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Just like a holiday romance

People have kindly asked how the play went, and the best analogy I can find is that it was like a holiday romance.  It began with getting to know one another, continued with an unexpected night of passion followed by an inexplicable and devastating cold shoulder, which was succeeded by a desperate attempt to rekindle the romance and ended with an agreement to be friends.

Given that this was my first play, I was prepared for almost anything, but not the emotional roller-coaster of the production week.  When working on a television series the intensity is spread – here it was so compressed that four days later I’m still waking up with the whole thing buzzing around in my head.  If this blog is a bit of a brain dump, so be it.

My intention was to write something that would be entertaining, satisfying in terms of plot, and unusual in style, with a lot of short television-style scenes, two stories which become one story, and six actors, one constantly on stage, with five others playing two or three parts each.  There was a sub-text of the central character finding relationships with women difficult and hints of romance, judicious references to social conditions in Manchester in 1888, some teasing of The Guardian, a bit of feminism, references to Dixon of Dock Green, Nick Ross and Crimewatch, and a homage to Columbo, who the hero resembled in not having a sidekick or confidant.

Props were minimal, the presence of a dead body was mimed, as were sandwiches, glasses of rum, and so forth.  Different characters were suggested by adding or removing items to or from everyone’s basic costume. Some people didn’t warm to the miming, and some felt the approach to costume was too minimal.

In retrospect, this was rather over-ambitious for a first-time playwright – and possibly for one more experienced.  Although blessed with a really imaginative director and a very committed and enthusiastic cast, the play really hinged on the audience buying the vision.  When it did, the play flew, particularly on the night of passion.  When it didn’t, on the following cold shoulder night, as the audience sat in silence, the experience was entirely hideous.

Unfortunately that was the night an apparently notoriously hard-to-please critic turned up, who ended his review with the thought that the play should never have been selected for the 24:7 Theatre Festival.  That led me to apologise to the organisers for bringing their festival into disrepute, an over-reaction I know, but I hope understandable.  They were kind and reassuring.

The following night, which I think of as the Red Bull show, we knocked five minutes off the running time purely by entering, exiting and acting faster.  After that things calmed down and the final shows were fun.

Given that this blog is largely meant to be about practical stuff in the areas of writing and producing rather than an opportunity for autobiography, I have been thinking about the lessons I’m still taking from the experience, and whether any might be of more general interest.

One lesson, which unfortunately reflects advice that I have passed on to many people over the years and in this instance ignored, is that it’s necessary to master a medium before playing with it.

Another is that in a fast-moving piece, with quite complex plotting, for everyone in the audience who is up to speed there are bound to be some who aren’t.  In an earlier draft there was a scene where the detective hero briefed his fellow policemen, but it felt too much like exposition at the time.  Dropping it was probably a mistake, or at least not finding ways of neatly reminding the audience of what had been learned so far and where we were going next.

A third is that it’s too easy to be seduced by an audience which gets all the jokes.  Laughter breeds laughter.  On the bad night, it occurred to me that people need to be given permission to laugh.  Though there is only one actual joke in the play there are many lines which are intended to be funny, and which might have brought a warmer response if they had been more clearly signposted.  Or possibly not.

Fourth is that it’s really essential to have an early cast read, with enough time to rewrite, either fundamentally or at least to tweak.  The nature of the production, a profit-share venture which relied on goodwill, meant that due to cast availability the first time I heard the piece in its entirety was when we ran it on the Sunday before the Thursday’s dress run and first performance.  By that stage, I was concentrating more on detail than on fundamentals.  It might still have turned out to be a Marmite play, but it might not if there had been rewriting time.  Although I had brilliant notes from my dramaturg, looking at a script and hearing it are rather different.

The fifth lesson is that I am now determined to keep chipping away at the stage.  Seeing my characters personified, hearing my funny lines appreciated, seeing people engaged in the plot and surprised by the twist, working with a director and actors who found things in the script that I hadn’t imagined, was an extraordinary experience and one that I really want to repeat.  Despite the one dark day, the entire process, the way a bunch of people turned into a company, the intensity of it all, were like nothing I had really lived before.  Hence, I owe a huge debt to 24:7 both for selecting the play for their festival, and for opening up possibilities I had never imagined.

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Talking to myself

Given that life is short, events are pressing and people here don’t read my maunderings there, this is something that also appears on the Daylight Robbery page on the 24:7 Theatre festival website. Since I wrote it, I’ve been at a costume session with two of the actors who talked about the show with such enthusiasm and insight that it made me feel like a proper playwright.  Or, as its hero Jerome Caminada would say, merry as marriage bells. 

