I’ve never ever done new years resolutions. I think it’s cos I heard all those jokes about all those people joining the gym in January and never going again. From the first time I heard about them I remember thinking it’s not a very good idea. I mean, if you really want to do something why wait? Why not do it now?
If I do have something in mind that I want to do, and I can do it whenever, i.e. it doesn’t take money or anything else to do, I’ll make sure I start it before the new year is up, so I don’t think it’s a ‘new year resolution’.
What I have found interesting, and what I do like doing, is 3 words for the year. I found this a while back from another film maker who linked to Chris Brogan’s website. He was the first person who explained what the 3 words were, and I really liked the idea of doing it, how you only have 3 words to choose, and how it can focus you through the rest of the year, as long as you remember what those words are. I’ll explain my 3 words for this year and tell you what they mean to me, but it’s definitely worth looking at Chris Brogan’s explanation of them too.
My 3 words for 2013 are in no particular order... (drumroll please!)
Writing will always be there no matter what, I’ve been writing since I was 14 and haven’t stopped yet. It’s almost a given that its going to be one of the words ever year. I was deciding whether this word should be writing or rewriting, but rewriting means I’ve done loads of work beforehand, and I haven’t. So, although it’s a given, and if its used to focus myself on what I want to do more of, then it definitely earns its place there.
Personal is an interesting word to me. I could have chosen ‘Honest’, but I didn’t think that covered everything. I could be honest but that doesn’t mean that anything I’m saying is personal to me, I’m just not lying.
1. [attributive] belonging to or affecting a particular person rather than anyone else;
2. done or made by a particular person; involving the actual presence or action of a particular individual;
3. of or concerning one’s private life, relationships, and emotions rather than one’s career or public life;
4. an inappropriate or offensive way: he had the cheek to make personal remarks
Explanations 1 and 3 (from the Oxford online dictionary) are really what I mean here. I could be honest but not state my personal views, where if one of my words for the year is personal, well, I need to try and be that.
What if I wrote a screenplay that contained my own personal views of religion? Of mental health? social workers? (I could go on…) Surely it would mean more to me, and possibly have greater depth to my writing than previous scripts.
But also in my Facebook posts, twitter feed – why shouldn’t I be personal, not censor myself, share more of me than I do now? And the key thing – not worry about it afterwards.
That’s a big challenge in my writing, and even more so this year as I’m writing my autobiography. Which brings me to:
Big projects can be broken down in stages. The way I believe I can write my autobiography now is that I’ve spent a while on the outline and planning, deciding which structure to use, and breaking it down accordingly. The same is true with scripts, each outline, each 10 or 30 pages, each draft can be it’s own ‘stage’ of the process.
But also, theatres have stages too. And I want to spend more time on them, whether it’s writing for the stage or working with actors on stage(s). Film studios have sound stages, rehearsal stages… well, you get the idea.
So those are my 3 words of the year. And in terms of number 1, writing, I’ll keep you informed of how I’m doing every time I’m stuck for a blog post subject.
What would your 3 words be if you had to choose? Feel free to leave a comment below.
If you want to check how I’m doing, especially to see if I'm being 'personal', do join my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/garythomasfilms
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’ve been thinking about a couple of posts I saw recently. Well, one on Facebook and one article in the local paper. Both were about suicide, and the one on Facebook in particular mentioned that the person who knew the man who committed suicide had no idea he felt that way.
Which left me thinking about why I, and others like me, don’t talk. I’m not going to go on about any male ego bullshit, I’m trying to come up with helpful answers. Stuff that I’m not 100% sure about, but may help people who want to understand.
I had my therapy appointment today at 10am, and this was actually something I was looking forward to, a space to talk about how my anxious feelings have been getting worse. This appointment was cancelled at 9.10am today. No apology, just cancelled with a phone call.
Which left me in a bit of a turmoil, because while I’m quite lucky in that I have others to talk to, I knew I would go through a number of excuses and thoughts and feelings before I made that call. And in the end I texted. Because it was easier for me.
So I’m wondering, on what grounds would people, who ever they are, not tell anyone how desperate they were?
I go through a number of things when I want to talk to someone. Standard thoughts of ‘I’m not worthy’, or I don’t know what they’re doing’, or I want to be in the right ‘frame of mind’ come up, along with feelings of being incredibly nervous and wondering, before anything happens, what the conversation is going to be like. I’m often thinking I’m going to run out of things to say, and that’s going to be just awkward.
