Super excited to announce numerous things I’ll be working on this year:
In December last year, shortly after a friend posted about it on Facebook, I applied to The Wandsworth Fringe for funding to do a new version of my one man play ‘Hidden’ during the fringe in May.
This was one of the few funding applications I’ve done all on my own (including the budget!) and I was delighted when I found out I was successful. Yay! So this means I’ll be producing my one man play as part of the Wandsworth Fringe festival. The show will be upstairs above the Bedford Pub, in Theatre N16 in Balham.
It’s great to look at Hidden again, and I’m expanding it too and have some good ideas thanks to a workshop I did last October at Sheer Drop theatre, who I’d recommend working with if you’re interested in getting feedback for your play and hearing it read out.
The next exciting news is that I’ve just been successful with the second arts council grant (G4A) for ‘Sectioned’, a film installation I’m working on, inspired by John O’ Donoghue’s life story. It’s amazing to have the funding for this because as well as filming for it last year, this year it will be shown at Fabrica Gallery in Brighton as part of a Making Space week, which marks the first time in 13(!) years I’ve been in a gallery as an individual artist (rather than a group show). The showing will take place on 8th June.
The next news is that I’m directing ‘Extra Time’, a time travel film, and we’ll be filming the fourth (and final) day in June. This is a 21 page script written & produced by Mark Lever, and we’ve filmed over a while, and it’s coming together nicely. We’re hoping to have a screening early next year and a Q&A with our cast (including Dr. Who co star Louise Jameson), so we’ll be working hard on that to get it ready in time.
Not to mention the writing I’ve been doing. I’ve been working with a script editor, which has been a really good experience, writing my TV spec treatment and outline for Episode 1 of my comedy drama. This is a spec script, so I have no idea what will happen to it, but I’m happy with the progress I’ve made so far.
Plus the new draft of the book (which I’m trying not to think about yet) and numerous other things in the back of my mind...
It sure makes for an interesting first half of 2016 at least!
I’ve just seen Jurassic World. And whilst it didn’t have any obvious disabled characters in it (apart from after someone’s survived being half eaten) it really got me thinking about my place in the world as a story teller. What would my franchise be? What is my career path as a director? I’ve been making short films since 2003. It’s now 2015. That’s over ten years of making films, most of which have been funded by Arts Council England.
I find myself, as I’m about to make two films this year, in a sort of crisis of confidence. Having finished my memoir, I’ve had loads of fun writing it, and rather shockingly, found it a lot ‘easier’ than I have writing a screenplay.
And now my next story, which I want to be my first novel, has worked its way up into my brain so its now ready for me to write about. And I only had this story idea for a couple of years at the most. These things normally take much longer to rise to the top of the surface.
Which is why I’m thinking about what I’m doing. Do I want to continue to make films?
Do I want to continue to work with actors?
Do I want to raise money for my own projects?
Yes, although not as much, I also want to work with other producers who can get a project off the ground, gain financing and has experience with this.
Do I want to write books?
I’ve never done this before 2013. But now, suddenly, it’s something I want to concentrate on. Maybe I’m over thinking things. Maybe the autobiography and the one man play ‘Hidden’ worked because it was so truthful, and actually, I’m a writer. It doesn’t matter what the medium is.
Maybe it just needs to be truthful, and it’ll work better than the other things I’ve written. Maybe its just that I’ve finally got, after years of studying, that I need to write things I’m passionate about. But see I thought I was doing that, with the ideas and themes I was writing about. But maybe I wasn’t.
Maybe I was too afraid to be THAT personal. Instead I wrote about the coming out story, then I wrote about weddings, then I wrote about the girl who was the worst person to be in that situation. Because that’s conflict. And actually, that’s still a really good idea. I just need to make it personal.
And the good writing will follow. How did I get here from Jurassic World? In thinking what my franchise might be, it might not set the box office a light, it might be in books. And maybe that’s OK. Or maybe it’s fine to do both, and I’ll be happy at doing both once I start writing from passion. After all, I am a writer.
It’s almost a month since I went to the annual London Screenwriters Festival, and as with previous years, it was a great experience. It was made easier this year (awesomely easier) by the fact that I gave up my pitching ticket at around 4pm the day before I pitched.
The festival runs from the Friday – Sunday, and like most years, they do optional training that week. So I was super excited (awesomely exited) to go to the Lee Jessup Career Transformation Day. This was exciting to me because whilst the festival is often (though not exclusively) writing focused they have other sessions as well, and this was a whole day about a writing career rather than technical writing.
