“Freaky Friday” – September 1998

Steve Crilly


It’s a Friday morning in late September – just a normal day at school. I sit in my
 fifth year ordinary level maths class, lost in thought – an eerie feeling surrounds me.
 I drop my head down – the size of the school’s budget is showing as I look at the
 words “MICK 1967” scrawled on to the ancient wooden desk.

Our short lunch is at 11:10am I look eagerly at my watch. It reads “11:04. “
Suddenly, at that exact moment, I feel a sharp pain circling around in my stomach.
 Unknown to me that exact moment would change my life forever.

I hang on until lunch at ten past eleven. The pain eases slightly as I sip on some
 watered-down Ribena. The bell sounds out its deafening roar for the end of lunch.
 I walk anxiously to Irish class – half anxious about my stomach and half anxious 
about Irish in general.

I didn’t last ten minutes in Irish class before the pain got so intense that I had to
 raise my arm and dismiss myself to the bathroom. As I walked down the stairs to
 the bathroom, my stomach pain, suddenly, eased considerably – I gave an eye-
wandering, quizzical look to one side wondering what in God’s name was
 happening inside me. I decided to head back to class. I walked in the door, and got 
all the cliched eyeballing from the rest of the lads. The attention was too much. I 
had to break the ice. “Jaysus, it must be chronic, mad indigestion or something.”
That raised a few laughs. I sat down, unknown to me that it was going to be the last 
laugh I ever raised in the school.

Another three minutes hadn’t gone by when the deadly pain resurfaced, but this 
time determined to succeed in beating me into submission. This time round the
 pain was so intense I felt as if I was going to vomit. I started to control my
 breathing, resembling a woman about to give birth to baby with a head as big as a 
melon. I couldn’t take this tension anymore, so I once again raised my arm and 
strolled out as cool as a cucumber, then the second the door closed I did an
 almighty runner down the corridor.

I reached the bathroom, but was unable to vomit. I tried, but was physically unable
 to vomit. I couldn’t believe my own body was teasing me. It was time for a change 
of scenery. I headed in the direction of my year-head’s room.

I was all ready to go home when the year-head told me to just sit out on to the steps,
 and I’ll be grand after some “fresh air” – I mean, who needs medicine in this day 
and age when you’ve got the aul teacher’s favourite of “fresh air”. I sat out on the
 school steps breathing this “fresh air”, wondering what was wrong with me? When
 I was going home? And why four hundred magpies chose our school lawn to congregate on? I went back into the year-head and soon enough was on my way 
home.

Monday

Saturday and Sunday were as normal as ever. “Freaky Friday” was completely 
forgotten about I just put it down to a bad case of indigestion. The day started off
 excellently with a free class first period. I had maths free, which was a bonus. As 
usual in free classes, there were a lot of games of  ‘x’s and ‘o’s, a lot of feet-
tapping, early-morning yawning and eyeballing between the supervising teacher
 and the pupils. I remember looking up at the miniature Jesus-nailed-to-a-cross on
 the wall. He looked at me – I looked at him, then the nauseating pain swept through
 my stomach yet again. I was soon enough on my way home yet again, and not once
 again would I set foot in that school to be taught.

10 Months Earlier – November 1997


I sit at the back of some transition year class (the class so boring I can’t even care 
to remember it). Then something new happens, the guidance counsellor walks in 
with a handful of sheets. I sit up straight, intrigued at the fact that I have actually 
seen the guidance counsellor in the flesh for the first time. I eventually get my sheet
 handed to me. On it is a list of careers (one hundred or so). I run my finger down
 the sheet, none of the careers jumping out at me in any way. When I thought that 
all hope was lost, I ran my finger over the career “scriptwriting”, saying it slowly
 to myself. Something then clicked in my head. Unlike most interests or loves,
 which you develop over a certain amount of time, it was as if this was lying
 dormant, only to be awoken suddenly with a bang.

Without ever once talking to the guidance counsellor, she had guided me to my 
future career. Top marks for Mrs. “D”, I say.

I have always had a love for writing and the movies from an early age. I just never 
thought the two would be collaborating together. After weeks of “I can’t possibly
 do this”, “where will I start?” and “what in sweet Mary is a screenplay supposed 
to even look like?”, I eventually bit the bullet and started to write one. Over the
 next few months I wrote more and more. My writing became better and better, and
 soon enough writing a screenplay became second nature to me.

In the mean time I had to organise my transition year work experience. With the 
fact that I had found this new love. I decided to try R.T.E. I sent in a short adapted 
script with my letter to R.T.E. I didn’t exactly have high hopes because it’s so hard 
to get in when you don’t have “contacts” within the place. Well, hey Joe, what do
 you know. I got in, and on my own merit too, which added to it.

My first day was daunting, but yet another twist was to occur. While in R T.E. I started to see the other aspects of filmmaking. I thought I was real brave taking on
 the screenwriting, thinking anything else in film would be too much for me. The next thing I know I’m thinking to myself while I watch a scene being shot: ‘This 
aul directing lark doesn’t look too hard.” I had gone from too scared to even write 
a screenplay to wanting to direct. From then on I was hooked.

