Mark Renshaw – SURRENDER

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I recently watched Saga Flight International’s film Surrender, a disturbing glimpse into an addict’s life spiralling out of control. The film’s protagonist is Dave. The film’s website states, “Dave is trapped in a surreal and frightening world where his inner demons appear real and he is haunted by his worst fears. He struggles to keep his sanity and live a normal life but must overcome his greatest adversary first – himself.” I spoke with Mark Renshaw, the film’s writer and executive producer.

addict2016: My first question is always the same, are you currently using?

MR: I’m a recovering alcoholic. I’m pleased to say I’ve been sober for 3 years and 10 months now but, for me, this involves going to Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and working a recovery program on a daily basis.  Surrender is partially based on my own experiences but a lot of it comes from the many stories I’ve heard in the AA rooms from other alcoholics.

addict2016: Everybody in recovery has a story to tell. Through my blog I have connected with storytellers worldwide.

MR: I checked out your blog and enjoyed it. I identified a lot with the answers you wrote for the How I Got Sober magazine article. I once had a go at writing a blog, I gave up after 5 days when it hadn’t gone viral. This was back when I was drinking and expecting the world to operate based on my expectations.

addict2016: Surrender attempts to look at alcohol addiction from a different angle. What motivated you to write the film in this way?

MR: When I wrote the script, I didn’t just want to show a guy drinking all the time and living rough on the streets. I wanted to show an earlier stage of the addiction. I wanted to show a functioning alcoholic (which I was) who has a lovely family, decent job and an OK life, yet everything is falling apart due to his increasing dependence on alcohol.

addict2016: The film depicts the protagonist’s struggle with reality as nightmarish hallucinations follow his day. Was this nod to the horror genre a conscious decision?

MR: I wanted to show the terror of facing the normal world while recovering from the last binge. All the anxiety, fear, guilt and pain. The director and I decided we would use symbolic visual elements to do this, giving the film some horror elements.

addict2016: Without wanting to spoil the ending, the film has a positive climax.

MR: In the end I wanted to also show that there’s hope. I wanted to leave the impression that no matter how far down the ladder one might have fallen, there’s still a chance to crawl back up, if you are willing. The question is, as Dave says in the end, how?

MR:  I’ve also entered the film into a bunch of film festivals around the world. So far it has been showcased at two festivals. The first was the Depth of Field International Film Festival where it won four awards. This was an online festival but still, it was nice to get some exposure and recognition.  The second was the Awareness Festival which is run by a charity called Heal One World. This was in an actual cinema over in Los Angeles. The film was only released in September and I’ve submitted it to quite a few festivals spread out over the next 12 months.

addict2016: Surrender is dedicated to suffering alcoholics and their families. Did you have any further ambitions for Surrender, other than making a beautiful film?

MR: My hope for Surrender is that it reaches out to people affected by addiction and touches them in some way.

addict2016: Thank you.

MR: Thanks. I’m really glad you love Surrender.

Surrender was an official selection for the Depth of Field International Film Festival 2016 and it deserved to be. The film itself won an Exceptional Merit Award. Awards also went to, Best Lead Actor: Aram Hekinian, Excellence: Original Score: Zaalen Tallis, Excellence: Script/Writer: Mark Renshaw.

Directed by Christopher Carson Emmons, Surrender is a visually stunning film, aided by powerful performances from the lead actors Aram Hekinian, Jade Elysan and Marisa Roper.  Special mention must also go to Director of Photography, Nathaniel Haban. A truly eerie quality of disconnection haunts the film. Dave is as detached from the film’s narrative as his character is from reality. Many addicts will relate to the main character’s experience but, as a friend who watched the film with me remarked, “If you relate to this film as a drinker, you may need to get help!”

Here’s the link to watch Surrender. I will be very interested in your comments.

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By day, Mark is a mild-mannered business software tester who is married with two children. By night, or whenever he has a spare bit of time, he unleashes his imagination by writing scripts and stories. This is his hobby, his passion.

Sometimes he pops on a producer’s hat and breathes cinematic life into his creations. The first film he ever made, called I Am Peter Cushing, won an award at the Festival of Fantastic Films in Manchester, England.  This also starred Mark in the leading role as a man who believes vampires are real and that he was the legendary vampire hunter, Peter Cushing.