Out of all the things I thought I’d become – rock star, best selling novelist, interestingly wasted absinthe addict haunting the gutters of Montmartre – I never dreamed that I would become a hyphenate.  But as writer-producer of Daylight Robbery, a hyphenate is what I am.

It’s an odd role, since traditionally a producer develops and steers a writer’s work, and a writer relies on a producer to be a wise guide, sharing the vision but standing back and pointing out how the rickety bits can be reinforced, or indeed whether sections need to be removed or replaced.  When it works well, then it’s a rewarding relationship on both sides.

So here we are, just days before opening night, and the producer is thinking – should I have encouraged the writer to be less ambitious, and the writer is thinking – it would be brilliant to have a producer to hold my hand through the inevitable moments of doubt.  Writers really want to be loved and reassured, and self love isn’t at all the same.

Fortunately there isn’t time to wobble because there’s a lot to be done, and while the police whistle has been bought, and major props secured through the kindness of Library Theatre, Caminada has still to attend his costume session at the Royal Exchange and, most important, the play has yet to be run through from beginning to end with all the cast in attendance. Sunday is the moment of truth when the brain has to split and the producer must talk encouragingly but firmly to the writer if flaws become apparent.  The key to successful writing is rewriting, and I’ve never been involved with a script which couldn’t have benefited from more work. 

 As a writer, I’m extremely fortunate that 24:7 saw enough merit in the draft I submitted to invite me to take part.  The play has developed a lot since then, while still retaining the original plan of having a small number of actors playing multiple roles in short, fast-moving scenes, juggling costume and props to reflect the different people and settings.  Three people have described it to me as Brechtian, which is quite a heavy weight to bear.

 As a producer, the whole thing has been an adventure and a really useful exercise in discovering how to mount a play on the fringe.  I’ve always preferred to learn through experience rather than instruction, doing it rather than being told how to, which of course can be risky or even foolhardy, but at least I can say at the end that it was my vision, transformed to a higher level by our very talented cast, our exciting director Darren R L Gordon, and considerably supported by our ‘foot in the door’ assistant producer, Nicola Holt, who now has both feet well into the room.  

 In my television days I was able to call on a specialist for every task – a production manager to look after all the practicalities and manage the budget, a set designer, an art director, a costume designer – and at first thinking that I needed to cover all these specialisms was more than boggling.  But doing one thing at a time, ticking off to-dos on a list, has made it all manageable, and enabled me to move from boggled to excited, albeit that the butterflies have now set up camp in my stomach and there is still more than a week to go before we move into New Century House.   

 However, a show without butterflies isn’t a show at all, merely an exercise in misplaced confidence.  Bring on the Red Admirals.

 

 

It’s playtime, 24:7

So I wrote a play, submitted it to the 24:7 theatre festival without either hope or expectation, and got on with other things.  It was a surprise, then ,to learn that the play had been selected, particularly since my last dramatic production had been in my schooldays.  Apparently one of the things that made it attractive was its Brechtian aspects, of which I hadn’t at all been aware, but which I now claim have been absolutely integral from the very beginning.

The play is called Daylight Robbery, and is a comedy-drama police procedural set in 1888, featuring Manchester’s first celebrity detective, Jerome Caminada. I first came across Caminada while delving into Manchester history, and deepened my knowledge with his two volumes of memoirs.  He comes across as intuitive, dogged, rather pleased with himself (as he should have been, given his clear-up rate), and a man who balanced locking up villains with concern for their post-prison welfare.  In many ways a man of his time, he was also rather ahead of it.

Instead of drawing on one of his real cases, I made up a new one, while drawing on the memoirs for texture and colour and language.  Caminada has two mysteries to solve, a series of robberies of single gentlemen in the leafy suburb of Didsbury, and a tall dead man in a too-small suit fished out of the open sewer that was the River Medlock.  Characters include an informer, a musical hall singer, a dodgy landlady, a proto-feminist, and a mysterious widow.

What makes the play a little unusual is that it involves around 20 characters in 26 scenes across forty five minutes, with a cast of six and a musician, and thus presents a challenge to the cast, and to the director, not to mention the writer and producer, ie me.