I was hesitant because these days are on top of the festival ticket, but the week before I decided it would be worth doing a whole day of extra learning for forty quid. And learning about Hollywood too.
I wasn’t disappointed. I was really interested in stuff about branding yourself as a writer, and actionable steps about what we can do.
There were brief exercises for the day, in which we looked at our favourite movies and genres we liked to write in. We also got to write out a ‘personal narrative’ worksheet, and although we didn’t have to share this with anyone, I found myself still reluctant to write out the honest things about myself, though after a few minutes I did. (Irony alert – I’ve been writing my autobiography for god’s sake)
One of the many other things that was great to find out about was a writers portfolio, and what it should consist of. And then it hit me. Why am I pitching when I don’t really have anything ready?
A while longer I realised – this is why I pitched 3 different things to different people last year. All at ‘OK’ stages (ok, one of them wasn’t even started, but I was honest about that when I pitched), and the execs I pitched to actually liked the ideas! And that was a year ago, and as a friend pointed out in the lunch queue during the weekend: “Why haven’t you made any progress with this, you’ve had A YEAR.” Which is true (it’s also true that I’ve written my autobiography and produced my one-man play, but that’s beside the point).
So as I was sitting thinking about one pagers on Thursday, I emailed asking if someone else can use my pitch ticket if I don’t, and they could. So I gave it up. I now know exactly what I need for next year. I can still take baby steps in accomplishing them, and I actually am good deal of the way there already. I’m just not all there.
But not pitching had the additional effect of a much calmer festival attendance. I wasn’t fretting or panicking, it was just great to be there and learn things from all the sessions I attended. I gave a number of people my business card. I met someone from Channel 4 after a session (who I was going to pitch to) and got to ask them the questions I needed to know about, and left the festival not only on a high, having met old and new friends, but also with a clear plan of action for next year.
Since then, I’ve been listening to the archive of talks from past festivals (available to you if you buy a ticket for the 2015 festival) and learning more. Being more inspired, and looking back at my notes. Working on my scripts (now that I’ve done the last piece of work on my book (yay!) and whilst ideas for specific projects don’t come to me so easily, by next year, I’ll have a solid year of screen writing. And a portfolio ready.
So not giving up, is when you can find a better plan of action.
*Awesome was a keyword of the festival, which helped to create a great and supportive atmosphere, - as in "We're all Awesome." Which we are. Even you. yes, YOU.
Lee Jessup's book 'Getting it Write: An Insider's Guide to a Screenwriting Career' is available on Amazon
*includes spoilers to the series*
I’ve just watched Season 6 of Mad Men, the American drama series which airs in the UK on Sky Atlantic. I’ve watched it on DVD, so I’ve seen the last five episodes one after the other with one sleep in between, waking up wanting to know what happens next.
Mad Men, about the advertising agency biz in 1960’s New York, has been great to watch, but also left me wondering about characters, main characters specifically.
I read an article online from creator / writer Matthew Weiner which quoted him as saying he used everything he knew about those characters in season one… everything.
Which got me thinking, as I’m wondering about my own writing – how do you create a character like that, use everything you know about them. Then create a season 2… all the way up to a season 7?
OK, I’ll spill the beans here: A large part of me knows exactly how to do this, because I consider it part of the job. But also, a large part of me is thinking – does he do it the same way? How does he do it? Is there a secret?
As I was watching Don Draper, the lead character played by actor John Hamm, from a character / story prospective, Don is interesting, obviously, but I wanted him to go a bit more crazy than he did. It’s clear that with his background, being someone who stole someone else’s identity to become who he is today, watching this season you get glimpses of his reckless behaviour, which is sometimes a little confusing, but I like that about this show - it doesn’t feel a need to explain anything. So throughout all the seasons of Mad Men you get glimpses of the characters past, and its not entirely clear whether the creator knew all this from the beginning or whether he chose it as the seasons went on. It doesn’t matter anyway, because it all seems to fit and make sense, as you’d expect from a TV show that spanned 7 years and been one of the most acclaimed in history.
But then how do you do that with your own character? Well, that’s what I’m figuring out. Don gets fired at end of season 6 (which I knew before I started watching) but I wanted his behaviour to be more reckless. His drinking is taking its toll, and he ends up punching a minister in a bar, ending up in jail. You don’t see the altercation, that’s not what the shows about. But you do see Don in jail, lying there in his sharp suit with all the other messy, disheveled criminals.