Now Mark writes short scripts and stories, which he options to other producers via his website at www.mark-renshaw.com. Some of these have been produced and have gone onto win awards in film festivals and competitions. His dream is to one day quit the day job and work full-time as a writer.

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How I Got Sober

I have been featured in After Party Magazine’s ‘How I Got Sober’ series. Here’s the link:

READER SPOTLIGHT: How I Got Sober: Andrew

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It has been a year today since I last drank alcohol. Through the last twelve months my life has changed; it has undergone a metamorphosis, but I am still all too aware of my demons lurking within. I am aware of my weaknesses. I remember. I still feel guilt and shame for the agony I put my loved ones through. Today, my home life has transformed. Trust is slowly building, becoming stronger every day, and with that burgeoning trust everyone’s happiness blooms. Although some wounds may never fully heal, my relationships with my wife and daughter are blossoming and growing every day. After all, they are entitled to be cautious. A friend said that it must be great for my wife to get the old me back, but this isn’t the old me. I have never felt so connected to myself or the Universe.

So many things have returned or are working their way back to me. Every day new ideas and people are stimulating my mind and consciousness. Connection is now my mantra. Since I started this blog in March I have connected with many beautiful, recovering souls from all over the world. Everyone is somewhere on the timeline of their own path to recovery from addiction, but with togetherness everything can be accomplished. Connections are crisscrossing the world; minds and souls coming together with a shared mission, wrapped up in their personal fight for recovery. I see this as a microcosm of our planet’s renewal. All can be achieved through togetherness and connection.

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I love the book Conversations by Theodore Zeldin. It is about the importance of conversation in our lives, explaining how it is at the root of creativity; how it is better than laws in helping to change our mind-sets and how it makes life more interesting, friendly or passionate. The book’s aim is to stimulate conversation itself and our thinking about how and why we talk, and what we talk about. Zeldin writes, “…a new kind of group is growing up in the world, an affinity of people living in every continent, for whom the broadening of their curiosity is a major passion…I personally think we should start on that adventure…by giving older people more opportunities to share their experience with the young, to counter the segregation of the generations and of knowledge.” This is happening right now in the internet world of recovery.

I love writing this blog. It is a truly beautiful thing for me that people from around the world have recognised and affirmed my stories, when not long ago all hope was lost. The thing which I find personally most enhancing is the contact from people who have found something to cling to in my words. As I do not regularly attend AA/NA, I see it as my service. There are thousands of people in recovery telling their stories in blogs or websites and everybody’s words resonate and give hope.

In July next year a group of my closest friends are planning to gather for a reunion, many with their children in tow. Together we populated the Dirty Cow parties I wrote about in my post ‘Music’.  You could not wish to meet a more welcoming group of dazzlingly creative beings as the ‘Cows’; they are always encouraging, open to making connections and sharing experiences. I am very excited about the prospect of renewing friendships and hearing their stories. This is an event I could not have even contemplated this time last year. Now, far from worrying about any temptations, I am really looking forward to attending this gathering of the herd with the clarity of mind my abstinence brings.

I met up with a very old friend this week whom I have not seen for over thirteen years. We used to be drug buddies, both working on separate music projects in the same studio complex. We smoked as much heroin and cocaine that we could lay our hands on. We were both an absolute mess. When I last saw him, in 2003, I had just started on the path to recovery from heroin addiction. We have communicated since then but not in person, so I knew he was also now in recovery. We spent a lovely afternoon in the Tate Modern. The conversation was still as engaging, and not just because we had so much to catch up on. The thing that I found curious and surprising is that our sober days are only 24 hours apart. I cannot express how happy it made me to see him so healthy and as enthusiastic about life and recovery as I am.

As the days and months have passed my confidence and creativity have grown. I am currently involved in too many different projects to list here.  As I said in my conversation with Chris Aguirre from the Recovery Revolution Online, “I don’t want to think about turning stuff down. I want to say yes to everything. I used to be like that about drugs.” I want it all. I am greedy for life. Ideas are flowing through me like electric charges. Once again magnetism has returned to my life. I will not let go of it this time.

“The telling of stories creates the real world” Alberto Manguel