There are other thoughts too, but they all boil down to feelings of self worth, and that maybe I am taking up someone’s time.
The truth is, of course I am taking up their time, but they wouldn’t have given me there number, or spoken to me, or known me all these years for that to be a problem.
This original quote has been attributed many times to Nelson Mandella, but it was actually Marianne Williamson who said it in first in her book ‘A Return To Love’, which I think is a good point:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?"
What that means to me is that you might help another person out by making that call. By sharing with others they may then go on to help you, or help someone else, because you've shared something personal.
So that other person who you connect could be more empowered - by you. In fact, who are you to not make that phone call. To not tell someone how you are feeling?
Latest update: My Therapist has been signed off for the next two weeks.
“Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.”
sometime attrributed to Dr. Seuss, and sometimes to Gabriel García Márquez in Spanish:
"No llores porque ya se terminó... sonríe, porque sucedió."
I received an email last month from Ardent Hare saying that they were closing. You can read the original release here.
So Ardent Hare, or DADA-South as they were known, is no more. When I linked to the newsletter on my Facebook page, I said 'sad-face' because I was genuinely sad about it. Then I thought, I must mention the Upstream Festival in Brighton, because that was one of the best times I've ever had.
But then I thought back, so let me take you back... to 2003.
I received a phone call from Surrey Arts. They told me about the Go Make Bursary, which I’d not heard about before, and said they needed more applications.
Only a year before I had been hugely inspired by Finnish Artist Eija Lissa Ahtila exhibition at Tate Modern, and I was thinking of exploring those ideas and formats in my own work.
I already had a finished script, 'Coming Out', written in three columns, which was my way of exploring similar formats in artist film.
I immediately saw the Go Make bursary was a way of getting it funded.
I filled in the application form, and few weeks later was surprised to find that it had been accepted.
The film was made with a small crew, and with actors who I'd never met before, and was a great experience, as was having it shown at the launch in Brighton, which was my first gallery showing of one of my films.
I remember that time fondly, as it was my first proper commission, but mostly I realise how far I've come since then.
Around 2007 I was accepted on to their mentoring programme and was mentored by Sarah Scott. This was such a great place to be in as I got to talk about my ideas and share ways of working. The main thing that I still remember from that time is Sarah's advice that the days where I don't do anything, or am unable to function, can be just as creative as the days where I do stuff. They can be creative thinking time, or rest time, and I now have a different way of seeing those days.
In 2008 I received a bursary to attend DADAFest in Liverpool. This was the first time that I was able to go on a trip where travel & accommodation was paid for, and it was great to see DADAFest for the fist time too, and again, met a number of new people.
In late 2010 I found out that I had been selected for Upstream, a major festival which would run alongside The Brighton Festival 2011. This was one of the best times I've ever had, meeting new people, staying in Brighton, and seeing the festival up close for the first time. A couple of friends were also selected, along with a few new people I hadn’t met before, and still keep in touch with.
The strength of any organisation belongs with the people involved, whomever they are and however they operate. And its these people that will take those skills and the organisation to where ever they want to go.
I'd personally like to thank everyone at Ardent Hare for their support, encouragement and commitment to the arts in general, as well as to me and my work.
Its their dedication and commitment to the organisation that have got it known World Wide, and, whilst it is a shame it no longer exists, without it being there in the first place, myself and so many others would not have had the opportunities to make or present their work.
Bionic People was the 3rd and final event in the series 'Specimens to Superhumans' run by The Arts Catalyst, with support from Shape and DADAFest and funded by The Wellcome Trust.
Those of you who’ve known me for a while may know that I’ve done boxing & wrestling for some time. (Although I haven’t done either for a couple of years).
You may also know that a few years ago I had a photo-shoot which I wore my ‘Disabled’ T-shirt.
That idea came about because I was so pissed of with having to explain why I had hidden disabilities and what they were, that I decided to start blatantly telling people.
It was really me saying, “Yeah, there not obvious, but I have serious issues that you need to be aware of, and before you assume I’m not entitled to any help, let me explain…”
As it turned out, I pretty quickly got sick of explaining stuff (surely the irony of a department called ‘Access to Work’ isn’t lost on everyone from the DWP?)
Anyway, fairly recently I’ve been thinking about words and images, and what I put out into the world, the image I project, and I wonder if that’s the image that I WANT for myself. That absolutely, doesn’t mean to say that it isn’t true. In fact the issues that I’ve had have intensified over the past few months, which means it’s just as valid now as it was then.