Back at work he ruins a meeting by telling him the real story of how he grew up to a chocolate bar company execs – he was brought up in a brothel and the prostitutes would give him chocolate if he found more than a dollar in clients pockets. This after a presentation which the chocolate company were happy to go with.
This is what gets him fired. It’s actually very subtle and understated, just like the whole show itself.
It doesn’t show Don suffering from Mental Health issues, although I’d say clearly he does, it just shows how he copes with it, what he does every day, in work and with personal relationships.
I want to show a character who's utterly reckless, but I also want him to be as 3-dimensional as Don Draper. I want it to show in the script and I want it to be a unique voice in TV writing, and I do have this idea. And funnily enough, I wasn't sure how to do it until I saw the opening pilot episode of MAD MEN season one. My UCLA tutor called my character "one of the most perverse characters he had ever read (in a good way)". But I stopped to think about it some more because it was a cop show, and I wasn't sure I was ready to write one at the time.
Now I think I am, I just need to figure out what kind of life and childhood my character needs to have to be utterly reckless. And I'm not sure how to do that. Yet. But I’m thinking about it, believe me.
I have the first ten pages of the script, and now I have to go back, right back to the beginnings of the character. Something that I normally gloss over, but for this one, it needs to be solid, building a character from the ground up. And I think maybe somewhere in there he’ll have wanted to be a pro footballer… They're all fucked up.
In the wake of Robin Williams death, at the time I’m writing this there’s still no confirmation of how (do we really need to know?) but there’s a lot of talk about suicide.
With this in mind, here’s a couple of scenes from my one man play, written last year, and based on personal experience I had some years ago.
I feel distant from these feelings now, and am grateful for that, as its allowed me to write about it in this and my book. I will never forget that I’m one of the lucky ones.
The show has been my most successful in terms of script writing, and has already had a number of successful performances. Maybe I should take it to Edinburgh?
Sam: When we have past lives, we keep having them until we get it right.
I have no memory of this in a past life.
And no idea why it happened.
It continued for days.
Days turned into weeks
Weeks turned into months.
I couldn’t remember feeling well.
I couldn’t remember not feeling angry
I couldn’t remember being happy.
I had these thoughts, these delusions in my head
and it felt like that’s all that was there.
Whatever knowledge I had, whatever dreams I had
couldn’t get through because there was only violence in my head and it was all against me.
After four months it got unbearable.
At 3am I got dressed, and went out.
Walked in the fields.
Cold. Dark. Alone.
Shouting, Screaming, lashing out at nothing in front of me
because it was all in my head.
I just couldn’t get it out.
made my way back.
Still crying when I got home.
Didn’t wake anyone else up.
So no one knew.
(He sits in one of the chairs)
Next day I went to my doctor but I couldn’t describe what was wrong with me.
So he gave me sleeping tablets.
Seriously, sleeping tablets, are you fucking kidding me?
I went home not knowing what was wrong with me.
Still no diagnosis.
Still no idea.
I tried not thinking about it.
I started taking the tablets.
But they didn’t help.
So I took them all.
Well, I stopped half way, got scared.
Didn’t know what to do.
Went to bed.
Woke up next morning.
Carried on as normal.
Next night I did the same thing.
Took the rest of the bottle.
Woke up next morning.
Went back to doctors
I was already on the waiting list for therapy see.
So it was fine.
I got told to go home and sleep it off.
That was it.
(He lies under the duvet)
Got home and got back to bed
and I Lay there, feeling –
Not knowing what to think.
Not knowing what to say.
I was staring the lock as if it might force itself open and pull me towards the door.
Pulling me as I cling to my bed, my duvet pulled right over me
Saying to myself over and over
“I don’t want to die, I don’t want to die,
I don’t want to die"
2am turns to 3am.
The clock getting blurrier as I close my eyes and then finally I fall to sleep.
The thing is, when you’re in that place you can’t think of anything else.
I couldn’t remember ever feeling happy, or remember ever feeling as if anything else mattered.
I couldn’t remember being well, I couldn’t remember that I had a past, and most important of all, that I had a future.
Show Me The Money!
So said Tom Cruise to Cuba Gooding Jr in that show me the money movie (oh I mean, Jerry Maguire).
