So, it’s been about a month since my last post. “What’s been happening in Manduland?” I hear you (imaginarily) cry!
“A lot” is the answer to your question, good people of WordPressville. Here’s what I’ve been up to:
- Ideastap Q&A about the play Blackta and opportunities for ethnic minority creatives
- Genesis directors talk about engaging with minority cultures in theatre at Young Vic
- No Quarter at the Royal Court
- Ideastap Sight-reading masterclass with Shaka Bunsie
- London Screenwriters Festival breakfast talk with writer David Nicholls
So the Q&A was interesting as it looked at how actors from ethnic minority backgrounds could and do find work. For me Blackta is not without fault (and it is the first offering from Nathaniel Martello-White so bravo there) but it definitely has something to say. So many of the plays I’ve been to see recently would not be a masterclass as to how to be a perfect playwright, but they have something to say and they’re not afraid to say it. And for that, I think, you have to respect them. Most interestingly for me, I learnt how Martello-White got his play on at the Young Vic: he had worked with David Lan as an actor, the Artistic Director and handed him the play. It’s not what you know it’s who you know? So is the Old boys’ network still ringing true? If so, how do you get a foot in the door?
If I knew that, perhaps I would have my own play on somewhere… Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that working in this industry is down to luck, with a touch of “who-you-know” and a sprinkling of talent. Have faith, keep going. And remember: JK Rowling’s Potter series was turned down over 100 times before someone took it up. Of course, there is a chance that you’re a shit writer but that’s unlikely. Keep your eyes peeled for open calls for script submissions. Some will even provide feedback on your script – marvellous!
Sight reading masterclass was awesome. Shaka frightened the life out of me with some practice exercises. I am, like so many of my creative peers, dyslexic and the swathes of one-sentence wonders he handed over made me feel faint! – All I’m going to say is that Queen Liz I was awesome and must have learnt the art of circular breathing. (Perhaps to stop men from interrupting her weak and feeble woman voice. I jest. Sort of.) – The key here is: practice, practice, practice. As you would your yoga, your high jump or hurdles, your guitar skillz, sight reading is no different. Actors, like athletes, need to workout all the time. Just in a different way. Advice: practice taking in one line at a time of speeches or mono/duologues; memorise, take in and deliver, repeat ad finem.
Obscenely early one Friday morning, I went to the London Screenwriters festival Breakfast Club. We sat around sporting peach shirts, dodgy 80s haircuts and dossed about while in detention… Before David Nicholls arrived. He told us about his career and how he sort of fell into it. Starting out as an actor, he read a lot of scripts, become a script reader and researcher, journeying from careers in theatre to radio, to TV and film he also took some time to write fiction as well. It just so happens his books were rather popular and, because of his background, he was asked to write them as film scripts. Uncanny!
He is a structure-and-plan-before-writing writer. I am too so that’s just fine with me. His reasoning for this is that he found he ran out of steam halfway through an idea because he hadn’t planned it and that idea is now relegated to the depths of a harddrive somewhere. Some of the best tips I heard were:
- get used to rewrites;
- but also stand your ground, you’re going to get a lot of feedback and you can’t listen to it all
- establish a good relationship with a director;
- being overwhelmed, self-conscious and stuck is normal – don’t let that block you too;
- don’t try and run before you can walk – get that first draft out, then you can edit; and
- social media and the internet can be The Devil – find somewhere or a way to get away from it!
However this one is my favourite and came via Lucy Prebble:
Decide what response you want from your audience and set out to achieve it.
Perhaps that’s a tad obvious but sometimes, when I’m up to my eyes in writing, I forget about that. Taking some time out really helps us to regroup, be objective and go back to the script as though it were someone else’s and be less attached when it comes to editing. And on editing, Nicholls suggested you choose your battles wisely. Make cuts by all means but if you think something is really worth fighting for, fight for it or you may spend the rest of your life regretting that you didn’t.
As you are probably aware by now, I scour the internet for writing tips and I found Philip Shelley’s blog The Script Consultant:
David [Nicholls] is admirably modest – but at the same time it was clear it hasn’t all been ‘plain-sailing’. And if he’s saying that, then for the rest of us, it’s even clearer that there will be knocks along the way – it’s often how you ride them out and respond to them that is key.
See Philip’s full blog here. And do check it out. Often. There are lots of good tips, not just that entry but others too.
Oh and I haven’t forgotten but No Quarter was so awesome I want to chop off all my hair, dye it blonde and don a Polly Stenham costume. I. Love. Her.