But while that’s still true, being an artist, I can play with people’s heads, and put out a different image of me from that one. One that perhaps (sometimes) I identify with even more.
As I’ve been longing to go back to the boxing club but haven’t made it there yet, and talking to people on Facebook about cage fighting, (training, not actual fighting) and haven’t done that for a while either, I’m thinking maybe this new image of me would boost the chances of me doing something about it.
So with that in mind, here are a few new images of me, taken by me.
Probably the most interesting session for me was the first session about the audience. It certainly presented a different way of thinking. The main speakers were Alastair Spalding from Sadlers Wells and Helen Marriage from Artichoke, who produced the Sultan’s Elephant outdoor spectacle as well as The ‘Spider’ in Liverpool in 2008.
Alastair was interesting in that he started by talking about the iPhone, saying that no one could really imagine 10 years ago that there would be a phone like that.
Alastair focussed on William Forsythe, choreographer. He showed two clips of work taken 25 years apart. He spoke about taking radical steps, which is key, and challenging perceptions of contemporary performance.
Keeping audience actively informed is a challenge, but a must for his theatre. There were also some interesting thoughts about audience:
- Audiences generally have no complaints about complexity.
- They are still drawn to narrative – no matter how complex.
- But they are also happy when there’s no narrative.
- They also respond to intellectual versuosity – exploring the nature of performance.
As audience become increasingly multi-national they are drawn to work that reflects diversity.
He did mention reviews – and how to respond to negative ones – put on more of the same work. He presented a ‘Forsythe Season’, and the audience became more informed, and the work became more validated.
Helen spoke about her work – large scale outdoor pieces. As a producer she knows that lives can be better from seeing art, and it’s her job to imagine the impossible and make it happen.
The greatest communication tools for Helen were secrecy, timing and surprise. This was interesting for me - and if you have the support of a venue like Sadlers Wells that will put on your work every year then great. But what of those artists struggling to find such a venue and / or producers?
The session certainly raised questions for me. I’ve now made eight films. What do people expect from me next? Do my 800 + twitter followers really care about what I do next?
How many of them would buy a DVD of my films if I released one? (800 x £15.99 = £12,792). That’s quite a lot.
So again, it goes back to the audience. For me as a filmmaker, that’s simple and something I’ve been thinking about for a long time, and as an artist, it actually hasn’t changed my thinking. I think essentially we simply want people to turn up and see the work.
Though for my next steps, it may be more to do with my writing than anything I’m currently doing at the moment. But with the element of surprise in mind, that’s all I’m saying at the moment.
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.
For those of you who've been offended by someone recently who I'll just simply refuse to name, his comedy writing partner, Stephen Merchant, seems to be a bit different.
A friend had tickets to see Stephen Merchant at Hammersmith Apollo, London, and I went, with slight trepidation. Was he going to be as offensive as Ricky Gervais? (Damn, OK, I had to mention him) Was I going to sit there & cringe most of the way through? Was I?
Well, no, as it turned out, I didn't at all. Stephen Merchant's stand up doesn't rely on making fun & crude remarks about the worst affected in society. Merchant picks arguably the most difficult subject: himself.
As he does so, the show, part autobiography, part exaggeration (I'm assuming!) follows some of his journey from his first awkward moments of fame (He's 6ft 7in tall, after all) to the even more awkward moments of dating and finding love.
And back to an even more awkward moment re-enacting one of the first plays he ever got performed in High school. The show worked well, and while some may find it offensive 'just because', I had a good time.
Stephen Merchant is on tour till 12th December
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.
This may sound silly, but I've ummed a lot over the past month about how personal my blog posts should be, as potentially EVERYONE I know could read them (I'm tempted to say here 'they won't', but I'm not going too).
The past month has been difficult because my step dad died on 23 January, and I've been wondering how and whether I should write about it. I've decided that I'm going to, as it all fits in with the whole notion of things being difficult, things going slowly, things not going right, which after all, if you're disabled all that stuff happens anyway.
So when my step dad died I set myself a month before I got back into things fully again, and that month is nearly up. Trouble is, I still want to sleep more than normal, I still don't really want to do that many things, I still don't really want to be in 'full swing'. And there in lies the thought:
When the hell have I EVER been in full swing? One of the movies on my list still to watch (I have many on that list) is 'Girl Interrupted'. (I've also had a really strong urge to watch Six Feet Under)
Girl Interrupted is about a girl in a mental asylum in the 1960s. As I say I haven't seen it yet, its on my computer waiting for me to be in the 'right mood' to watch it. But I think the title sums up what its like when we all have issues come up that affect our lives.