So together with my producer we’ve launched our first crowd funding campaign and I have to say its been interesting. This for a film where we have former Dr. Who star Louise Jameson (The Tom Baker years) attached, and will be working with stunt men a long with an entire football team for the first time.
After making ten (or is it eleven?) films we’re going up the crowd funding route, and are asking people to donate anything they can towards the project. You get something out of it too, as there are a variety of perks from a digital copy of the film (once its finished, obviously) to a stand up gig and you could even be an extra in the film or get your name in the credits by becoming an executive producer.
All this for money. You can find out exactly how much by going to the crowd funding page https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/extra-time-short-film/x/6703166
You can donate as little as £5 or less than that if you like, and so far its been an interesting experience. The money we’ve raised so far has mainly (but not all) come from people we know, and whilst asking for advice someone told me that you need at least a third of the funding before you start your campaign, (huh?) I wonder when I looked at all the successful campaign’s how they really raised their money, and what was it about their marketing that worked. We also opted on indiegogo instead of kickstarter because on indiegogo you can get the money that you've raised even if you don't reach your target (though the cost is a slightly higher percentage fee taken by indiegogo)
Also interesting is that within days we had four companies emailing us direct on indiegogo (and one on facebook as well!) telling us they could help us raise the money if we paid them.
We’re going for the Time Travel / Dr. Who fans, as well as the football fans, as our film ‘Extra Time’ focus’ on Spacey, who travels through time manipulating people so he can win bets and influence people. He singles out James Spring (writer / producer Mark Lever’s alter ego) and uses time travel to influence the score of a football match, not to mention prevent his future football career being ruined.
Louise Jameson will play the evil time traveller, (you have to have one!) who tries to out do Spacey at every turn, and its definitely very exciting to have her on board.
So I’ll keep you updated about our crowd funding campaign, and you don’t even have to sign up to indiegogo to donate. But if you do donante you could be involved in the film, and you’ll be the first to get the updates on how well we’re doing.
Our next update may well be myself and Mark giving a personal update on youtube, so keep an eye out for that, and I’ll do another blog soon about our fundraising efforts.
Check out https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/extra-time-short-film/x/6703166 and donate today!
End Of Year Round Up. By Gary Thomas
So, that was 2013. No seriously, I did a quick check, and that’s the end of it. I was hoping to hear some news, but haven’t heard, so will have to wait a bit longer for that.
Whilst there’s a few things I’m struggling to remember, there’s nothing I particularly want to forget, which must be a good sign.
The year started with me directing a music video for Rob Lever’s song
‘If This Isn’t Love’, which featured Paul Dennison & Joanne Gale, both of whom I worked with on my performed reading in 2012. The video was produced by Mark Lever.
I was also thinking about my autobiography and the fact that I’d yet to write a single word on it.
It also started with me putting the finishing touches to my Arts Council Application, my first application for writing instead of Artist Film & Video Work.
In March I was selected to take part in the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival Training day ‘Tell Me Your Story’. This was a great day to be involved in and meant lots of networking and learning.
On the same day I found out that my Arts Council Application for new writing had been successful. Yay! I was very happy. I also had the opportunity to tell people on the course cos I was so excited. So I did.
The funding was to write my autobiography (upto the first 30,000 words) and writing & producing a one man show focussing on a specific period of my life. This was my 3rd successful arts council application in a row, so to say I was surprised when I got the news would be an understatement.
I was also very involved in DAISY this year, the first Disability Arts In Surrey Festival, as I was asked to be film programmer for it, which was a great opportunity. It was a great festival of art and theatre from all round the county, and I was also able to premiere my one man show ‘Hidden’ which starred Jonny Collis. I first met Jonny after seeing him in Shadow Boxing at Decibel in Manchester in 2011.
I spent much of March & the beginning of April writing the monologue so it was ready for the April show, and started rehearsing with Jonny at the beginning of the month. It was the first time I’d directed something with only one other actor, (in filmmaking there’s always a team around you) but it turned out to be a good experience.
In March I also made two short films, both of a ‘wedding comedy’ theme. Over a weekend I directed two films, ‘The Wrong Date’ (including filmed rehearsals) with Andrea Vasiliou, Martin Laurence & Anthony Styles, and ‘Dan’s Monologue’. It was great to have Mark Lever there as producer, doing all the paper work and arranging. On the Sunday with ‘Dan’s Monologue’, it was good to finally be able to work with Charlie Ross again.
