I thought I’d blog about how 2012 has gone for me. It’s sometimes confusing being a creative person, as the ‘personal’ and the ‘professional’ easily gets mixed up. My ideas, which are sometimes personal, become something I want to write about, then make work from.
Anyway, this is a run down of what I achieved this year, and there have been a lot of ‘firsts’ for me.
In January I ran a 7 week workshop at The Orpheus Centre, teaching filmmaking, and the group made a short puppet horror film using the Uscreen website. This was the first time that I’d run a workshop on my own, and there was a lot of support from all the guys at The Orpheus Centre.
In February I was in Manchester for The State Of The Arts Conference, after receiving a bursary to attend.
In March I completed The Dog & The Palace, my split screen installation film. This was the biggest budget film I have ever worked on, and in February we were filming for 2 days in Lancaster House, in the same room they shot ‘The King’s Speech’ feature film in. It was screened a number of times on the big screens during the London 2012 Olympics, and I was also featured in the local press. I also had a great team on board, thanks to Producer Karen Gilchrist.
Around June I completed an early draft of my third screenplay. I wanted to write a 1 hour drama-comedy for TV, and this was then redrafted and performed (as a work in progress) at the Arts Alive Festival in October. This was my first ever live event I produced.
During the year I also worked with writer / producer Cherry Bennet on ‘Temps Interruptus’, an indie radio sitcom which we recorded at Headline Music Studios in October (another first!) We also had a rehearsal of Cherry’s play ‘Early Viewing Recommended’ at The Actors Centre.
In May I worked with young homeless people in Crawley, on a 7 week filmmaking project, again using the Uscreen website.
In June I gave a talk about my own experience of Mental Health issues to a group of Surrey Police officers at Surrey Police HQ. I can never really underestimate what an achievement this was for me. I also got two articles on the Time To Change Mental Health website, and you can read about the talk I gave here.
I directed the 2nd episode of ‘Moving In’ in August, working with 10 actors and numerous crew on location on the 10 minute film, written and produced by Mark Lever.
During the Paralympics I was interviewed by BBC Three Counties Radio live on air, about the Paralympics and my work. I also went to the closing ceremony which was pretty amazing.
I supported a young filmmaker in Slough to make a short film with a Uscreen Ushoot bursary. All the films were premiered at Pinewood Studios.
I finished the year presenting a 2 day low budget filmmaking workshop which was part of The Together Festival. I was put up by the festival in the Ramada Docklands Hotel, and was a great experience to end the year on (apart from missing the closing night party)
During the year I’ve also continued to work at the Freewheelers Theatre Company, and work on my own projects, which included a short story as well as other TV ideas I’m writing.
I’ve also pushed my feature film comedy in a direction that I think I’ll be really happy with.
This doesn’t include the really personal stuff that I’ve been through this year. It really can be a massive interruption on all the stuff I want to do, although it does give me interesting stuff to write about, and this will be a big project for 2013, as I’ve just finished writing the outline for my autobiography, and I’ll be working on a TV screenplay about mental health.
I often do the ‘3 word plan’ for the year ahead. My 3 words for 2013 are ‘Writing’, ‘Personal’, and ‘Stages’. I’ll blog more about what these mean in another post soon.
In 2013 I’m looking forward to doing much more writing, and looking at the next stage of feature film production. I’m also looking to work as a writer with other organisations, and am especially interested in community projects which culminate in a live performance.
I was selected as one of 50 bursary winners to attend the State of The Arts Conference in Manchester, on 14th February. You can read the twitter stream by looking up the hashtag #SOTA12 and podcasts will be available soon.
OK. Lets start with the really obvious thing, that shouldn’t have been obvious at all.
Throughout the conference, even on the film, there were no subtitles, and no BSL Interpreters. What were ACE thinking? Has it been like this for the past three years?
This was my first year attending the State Of The Arts Conference, and maybe I’ve got used to being surrounded by disabled artists, each of whom have their own access needs. But it was a little shocking for me to be at an arts conference where no access issues had been considered. Please think about this next year.
That’s that out the way.
