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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

State of The Arts Conference, 14th Feb 2012 (Blog1)

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. 

Posted by Gary Thomas, 16 February 2012

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 17 February 2012

Gary Thomas takes his film script forward after some successful pitching...

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.

Posted by Gary Thomas, 12 April 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 14 April 2011

PR Sweetie!

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.

Gary Says:
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

Posted by Gary Thomas, 25 March 2011

Last modified by Gary Thomas, 25 March 2011

Gary Thomas asks AM I ready to move on?

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.

Posted by Gary Thomas, 28 February 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 1 March 2011

Gary Thomas on what we can learn from 'everyone else'

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?

One such influence is Chris Jones,  and his filmmaking course which I have just started taking this weekend. 

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?

Posted by Gary Thomas, 13 February 2011

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 13 February 2011

Gary Thomas on frustration, risk & money.

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...

Posted by Gary Thomas, 20 August 2010

Last modified by Colin Hambrook, 20 August 2010