This past year I've been struggling a lot with an issue that I haven't had to deal with very much for over 10 years, and so things have been going really slow, and you could say I've been very ill. This has been a HUGE interruption in what I want to do with my life and unfortunately it hasn't gone away as quickly or easily as I'd hoped.
I've come to the conclusion that a lot of this is down to my own expectations, both in the ones that I have for myself (all these things that I want to do) and with what I can 'realistically' cope with. This one in particular has been a battle raging in my head ever since I can remember. So, if I didn't have these expectations of myself, then I wouldn't have to do so much, right?
Trouble is there ARE things that excite me, new opportunities, and things that I really want to do.
So I still have things on my list, like finishing the next draft of my feature script, arranging meetings, making a showreel for my new website, finishing courses, writing up a fundraising document... and another, and another...
If you know me, you can drop me a gentle email towards the end of March asking me how I'm doing with any of this stuff. I'll reply to it, though I'm not sure how quick I'll be.
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?
Originally written on 5th October 2010.
I'm in a hotel in Buckingham as I write this and there is very little 3G signal. A couple of days ago I felt like shit. Truly awful, and I think I'm experiencing for the first time in my life (having had severe depression since I was 14) the 'black dog' that so many have spoken of.
All entirely ironic, considering I am thinking about a piece of film for the 'It Gets Better Campaign.' I'm thinking about it having not seen many of the videos. I'm not sure I would have the guts or whatever to look into a camera and talk about my experiences, although this is definitely something I would like to be okay with. But for now, or until I can use a couple of actors for a day and tell a story to a Melissa Etheridge song, here is what I have to say on the subject.
I was born with a flat nose and a cleft pallet. I couldn't talk properly until I was 9. I've spent the early part of my life from the age of 5 up until 24 in and out of hospital having operations. I had people making fun of me since I can remember until I was 17.
I've had depression since I was 14. I spent most of the last two years of my high school bunking off, wondering around a park, sometimes crying, nearly always listening to music, wondering why the hell I was born. Wondering what the hell I am going to do, and wondering when it's all going to end. And can I make it end? I couldn't see a future. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and I thought I'd be dead by the time I'm 30.
There is no reason on Earth why I should be where I am now. In May this year I was filmed at the BFI talking about film development for the Uscreen website. A couple of months ago I was directing my first online comedy drama.
This time last year I was in LA pitching a wedding comedy feature script. The year before that I was paid to go to the Liverpool Disability Arts Festival DADAFest. The same year I went to Cannes Film Festival for the first time and sold my short film Early One Summer to a Hollywood Distributor.
I use film as a way of communication, as a way to express what I'm interested in, my ideas, my thoughts about the world. I use actors to tell stories with words that I've written. I use the written word to explore how I feel, and to explore different characters and scenarios that interest me. Last year in LA was one of the high points of my life. So was going to Liverpool in 2008. So was receiving my Arts Council funding in 2006, and so was receiving my first commission from DADA-South in 2003. All of this revolved around me making work that I'm passionate about. No matter how its received.
Getting excited about my feature script keeps me excited, keeps me thinking about those high points, and how I can achieve more of them, and how I can make opportunities happen. I pretty much do that with everything because I've just never been the sort of person to say 'make this, you keep the profits, I'll just write it...' or (more to the point) I thought I'd have to make stuff myself, because no one would take a chance on me because of the limited experience I've had.
A lot of that's now changed, and its a different game. Life is about taking opportunities, not thinking (so much) about the dark times, but carrying on through them, by any means necessary. Even if that means screaming for help from people you know, or from people you don't. I don't have a problem with saying 'please do this for me' now, and likewise I don't have a problem with going after what's important until I have it.
It gets better if you go after what you believe in. It gets better if you find something you're passionate about and put your efforts in that. It gets better as you get older, and for the most part, even the difficult times become slightly easier to get through.
I am an intellectual. No, I'm not just saying that to show off or anything, I did an online quiz at www.oprah.com and it told me so. It also said my need for helping others was my lowest score, (no surprise there) and creativity was up there in the highest marks (12 points) but my thirst for knowledge was paramount (14 points).
I wonder if this is why I'm feeling frustrated at the moment, which I really am right now. I would like to use this frustration to take risks that would mean I can get on with the work that I so want to do, but this all requires money, and there's the sticking point. So what to do? So many things revolve around money, but it takes other people to also make decisions (and I'm not talking about mental health or any systems here) so, should that be a reason why I can't get on and do stuff?
