Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Watch and vote!

A film-making mate, Sam Donovan, made a one minute film for the BAFTA "60 seconds of fame" competition - the film has made it to the regional finals where it's competing for a chance to be screened at the BAFTAs this year.

It's a funny film, and worth a look and a vote - go here to watch it and vote for Sam!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Having a tetris moment

Currently listening to: "The Legendary Johnny Cash"
Currently eating: homemade felafel and guacamole - oops, there goes this week's lunches

One of the things that writers get asked is "where do you get your ideas?" Although I'm always tempted to say that the good ones come from Waitrose but the rest come from the pound shop, my real answer is that I don't "get" them at all - they just arrive. Usually, they're kind of half formed, an "ooh that might be something" type of thought that isn't quite enough for a story. And then it floats about for a while, and if I'm being organised I write it down, and forget about it. Then something else pops up, or I read something, and suddenly, kerching! Now, THAT + THIS would make a story! At the Royal Court workshop, Lindsey called it a "tetris moment" when all the pieces slot together, and Jane explained it as having one idea that wasn't quite complete, that suddenly meets another thing you're interested in, and it all just clicks.

And joy of joys, I'm having a week of tetris moments. After a spell of feeling like I'd never have another idea ever ever again, the delayed effect of going to the workshop seems to be that every single brain cell is firing on all cylinders at the moment. A very old idea sprang back into life when I read an article in the paper and found a way into the story (this will hopefully be a BIG play); a new idea popped up (this will probably be a little play); and I got an insight into how I can make a character I've been playing around with for a while actually work out.

On top of this, KAOS put out their call for entries for this year's BSSC - early deadline 28th March, final deadline 27th June for live action scripts; animation is going to be a separate category this year. Unfortunately I haven't written a short script since "A Tree for Emily" last year, so I'm hoping this week's tetris moments will result in a little film as well as a little play. Gone In 60 Seconds will be calling for one minute scripts soonish too, their deadline is usually April, so I need a tiny play too.

I also need a new digital camera since my trusty Fuji Finepix packed in last week. I've been browsing various websites, including the blogs of a couple of good photographers in my blogroll, but I can't decide what to get, so any advice would be helpful. I don't want to spend silly amounts of money, because I'm a snapper rather than a photographer, I just like having pictures as souvenirs rather than being someone who aims to take classy photos, so if anyone knows of a good, reliable, basic and not too dear camera, please let me have your suggestions.

And finally, I think I managed to get my blogroll back to the way it was before I managed to lose everyone. But if I'm not linking you and you think I should, let me know.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Workshop update

Promised a report from last weekend's workshop at the Royal Court. Famous for being one of the places for new writing, they run groups for young writers, but also a 26+ group which until recently has been a ten week evening course (so, obviously, impossible to attend for those who don't live in London). This year, the 26+ workshop has been converted into a weekend workshop, and thanks to Lianne and a cheeky email, I got a last minute cancellation slot. (As it turned out, there were 15 places available but only 9 of us turned up, so if you fancy it, it might be worth a cheeky email re the February and March weekends).

The weekend began with pre-play drinks and introductions on the Friday evening followed by a play (we saw Vertical Hour, as reported earlier). On Saturday, we began at 9:30 with more detailed introductions (why are you here, what do you write, etc) and then lots of group discussions about what playwrights do, what plays are for, the qualities writers need - oh, the workshop was run by Jane Bodie, who was very funny, insightful and inspirational, a really good workshop leader; after a really nice lunch in the Royal Court bar we had a session with associate director Lindsey Turner which was really useful in terms of insights into how directors work with writers and actors in order to turn the writer's vision into something the actors can perform on stage - she's a really good session leader. In the afternoon, lots of working on scenes, writing and reading with the other workshop participants. We finished around 7, and headed to the bar to carry on talking. Oh, we also had homework. Sunday, began at 9:30, ran til at least 7:15 which is when I had to leave to get my train - in between, lots more working on scenes, workshopping ideas about the stuff that had come up from our homework (which was to read a play and find some stuff from newspapers), and a career Q+A to round things off.

It was a completely brilliant and inspirational weekend, which did exactly what I had hoped it would do - ie, give me a kick up the backside as far as writing for theatre is concerned; and although it might seem expensive, I got a play, three play texts, drinks, coffees, lunches, about 18 hours of workshop time, and some great networking and chat time. Which, when you break it down, is pretty good VFM. The other people in the group were great, a good mix of actors, writers, and people working in theatre, and hopefully we'll be meeting up to go and see some plays together in the future.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sad times

I was planning on posting a jolly, happy post about the workshop, then I heard from N that Heath Ledger has been found dead in his apartment in New York. A fine, fine actor, and a great loss.

And it was the funeral of one of my first ever heroes, Sir Edmund Hillary, in Auckland NZ today.

Jolly happy goes out the window, really.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Masterclass and workshop weekend

Went to London for a masterclass, theatre, and writing workshop - got a last minute cancellation place on a Royal Court writing weekend, then found out Sam West was doing a masterclass on Friday, so managed to get down in time for that - all a bit of a mad rush, and too tired to blog when I got home last night, but here's the first part.