I first worked with Charlie in 2006 on Early One Summer, a short film which is only now soon to be released on a DVD collection.
Because of sound problems (we originally used a zoom recorder but it still wasn’t good enough) we actually ended up reshooting the monologue in June, with a small crew, so I got to work on the script a bit more before the final shooting day.
As director I’ve been going to Sunday Surgeries, an initiative run my MSFT agency, for new writers to have their scripts worked on by directors with actors.
At the beginning of August I arranged a bit of a reunion with Charlie & Graeme Dalling as I was asked to film an interview for the Early One Summer DVD release, which was fun to do.
Towards the end of august I achieved one of my dreams, albeit ‘only’ for a week – I got to stay in a hotel and write my first book. I’d spent the week before writing, just so I could break the back of it, (I wrote around 11,000 words working at home) and then got to around 26,000 words after my week in Manchester. I chose Manchester cos I stayed right by Media City, but if I (when I) do that again I’ll probably stay somewhere more remote.
I’ve continued working for Freewheelers Theatre this year, filming and editing some of their work and this year working on a heritage lottery funded project looking at the Mental Health asylums and patients from 100 years ago.
In September I began working with Cherry Bennet directing a double bill of Hidden and Cherry’s one act play ‘I’ll Be Here’. Working with the monologue I was able to expand it further, and with Cherry’s play I directed Maggie Robson, Emma Gable & Dan Oliver, and the show was put on in front of a lively audience at The Leatherhead Institute as part of Mole Valley Arts Alive Festivals at the end of October.
October also saw me attending The London Screenwriters Festival, where I pitched to various companies who were enthusiastic to my pitches, and I got positive responses from them. I also learnt loads from various talks that I went too.
The beginning of November marked the official end of the arts council funded writing, (word count is now 37,000 odd words) and I’m really pleased with this progress. I’m carrying on with it, working with my editor on it as I go. I spent a day a couple of weeks ago looking at my own medical notes and I now have copies, so that’s great research for my early life that I don’t remember much of.
At the end of November I directed a new monologue as well as having an exert of ‘Hidden’ performed by a different actors and director as part of the DYSPLA Festival, and both monologues formed part of a show at Camden New People’s theatre. It was great to be a guest director at this festival.
2014 will be hopefully more of the same. There’s at least one big funding application that I want to achieve successfully, along with a couple of others, that’s three already sent, as well finishing the book, sending it out there, and looking forward to the next.
I know which scripts I’ll be working on, based on the pitches that I did at last years London Screenwriters Festival.
Here's to a succesful 2014!
“Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead.” Adele.
As I sit here I'm thinking about the World that we live in. It is 11.12 am and I have just got up having not gone to bed until 4am last night.
I wasn’t thinking about anything major last night, I just forgot to take my tablets, and so, naturally, as always happens when I do that, I didn’t sleep much.
Once I got to sleep, funnily enough, I slept really well. I watched the Madonna interview about her #secretprojectrevolution and didn’t think much about it in my sleep at all.
As soon as I woke up, I find myself thinking about it. Thinking about the 87 people that were arrested because they ‘looked gay’ at one of her concerts in Russia. Thinking about the people that booed her in France when she was making a statement about tolerance and how difficult it is being Muslim in a different country. Thinking about what she had to say about all this.
I don’t really protest, and never really have. I was stopped and searched by the police in London 1996 which caused a lot of issues for me. I now sit on my local police IAG group. I guess that’s how I protest. And by protest I mean try to understand what happens so the same thing doesn’t happen again to anyone else.
Oh yeah, and I wrote a show about it too. So that’s how I protest. With my writing. With characters. With words, spoken by actors.
I have a film idea that I think can be a real indictment on society in this country today. I haven’t really spoken to anyone about it because it’s about a deaf character and I’m still not sure what right I have to do that yet, even though I’m partially deaf. I’d like to work with certain people on it. I’d at least like to chat to them about it. I don't have any funding for it, but look at all the people that do stuff anyway.
But as I sit here writing this, and thinking about how the World is getting more and more conservative, less and less tolerant of others, more and more difficult to live in, and less and less bearable to be a genuine human being in, I think about the more than 10,000 people who’ve died during the great cull of the disabled people. By the government that doesn’t give a shit about rights anymore.
I think about these things because I’m a human being. I want to make a statement about it because I’m an artist. I struggle with what that statement should be, and whether I have any right to make that statement at all because of the people around me, and the messages I hear from them.
