I attended a writing workshop the other day, in Sutton library run by Rachel Sambrook. It was pretty good & I was impressed by how well attended it was. We had some exercises to do but the first one was simply introducing ourselves. There was my friend Richard & I, a couple of others who’d written quite a bit, and the rest were just beginners.
I was all prepared with my laptop to arrive & work on my book, it was a writing class after all. But then we were given a couple of writing exercises that were pretty good. One was writing a list of failures, as one of the points Rachel made that there were no real failures in writing, & this is true especially when you’re starting out – don’t focus on the pressure to have something that works straight away. Then after a couple more exercises we did some free writing.
After the workshop we went to Nandos, and one of the participants who was very friendly joined us. This really impressed me actually because it’s not easy to just meet new random people, especially as the workshop was only an hour during lunch time. So the 3 of us ended up in Nandos, and Aridja turned out to be just starting out as a vlogger. She got her camera out & started recording about meeting us & having Nandos, and she came across as very natural on camera. We ended up talking about Oprah, and saying who ever gets to meet her first can tell her about each other. So watch this space!
I saw the play Emilia yesterday, and my god am I glad I did. I noticed the reviews, (twitter is normally where I keep up with these things) and noticed it was at The Globe Theatre, but I never got to see it there, despite all the buzz around it. Then it transferred to the West End and so I booked last week to go this week. The play follows the journey of poet Emilia Bassano, who was apparently quite close to Shakespeare in the 1600’s, but also a writer in her own right who never quite found the means, and follows her journey through the times. I’ve read reviews saying that some of the claims the play makes about her life are quite contentious, but I’m not too worried by that personally (others have made the same claims too).
What was most interesting to me about the play, aside from some of the cast being disabled – and in quite prominent roles too
is that it used a lot of narration to tell the story, which makes me quite happy.
My first play was a one man play, so it was all narration, and then in developing my play The 49, it was a mix of narration and scenes. My new play, which I’ve called Comfort In The Voices Of Me, is all scenes. Writing the early drafts were a bit like pulling teeth, because I often struggle with writing long scenes, especially coming from a film background. But seeing Emilia, which filled my heart with joy and made me very happy, for various reasons, was a mix of both narrating directly to the audience and scenes. There were also three actors playing Emilia, at different ages, and they were also introduced at the beginning of the play. I’d love to go much more in depth in to the different types of theatre, particularly in relation to narrating directly to an audience vs not doing it. There’s no reason for narration in any play with more than one actor, but I like using it as a style, and Emilia used the technique very effectively and was equally as entertaining.
I do hope the play gets another run soon. If it goes on tour I’m definitely seeing it again.
Emilia was on at The Globe before transferring to Vaudeville Theatre until 1st June, and is written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm.
I was doing box office on the penultimate day of Wandsworth Fringe 2019, having done my own show Hidden for the past 2 days. This was the 4th time I’ve done WAF in the 10 years it’s been running.
It’s been good to revisit my play ‘HIDDEN’ again, especially with Niall Phillips directing.
I feel like Niall totally got the play, as did actor McKenzie Alexander. He brought a performance that I haven’t seen before. Not afraid to do the gay parts of the script, and was believable in the new parts about being born with a deformity.
It’s also been interesting to see where to expand the play, and wonder whether something is only a 45 minute piece, whether it could be longer without feeling forced.
With Niall I also talked about what to do with it next & indeed, why we do theatre in the first place.
For me, I think it was about becoming a produced writer with a longer piece of writing. Sure, I’ve made short films & got funding for them, as I have with my memoir and Hidden this time round, following R & D funding in 2013.
But what’s the next step? And is it the same for every theatre maker? I’m not sure it is, but that’s a whole other blog! But the next step for me is to make a choice.
Well, actual next step for me is to start sending my book out to agents. I feel like it’s definitely ready for that.
Then on the play writing side I want to develop THE 49 into a longer play. But with my next film, I don’t just want to make another short film shot on a Canon 5D. Next step for me I think is to work with crew who’ve made feature films, so a great DOP, and then a ‘star’ name. I most want to make something next that the industry takes notice of.
So that’s the next challenge. To do something that makes a big ‘splash’. To work with really great people, and to get noticed. This could be a lot of people, or more realistically, it could just be a few people in the industry that will know my name because they saw my work. And one thing leads to another, which leads to another, and you just keep going. I think the people that keep going eventually get to the ‘top’.
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: https://www.wandsworthfringe.com/whats-on-2019/hidden-1
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.
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?
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.
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.
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!