Author Archives: Gary Thomas

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.

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.

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!

Embracing ‘Interference’.

In 1 episode of Friends, when talking about plans, the girls talk about things being 'unfloopy' and Phoebe says she doesn't 'even have a 'pl'

I’ve recently subscribed to Chris Brogan’s blog posts email, useful information and suggestions for what to write about. The recent email is all about confidence, and suggests writing a post on where I’m headed, so here it is.

Er…. Who knows?

Really, I mean I think about where I’m heading a lot, and as much as I like having plans, things conspire to interfere. Now, sometimes what happens when ‘things’ interfere with plans is WAY more interesting than the original plan. And that’s what interests me the most.

There are some things that have happened that I could never really have planned. I think you just need to be prepared for those moments.

A good example is my recent success with Arts Council. I applied for Research and development funding for The Queen and My Little Doggy, and was successful. (Yay!)

So over the next few weeks, along with everything else I want to do, there will be a period of very intense work on my split screen installation film, which will form the basis of a major piece of work that will be completed by very early next year.

Will anything happen to interfere with that work? Of course it will.
Already two people who I want to work with are unavailable, so that means working with others, but thats just given me time to remember the others. So I have lots of choices to make, and need to find people who I want to collaborate with based on who they are and what they can do.

So with that in mind, the next month or so will be really interesting, I’ll be doing things that I’ve never done before (again) and working with some new people too. All very exciting, really.

 

Am I ready to Move On?

This may sound silly, but I’ve ummed a lot over the past month about how personal my blog posts should be, as potentially EVERYONE I know could read them (I’m tempted to say here ‘they won’t’, but I’m not going too).

The past month is because my step dad died on 23rd January, and I’ve been wondering how and whether I should write about it. I’ve decided that I’m going to, as it all fits in with the whole notion of things being difficult, things going slowly, things not going right, which after all, if you’re disabled all that stuff happens anyway.

So when my step dad died I set myself a month before I got back into things fully again, and that month is nearly up. Trouble is, I still want to sleep more than normal, I still don’t really want to do that many things, I still don’t really want to be in ‘full swing’. And there in lies the thought:

When the hell have I EVER been in full swing?

One of the movies on my list still to watch (I have many on that list) is ‘Girl Interrupted’. (I’ve also had a really strong urge to watch Six Feet Under)

Girl Interrupted is about a girl in a mental asylum in the 1960s. As I say I haven’t seen it yet, its on my computer waiting for me to be in the ‘right mood’ to watch it. But I think the title sums up what its like when we all have issues come up that affect our lives.

This past year I’ve been struggling a lot with an issue that I haven’t had to deal with very much for over 10 years, and so things have been going really slow, and you could say I’ve been very ill. This has been a HUGE interruption in what I want to do with my life and unfortunately it hasn’t gone away as quickly or easily as I’d hoped.

I’ve come to the conclusion that a lot of this is down to my own expectations, both in the ones that I have for myself (all these things that I want to do) and with what I can ‘realistically’ cope with. This one in particular has been a battle raging in my head ever since I can remember. So, if I didn’t have these expectations of myself, then I wouldn’t have to do so much, right?

Trouble is there are things that excite me, new opportunities, and things that I really want to do.

So I still have things on my list, like finishing the next draft of my feature script, arranging meetings, making a showreel for my new website, finishing courses, writing up a fundraising document… and another and another…

If you know me, you can drop me a gentle email towards the end of March asking me how I’m doing with any of this stuff. I’ll reply to it, though I’m not sure how quick I’ll be.

What we can learn from Everyone Else…

Gary Thomas on what we can learn from ‘everyone else’

13 February 2011

A red carpet leading up some stairs

Where could this lead you - Seriously?

I’ve been talking to a couple of people recently about ambitions. Okay, mainly my ambitions, but certainly ambitions.

You see, I want to aim quite high, so at a recent arts meeting in London (more to be revealed eventually!) I stated in a sort of unsure voice in a room full of disabled artists – “I want to be mainstream”.

And then, after a pause: “I want to be nominated for the Turner Prize.” Yep. That’s what I said. And now I’ve written it down. Shit me. Silly isn’t it?

Well, nope, not really. Definitely not silly. You see, I’m an artist and filmmaker, and albeit I didn’t go to Central St. Martins or where ever most artists go to study, I’ve had funding from the Arts Council, I’ve been commissioned, I’ve had a short film bought by a distributor in LA.

So why shouldn’t we look at our work and say ‘I want to win…’ whatever it is that will take your career to the next level?

But where on earth do I get these notions from?

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

Chris set out to make a short film and said, in a rather public way: “I want to win an Oscar.” He asked people for money, got the money, and made a film that reached the final round of voting in the Oscars, just before they chose the actual nominations. They missed out on an Oscar, but the got very very close, and made a good film because of it. Which got people’s attention. And although Chris is a ‘mainstream’ filmmaker (I’m assuming that) there’s a lot we can learn from everyone who put themselves out there.

They documented the process & they’ve now put it online with interviews, clips, and everything you need to look at your filmmaking journey.

I’m on section 3 of the course at the moment, and already there’s been some valuable insights into where I am, and what to do next. Some of which has reconfirmed what I already know, others have been first time insights. And when I get to the next stage of the course, there will be more. If the film-making journey is something you’d like to learn more about, I’d definitely recommend taking the course yourself.

In a short while, I’m going to be blatantly asking people for money. I need to think about how I do this seriously, how can I do it with the right support from people etc, and how I can do it legally too. I want to make a major work set a couple of days after the 2012 London Olympics.

It’s not something I can do on a low budget, so will be needing all the support from people and companies that I can convince. Although it’s a ‘short split screen film’ it’ll be a major work… So who’s with me?

Keywords: 2012 olympics,business,digital art,disability art,disability professionals,film,funding,london,mental health,money,normality,paralympics,risk taking,visual art,visual arts