But what makes it worse is the thought that other people could get into power who have even more extremist views than the current government.
As I sit writing this, I’m upset and thinking, wow, there must be something else wrong with me right now. I’m worried about other things, more personal things. The song I’m listening to is making me tearful.
But then I think, No. I’m worried about the world we live in. It genuinely scares me.
What scares me more is that if I don’t write, if I don’t work with people much braver than me, who are willing to put themselves out there, be on camera, use their voice, however they can, someone else might be able to come along in a few months time and tell me that I don’t have the right to do that anymore.
Madonna’s #secretprojectrevolution, a 17 minute film, can be seen here (containing violence):
And (perhaps a more revealing) interview about the film can be seen here:
Worth watching both.
“Women have to reshape our own perception of how we view ourselves. We have to step up as women and take the lead, and reach as high as humanly possible. That’s what I’m going to do, that’s my philosophy.”
- Beyoncé in her documentary ‘Life is but a dream’.
I was really taken by the above quote as I was watching a BBC documentary about Beyoncé. She was talking about her performance on the Billboard chart show in the US, and said the above.
I was fascinated by her during the documentary, and I thought she was an amazing person, but also an amazing character. There was definitely some strong points of views there, so I wrote them down as I watched it again on BBC iplayer, and I began to think. What does that stuff even mean?
How does someone like that live their life? In particular the sentence: “We have to step up as women and take the lead, and reach as high as humanly possible".
I don’t know what 'reach as high as humanly possible' even means. I can’t relate to that, I thought, because I’m disabled. Because I’ve had long term mental health problems and have to deal with them, so… You know.
As I watched the documentary it became clear to me that she often lives in her own world, and documents almost everything, talking to her webcam expressing her thoughts about what’s going on at whatever moment, especially when she couldn't sleep.
I was reminded about a youtube clip I saw of Katherine Hepburn who read out a letter she wrote to Spencer Tracy long after he died. In it she explained how much trouble he had sleeping. I’m coming to the conclusion that you have to be a bit mad to deal with that kind of business. Or have the personality to deal with it.
Then I began thinking of a friend I’ve seen, Gary Turner, a professional fighter who’s been World Champion 13 times. I’ve seen him a couple of times for training and once for hypnotherapy, which was pretty good. This was one of my few steps into personal responsibility (there are so few steps I’ve taken in this I had to look that phrase up…) Is it time I explored a totally different mindset? The mindset that can 'reach as high as humanly possible'? I mean ANY human?
Then I went on to Facebook and saw that Mat Fraser is doing his Beauty And The Freak show in Las Vegas for the next two weeks, following the shows in New York. And now, seriously, Las Vegas.
I looked at the image for this a number of times, kept clicking on it again to see it. Yep, there they are… doing a show in Vegas. And my head started to say things.
In particular it said:
Seriously, why can’t I? I’ve always had this raging battle in my head with all the stuff that I want to do and the stuff I can 'realistically cope with’ (my term for it). Now, this isn’t going to make me an actor or a stage performer. But a director working on a show in Vegas, where I have a crew around me? Where someone else is selling the tickets and doing all the other stuff?
I’ve always felt for a long time that I know quite a few physically disabled people who get out way more than me. I sit in my room working, or just not wanting to go out on a weekend, which is fine, because I do go out and see stuff, I do network, I do have friends. But I also sit here in my bedroom doing absolutely fuck all with my life. I'm in my PJs by the time a ton of people are setting out for a weekend of clubbing.
The contradiction is when I got my arts council funding for new writing, I wanted more. I got an email to say I was selected on a course and that was exciting. And I still wanted more because it wasn't enough. I want the next opportunity to come, I want the BBC to call me in for a meeting, I want the police to visit (don’t ask - actually do ask if you have connections), I want a film festival to call and ask me to be on a panel, I want to be invited to have a gallery show (and I don’t mean just ‘submit your stuff’).
I want something major and exciting to happen.
And I want it yesterday.
So, who’s got those connections?
What an amazing, spectacular day it was yesterday.
My one man show, starring Jonny Collis, called ‘Hidden’ had its premiere at the first Disability Arts In Surrey Festival to around 20-30 people - not bad for 10am on a Friday morning!
Jonny did a fantastic job, and I couldn’t have asked for anything more from his performance. The show was based around my own experience of what I call psychosis after a stop & search by Police in London when I was 26 years old, and follows the journey I took from then till now.