Soon enough I was buying an abundance of books, screenplays and anything 
connected with film-making. If someone in the house were flicking through the TV
 channels and the name “Quentin Tarantino” was uttered on the box, I would grab
 the remote and tune in. If the person holding the remote was unwilling to comply, 
they’d have to get the remote surgically removed from where the sun don’t shine.


June 1998


With transition year I had lots of much free time, so I had lots of time to write,
 think, etc. School had just finished for the summer when I decided to send off a
 screenplay to a film producer. To be honest I was crapping myself. I couldn’t take
 criticism, but during a screenwriting course in London that summer, I was taught
 to ‘reject rejection’. Good, eh?

I finally got a reply from the producer. She thought it was quite a good script, but 
not what she was looking for. For me – a just-turned sixteen year old -I could have
 retired on that.

October 1998


At this stage I had been out of school for a few weeks. I had tried on numerous
 occasions to go back to school, but in a Twilight Zone kind of way, every time I
 even got near the school ground the stomach pains would strike.

At this stage I had lost all faith in going back to school. My illness was a suspected 
ulcer – couldn’t have been further from the truth.

So then came the medical tests. I had blood taken from me by a nurse, who
 obviously took pleasure in watching people’s faces, as she sucked the life from 
them. The next test was – by far – the worst experience I have ever had – THE
 BARIUM-MEAL! For those of you who have never experienced this nightmare,
 it’s a bit like gulping down crude oil – and has the taste of four year-old Greek
 yoghurt with the sweat of the Greek man who made the yoghurt squeezed into it. 
I think I’m starting to paint a picture here.

The Doctor who was examining me said that the barium hadn’t covered the whole 
of my stomach, so I had to go out into the corridor – another experience I wouldn’t 
mind forgetting. I strolled out into the corridor, which may as well have been a
 waiting room, wearing one of these dressing gowns, with the backside of it missing
 (just my boxers on). I was escorted on my way to my bed in the corridor/waiting
 room by a very touchy-feely nurse – taking advantage of the missing back to my
 gown.

I lay sideways on the bed – people congregating all around me. People wandered 
the corridors like lost zombies on Valium – the odd zombie stopping to have a peak 
at me like a camera happy Japanese tourist.


November 1998

It only hit me in bed late one night in early November that my problem was my 
writing and film obsession. In the mean time, every soul on earth was trying to 
convince me to go back to school. All this convincing had adverse affects – I
 started to have a hatred of school now. I hated this institutionalised situation.
 Society was telling me what I was supposed to do in life. Society was also tellin
g me that film is for the dreamer, who lives in a fantasy world. “Become an
 accountant, lawyer or even a butcher – now that’s a safe bet.” But I don’t want a 
safe bet -I want excitement. No offence or anything, I just know I’m not going to 
be your average butcher on the street in years to come.

Now due to my mother knowing a therapist, it was time for me to book a date with 
the big man himself. My first impression of him was that he was a handsome 
version of Alf Garnett. Unknown to him this was going through my head through
 the whole session – a bit hard to concentrate with that on your mind. Another
 defining characteristic I noticed about him was that he had these Hollywood-like
 dramatic long pauses while we talked. Nonetheless, a dramatic long pause that was 
equal to any Oscar winning Actor in Tinsel Town.

During our meeting I told my therapist about my dilemma between school and 
film. He suggested that for the next time we meet that I write a short script 
interpreting the two. So I did. I called it Torn Between Two Lovers’. He was 
quite surprised, as the script had as much to do with film and school, as ‘Raging 
Bull’ had to do with a West Cork cattle festival.

But like any great script, I have a twist, unknown to anyone but me. ‘Torn Between
 Two Lovers’ was nothing to do with my dilemma between school and film. It was
 all about the dilemma between what I wanted to do and what other people wanted
 me to do – I just hadn’t the guts to tell anyone until this day, nine months later.

Meeting the therapist was of great help, yet there was something lacking. I was
 still longing for someone to say: ‘You just do what YOU want to do, Steve. You 
know what you’re capable of.’ Not once did anyone close say that to me. If
 anything, that is what has had me so down since last September.

Frankly, I don’t care what anyone wants to do in life, whether it is to be an
 accountant or manager of the bag-packing section in Tescos, I don’t care – JUST 
DON’T TELL ME WHAT I CAN AND CANNOT DO IN LIFE. Just because
 your average job is more mainstream, people somehow think they have this divine
 right to say, “Why should you make it in the film business? – You re no Spielberg. 
Without me even making a movie, or without reading one of my scripts, people have judged. It’s hard to go a day without someone saying that. But then again I
 have no time for someone who has only something negative to say about what I
 want to do in life, when they don’t even know what I am capable of.

If you go for the ‘safe bet’ in life, the chances are you’ll get the ‘safe bet’ – but if 
you decide otherwise – who knows what’s possible… I think I’ll decide otherwise.

Finally, I would just like to say, in August of 1998 people were saying to me,
”Steve, just two years of school – you get the bare minimum in the Leaving Cert,
 then you’re in film school.” Then two months later the unthinkable happens. Now, 
in August of 1999, people are saying the exact same thing to me, “Steve, just two 
years of school…” Well, if my life can change so much in one year, who’s to say 
it won’t change again? Believe you me, I won’t be touching on any wood. I’m all
 for another rollercoaster of a year.

The only thing I know is…. is that this time round – I’m due some good luck….