote found their way into my recording of the film's voiceover. My voice is in the film, my brother's voice is in the film, my brothers conversations with his real friends are in the film. There's a credit to 'those that frequent Max's room'; a thank you from me to the origins of the story.
The film was a visual representation of the pitch, which was just a more official version of a pub anecdote which was just the re-telling of a moment that stuck with me. There's a lot I don't remember from when I was growing up (who does?) but this moment was never going away, and now it never will. It was all about the story and, although I had to go through what I did all those years ago, I'd do it all again for the story- even the part where I was sick all over the carpeted stairs.
- Alfie Beecher - Writer/ Director of "Green".