There was some interesting questions at the end and myself and Jonny were able to answer them. I got an email from Surrey Police who said afterwards:
“It was really powerful and I'm so glad I could come along to see it.”
Whilst John Kelly, the artistic director for the festival, said
“It was simple in its staging but immensely powerful, and a great start to the DAISY Festival.”
I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say he really loved the piece.
Great feedback by people from the arts council, and people were still talking about it in the evening. One of the last comments I heard was ‘Apparently Gary’s show was brilliant’.
So all in all, an amazing day, which came from something I was soooo worried about, being such a personal piece, to something I’m really very very proud of. And, dare I say it, it’s possible a few people saw me in a different light, too.
OK, so having been kind of stressed lately (although I say lately this isn’t unusual) today I tried to do some writing on an outline / treatment I haven’t looked at for a while. And as I was looking at it, I realised I couldn’t get my head round it without re-reading it. It wasn’t that long (about 6 pages so far) so that wasn’t the problem, but it became a problem because I couldn’t even re-read it.
So I thought I’d do a blog that lists my work ‘priorities’ in no kind of order, and then, maybe next month let you know how I got on.
Firstly, the biggest, and the best kick up the priorities is that I found out at the very end of March that my arts council application for new writing has been successful. Yay!
Very exciting, but now the daunting prospect of writing 30,000 words and writing a one man show (monologue) based on that
floats its ugly head. I think ultimately I need to stop thinking too much about it and start planning it. I already have an outline for the lots of words after all. So which of my other priorities will be put back?
Well, I think, as someone suggested ages ago on twitter I still need maybe a ‘morning writing’ and an ‘afternoon writing’ job during the day, which may help overcome any anxiety / any impending illness from working on the same thing forever. So, these are the scripts / writings I’m working on (in no particular order):
New entry: My Book & one man show (monologue)
I wonder how far I can get. TV Spec (re-write)
DEAD TV spec (re-write thankfully with another writer)
2 Weddings feature script (re-write, thankfully with another writer)
Treatment for new idea (1st treatment / outline)
Long forgotten but still interested: Short story
Other main things:
Rehearsals for one man show before the show on 26th April.
Publicising the one man show
Rehearsals for a new play written by a friend
My *ahem* paid work
Workshop film 1
Workshop film 2 (2 different films)
Subtitling workshop film 3
Overseeing edit of new short film ‘The Wrong Date’.
There’s also ‘miscellaneous’ stuff that I would like to be doing too:
Learning to use new camera properly (Canon 5D)
Promoting myself and my work (inc. Facebook, twitter, my own website)
Day dreaming (part of the job)
Managing my well being (no idea where that went)
Things on the imminent horizon are:
Going to Salisbury Arts Symposium (woo hoo!)
Visiting a new project (which could lead to more work) this coming week.
So, what’s the best way of sorting all this out? I’ve no idea really, but I’m working through it, and looking at different ways of dealing with things all the time. Actually writing it down like this does kind of help, a little bit like the ‘brain dump’ I did a while back. This was basically where I literally wrote down all the things in my head. (very very brief descriptions of the things I’m working on or am worried about)
As time went on it was a nice feeling to actually cross them off either because I’d done those jobs OR because they weren’t relevant any more.
As for these most recent priorities, I’ll write another blog next month letting you know how I got on with these, and how far I’ve been able to get with them. You, dear reader, can give me a kick up the backside (preferably by the comments section, of course) if I haven’t done a blog by end of May or if I write a blog that just says ‘aaaaarrrrrgggghhhh!’
Oh, and by the way, after listening to a friends song on facebook, I've just gone and got a good idea for a music video that I really want to write up...
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!
Last year I worked with Mark Lever on 'Moving In', a comedy drama about University life. I directed the pilot episode, which can be seen on youtube. I interviewed Mark about the process and how it came about.
So how did Moving In come together?
Moving In spawned from an idea I had about this family where, the main character, (Michael) has Asperger's Syndrome. I wanted to explore how he dealt with things when he first goes to college and has this support assistant breathing down his neck at first, and eventually gets rid of his support and fights life at college all by himself – this was quite similar to my own experiences.
Various ideas were looked at but the main difference between that concept and the eventual final concept was that Moving In was going to be set at university. I remember having the idea originally to do a series about university life with three guys/three girls as the main characters all based on quirky characters I have met in my life before I went to university. I had a first draft done before I actually reached university but things changed dramatically as actually living university life bought in so many interesting ideas and a personal touch to it.
