A document of the research process for a film. The starting point for this research is a train crash in a blizzard between Edinburgh and Glasgow in December 1937. 35 people died and 179 were injured, a missing 8 year old girl was never found. Amongst the dead was Edward Nelson who happens to be the person who who gave me my name.
In my years as a filmmaker, I have never known a finished film to bear much resemblance to the initial idea and impulse to make it. Along the way ideas appear from left field, eclipsing the original plan or at the very least bending it unexpectedly. The shape, the tempo, the top, the bottom, the middle, Jesus what’s it even about? – it’s all up for grabs – ideas and cross-references shift and jostle, hijack the plot, pull it to pieces and reassemble it backwards. And that’s way, way before the collaborative process of pre-production starts. I love my reference material, the physical stuff – it often finds its way into the film in a cameo role just because I get so ridiculously attached—photographs, letters, maps, ¼ inch audio tape, drawings, dolls, biscuit tins… Sometimes I look back and wonder if this process, this time alone with my idea, is in fact the interesting bit and the film is just a by-product. Anyway, this will be my attempt to document that bit of time.
So even if my starting point will have little bearing on where the finishing line will turn out to be, I still have to have one. I know I want to make a film about families. About blood and names. My own name, but not just that. But I’ll start there. I’ve hung on to my name beyond marriage, saddled my children with unwieldy double-barrelled names, just so they can have it a while too. I am very proud to be one of the “Nelson women” and always want to be so. All this despite the fact that I am not a Nelson by blood at all. By a queer twist of fate, I came to be, let alone came to be a Nelson, because a man called Edward Nelson died in a train crash between Edinburgh and Glasgow on 10 December 1937. His grieving widow, Eileen, adopted a baby boy a year later – my father. She gave him Edward’s name. And he gave it to me.
So that’s where I’ll start.