Road Rage: Flipping the Bird

Back in 2009 when I was living in Newcastle, I’d make the trip back home to Doncaster once a month or so for the delights of a non-coin operated washing machine and proper nutrition. The journey itself is a nice and straight forward one; 2 hours and a bit down the A1 with only a small slowing section of average speed check cameras. A pretty mundane route, that would’ve remained so until it created one of the most terrifying and psychotic driving experiences of my life.

For reasons far too complex and lazy to describe, I decided to start my journey down at 10 o’clock on a Friday evening. I enjoy the tranquility of night time driving and the sheer bliss of empty roads to cruise down, so it wasn’t that unusual for me to do. I was basking in the relaxing drive down so much I decided after about an hour and 20 minutes to spice up the mundanity of the A1 and head to country roads for the rest of the voyage home.

I prepped the satnav and told it to avoid the motorway, and made to pull off at the next exit and see where it would take me. Coming off the ramp & roundabout the route immediately became a village with a 30mph speed limit, which I was happy to stick to. The only problem was that soon a mystery set of headlights would come up the same ramp as I and then take issue with a 30mph speed limit, take issue with me obeying it, take issue with the existence of life and take issue over people with any general sanity.

Most of us have come across road rage and whilst I wouldn’t say I’m the Dalai Lama of driving, I’m only ever a grump at most behind the wheel. I however have never seen anything close to this car (that I like to refer to as Headlight Cunt) in terms of sheer, inexplicable anger. Coming off a motorway into a 30mph zone at 11:20pm must really have galled them, as the first thing they did was drive 2 meters behind my rear bumper and start banging on the horn and flashing their lights for 5 seconds. Incensed by my refusal to drive faster through a tight village that I didn’t know in pitch black conditions, they amped up the tempo by leaving their full beams on and escalating the pipping for the next 5 seconds.

At this point in the space of 10 seconds I have gone from peaceful reverie to hounded by the biggest cock-end of a driver. I’m part confused why he hasn’t overtaken me, part pretty miffed about their behaviour and so decide to do what in hindsight was a pretty silly thing; I threw up my middle finger at them. It wasn’t a meditated ‘roll down the window and stick your hand out’ flipping off, more done so offhandedly in the interior of my car so they could see my silhouette.

If I’d thought about how crazy this person was in the 10 seconds our paths had met, I would’ve thought better than trying to provoke them. As soon as I did that, they overtook me. Before I could even think “Thank christ” and enjoy the rest of my drive they swerved back infront of me and slammed on the brakes. My reactions are pretty fast, but even slamming on my own brakes as I did I still crashed into the rear of their car. Just as I’m recovering from the shock of someone deliberately causing a crash 20 seconds after being on the road with them out jump two guys, slamming the doors behind them on what I can see now is a black Subaru Impreza.

They seem like they’re in their mid-30’s, one looks like a 6ft bald stocking over-stuffed with too many muscles and the other is a lankier but still pretty stocky guy carrying a tyre iron. They’re moving fast. I’m 19, out of shape, 140lbs and don’t have a weapon so in 0.2 seconds I decide “Fuck this for a lark” and slam the car in reverse. Adrenaline is pumping through my body and I don’t think I have enough time to spin the car around on a narrow lane and I don’t want to crash whilst reversing, so after backing out of their rear spoiler I punch it into first and drive past them.

The meat-stocking jumps out of the way and I blitz on past and see in my mirror them scrambling back into their car. It’s now about 30 seconds since I met these people. A number of things are pounding through my mind right now. Firstly, ESCAPE. Secondly, what the fuck is going on. Thirdly, holy crap I just drove my car at a guy.

I’m out the village now but I’m barely 5-10 seconds away before they’ve caught up to me as I’m only driving a 1.2 litre Ford Fiesta. The following minute I’ve yet to find a more terrifying drawn out experience in my life, as I’m thinking of a way I can use my abilities and manipulate their reckless driving & speed into a way that will enable me to escape from this situation. The car chase has me keeping to a steady 60mph, any faster and I fear I won’t have the grip or maneuverability to avoid them nor survive the crash they seem intent on causing. They try to pit me once (shunt the back edge of my car to make it spin) , but I go onto the grass just next to the fields either side of me to avoid them. The next three attempts they seem to start being aware of not wanting to crash and damage their vehicle anymore, so try a repeat trick of burst speeding past me then slamming on the brakes hoping I’d go into the back of them. Each time I dodge and get into the lead once more, but I know my luck is running out.

As they make for a 4th attempt we enter the edge of a small town and I see my chance on the satnav; a road turning off. I let them power by as they overtake to slam on the brakes again, only I bank a hard right and go plummeting down a narrow winding 1-car width lane with bushes either side. There’s some houses down the lane, and I throw myself into the open gates of one of the courtyards then kill my lights. What felt like an age but probably no more than a minute later I hear the Subaru roar on past, obviously thinking I was further ahead.

Not wanting to wait incase they realised their mistake and came hunting, I immediately head back down the way I came and through the village to the A1, before having a nerve-wracking drive down the motorway fearful about what I’d see in my rear-view mirror. I tried visualising the licence plate, but I was too busy panicking to remember it so reporting them to the police was out. When I got home slightly shaken and after checking to see if the front of my car was damaged I told my parents and older brother about this, who simply told me it was my fault for antagonising them and didn’t seem too worried. “They were probably coke heads” one of my family opinions.