When I heard the play had been chosen, I hadn’t looked at the script for three months, and reading it was a revelation.  I’m either a glass full or glass empty person, and when I came back to the piece, it felt that the glass was entirely empty.  Could I really have written such a simplistic story?  What was I thinking when I put in those embarrassingly unfunny jokes? Why were many of the characters so thin?  Having advised writers over the years to tuck away the draft they like and then revisit it, I experienced just why that advice is so sound.  With some distance, it felt like someone else’s script, which allowed me to approach it and make notes from a neutral basis.

My first step was to recruit another pair of eyes, someone whose script notes have always been both solid and inspired, so I asked my former colleague Katherine Beacon if she would help.  She agreed.  It was reassuring when we met that the notes I had made for myself were notes that she had too, but she also had immensely useful and fundamental things to say in terms of plot and character, which made a second draft more enjoyable than challenging.  Rather than writing a draft immediately though, I did a new storyline, on which Katherine commented, and then a script, received more notes, did another script, and so on.

Meanwhile, I wanted to find a director who could realise and add to the eccentric vision.  I really wanted Darren R L Gordon to do it, but when we met he needed to be convinced with a new draft, which gave me further impetus to get the script right. His work on one of last year’s 24:7 plays made me feel he was the right choice and now, happily, he is on board.

24:7 runs an excellent ‘foot in the door’ scheme by which a drama student is attached to each production.  Having met them all at a scary but necessary production briefing day, there was one in particular who I thought would be exciting to work with, and who would, I hope, gain from the experience, so now I have Nicola Holt as my assistant producer.

Darren, Nicola and I are meeting next week to thrash through all the practical and creative things that need to be agreed and done, as we move on towards the show week of 19 to 26 July.  But I was greatly reassured to go to Oldham Coliseum on Friday night where short extracts from all of the festival plays were staged in the studio.  Everything felt as if it was moving in the right direction.  But there is a long way to go, and there are more drafts to be done as Darren considers his staging and actors bring their own insights to the piece.

Meanwhile, in the midst of all this, I’m working with the gang who used to be the Sketch in the City players and are now Cafe Society towards a ‘pop-up, site-specific’ sketch event in Chorlton at the end of June.  Of which more later.  Emboldened by the play, I have written my first sketch, but that may be a step too far.

Back in the blog house

So the tumbleweed has been swept away, the walls have had a lick of paint, and the blog house is occupied again.  The reason for the lengthy absence has been that I have been writing a book, and producing my first live comedy night.

Doing the book was quite fun, quite demanding, and quite salutary in that it made me realise the extent to which I had been relying on instinct and experience rather than my own recommended good practice in analysing other people’s scripts.  Sam Bain said recently that after a masterclass he gave with Jesse Armstrong, he felt he should really go away and follow his own advice, and the book made me feel exactly the same.  I hope that scripts I have dealt with subsequently have benefited from the introspection.

Now, with the manuscript delivered, I am in the typical writer’s position of waiting to hear what someone else thinks of it, with each day that passes convincing me that the man I sent it to hates it, and is struggling to find words to express how rubbish it is.  The rational answer, which I elicited by sending a gently enquiring email, is that he hasn’t read it yet.  But I’m still poised for bad news, or at least some comprehensive notes, which wouldn’t be a bad thing at all.  Indeed, I’m looking forward to getting down to a proper rewrite.  More news when there is some.

Meanwhile, producing a comedy night turned out to be as demanding, neurosis-inducing and ultimately rewarding as making a series.  It was a two-part thing.  The first half was a rehearsed read of a sitcom I have been developing, and which felt as if it had reached the stage where some audience response would be helpful.  The second part was a 30-minute pull-together of the best scripts from a year of Sketch in the City, the writer-based sketch night promoted by Cofilmic, which also yielded the sitcom script from David Isaac’s writing course.

I wanted to make it a proper night, both for Hayley-Jane Sims, the writer of Canal Street (a lively, rude and funny lesbian sitcom), and also for the Sketch in the City actors, allowing for proper rehearsals and aiming at a coherent show rather than a bunch of sketches.  The lovely Aisling Bea came up from London to compere.

Making the night run efficiently and to time so that Aisling could get the last train was one source of neurosis, making me even bossier than usual.  One of the cast getting lost on the way to the rehearsal venue for the sitcom read was something of a bad moment.

In the end, there was a full house (admittedly in a venue which holds 60 people), a lot of laughter, and Aisling got to the station in time.

