I was a teacher when I wrote dot the i, teaching English
and History to bratty rich kids. I remember there was this Maths teacher
at the school who had always wanted to be a professional jazz trombonist
and the fact that this never came true had made him a bitter man. (Mr.
Jones was his name. Hell, there’s no chance of him ever reading
this.) I remember him bemoaning his lot in the staff room on a daily
basis and I remember feeling sorry for his pupils. I also remember I
didn’t want to turn out like him.
So I sat down and wrote dot the i. I wanted to write
something that would get me out of that school, something I could go
shoot with my friends on DV, something fun. Well, the film grew from
there and here I am on the day before Christmas Eve sitting in my parents’
front room trying to think of something insightful and engaging to write
for FLM Magazine. I suppose I’ve only got myself to blame.
I lived in France for four years and I saw a lot of French films, which
was both a blessing and a curse. You get to see just about everything
over there, not only the most interesting films which make it abroad.
I remember there were a lot of films about love triangles, in which
this usually incredibly beautiful girl (they were rarely women and never
ugly) embarked on a love affair with an older man (usually a writer
or a philosophy professor and an acquired taste in the looks department).
There’d be a lot of sitting around in cafes, a lot of filterless
cigarettes smoked and a lot of discussions on the nature of love, art
and life. At the end of about two hours of this the girl would inevitably
go back to her slightly scruffy boyfriend and the writer/philosophy
professor would take up with another young stunner. To quote Kurt Vonnegut
Jr., so it goes.
I was a teacher in France and that kind of shit never happened to me.
Anyway, I guess the point of all this is that it was whilst I was whiling
away many hours watching these French offerings that I came up with
the idea of toying with the love triangle genre (I think it merits a
genre all of its own), or rather of playing with our expectations of
it. When we see a film we bring to it not only our own life experience
but also our experiences of all the movies we’ve ever watched.
So when someone tells us it’s a romance or a thriller we have
some idea of what to expect—we come with our own reference library.
We make a contract with the filmmaker; I’m expecting a heart-warming
ending, so you better give it to me. Or else.
I like playing with people’s expectations, I guess because that’s
one of the things I enjoy when watching a film. dot the i
starts out as one film and ends as another and whatever you think about
the characters at the start, wherever you think it’s going, you
will probably be proved wrong. That makes it a difficult film to talk
about without ruining it for the viewer. And I don’t want to do
that, so I’m going to stop now and hope you enjoy the ride.
By the way, I don’t miss teaching. Not for a single day.