Sweet Dreams – Tom Meadmore

“We need some new rules to live by. We need another way to be.”

 – Lynne McTaggart, The Bond

R. Tony Jackson of Lonely Planet. Also a singer with Australian pop group, Speed Orange. R. Emmy-award winning film-maker Thomas Meadmore.

L: Tony Jackson, Tom Meadmore’s boss at Lonely Planet. R: Thomas Meadmore.

Five years in the making… over 600 hours of footage… this raw, feature documentary is coming out of the closet in 2014.

Sweet Dreams records the growing pains of Tom Meadmore’s dream to film a documentary. “What does it really mean to fulfil our dreams?” he asks before plunging into the unknown.

The result is a searingly honest account of five years in Tom’s life when he takes the risk of making a film from scratch in his home city, Melbourne. It puts him on the map as a documentary maker of note.

On a deeper level, this finely crafted film shows how we affect each other simply through focusing our attention on one another; although that may not have been his intention.

As you watch, be aware of the editing. It’s a joy: the cameraman may have been a newbie but the editor is not. It’s no surprise that his editing work on the Australian edition of The Amazing Race helped win an Emmy for the team.

Tom makes no attempt to hide his initial clumsiness when he first picks up the camera; and bravely follows through a sometimes agonising process to its inconvenient end – by which time he has just about filmed himself out of a job and a relationship.

Thomas Meadmore’s film 'grace' leaves you shell-shocked in just over seven minutes.

Thomas Meadmore heads to the Warsaw Film Festival to show his film ‘grace’.

Given the opportunity to make the film, Tom decides to focus on the two people who are particularly important in his life. The paradox is that, almost unconsciously, the story has a third subject: it becomes Tom’s own, personal story as much as the people he chose to film.

Is that a shudder coming from potential viewers? Does the film involve hours of navel-gazing? No. But you can’t follow a passion without getting involved in the story; and that means exposing yourself.

If I disagree with anything Tom has done, it’s beating himself up at the outset of the film for ‘betraying’ the two people who chose to travel with him through this process.

Sweet Dreams charts the awkward transition in the relationship between Tom and his boss, Tony Jackson of Lonely Planet, as Tom back-tracks from his mentor during the process of watching from behind a camera lens. He is confused when Tony contradicts himself and rues, “Although he knew his weakness, he wouldn’t do anything about it.”

Ah, but we don’t know what’s going on inside someone when we have them in our headlights.  And we rarely see our own projections for what they are, either.

A shot capturing Speed Orange during the videotaping of their album, The Virgin Of Guadalupe.

Tony Jackson and his band Speed Orange in Footscray, Melbourne.

An excellent film-maker in his own right, Tony has a dream of his own: he wants to be taken seriously for his singing and music. He has a band, he writes music, he sings. And he’s 40 years old. The last factor is a challenge in a world that seems, more than any other, to belong to young men. But it’s not impossible. Tony gets there, with his band Speed Orange, and we feel the joy of his success through the lens of Tom’s camera.

One of the most hair-tearing moments in the film is the point where Tony presses Tom to come up with a story. Unwillingly, almost blindly, he does so; and the watcher chokes with him as a rough rationale of the storyline makes an appearance. He stumbles out of the office, leaving the document in full public view. By morning, everyone knows that the storyline criticises Tony’s dream.

By taking the older man’s challenge, Tom has been trapped into an error that nearly all young men reach before their Saturn Return: they think beauty and success are only for those who are not yet thirty.

Alas, public success is chimerical by nature. Most learn Saturn’s lesson painfully as they strive to pass their ‘master classes’. It may be a long time, if ever, before the majority hear the sound of applause.

The camera is turned on Tom, literally, when Tony catches up with him weeks after Sweet Dreams’ storyline was revealed. All the same, I got the sense that Tony was still a true friend of Tom’s’ and found the process that Tom went through “intoxicating”.

Tom charts his girlfriend’s inconsistencies in much the same way as he absorbs Tony’s flaws, becoming ‘infected’ by them. Sweet Dreams narrates the beginning and eventual breakdown of his relationship with Amanda Medica, an attractive singer-songwriter.

Amanda Medica, a key 'player' in Thomas Meadmore's film Sweet Dreams.

Amanda Medica, a key ‘player’ in Thomas Meadmore’s film Sweet Dreams.

At the outset of the film, Amanda’s only a whisker away from success and yet – puzzling to Tom – makes only intermittent efforts to be professional. She appears to lack passion and commitment to her own truth. But that’s not the whole truth. Tom is putting subtle pressure on her; something he freely admits.

Amanda’s gradual slide from success as a singer is distressing and painful for them both. She becomes paranoid about being under a microscope; although her fears of full-frontal exposure are only ever in her own mind.

It seems that her need of security, encapsulated in a long-term job managing a pub, is the real impediment to her creative life.

Her slide from success as a singer is distressing and painful for them both. Finally, Amanda demands that Tom tell her what he really thinks about her as a singer and songwriter. But honesty can scar people. Can she bear the truth? Can he?

It’s an acutely painful turning point for them both. Nothing will ever be the same again.

Emmy award-winning documentary by Australian film maker and editor, Tom Meadmore.

Sweet Dreams was written, filmed, directed, narrated and edited by Thomas Meadmore for Go Fish Films.

On reflection, it seems that Tom’s natural curiosity and interest in his subjects turns him into a catalytic force. Consciously or not, he precipitates crises through which the other ‘players’ are pushed to make an extra effort to achieve their own dreams.

Considered in this light, Sweet Dreams is an extraordinarily courageous and creative work. Not many people in the film industry would dare begin without a story or any particular structure in mind, let alone with the two people most important in their lives.

For me, the central truth of Sweet Dreams is that Tom, as film-maker and editor over the course of five tense years, was exposed to the unrelenting gaze of his camera even more than the two people he believed the film was about.

There’s an intrinsic wisdom in filming this way: akin to quantum physics, where the environment is allowed to influence the outcome of the story (or the prognosis, in other situations). There are several possibilities that Tom might have developed at the outset of filming, or anywhere along the route, but gradually, on exploring them, each route but one proves insubstantial.

In other words, once the real story is discovered, all the other possibilities vanish. Living the experience is a heart-stopping adventure; not a place for wimps.

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Editor’s Notes

Sweet Dreams was written, filmed, directed, narrated and edited – not necessarily in that order – by Thomas Meadmore for Go Fish Films. See the trailer here.

Since Sweet Dreams was filmed, Tom‘s short film, ‘grace’ has been selected for several international film festivals, including the recent Palm Springs Shortfest and the Byron Bay Film Festival. It was also nominated for the Short Grand Prix at the Warsaw International Film Festival.

For information, or to arrange an interview, please contact Thomas Meadmore directly at thomas@gofishfilms.com.au or on +447427150331

Alternatively, contact the reviewer: Vivienne DuBourdieu on +447932 714063

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