The Canal Street read was interesting and instructive, in that it proved the script to be packed with laughs, but also missing that extra element to raise it from being funny to the next level.  It’s sometimes had to persuade people that funny on its own isn’t enough, but for a script to be commissioned, it isn’t. Pondering on how to achieve that, and drawing on my new determination to follow my own advice, I had an insight that I should really have had much earlier in the proceedings.  As a result the show has been significantly reinvented, much to its benefit I hope.  The process has illustrated how easy it is to get stuck in tweaking detail when the need is to stand back and think about whether the fundamentals are working.

As for the sketch show, we all had such a good time that I’m now working with the actors to establish them as a sketch group in their own right. Although it’s early days, it feels as if what I thought would be my first and last live production was the beginning of something rather than a one-off.  Next stop the O2.

Meanwhile, it was inspiring to learn that David Renwick, one of the great original writers engaged in comedy and comedy-drama, walked away from a series he had created for ITV when executive notes would have turned his idea into something far from the show he wanted to write.  He is, of course, a man with a high reputation and a distinguished career.  For a new writer to follow suit takes a great deal of courage, but it can and does happen, and although I would never suggest withdrawing from something for whimsical reasons, if what a writer is being asked to do feels very wrong, then is it better to suffer, execute notes you don’t believe and have that work on your CV, than to withdraw as gracefully as possible, maintain self-respect and trust that another commission will come along in time to pay the bills?

Back to the blog house soon.

Some FAQs – first in an occasional series

When I do an occasional question and answer session, the same questions seem to crop up so, in response to those and to some emails, I thought I’d devote this blog to the frequently asked.

Do I have to decide whether my comedy is for a studio audience or for single camera shooting?  What is the difference?

You need to have a vision for your show and the best way to deliver it.  If it’s full of laugh-aloud lines and can take place in a limited number of settings – four or five – then it’s an audience show.  If it’s funny but not laugh-aloud funny throughout, or if it needs to be out and about more, then it’s single camera (ie, shot like a drama or a film).  Mrs Brown’s Boys demands an audience, Gavin and Stacey doesn’t.  Hebburn is interesting, in that when I saw it at a showcase in Salford last year there was a lot of audience laughter and it felt like an audience sitcom.  The real show is made without an audience, and I think the jokes don’t work properly as a result. Given that the action takes place mainly in a house and a pub, there seems no reason for it not to be an audience show, although the producers obviously had their reasons.

How long should my script be?

It should be the right length for the channel you’d like to see it on.  A BBC ‘half hour’ should be around 28 minutes, and a commercial channel half hour should be 24 minutes, both timings including titles.  If there are around 200 words per page, then a BBC script should be 30 to 32 pages, and a commercial script 22 to 24 pages, or 6000 words for the BBC, and 4500 for others, although accurate timings can only come from reading the script aloud.  Being a little over is better then being under, but missing the target significantly looks unprofessional.

How do I format my script?

Although single camera scripts are laid out like film scripts, and audience sitcom scripts have a wide left margin to allow for camera directions, at the pitching stage when you just want someone to read your work, film format is fine for both, and saves paper.  Final Draft is the industry standard software, but beginning writers often use a free program called Celtx.  The easiest thing when sending your script out is to send it as a PDF which can be read by anyone, and should preserve formatting, though working with a Celtx writer recently the formatting tended to go a bit weird in PDF.

How much action should I write in? How should I describe characters when they first appear?

My favourite scripts are always those – audience or single camera – which read like a piece of writing rather than pages of dialogue linked by action here and there. Admittedly there is less scope for ‘writing’ in audience sitcom, because the aim is to get from laugh to laugh, but the odd word describing the character’s feelings or reactions can take away the baldness and make the script more entertaining, as well as helping actors.  For example, X delivers bad news to Y.

X:  I’m afraid you didn’t get the job.

Y: (STUNNED):  I didn’t?

X: Afraid not. (ENJOYING THIS) Mate.

Y: (RALLYING): But I was on the short list?

X: It depends how you define short list.

Apologies for the rubbish writing, but you get the idea.  It’s obviously unhelpful to pepper every line of dialogue with a description of mood because the mood should be evident in the dialogue itself, but judiciously applied it can add to the reader’s enjoyment and grasp of your intentions.

In a single camera script there is more scope for setting up a scene in the initial directions. For example:

It’s an hour later, but Y has stayed in reception to waylay X, confident that his interview was a great success.  X is delighted to see him, relishing the opportunity to deliver the bad news in person.

In terms of character description brevity should do the job.  For example: X, a conceited bully: Y, disguising shyness with over-confidence… and so on.

In either genre, it’s important to avoid writing in camera directions, because that’s the job of the director.  So ‘zoom in on’ or ‘pan to’ are both unnecessary and irritating.  Directions and dialogue should be clear enough to allow a director to deliver or add to your vision.

