My ex-husband is furious with me. He thinks I wasted a huge amount of money making a film that I wrote, directed and acted in, called The Gun, the Cake and the Butterfly.
Well, on the festival circuit, it won a prize nearly every time it was entered (including best edit and best art film – three times). It was also nominated both for best female director and best film chosen by an audience.
This week, it opens at the Miami Basel Art Fair, and I am thrilled. I have proved what I wanted: that I, Amanda, a woman on her own, could make a film with no formal training in the business.
True, I had a lot of background. I studied drama at both ALRA and RADA; and my grandfather, the filmmaker Sidney Gilliat, was always talking to me about his craft. It left me with a lifelong love of the medium, and an intense interest in its world.
I have proved what I wanted: that I, a woman on her own, could make a film with no formal training
That’s why I’ve always visited the Cannes Film Festival. And that’s what first annoyed my ex. A year ago, he asked why I was going, and when I told him that I wanted to make a film, he laughed at me. That spurred me into action.
Since the movie won some awards, he nags me that it’s about my own life. Well, it had to be. I had little time to prepare and used a previous script (worked up from As I Like It, a play that I staged in London and Los Angeles three years ago).
Now, with new and old documentary footage of my life, I tell the story through two other people’s eyes. It’s about the business of being a woman, the things we think.
I like to take a role in all my artistic endeavours. A couple of years ago, I had a show of neon installations at the Doyle Devere Gallery in London (after a successful debut at The Leadapron Gallery in Los Angeles). They were based on the seven deadly sins, taken from some drawings of me by the renowned art collector Kay Saatchi.
Meanwhile, in the past six years, I’ve done up five houses in Beverly Hills, one in Chelsea, and one in Paris belonging to Tamara de Lempicka. (I didn’t make any money, but the pleasure of living all those different lives certainly helped provide some backdrops for the film.)
In the middle of the night, I often write verse on my Blackberry – I have published two poetry books in the past five years – and, by internet, I work as a fashion editor for Genlux magazine in California.
Act two, good scene
All this activity is a long way from my teens and twenties, when I lay in bed for days, chatting to friends and feeling depressed. I used to daydream my life away, not knowing what I was on this planet for.
With no interest in anything except watching the ceiling and being miserable, I wasted a lot of my youth. And without the good fortune to have met an eccentric actress called Magdalena Buznier, who was working for me as a cleaner, I might never have changed.
Magdalena used to come into my bedroom and, with a rather beautiful, sad face and calming voice, talk to me about her old life in Romania. One day, she arrived with an application to the join RADA’s summer workshop – already filled out in my name – and said if I didn’t get out of bed and stop yacking, I would regret it when I was 50.
I was horrified, and hated the idea of acting, but she insisted. “Get out of bed,” she said. “Do your hair and go. It will change your life!”
And it did. There I met Lyall Watson, then vice president of RADA, who has come in and out of my life for the last 20 years or so, and directed my play in London. But wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.
First, I had to be disillusioned by the theatre, and set on a winding, hilly road, often feeling I was failing but always feeling alive. When I left drama school, I trained as a photographer and my first job was on a co-production with Italian Vogue, taking photographs for a book called British Artists at Work, about 46 artists and their studios.
Making an exhibition of myself
Franca Sozzani, the magazine’s editor, was the first person to give me a proper job. It was wonderful. It opened my eyes to the world of contemporary art, which has since given me so much pleasure and which I now collect. I have many pieces but my favourite is by Marc Quinn – a white elephant, the size of a young calf – that lives in my drawing room.
Talking of the visual arts, about eight years ago, when I was 45, I changed my appearance. I was in New York when I decided I didn’t want to be an old blonde with lank hair. So I telephoned my wonderful friend, the super-stylist Rushka Bergman.
Together we took one afternoon in Bergdorf Goodman’s to effect a transformation. Up went the skirts, my hair was turned platinum and curled and, lo and behold, I emerged with the style of an old-fashioned Hollywood star.
Now I have fun every day with new ideas. Pleasure comes when I contribute in life, when I am given opportunities. And I am happy to have been nagged – both by the woman from another land who kicked me out of bed; and by the ex-husband who stung me into making a film.
For more about Amanda, read her blog