I can't progress with the choices I have until I have the money to do so. Although, that's not strictly true, I can write stuff, I can write an application, I can rewrite my feature screenplay. I can do quite a bit of writing really, though anything else pretty much relies on me having funding.
A friend put a post on Facebook I noticed which said, without Capitalism there wouldn't be any mental health problems. I thought this was kind of interesting, and actually hard for me to argue against.
Although, I'm sure if I lived somewhere without the 9-5 working hours and pressure on jobs etc. mental health 'issues' would still be around. Probably arising from boredom and frustration...
Which brings me back to where I am now. And out of that, I can only hope I'll grow, and change. But its a slow process, unless anyone has a spare five grand they want to donate, in which case I'll possibly be less frustrated...
This post was written on Friday 23 July 2010
Fifth day of shooting Moving In and I am realising why film is not art. I'm also realising that it takes a whole load of people (and we don't have a whole load of people) to make things happen, and I also realise that I'm coping relatively well with the responsibility, as the crew we do have is very good. The actors are good too.
Yesterday was a bit of a f*** up as we'd planned to do a load of scenes in the kitchen with all the actors, and for various reasons some of them couldn't make it. There's so much pre-production that hasn't been done or will be done last minute that it's a bit of a problem, along with people trying to do other things besides making the film.
What I am enjoying though (and what is art) is watching the actors perform, and working with the crew who then come up with ideas for how its shot, and me with my own ideas telling the actors what I want. Again, as in most of my films, this hasn't happened very often, as (most of) the actors we have are good.
Over a week long shoot, by yesterday I felt a hell of a lot more able to tell actors what I wanted, to say 'no' to some of their ideas and to remind them to say things if they do some thing that works well / sounds good. One scene had to be improvised between us as the locations changed last week, but we got it done on the day.
So we have about 20 pages left to do over the next 3 days, and as much as I don't want to tempt fate, we may not even need the last day at all.
Though I expect we will.
NOTE: We did need the last day of filming, though that was only five scenes, including a reshoot of one scene we'd already done.
The first of these blog posts were written whilst filming 'Moving In', a couple of weeks ago on Sunday 18th July 2010.
I am currently on the train to Portsmouth. Despite being disabled I have managed to bring two rucksacks and two suitcases with me. Hence, I may well be hideously stressed by the end of the journey. I'm going to Portsmouth to direct a half hour film that my friend has written, about four students who discover life, love etc... and I think it'll be good.
Hopefully it will be better than good. But I have a feeling it'll be marred by the severe emotional pain that I've been feeling recently to do with some thing that happened 14 years ago. (Those of you who've seen 'Madness as a form of relaxation', will have an idea).
I'm trying not to think about what happened, but its been hard right now, especially when I can see that I need to use the experience to put the support in place, that I need. (I often ask myself 'What do I need to learn from this?) But I've had trouble arranging that support, mainly due to everybody else (well, nearly everyone) being so stupid.
So I've been distracting myself by various means including listening to Wayne Dyer's The Power of Intention, which I love listening to, especially the last chapter. I'm currently listening to Lady Gaga, which has a slightly different meaning. But it's much more fun.
So when I get to Portsmouth I'll be meeting a friend, and some of the actors who I'll be working with. We're going to do a promo shoot and then get together with cast and crew at a pub this evening. Tomorrow we're having a first read-though of the script, which I'm sure will throw up all sorts of comments and hopefully more 'jokes' or I should say, comedy.
As I'm directing for the next week, I've been thinking about the kind of director I want to be. In all my short films so far I've kind of done everything, (producer, writer, director). This shoot has been good as my friend has been producing it. I've been working with him on the script editing, and writing the shooting script (how to turn a 39 page document into a 44 page document – add camera directions!) So now its the week where real directing will happen.
I want to remain with the actors, work with them closely. But in all my films, I've been surprised how little 'directing' there's actually been. That's mainly because I've been very lucky with the actors I've got (may that continue). So, as it's a collaboration, we've come together. They have their own ideas and I have mine. During the audition process, if the ideas meet in some way, then that's who I want in my film. This happened in Early One Summer, where Graeme Dalling got the part because the look that he gave Charlie Ross, the teacher, was exactly the look I had in my head. And I wanted to work with him.
So I'll be blogging about “Moving In” and the progress through post production and beyond, as well as my current arts practice, and what projects I'm most excited about.