The actual conference itself was interesting, and definitely worth going to. After the keynote speeches, a lively discussion took place (titled 2012 And Then What?) which drew one blank look from Ed Vaizey MP & some interesting points from others. Key issues were about local councillors not understanding how relevant the Arts are (Ed Vaizey agreed to write to all local councillors to tell them) and (perhaps more obviously) what’s going to happen after the Olympics. I won’t mention the numerous Valentine’s day puns because they were awful.
Kirsty Wark did a brilliant job with the panel, (and throughout the day) particularly with Vaizey, who at times seems to agree to nearly everything people were saying. The sticking point though, was with the issue of Visa’s for international Artists coming to the UK, which proved to be a hot topic for a number of organisations in the audience.
Over all, attending the conference was a good experience, one that I’m glad I went too. I shall be posting about the other sessions in the next few days, so watch this space.
Happy New Year!
I thought I’d start this year by recapping last year. Why do I think last year was so good when I had a family bereavement in January & I was assaulted by 2 'youths' in August? I think, at least for the past year, I've been feeling pretty well, and simply didn't want to let things get in the way of what I was doing - possibly because I had such a terrible 2010. The other reasons are work & funding.
I've done more this year than I ever have, starting with The Freewheelers Theatre Company, who I've been working with since 2007. One of the things I've enjoyed with them this year is that my writing / story telling skills have been used with the Uscreen project. Working with ten students we came up with a zombie story that was fun to plan and make, with some of the Freewheelers being mentors.
Perhaps the best validation of my work came from being selected for Upstream, which was held as part of the Brighton Festival. This was an amazing experience and I met a couple of people who I would love to collaborate with in the future.
I was also involved in Driving Inspiration, a huge project which saw me teaching in schools across the south east.
I met lots of inspiring people and taught 42 young people about filmmaking, making 12 films along the way.
Sync South East came to an end with the Pitch! event. I got to show rushes of my new film The Dog & The Palace, and made some good contacts.
In August I visited the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. This was my 1st time at the Fringe & I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was also great to see the shows, both stand up & theatre.
I was selected for The New Voices Programme in August too, which was all about writing, and with that in September I attended Decibel in Manchester for the 1st time.
This was another great experience & along with writing reviews of shows, I suddenly felt as though I'd just discovered a new art form called 'Theatre'.
As I'm no stranger to theatre (honest!) this was a bit of a surprise, but I think the shows I saw were so varied that it was a mini revelation to see what people could achieve through a diverse mix of art and storytelling.
September also had another highlight as I worked with Rachel Gadsden & Deaf Men Dancing for the first time, filming their workshops at Stoke Mandeville hospital.
My 'personal projects' this year also grew in strength. In April I received Arts Council funding to develop my installation ‘The Dog & The Palace’. I've blogged about this throughout the year.
And in November I received more funding from ACE to complete The installation. This will see me filming in somewhere that looks like a royal palace, and working directly with more people in the film industry this month & next.
I also did well in my writing, taking my wedding comedy feature script onto the next draft, which I now want to take to the next level.
I've also done well on two other scripts, an hour long spec TV script written with Mark Lever, and my 2nd feature screenplay.
So this week I need to hit the ground running, working with others & teaching. Oh, and attending the Paralympics closing ceremony. It'll be a fun year.
Let me say that again.
The Dog & The Palace, my split screen film installation inspired by a dream I had way back in 2009 (complete with original alternate ending) has received a second lot of arts council funding so it can be completed. This means that come January, it’ll be full on finding locations, finding a Queen look a like, and finding a handful of Paralympic / Olympic athletes who’ll agree to take part in the film. And maybe a small crowd too.
It’s scary to think how much it’s actually going to cost, but I really want to make this happen, and when I dreamed of what London would be, feel and sound like immediately after the 2012 Games, putting that on film before it happens, where a number of people will be able to see the finished film before the Olympics even happen (from April onwards) is something that I just can’t miss out on.
Films like 'The King’s Speech', 'Young Victoria' and of course 'The Queen' come to mind. In fact, when I had the dream, a scene very similar to one in 'The Queen' appeared in it.
Those scenes & the ending have been changed, and in the process the film has become much more ambitious, and this now seems a very real possibility.
So with the funding in place, and everyone on board for the phase 2 of The Dog & The Palace, 2012 should be an even more amazing year.