How long should a scene be?

The screenwriting guru Robert McKee is helpful on this.  He says that every scene should have a beginning, middle and end, that every scene should be related to story, as should every line of dialogue, and that changing the emotional temperature of a scene helps to maintain momentum.  In other words, if someone comes into a scene happy they should leave it sad, or angry, or frustrated.

The important thing is to begin every scene as late as possible and end it as soon as possible.  In other words, make the point and move on.  A preamble delays reaching the point.  A final flourish, however funny, dilutes the point, and each scene should have a single point rather than several.  Telling your story as economically as possible is the aspiration, and each scene should end on a note of ‘what next?’.

How do I indicate a pause in dialogue?

Traditionally you would use the word ‘beat’, but some actors see it and give a long and dramatic pause, which can be very irritating.  You could say: A SHORT BEAT if you want a brief pause, A BEAT or just BEAT if you want a slightly longer one.  You could say PAUSES BRIEFLY.  Or just use … three dots.

Of course, these are my answers and opinions in an area with plenty of opinions and no ‘correct’ way.  More to follow in due course.

Meanwhile, I’m looking forward to the second Cofilmic Festival at the Comedy Store in Manchester next Monday and Tuesday.  On the Tuesday we will be presenting eight of the best sketches from Sketch in the City and the Cofilmic/Gumption competition, with the winner being filmed professionally as the prize.  Last year’s judges reached their decision within seconds, so I’m hoping that chairing the panel will be just as painless this time.

 

 

Life’s a pitch

Pitching a show is an intermediate stage between having an idea, and getting someone to give you money to work on it.  Although the word summons up visions of the high energy, high pressure American approach, in Britain a pitch is more like a meeting.  And it helps to calm the nerves if you remind yourself that the person you’re pitching to asked to meet you, so you wouldn’t be there if they didn’t think you were a writer they might want to work with.

As part of the Cofilmic sitcom writing course in Manchester, a group of writers are coming to the  BBC’s Salford offices next week to practise pitching their shows to development producer Joanna Blake and me. Between us, we came up with some notes for the writers to help reduce the nerves in some small way, and I thought these might be of more general interest.

In the real world, there’s invariably a bit of social chit-chat and an offer of a hot drink or water before the business begins.  It doesn’t really put anyone at ease, but it allows you to form an impression of the person or people you’re pitching to, and vice versa. In the Cofilmic/BBC exercise, it will be more or less straight down to business. Working up a pitch, seeing how other people do theirs, and taking note of the questions that are asked after each pitch should all help prepare the writers for the real thing when it comes.

Jo Blake has prepared five areas to cover, which are: Title; Tagline (a one liner about the show that will draw us in); Channel, slot and format – audience or single camera; What it’s about? (ie what makes it original) – the comedy should be implicit in this pitch – ie the who, what, where, and why. Feel free to use other comedies as reference points; And then a brief summary of the first episode.

Titles should be short, descriptive, and ideally not jokey, because a ‘funny’ title rapidly stops being funny and can become embarrassing.  Many shows draw on existing phrases or song titles, or just use the name of the leading character.

The tagline is very important, because it needs to describe, intrigue, and set up your show.  If it’s hard to come up with a tagline, then that might be because you’re not quite clear what the show is about.

My favourite line – for a film rather than a TV show – runs: ‘He knew Paris was for lovers… he just didn’t think they were all hers.’  That’s a brilliant example of something that allows you to ‘see’ the piece, promises fun, and makes you want to discover how it all pans out.

It’s also economical, just 14 words.  The important bit of tagline is ‘line’ – it has to be one sentence.

Channel and slot is something that even more experienced writers don’t think about enough.  Knowing where and who you want to see your show should be built into the idea from the beginning.  Writers who can’t answer the channel and slot question come across as unprofessional.  Writers who name an obviously inappropriate channel for the idea (an old people’s home for BBC3), or a slot (BBC1, 7.30, Tuesday) haven’t done their homework.  Writing is as much about selling as it is about ideas.

The format also needs to be clear, because the script needs to have been written either as an audience sitcom, or a single camera piece.  A broadcaster might suggest changing audience to single camera, or single camera to audience, but you have to know what you’re writing and how you would like it made.

So you’ve grabbed the attention with a clever title, piqued the interest with an intriguing tagline, and demonstrated that you’ve thought about where your show would live.

