The Year So Far

McKenzie Alexander stars in Hidden, Directed by Niall Phillips, Friday 17th May & Saturday 18th May in London. Photo by Gary Thomas

It’s been a busy period for me recently, as I had 2 big events in April – a  film networking party, and then the screening of 2 films I directed – Extra Time, written and produced by Mark Lever, and our fan made Doctor Who episode, written and produced by Richard Holliday with Mark as DOP.

It was great to see both films in front of a good turn out of people. We hired Wimbledon Theatre Studio Space, a really nice studio theatre, and had some 50 people in the audience. What was also great was to gauge the audiences reaction while they were watching both films, some of whom were in the industry. We had feedback forms and the next step will be to go through them and see where improvements need to be made.

The party I mention was one of the last days of Talent Campus, which I did this year. Talent Campus is sort of part of the London Screenwriters Festival – Chris Jones runs it and it was pretty epic to be involved in. ‘The Crucible’ is the name they give to the party where they invite industry and we, as a group of writers, get to meet industry folk who we can collaborate with in the future. It was great to be able to attend this, and I made  some good contacts there. During Talent Campus we wrote 3 pitch documents, one for film, one for TV and one ‘passion project’. I’m on page 40 of my feature script now, a wedding comedy, which I’m enjoying writing. My TV project will take a while longer, as that’s a six part series.

My passion project was a short film script I’d like to direct in the same vein as the wedding comedy. I’d love the wedding comedy to be my first feature as writer – director.

On Sunday I saw Hidden in rehearsals for the first time with Niall Phillips directing. I took a step back from directing this one after Edinburgh a couple of years ago, and it’s on Friday 17th at 7pm & Saturday 18th at 2pm, upstairs at The Cat’s Back in Putney. It was great to watch Niall work with actor McKenzie Alexander.

The show will be on as part of Wandsworth Fringe, which I’ve done for the past four years now, which is always great to be involved in. It’s on at The Cat’s Back, in Putney, on 17th at 7pm and the 18th 2pm.

Would be great to see you there!

Get tickets here:

The Inheritance

Photography by Marc Brenner

It’s taken me a while to write out my thoughts on The Inheritance  play. I think when a ton of people say something is so brilliant and it is, it still makes you wary of being another of those many people to say it.

My initial reaction was oh, how did this even get made, it’s about writing. And it is that. At least that’s how it starts. But very soon it becomes something else. It’s funny, poignant, moving and emotional. It’s about gay lives, but actually, in many ways, it’s about all our lives.

The play opens with a writer trying to work on his next project. In the script they are simply called Man 1, Man 2 etc… but they soon develop character names. I’d forgotten when I saw part 1 that it was kind of Howards End, and EM Forster was one of the characters. This is where it becomes special – and enchanting.

The story focus’ on Toby Darling, and his boyfriend Eric Glass. We watch their lives unfold, and I think the reason it’s been a hit, is if you really think about plays or films about gay lives, there aren’t that many good ones. So that this is better than good, makes it a must see, and as a writer it’s something I aspire to.

The extensive 2 part play (6hrs 35mins total) fills in some of the gaps missed out in Angels In America. It’s an incredibly positive portrayal of gay lives, of gay men living (and not living) with HIV & Aids, and it’s all weaved in through E M Forster’s Howard’s End, along with Maurice as another major influence. But despite that, or even because of it, it’s something truly original.

Covering time, we watch as the gay men watch the Clinton V Trump election unfold, as their optimism wanes, and as their fears are confirmed. This in fact mirrors a lot of the play. We see their highs and lows, their best times and their worst. We see how they meet, get engaged and split up, how they interact with all their friends.

The reason it works so well is that it’s all the things people have said about it. It flows and examines our lives, loves and losses. It’s relatable to people of almost any age. It shines a light through a microscope of how we live. Both in the past and in the present. It’s stunning, and I wish it could run in a theatre forever.

The Inheritance is on at London’s Noel Coward Theatre until 19th January. Written by Matthew Lopez & Directed by Stephen Daldry.

3 Things I learnt about Gary Vee.

Top 3 things I learned from Gary Vaynerchuk.

To be honest I could write several posts about Gary. First of all, he’s called Gary, so I already like him.
Second, I’ve learned a lot just by watching his videos. We’re also similar age, which brings me to point number 1 –

1. One of the biggest things I’ve learnt is to not worry about age. This is something I do and don’t do, going through it back and forth in my own head. Should I worry about, should I not worry about it. Now I know I no longer need to worry about it.

2. The amount of people that comment / criticize online and then don’t do anything about themselves is horrific. I’ve only had one incidence of this, when my friend Mark & I created ‘Writers Block’, a web series on youtube for writers. We put a link on shooting people and this person, who didn’t use his real name and didn’t have a proper photo, just sent really negative messages questioning why we did it and why we were qualified. Or more precisely telling us we weren’t qualified etc… it was really pointless, and as it was on Shooting People I just left the network after that. I’d say actually I didn’t give a shit about it, (I really didn’t) but the fact that someone was commenting with no real name put me off shooting people forever.

3. Live life for yourself. This is the biggest, and probably the hardest lesson of all. To not worry about what others think. Living YOUR life, for yourself can be done. It’s hard, and it’s all about the work that you put in, but it’s possible. In doing the work, and in the process, you build the life YOU want. It’s a slippery slope if you’re living your life to please others. If you’re interested in any of this, go follow him on insta.

What are your biggest dreams & do you think you’ll achieve them?

Playreading group – Script Tank

Last month I went to hear my new play read aloud in a play reading group I’ve just joined, called ScriptTank, who meet in Holborn. Whilst they’re  primarily a play reading group, they read a variety of different script formats.