So, that’s it then… Well at least I’ve sent the form off to book the room, now I have to write the thing! Good Lord. What am I on about? I’m on about the 31st October 2012.
That’s right, when everybody’s absolutely stuffed with anything to do with the Olympics and Paralympics (except for my short film of course, which will be playing for many years after ;) 31st October 2012 is when you can all come to the lovely Dorking Halls and hear the first ever read through of my new screenplay, ‘I wonder how far I can get’ – a romantic comedy about a guy who loses his leg.
I’ve provisionally booked the room, so I actually have a date that something (in this case a feature film screenplay) MUST be completed by. Otherwise there will be 100 people (assuming it’s sold out!) who will be very disappointed come 31st October 2012.
It’s kind of scary and strange really, the idea of doing something like this when even I don’t know how I’ll be between now and then. Yet alone wondering how busy I’ll be during the Olympics / Paralympics itself – I am hoping to be involved filming lots of different projects, after all.
Anyway, as if that isn’t enough, I’ll need to find actors and prepare them for the performed reading, with hopefully one rehearsal beforehand, so it goes as well as it can on the night… and finish writing the screenplay.
Anyway, if you can all put 31st October 2012 in your diaries, that would be good, and I’ll let you know when you can get tickets as soon as I know. It’ll have nothing to do with Halloween, but hopefully that’s a plus!
Gary Thomas' new project The Dog & The Palace Film and Workshops has been granted the Inspire Mark, the badge of the London 2012 Inspire Programme. The London 2012 Inspire programme recognises innovative and exceptional projects that are directly inspired by the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Dog & The Palace is about a young boy who is so inspired by watching the 2012 Olympic Games on TV that he decides to write to The Queen of England to say 'Thank You'. He sends her a parcel, a statue of his little dog, and the film follows the journey of the young boy as he persuades his family they should visit London to celebrate the Games.
Seb Coe, Chair, London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games said: “We want to use the power of the Games to inspire change. The Inspire programme is recognising the work our partners all round the UK are doing to help us achieve this vision now. I congratulate everyone involved in The Dog & The Palace Film & Workshops for securing the Inspire mark and wish you every success with your work.”
Working With Storyteller Jon potter, from Company Paradiso, The Project aims to inspire young children in Primary schools to think about what it will be like as they watch the Olympics in 2012, and as London welcomes the whole of the World to watch along side them. St. Joseph's Catholic Primary School in Essex will be the first school to host the workshops, which will also give young children a real insight into filmmaking .
The Film will be produced by Karen Gilchrist with artwork by Christine Wilkinson.
About the Inspire programme: The Inspire programme is run by the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. It is an opportunity for everyone to be a part of the London 2012 Games – a broad participation programme spanning sport participation, education, sustainability, volunteering, and business opportunities & skills. New opportunities are being created to inspire young people and encourage the whole of the UK to join in.
I've been thinking I need to do a new blog post for sometime now so here it is.
I've had a very busy time preparing and then 'doing' upstream, which was a major experience for me and one that I've been more than happy to be a part of. There was so much work I wanted to do in preparation for it that (along with everything else) for two or three weeks beforehand I felt like I didn't even have time to piss (I'm writing that cos I actually thought that a few times in the run up to it!)
So things were very hectic for me and rather exhausting as for one reason or another I didn't get much sleep that whole period which only adds to issues.
However, I knew what I wanted to show and what I needed to do to get it right, and what kind of impact I wanted to make, so along with doing all the PR stuff along side it, it had to be done.
A lot of this work I actually enjoyed, and it was great to be in the local paper as a result of being part of a major festival, and also to be there with everything sorted.
So during the week I was able to network with a few people I didn't know, and some more I haven't seen in a while, and also see some great work from others, which was one of the bonus' of being at the Brighton Festival.
There's so much going on in Brighton during the festival that I'd urge everyone to go, and being part of Upstream means that I now feel confident enough to submit a proposal to the main Brighton Festival for next year. Never done that before, so it'll be interesting to see how that goes. And, as a side note, The Brighton Festival in May 2012 will be the perfect showcase to premiere The Dog & The Palace, my new film.
