This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit disabilityarts.online.

Disability Arts Online

> > > Gary Thomas

End of Year Round Up

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.
 

Posted by Gary Thomas, 27 December 2012

Last modified by Gary Thomas, 27 December 2012

My life through the Hare. (DADA-South)

Ardent Hare Logo

“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.   
 

Posted by Gary Thomas, 4 November 2012

Last modified by Gary Thomas, 4 November 2012

Bionic People - Two day filmmaking workshop

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.

A 2 day filmmaking workshop was run by John Williams, who's made a number of short films including the award winning ‘Paraphernalia’, about a child’s complex feelings towards his robotic dialysis machine.
As a filmmaker myself I was asked to review the event for DAO & take part, and what you see above is my video response to the workshops. 
The final two films will be shown as part of a filmnight at DaDaFest on 21st August.
 
http://vimeo.com/47001408 

Posted by Gary Thomas, 12 August 2012

Last modified by Trish Wheatley, 12 August 2012

State of the Arts 2012 Conference Sessions (Blog 2)

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. 

Posted by Gary Thomas, 29 February 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 2 March 2012

My 2011

 

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.

 

 

Posted by Gary Thomas, 2 January 2012

Last modified by Gary Thomas, 2 January 2012

The Dog & The Palace, Phase 2

Hooray!

Let me say that again.

Hooray!!

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.

Posted by Gary Thomas, 24 November 2011

Last modified by Gary Thomas, 24 November 2011

Save the Date! - 31st October 2012

 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!

 

Posted by Gary Thomas, 14 November 2011

Last modified by Gary Thomas, 14 November 2011

Gary asks what is the difference between film, and artist film & video?

As I walked around Tate Modern in 2002 I was struck by so many things while watching Eija-Liisa Ahtila's work. My main question was, 'Why is this Art?'

How is it the Arts Council don't fund film yet this has clearly been deemed as art by others with suitable knowledge? This was before I spent a year working on my first Arts Council application with Abbie Norris, and before I was successful in receiving my first commission from DADA-South (largely inspired by Eija's work).

During that time I embarked on my own research and began to try and answer the question, what makes film 'Artist Film & Video'?

Do you just watch work sometimes and think 'What the hell?' Sometimes I’m happy that questions like ‘What is Art?’ and ‘What is artist film and video?’ are rhetorical. You ask them, then the questions echo for a while. But you never get a straight answer.

Artist film and video is complex, and to look at all works even from British Artists would take months, maybe years. In my research I started with the Turner Prize, as there was a group of people who had already decided that this was art.

Looking at work by Gillian Wearing, and then later on by nominees such as Phil Collins and Jeremy Deller, I questioned lots of things about the work, but ultimately came to a few conclusions:
1. Sometimes it is artist film and video because the artist has made it (particularly looking at Deller’s video documentary on George Bush & the Iraq War).
2. Sometimes it is quite extraordinary, and is far removed from ‘narrative’ cinema, like Julian Rosefeldt's five-screen installation masterpiece ‘American Night’, shown at the BFI Gallery in 2010. 'I was concerned about what was going on in the world… like Iraq… and so I’m always wanting to make my own artistic comment on that without being too explicit…' Julian Rosefeldt explained at the BFI, 2010.
4. It nearly always comments on something (says the write up).
5. Sometime in the 1970's artists were just looking for ways to experiment, and when you look at them a while later sometimes you just think: 'What the hell?' (Like some of Rebecca Horn's video work – or maybe I just missed the point on this one).

The reason I was so interested in this is because the Arts Council had an interesting phrase they used after explaining what they do and don’t fund when it comes to film. Firstly, what you can apply for: 'the production of artists’ moving image work, for example work related to the visual arts or other art-form practice (e.g. dance), for galleries, cinemas, the public realm, publishing, broadcast or online exhibition or distribution.'

That says cinema, right? But as long as it’s about something related to the visual arts. So that short horror film you’re thinking of? No. But a horror / zombie dance film working with a top choreographer? Maybe…

So, what won’t they fund: 'film, video or digital production and cinema exhibition, unless it is in support of artists’ work in the moving image.' And the second part of that phrase seems to crop up everywhere.

So here's my own statement on artist film & video:

Artist film and video is often experimental, often on more than one screen. It is sometimes incoherent, and sometimes understandable by its audience (not that that should mean anything). It can be perplexing or 'mundane', and is not something that a large group of people would understand straight away. It can be any length, from 0.1 seconds, to 24 hours or more, and can be completely original, or made up from archive footage. Above all, it should not have a straight forward narrative (unless its making a point about straight forward narratives).

There you go. An answer. For now.

Posted by Colin Hambrook, 29 October 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 7 November 2011