I joined in a meeting at the beginning of autumn, where at the start of every term anyone can ask for their short script or an excerpt to be read, and generally they choose 3 or four shorts a night. Each person there gives feedback, and the writer is not allowed to respond until all the feedback has been given.

Hearing your script is vital for writers, whether or not you plan on making something yourself. It allows you to hear it as it would be performed, and you can hear first hand whether your dialogue is working or not.

I always record a script read, and the feedback, so that I can listen to it at a later date, when I’m ready to rewrite. But I also make brief notes when I’m listening. One of the good points about hearing your script is that it allows you to hear actually how long your scenes are. One note I wrote was ‘lots of explanation’. As I was thinking plays are dialogue driven, which they are, you can also be visual, although I’ve been confused with this type of feedback for plays recently.

I think ultimately, as one of the writers who gave feedback said, it’s about putting the action ON STAGE, rather than having the characters talk about it. They can still be dynamic when characters talk about things, but it helps if there’s ACTION involved.

The type of feedback I got varied, but it was pretty positive as I came away with a lot to work on. The over all subject of the play was discussed, as well as the characters and their own arcs, or journeys. The group was also concerned that stories with characters having mental health issues should be portrayed in a positive light. Whilst this is true, it’s also true that they do end up doing bad things in life, and making wrong choices, like everyone else. So I’m not too worried about this as long as it makes sense story wise.

Another interesting comment was that people were visualising 6 different plays. This is partly because this draft covered a lot of issues, but also  because even when we see plays in the theatre, it’s such an individual thing and we watch with our own interpretation of the world going on in the back of our minds, based on our own experiences. I think that’s why writing can be so subjective.

The most practical advice I got, which I think can be applied to all writing, is delete every other line of dialogue in long conversations. Now obviously it has to make sense, but you really can say things with less words.

The play reading came in at just over an hour, which was a bit of a surprise for a 45 page script, but it shouldn’t have been based on my other play writing experience. So I’ll put this play away now for a couple of weeks, and then get back onto the rewrites.

Filming Art

Here’s a new series of irregular blogs. Hopefully they’ll be more regular from now on

Last week was unusually full on for me, as I was working everyday away from home, with 2 of those days filming. It was actually a lot of fun, as I got to film in a local art gallery, The Lightbox in Woking. Although it’s local, it’s actually quite a major gallery, and like Doctor Who’s Tardis, it feels a lot bigger on the inside (see what I did there 😂)

I love doing these projects because I can take liberties with types of shots as its an art film about art. Also as I was filming there was some wonderful natural sunlight streaming through the window on to everyone inside. In a non art film that might be annoying, but I really liked it.

I had a contract with DAISY (Disability Arts In Surrey) who commissioned me to make the film. They didn’t want a documentary per se, but just a film about the project, which was to make art inspired by Henry James Pullen and his art work.

We agreed on an outline plan, which included visiting the groups who were making the work during workshops, then at the galleries – there were two involved – The Lightbox, and The Watts gallery, which I visited a couple of weeks ago.

It was fun to see the work and film at the Watts Gallery, a beautiful old building in the middle of nowhere. I filmed Chris Pavia from Stop Gap performing a dance inspired by Henry James Pullen. I also filmed Chris at the Private view at Lightbox.

So on Monday I went to film the installation being set up in at The Lightbox, and I went again on the Thursday to film the private view, where I also got some interviews from the other groups running workshops.

One the way home from the private view I had the idea of putting the 3 or 4 interviews that I had down on the timeline to edit, and that would form the basis of the film. Then it depends whether I want some of the speaker of just have that as voice over with the art work on show.
So that became quite a simple way of getting my head round all the footage that I had. I’m sure the film will turn out well and Daisy we be happy with the finished film.

Funding update

Gary finally completed his latest arts council application.

This his first application for new writing, ‘Performance from writing 1.’

Gary’s last two applications to the arts council to make The Dog & The Palace were successful with thanks to Christine Wilkinson and Producer Karen Gilchrist. Let’s hope 2013 is a good year for writing!

The Wrong Date – casting news

The Wrong Date

‘The Wrong Date’ is a new short film by writer / director Gary Thomas.

Steve (The Groom) – Martin Laurence

Sharon (The Bride) – Andrea Vasiliou

Andrea has appeared as ‘Young Catwoman’ in The Dark Knight Rises, as well as numerous short films.

Marin Laurence recently appeared in ‘Art House Massacre’, as well as producing.

The horror feature won 2 awards at The British Horror Festival, for best music and best film.

Here we go…

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 6.35(pm thank god!)  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 I’m there though, It’ll 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.

Pulling it all together…

Go Team Gary!
I didn’t write that, a friend put it at the end of an email & it does seem rather apt at the moment. You see, things are moving way faster than I could have imagined, and that’s what needs to happen right now because time is indeed of the essence.
How did this happen? I hear you cry. Even if you didn’t I’ll tell you anyway.
I asked a friend I’ve known for a relatively short time (Christine Wilkinson) if she would write an application to ACE for R&D funding. She said yes, and suggested a couple of other people I should work with, so got in touch with Jon Potter from Company Paradiso & the other one, Karen Gilchrist, I already knew.
And they both know others. Especially Karen, who’s pulling a lot of things together. So as we were successful in getting the R&D funding, suddenly we’re filming on 13 & 14th April.
I know a casting director from twitter, I got in touch with her & now she’s finding lord knows how many child actors to audition this Thursday in London (this is the one task I thought impossible!).
I know an actress to play the mother who I worked with in my last short film, I asked her to read the treatment & now she’s on board. I visited FilmLondon on Friday to chat to a friend who I haven’t seen in ages, & that was really useful & they’re going to send me location ideas & a list of venues that we need to think about to show the film.
So, its all coming together. Not slowly this time, but in the time we need to do it. Hooray!