All that preparation leads me nicely to the work I needed to do for my next event, Pitch! (great name huh?) which I've also been happy to be a part of. Pitch! is the final day of the 2 year Sync South East Development Programme, led by Jo Verrent, Sarah Pickthal, and Hannah Reynolds. The amount of work I've had to do for that, although I'm showing different things, seems far less because of the preparation already done for upstream, and I'm going to show two previews of works in progress, which I think best reflects my current working practice.
I'm looking forward to the day, networking with over 100 people, as well as seeing the 30 individual artists that have shared the development journey for the past two years. More on the impact of this in another blogpost, but the impact of both these programmes seems to be very high for me, both professionally and personally. And the effects of that is likely to continue well into the future.
My brain is all mushy right now and I don't think I could be any more tired unless I was actually giving birth. I'm not, so that's fine.
Anyway, I'm this way because rather than JUST doing loads of prep for the film shoot on Wednesday & Thursday I also went to a comedy writing festival on Saturday and a producers talk on Sunday in London. I stayed overnight in a hotel in Finchley (of all places!) and I got to practice pitch my feature film script to two of the biggest names in indie film producing. Whilst I shall be thinking about the enormity of what happened over the weekend with the pitching thing (and the amount of information gained) for a while to come, I learnt loads, and realised it's a lot about being prepared for opportunities.
And so I now have to put that aside for a moment while I get my mushy head around making a film for the next two days with a 9 year old actor. In Winchester. All of this, as I've written about previously (I think!) has happened pretty fast, and because I'm on twitter (@2weddings, now 600+ followers, I thank you) I was able to get in touch with a casting agent (Leoni Kibbey) who did a great job (in about two weeks) of getting eight 9-12 year olds into audition for my film.
Leoni did all the work so I sat there behind the desk with the producer and thought about whether any of them sound like the voices in my head. Thankfully one of them did, and he was unexpectedly very funny, so we cast him.
So I shall be on the 6.35pm train heading to Winchester with friend who's coming along to help.
I had a meeting yesterday and we went through the outline, which has made me feel much more calmer about what I'm doing, but ultimately I won't know how it'll be till I get there on the day.
I shall have people asking me all sorts of questions and trying to answer them as quickly as possible so we can get things done. I shall then be working with the actors and getting a really good performance out of them. One of whom I've worked with before, and one is a friend, so it actually shouldn't be that bad. But I'm still panicking, and I will do until I get there.
Once there it will be a timely reminder of why I do what I do, and why I'm always looking for opportunities to do it. It'll happen again when I see the footage, and it'll happen again when I get the money to finish the film. Nothing like listening to two independent film producers to convince you that you can do anything.
Go Team Gary!
I didn't write that, a friend put it at the end of an email and it does seem rather apt at the moment. You see, things are moving way faster than I could have imagined, and that's what needs to happen right now because time is indeed of the essence.
How did this happen? I hear you cry. Even if you didn't I'll tell you anyway. I asked a friend I've known for a relatively short time (Christine Wilkinson) if she would write an application to ACE for R&D funding. She said yes, and suggested a couple of other people I should work with, so got in touch with Jon Potter from Company Paradiso & the other one, Karen Gilchrist, I already knew.
And they both know others. Especially Karen, who's pulling a lot of things together. So as we were successful in getting the R&D funding, suddenly we're filming on 13 & 14th April.
I know a casting director from twitter, I got in touch with her & now she's finding lord knows how many child actors to audition this Thursday in London (this is the one task I thought impossible!).
I know an actress to play the mother who I worked with in my last short film, I asked her to read the treatment & now she's on board. I visited filmLondon on Friday to chat to a friend who I haven't seen in ages, & that was really useful & they're going to send me location ideas & a list of venues that we need to think about to show the film.
So, its all coming together. Not slowly this time, but in the time we need to do it. Hooray!
Everyone needs PR even if we're not sure what we're doing or how to do it. If you're an artist its crucial to get your success' out there and let people know about it.
Here is a 'Press release' that I sent to a few people and am putting it here to tell even more people about my journey in the Arts.
Gary Thomas has been selected for UPSTREAM, a major showcase of deaf & disabled artists in the South East. Work will be show as part of the Brighton Festival, 24th - 26th May 2011. A development award has also been given to artists involved to explore further options for working within the arts.