After living university life for a month, I had another draft by October in the first year.
How did you set on the idea of ‘Moving In’ with Mark?
Gary and I worked together on scriptwriting other TV scripts before I reached university, so it was a natural collaboration. When the concept of the film came together Gary and I were constantly discussing via phone / text messages and meeting up to narrow down the fine details like who the characters were going to be; their journey; the tone and style; and how it was going to be original. It helped that Gary and I were both into similar sitcoms / drama comedies like ‘Scrubs’ and ‘Friends’. After I spent time at university ideas were flying in from everywhere, sometimes to the point that it was hard to narrow down the ideas that were going to be in the final script.
What was the process for writing the script?
The flash of inspiration that got me started on this script was the idea of doing a university sitcom in the style of ‘Friends’ and coupling it with a stylistic edge, like ‘Spaced’ and ‘Scrubs’. At first it was all about asking myself what I really wanted from the script. I knew that I wanted a show that provided quite a few laughs. I wanted the balance of having three guys and three girls. I wanted one person who saw the story through who was down to earth, to highlight the eccentricities of the rest of the house.
People I had met at college and people I drank with, inspired each character. Once I found my characters it was all about coming up with the angle on university life that would create an original fresh point of view (which, came through having the main character having Asperger's Syndrome) and a story that everyone at university could associate with (the transitional period people go through when they move from home to university).
Then I mapped out every beat of each character's story so it was clearly defined that each character was coming to terms with change; looking for ways to move over each hurdle and to open themselves up to university life. After that I did a scene outline. I had various jokes clear in my mind but I had more work to do on coming up with the gags and this is where I was very critical on what would make the script funny.
I knew that I had to be the main filter system in what jokes would be put down in the script and I remember countless nights staying in my bed closing my eyes running through so many different lines in my head and possible cutaways that could be the punch line to what someone had said. Only the lines or cutaways that actually made me properly laugh would be kept. There was no point writing down a line that was slightly quirky or witty. Whenever I came up with a gag worth remembering for the next time I would be sat in front of my laptop I would jot it down on my phone as a note. This is a technique I still use. Then eventually when I would get to my laptop the jokes were given a second run through before they were put in script.
One of my styles in writing when I write a TV show is to put loads of lines inside the script that give audiences something to notice they didn't the first time round. At the same time I try not to make this heavily effect my script because I want audiences to properly enjoy it first off. As well as this, I like to provide many hooks to give the audiences reasons to come back for more. As a TV show pilot, it's a must. You want loads of ideas in the script that make the audience want to know what it was all about; what's going to happen next. You always hope it’s not going to be just a one off.
My work method when writing the script is to give myself so many scenes a day to write. I say scenes rather than pages because I tend to think of scenes as little stories in themselves. In a way they all have their beginning, middle and end and don't forget cliffhanger / set up for the next scene. Before I start writing up the scenes I bring up Microsoft Word and Celtx and go into Word and bullet point everything that I want to happen in the scene; what information needs to be conveyed, any pieces of dialogue I want to write into the scene that are important to the story.
That way when I actually write the scene into Celtx it's just a matter of finding a way of tightly knitting each of these bullet points into a fully constructed scene. By doing this, it paces and structures the scenes. After every work session I usually read what I have written a few times over and then correct any grammatical errors I have made and then usually get excited by writing more tomorrow. I tend to write 8-10 pages at a time. When I have done a work session, most of the time I send it to Gary so he can have a read through.
How is the campaign and funding and marketing the project going?
The marketing of the project is going fairly well but could be going much better. Ideally I want to achieve as many views as possible but I know that is hard to do with the budget and time we have. In perspective, the results that have been achieved so far are positive. Hopefully in the future I will be able to get much more media coverage for the show through newspapers, local magazines, online blogs, university newspapers etc… Unfortunately most of the university newspapers haven't given any support for the show even though I think it’s for their target audience.
I am also hoping to do much more print advertising-leaflets, posters, t shirts in future. My aim with the marketing is to get at least a thousand views on youtube before I go ahead and make a second episode. As far as trying to fund future episodes, I am looking when I finish university to concentrate my time on selling one or two other TV show scripts I have written or am in the process of writing. I am thinking that this is probably the best route to go down to see concepts come to proper fruition.
Moving in Part 1
Moving in Part 2:
Thanks for reading ☺
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.