Uncovering my naked ambition

Jillian Godsil doesn’t make a habit of running naked with strangers, but conquered her inhibitions when she volunteered to join 100 people in an ice bucket challenge while the cameras recorded every moment

LAST month I ran naked into the sea with 99 fellow strangers. How on earth did this happen?

It all started with a film, a film called My Name is Emily. The film script was written by a talented man, Simon Fitzmaurice. He has won awards and is a gifted writer. He wanted to direct the film also. The film has backing from a number of agencies, including The Irish Film Board. Crowdsourcing had already been done and big names announced for the cast, including Evanna Lynch from The Harry Potter films and Michael Smiley of Kill List fame.

There was one complication. The young, immensely talented Mr Fitzmaurice had contracted MND. He had begun writing the script using his fingers; he finished it using his eyes which were the only part of his body he could still independently move. In his video to promote the crowdsourcing he begins by saying that while he looks serious, he smiles a lot on the inside. It is heartbreaking to see this dynamic young man a prisoner of his own body. He is married with three small children. MND, for anyone who is not aware, is also the main recipient charity behind the 2014 ice bucket challenge. The cast and crew were looking for the ultimate ice bucket challenge. They did a regular challenge on video but then the challenge was incorporated into the film. They sent out a call looking for 100 people to run naked into the sea – on camera.

I read about the naked run the week before it was scheduled to take place. I began to think doing it. It tugged at urges hidden deep in my psyche. How liberating to throw off one’s clothes and run into the sea, with 99 other strangers, stark naked and with a camera crew. As a woman about to enter her fifth decade with a turbulent recent past it seemed a fitting and appropriate act. If I could survive being the lone parent to teenage kids, divorce, home repossession, my business collapsing, bankruptcy, changing the law and then running for Europe in May – I could surely survive a filmed skinny dip.

The morning of the shoot was overcast, swiftly converting to a wet, grey and miserable day. I had to be there for one o’clock which meant leaving by 11.30. My doubts grew as the morning progressed but I blocked any negative thoughts. I was going to run naked into the sea.

Should I mention that I don’t really like the sea at this point? Should I mention that I never run into the sea – with or without the benefit of swimwear? Should I mention I’ve never been on a film set before and didn’t know what to expect?

Nevertheless I set off and arriving in Greystones and found parking miles from the beach. Never mind, I threw my dressing gown and flipflops into a duffle bag, shouldered them and walked bravely towards the seafront. As I drew near I could feel my nerves grow. It was raining harder now and my hair was wet.

I also realised that I desperately needed to pee. I asked a local woman walking her dog if there were toilets and was directed to a tardis-like machine by the beach front. I looked at the entrance but the princely sum of 50cents was needed to enter and leave a deposit. I was torn between running back to the car to get change and possibly being late or going into the beach and crossing my legs. It was Hobson’s choice. Then I spotted a woman, around my age, locking her car. I went up to the woman and asked Valerie, for such was her name, if I could borrow 50cents.

Valerie and I were to become new best friends for the next hour. She too was doing the naked dash. She was unemployed, separated and had three children. She was finding life tough and thought this might be fun. She was not a seasoned movie extra either and was as nervous about the run as I was.

We signed the permission slips and then went to get undressed in a tent.

At this stage, there was a shared comraderie amongst those doing the run. As we stripped off our clothes so too we picked up humour and energy from those around us.

We emerged from the tent in our flipflps and dressing gowns. It was a miserable day but everyone was smiling. The crew were all dressed in waterproofs. We got a briefing from one of the assistant directors. We were all to lineup behind the camera and then once the main actor, Michael Smiley, had delivered his line, we were all to run down the sea. Easy? So it appeared.

About 30 minutes later, just as we were about to get cold and possibly even get cold feet, we were lined up behind the cameras. We were to do a practice run still wearing our dressing gowns. Valerie and I were on opposite sides of the camera. We said we would meet up again on the ‘far side’. And then we were off. I kicked my flipflops to one side and hurtled down the beach.

Everyone was cheering and we ran like mad things down to the sea. I high-fived Valerie on the ‘far side’ and we started walking back up the beach. The adrenalin was flowing but now we both realised that while the run down the beach would be euphoric, the walk back would be embarrassing. The cameras might be turned off at that point, but there were still lots of people on the beach, spectating and with phone cameras at the ready. It was too good not to photograph.

So we assumed our positions again. The next time was the actual take. There would be no second chance. It was a once off. Valerie and I discussed if the Assistant Director had actually given the signal or not the first time. There had been some confusion we both agreed.

Then suddenly a bunch of men to the left just took off their robes and started jumping up and down, to keep warm or to wiggle their dangly bits, I wasn’t sure but it was a bit scary. Before I had time to think about this new development a young man behind started telling everyone to disrobe. I looked at Valerie and we both looked shocked – although why is anyone’s guess.

We were here to run naked. It was just the actuality that was frightening.

So, the dressing gown hit the floor. It was lunchtime on a rainy afternoon in Greystones and I was naked with a 98 strangers and one new best friend – oh and about 30 full clothed people working on the shoot and another 20 or so fully clothed people watching from the walkway.

Then we got the signal and we were off. Running in the sand is hard at the best of times but on we toiled past the cameras and down towards the sea. The front runners dived into the water, the slow ones only got to dip our toes in.

It was remarkably warm. I did not feel cold and it was over in seconds. No one said cut – at least not in my hearing – but we all stopped, turned around and walked back up the beach. I said to Valerie that we were wearing our bikinis and so we walked tall. The film crew had largely disappeared in the short space of time and the camera equipment was being walked off the beach in a hurry.

We reached our discarded dressing gowns and put them on again. We had done it.

There were a lot of smiles. Valerie and I went over to the coffee station and I tried to spoon coffee into a plastic cup but my hand was shaking so much I spilt more than I saved. I must have been cold but I didn’t feel it.

We had to queue for the changing tent and then we left. It was all over.


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