Even though this was a freak experience with psychotic individuals, I did learn things I still apply to my regular road use. Now if somebody seems a completely insane or unreasonable driver on the road I don’t do anything, even if I’m annoyed, simply try to let them by as soon as possible. Antagonising people who seem to lose all reason & clarity when driving a car can end up with you injured or killed. Another thing I worry about from this is whilst I’m slightly proud of my quick reaction times and escaping abilities, what if the guy on the road hadn’t jumped out of the way? I’m not sure where I’d be legally with that. The main consequence of all this though is I’ve never flipped anybody off since, in or out of the car.

Till now ┌∩┐.

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Documentary Quest – Part One

I’m going to make a documentary on the Games Media. This is going to be my open chronicle about all the stresses and behind the scenes thinking for anyone that likes that kindof stuff. You weirdo.

Why?

Over the past 5 years I’ve sat in and outside of Games Media in positions more boring than a Christian sex chronicler’s wildest dreams. Whilst this means I’m barely even a cupboard-hold known name and am remembered as fondly as a pane of glass, I have had the privilege of getting to know this industry from many different perspectives. I’ve worked on magazines, websites, digital publishing & video. I’ve had friends and colleagues set up their own brand names whilst others still have circumvented the traditional routes entirely and embraced youtube, crowdfunding or ‘other’.

I think it’s a weird, fun, underpaid & nonsensical industry with a low-entry point that is misunderstood by many on the outside and which many on the inside struggle to explain. There’s been the semi-wanky but fantastically engrossing “Indie Game: The Movie” shedding light on small-time games development, but the closest the Games Media side has come is to that narrowly focused and off-putting Polygon founding documentary.

I believe in the adage “if you believe you can do better, then do it” so I thought bugger it, I’ve needed a good project for a while and I’m in a good position in my life to make this happen (semi-employed, without a family & masturbating too often). I want to make something informative and enjoyable to watch, that might get people to think and appreciate or change this industry for the better.

But really, it’s mainly about making everybody look at me.

The Plan

So how the fuck am I going to pull this off? (as the nun said to the priest etc.). The basics so far is that I’m going to interview approximately 10 people from various roles in Games Media industry around the UK; travelling down to wherever they live and filming about an hour-long interview with them. Then once I’ve got my 8-15 hours of interview footage, I’ll then script probably about five 15 minute long episodes where I intersplice interview footage with host segments either explaining different facets or setting up a section of aforementioned interview clips.

Basically think of it like a shittier version of Charlie Brooker’s Screenwipe only with me as a much worst host, no budget and more focus on the people interviewed. At the moment I’m focusing on getting decent interviewees and covering as many angles as possible without feature creeping or losing focus. There’s no point hard-locking in what I’ll say in my host segments, as I want to be free to react to what might come out of the interview process.

I should also clarify by when I say Games Media, I don’t mean PR or other erstwhile areas. I’m focusing more on the places that cover gaming news, reviews and thought as part of their bread and butter. I’m only touching on it briefly in this documentary but in the future I would like to cover how the Games Media interacts with PR and actual Publishers/Devs and their perspectives, but I think that makes my focus too broad for now especially considering what I have in my budgetry range.

I’ll place the finished product on Vimeo/Youtube probably around the end of March. It’ll be free for all to watch, as I fully don’t expect to even make a single penny back let alone break even. If this kindof thing was profitable, someone in the industry proper would’ve commissioned it already.

Limitations

Money. Money money money. I don’t get my kicks for free. All of the equipment, travel, editing software, hospitality for me and 1-2 other people on the small crew I’ve got together is coming out of my pocket. A round trip to London (where most UK media is based outside of a few outlying places like Bath) driving down costs me around £80 in fuel alone, and if I can’t cram as many interviews as possible into the Weds-Sun slot I have each week it’s going to start mounting up.

It also means I can’t do the rest of the world’s Games Media any justice, as frankly I cannot afford to pay my own airfare and travel around the US or EU let alone for 1-2 others. I’ll try to cover some of the cultural differences between say the US and UK Games Media, but it’s going to be difficult to give it proper credence. I’m going to have difficulty enough making sure UK Games Media people are free and open to interview on a compatible timetable during the timeframe I want to film (Feb-March).

Another thing I fear is that on the 9th person I interview they raise a really interesting point that I’d really want to go back and ask all the other people before them. I’m just going to have to accept it as one of those things sadly, and hope the prep work and questions will be adequate. I’m also terrified that my host segments will drag the whole piece down, and writing a clear concise script that focuses on the key points I want to make on how Games Media works, why people choose to go into it & the past, present and future of it is a daunting task.

Why not Crowdfund?

The big thing I keep being asked when I mention this project is “What about Crowdfunding?”. Well, I have little to no social media presence and my mixed-insider/outsider status means I have difficulty getting others to view my work, let alone chip in money to an unknown & unproven person. Secondly I also feel that even if I did have a big following, crowdfunding makes me feel uneasy. In my mind (even though many cases have proven it otherwise) it doesn’t feel like a money for product service, but instead telling your audience “Could you chuck me some of your hard-earned cash to indulge my own dreams? Nothing’s guaranteed about what I’ll produce”. Some are comfortable with that idea, I’m personally not.  It’s why I’ve saved up my own money to make this project happen, so I don’t feel beholden to anyone.

A third issue is that I cannot for the life of me think of any decent pledge awards that doesn’t mean a fuckload of extra work for a one-man operation to organise. All I really want to do is focus on the creating side plus massive volume of filming and editing ahead of me, not ordering body-sized pillows with custom decals.

Open to Suggestions

I’ve never done anything even close to this scale before, and whilst I think I’ve got a grip on the basics of it I am still very welcoming of advice, ideas and importantly help (locations, places to stay, props) at this stage before anything is properly set in stone and I’ve approached people to interview. To reach me either give me a prod on twitter @EGTF, or email me at egtfenning (at) googlemail (dot) com.