This follows on directly from Gary receiving a grants for the arts award from Arts Council England for a separate Research & Development Project, 'The Queen & My Little Doggy', a split screen installation film set a few days AFTER the London 2012 Olympics & Paralympics.
Both these opportunities have really given me the confidence to go for the things I want and to achieve the best quality work that I can. The Queen & My Little Doggy is a hugely ambitious film installation and being selected for Upstream with two previous works proves that the work I do is going in the right direction, and is definitely worth doing. I am now involved in three separate Accentuate Projects, Driving Inspirations (as filmmaker teaching students), Sync South East (as a mentee) and now Upstream.
The Arts have given me the opportunity to come off benefits and move into self employment, which proves that people's lives can change because of the Arts, no matter what form it's in. This simply proves how vital it is to keep these opportunities running through 2012 and beyond.
Gary is also working on a number of other projects including a Wedding Comedy feature screenplay (2 Weddings) and a number of TV spec pilots.
More information about me, as ever is on my website here
I've recently subscribed to Chris Brogan's blog posts email, which contains useful information and suggestions on what to write about. The recent email is all about confidence, and suggests writing a post on where I'm headed, so here it is.
Er.... Who knows? Really, I mean I think about where I'm heading a lot, and as much as I like having plans, things conspire to interfere. Now, sometimes what happens when 'things' interfere with plans is WAY more interesting than the original plan. And that's what interests me the most. There are some things that have happened that I could never really have planned. I think you just need to be prepared for those moments.
A good example is my recent success with Arts Council. I applied for Research and Development funding for The Queen and My Little Doggy, and was successful. (Yay!)
So over the next few weeks, along with everything else I want to do, there will be a period of very intense work on my split screen installation film, which will form the basis of a major piece of work that will be completed by very early next year.
Will anything happen to interfere with that work? Of course it will. Already two people who I want to work with are unavailable, so that means working with others, but that's just given me time to remember the others. So I have lots of choices to make, and need to find people who I want to collaborate with based on who they are and what they can do.
So with that in mind, the next month or so will be really interesting, I'll be doing things that I've never done before (again) and working with some new people too. All very exciting, really.
I've been talking to a couple of people recently about ambitions. Okay, mainly my ambitions, but certainly ambitions.
You see, I want to aim quite high, so at a recent arts meeting in London (more to be revealed eventually!) I stated in a sort of unsure voice in a room full of disabled artists - “I want to be mainstream”.
And then, after a pause: “I want to be nominated for the Turner Prize.” Yep. That's what I said. And now I've written it down. Shit me. Silly isn't it?
Well, nope, not really. Definitely not silly. You see, I'm an artist and filmmaker, and albeit I didn't go to Central St. Martins or where ever most artists go to study, I've had funding from the Arts Council, I've been commissioned, I've had a short film bought by a distributor in LA.
So why shouldn't we look at our work and say 'I want to win...' whatever it is that will take your career to the next level?
But where on earth do I get these notions from?
Chris set out to make a short film and said, in a rather public way: “I want to win an Oscar.” He asked people for money, got the money, and made a film that reached the final round of voting in the Oscars, just before they chose the actual nominations. They missed out on an Oscar, but the got very very close, and made a good film because of it. Which got people's attention. And although Chris is a 'mainstream' filmmaker (I'm assuming that) there's a lot we can learn from everyone who put themselves out there.
They documented the process & they've now put it online with interviews, clips, and everything you need to look at your filmmaking journey.
I'm on section 3 of the course at the moment, and already there's been some valuable insights into where I am, and what to do next. Some of which has reconfirmed what I already know, others have been first time insights. And when I get to the next stage of the course, there will be more. If the film-making journey is something you'd like to learn more about, I'd definitely recommend taking the course yourself.
In a short while, I'm going to be blatantly asking people for money. I need to think about how I do this seriously, how can I do it with the right support from people etc, and how I can do it legally too. I want to make a major work set a couple of days after the 2012 London Olympics.
It's not something I can do on a low budget, so will be needing all the support from people and companies that I can convince. Although it's a 'short split screen film' it'll be a major work... So who's with me?