The Theatre Royal Haymarket run some great masterclasses, aimed at 17-30 year old but not limited to that group. If you're over 30, you pay a tenner, which is absolutely bargainous. Friday was supposed to be Imelda Staunton at the Theatre Royal, but ended up being Sam at the Almeida. It was an acting masterclass, where Sam worked on scenes from three plays (Dealer's Choice by Patrick Marber, Betrayal by Harold Pinter, and Top Girls by Caryl Churchill) with three pairs of young actors (sadly I didn't get their names, but they were fab). I can't comment from an actor's point of view, but from a writer's viewpoint, it was a fascinating insight into the directing process as much as anything. The actors first performed the chosen scene, then Sam would direct them to change things, either about the way they moved and used space, they way they delivered lines, or the way they reacted to the other actor's speech.

He asked the actors to think about what they wanted, both overall (their "super-objective") and in that particular scene, or even with that line - worth thinking about from a writing viewpoint, in that if you don't have the character want something in each line, the actor will have less to work with. Also, to think about what each person knows at the beginning of each scene.

Other, more actor-y stuff - play the action, not the mood; know the character's back story; do the play that's there - don't add punctuation etc that isn't there; find a character in the rhythm of their speech. And my favourite: "It's not up to you to feel, it's up to you to do - that's why it's called acting".

A ton of thought-provoking stuff to take away and reflect upon - I can't remember who it was who told me to do acting classes and workshops to become a better writer, but it's certainly true that an acting and directing masterclass like this really made me think about how what you put on the page is dealt with in getting the words up on their feet.

And not only do you get a 2+hour masterclass for your tenner (or for free if you're under 30), you also get to go in the bar for free career advice afterwards, if you wish! Like I said, total bargain: click here to find out about future masters and their classes.

And after a quick drink and a chat, it was off to the Royal Court, Sam to Rough Cuts and me to meet up with the other weekend workshop participants and to see "The Vertical Hour", David Hare's play which premiered on Broadway last year.

It was only the second preview of the play, so they were still working it in, and changing things in tech over the weekend; it was well acted, but on the whole disappointing, I felt. Anton Lesser was fab as Oliver, and Indira Varma very sharp as Nadia, but the role of the son felt very underwritten. Although there were some very funny bits, and some thought provoking material in there, it felt as though too many ideas were thrown into the air and inadequately developed. It would've been a lot tighter and punchier at half an hour shorter. But, as I say, its still in preview and hasn't had the press night yet, so things may change and tighten up.

Apparently on Saturday I managed to walk past David Hare himself without even noticing, but I did spot Sir Peter Hall in the bar so I'm not totally losing my grip.

More about the Royal Court writing workshop later; but their co-production of Caryl Churchill's play "Drunk Enough to Say I Love You" will be on at the Public Theater of New York in March, with Sam playing one role in the two-hander - but I don't know if he's playing Sam or Jack. Not sure which would be most confusing!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Joaquin Phoenix People's Choice Awards 2008

As promised

Mixed bag

An all sorts of bits and pieces random catch up.

First, the important stuff:

I missed this link from Thursday; Sam seems to be the main man for Equity at the moment - go here for a debate on Radio 4's PM on 10th Jan about the Arts Council cuts - ffwd to 40mins to hear the crucial bit.

Am a touch cheesed off that writers and theatre-makers have been blogging about this since before Christmas but its not until the actors get involved that the BBC takes notice; on the other hand, at least they're taking notice.

Can't help but link the Arts Council's disregard for new writing and regional theatre with the WGA strike in America - am I alone in feeling that its "let's stomp on writers" season? I particularly enjoyed Joaquin Phoenix's response to the strike as part of the People's Choice awards, and not just because I'm in the "got to see everything he's done" phase of having a bit of a crushette on him (it's his eyes - man with green eyes = me going *thud*) - and I would've posted his response as part of this post, if it wasn't for the fact that I can't work out how to embed a clip - suffice to say, Joaquin follows shortly.

*cough* OK, attempt to get back to being serious and banish all thoughts of Joaquin ...

Said a while ago I'd update re Caught Shorter, Screen Yorkshire's scheme for funding short films. I put in a bid with me as producer alongside Director Dan and Writer Mark; we got shortlisted, which in itself is an achievement, I think - they shortlist 8 in order to pick 4, from around 100 applicants. We didn't get selected for funding, and one of the reasons was "inexperienced director" - given that the scheme is for 1st or 2nd time directors, we were a little confused about this - how can you apply for a scheme for 1st or 2nd time directors unless you're inexperienced? Isn't that the point? Anyway, we haven't given up, and I'm still looking out for sources of funding for what I think is a really interesting script. And if anyone is up for an interview with their regional board and wants a quick chat about our experiences, get in touch - am happy to help wherever possible.

And I know I'm way behind with film reviews, but as a quick summary - Golden Compass, liked it; Enchanted, made me queasy; Charlie Wilson's War, also made me queasy; St Trinians, fun but not a patch on the original. N and I were going to see PS I love You last week but decided we'd rather stay in the bar for another drink, however we are going to attempt to see We Own The Night this week, and not just because N is indulging my Joaquin thing. No, not at all.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Action needed

Click here to protest against the proposed cuts to the Bush Theatre if you care about new writing; go to David Eldridge's blog to see the arguments set out much more thoroughly and eloquently than I can do it; go here to sign a petition to the Government if you have no confidence in the Arts Council right now. Here's Lyn Gardner's views, and here's Sam West on the BBC's Daily Politics show last week. following the Equity meeting at the Young Vic (the clip is only available for the next 4 days - fast forward to 25 minutes into the programme - although there's a nice bit of RSC Hamlet from 2001 at the beginning of the programme too.)

Will be back later with a more substantial post, but this couldn't wait.