Now comes the really important bit – what it’s about.  The most persuasive pitches start with character rather than setting, because audiences like to follow characters in stories rather than getting excited about a cafe or a supermarket.  Talk about the people and their relationships, and try to keep everything in short sentences as a discipline to stop you waffling.  What is/are the key relationship/s in the show?  How do those characters contrast?  Where does the drama (because comedy is a form of drama) take place? Why those particular people in that particular setting?

And finally, tell a little story.  There isn’t time to talk through a scene breakdown of the first episode, so stick to the essentials – the three beats of the main story, the three beats of the sub-plot, and whether they collide at the end.

Covering those points gives the person you’re pitching to enough information to decide first whether they actually like the show or if it works for them, and then to ask questions.

Think of it as a chat rather than a trial.

Before a pitch, It makes sense to write a document covering Jo’s points so that you can refine it down to the essentials.  Although you’re expected to be able to talk about your idea, the people you’re pitching to know that it’s all a bit nerve-wracking, so bring your document and have it by you in case your mind goes suddenly blank.

Meanwhile, Armando Iannucci gave a very interesting lecture at BAFTA the other night, which is well worth a read, and can be found at http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2012/sep/11/armando-iannucci-bafta-lecture-transcript?newsfeed=true.

A matter of time

Reading scripts and working out how they might work more effectively is almost always enjoyable, unless the script is so far beyond redemption that doing notes is pointless and the challenge is to find a polite way of telling the writer that another choice of career would be advisable.  The real joy, though, is when the scripts are actually going to be made, because production is the real end point of development.  So I’m in happy state at present, being involved in executive producing a two-episode pilot, which is now in post-production.

Having the opportunity to make two episodes is unique, or at least unique to me, meaning that the shoot felt more like making a series than making a one-off.  It was also an exceptionally happy shoot, where the core cast, guests and crew were manifestly having a good time, so it felt sadly abrupt to wrap on Tuesday and head off for a night out in Liverpool.

It’s tempting fate to talk about pilots until a channel has made a decision, particularly since decisions are based on more than the quality of the show.  Channels think in terms of their schedules, so the question is not just whether it’s good, but also whether it fits and can it do a job at an acceptable price for that slot?  All one can do is make the best show possible, deliver it and wait.  I hope very much, though, that I’ll be writing more about it in the autumn.

The history of the show made me think about time, and the time things take.  It’s generally true that it takes eighteen months from someone liking a script to seeing a series on air.  It’s also generally true that it takes four years for a writer with talent to learn the craft, gradually become noticed, and come up with an idea that someone wants to make.  I had a kind note from a writer whose apprentice efforts I encouraged before he could actually do it, but who felt worth encouraging because he was both funny and determined .  The jokes were great, the substance was thin.  He kept at it, had meetings here and there, kept having ideas, and now he’s looking forward to a read-through at the end of the month for a potential BBC1 project.  In one sense, a read-through is just a beginning.  In another sense, it’s major milestone in a writer’s career, so I’m very pleased that “a working-class oik from the arse-end of Middlesbrough” has got so far, not least because his experience proves that television isn’t a closed shop where Oxbridge graduates promote one another’s careers.  Or at least not entirely.

Talking to a sketch group at the last Sketch in the City night about their television ambitions, it felt a bit discouraging to tell them that the four year rule seems also to apply to live performers making a successful transition from rooms over pubs to the screen, particularly since they’re now in their second year.  The only advice I could give was to think about the medium in its own terms, rather than expecting to transfer their stage act wholesale.  And also to hang in there, because others haven’t, to try and meet casting directors so that they might become individual faces playing guest parts in other people’s shows and thus become known to the people who make decisions.  Those people always need reassurance that something is going to work, so the more a performer keeps cropping up, or writers can demonstrate interest in their work across different companies, the more reassured someone will be that it’s worth investing time and money.

For performers, of course, the internet offers an easy and affordable way of demonstrating their work and talent, but there’s a great deal of comedy out there, and it’s hard to be noticed among the noise.  Kittens can help.

The final stages of post-production on the pilot coincide with the beginnings of the 24:7 Theatre Festival here in Manchester, and I’m looking forward greatly to seeing the two plays to which I’ve made some contribution.  Goldfish by Lisa Whiteside is a gritty drama about troubled children, a policeman and a youth worker on a sink estate.  Stars are Fire by Francesca Waite is a moving piece about the troubled relationship between a bereaved father and his teenage daughter after they move from Manchester to make a fresh start in Northumberland.  Both deserve to do really well.