Very happy to have reviewed the opening night of posting Letters to the Moon last night as it starts a tour that takes in Wimbourne, Guildford, Chipping Norton, Malvern and Devizes.
Oh, what a lovely, love-filled, heartwarming evening you will have with Posting Letters To The Moon. Opening night at Bath’s Ustinov Studio (Theatre Royal) looked like a full house for this charming legacy of a show.
But where to start? You could come into this piece through so many different doors. A Brief Encounter fan? An Archers addict? Maybe you’re a soul who loves the “letters from” format, or even “an audience with-“? Perhaps you’re an incurable ’39-’45 nostalgiac?
Whichever door works for you, this space is as welcoming and nourishing as you could possibly want. Huge congrats to Lucy Fleming and Simon Williams – and their family – for sharing these letters in such a generous way. More …
Writers need focus. And kindness. Lots of kindness. I wrote yonks ago here about the myth of artistic poverty – how a lack of money (and, related, time) absolutely stymied my work.
It leads to me chasing my tail, rather than having confidence enough to focus on a single project. It leads to me running up and down my projects, my contacts, the competition deadlines, watering them all, hoping one – just one – will bear me a fruit.
Of course, this is mad.
If studying the lives – and work – of great writers I admire tells me anything, it is that they sat with their work. One work. They listened. They thought. They paid attention to the task in hand.
Of course, they had to go to the post office. Of course, they had to shop, meet, talk, hustle, eat, drink, recover etc. But they treated their work with more respect than I have been showing mine. And that’s something I resolve to change.
Seeing as you’re here, you might be like me. You read posts about writing. I stumbled over one the other day that was so fresh, so generous in its tone, that it reminded me of Stephen King’s On Writing, or Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. What was so fresh was that it did not tell me I was doing everything wrong. It did not tell me that I could learn what 10 terrible mistakes I was making with every script. It did not tell me that if I would only be a better something [insert noun that’s simultaneously a carrot and a cat-o-nine-tails: “human”, perhaps], then I would be gobbled up eagerly by agents/producers – and not in a necessarily harrassmenty kind of way.
It was this. A post that says, “you can find a champion for your work”. That says, “yes there are hurdles, but you can get over them.” That nudges you gently out of the nest so you can fly, instead of screaming, “Jump, you tosser!” from the ground. So thank you, Hayley Mackenzie of Script Angel. It’s that kind of thoughtfulness – along with the likes of Philip Shelley‘s thorough confidence – that gives the industry a good name.
I don’t believe that making people feel bad, or in competition with their peers, works. Scriptwriting professionals like Hayley and Philip (they’re not the only ones, of course) remind me that I choose who I listen to. This is utterly personal of course, but the gentle encouragement of guys like this, and so many other writers, is one of the things that keeps me in the game.
It’s a privileged place to be, with words in your mind, in your hand, on a screen or page. The last thing you need is a beating. Just find some focus, do some listening and get those words out.
[skips off, distributing sunflowers, into a nuclear horizon…]
Wonderful week last week, with lots of goodies coming at once.
On Tuesday, I reviewed Michael Boyd (former RSC Artistic Director)’s new show, The Open House, for Bristol 24/7. You can read the review here.
Then I popped on a train, feeling all intercontinentally high-flyin’, wrote my review on the tracks & when I woke up (some sleep happened somewhere), I was in King’s Cross on my way to the C21/Script Angel WritersRoom, which ran as part of the International Drama Summit at Content London 2017.
Very merrily, my latest TV pilot spec script – written in a 10-day deadline frenzy in September – was highly placed in the C21/Script Angel Drama Series Script Competition. And this is how I won a place on this full and excellent day. In three groups, we developed a new show from concept to pitch. Each worked closely with an experienced show-runner: Versailles’ David Wolstencraft; Follow The Money’s Jeppe Gjervig Gram; False Flag’s Maria Feldman and Shades of Blue’s Adi Hasak.
The 9-6 day seemed like it was eaten whole in one big bite: Have we finished? Where did it all go?!
That’s in no small measure due to a cracking task-led structure, but also a bally marvellous working group. So often, writers work in holy isolation but here we had to listen, respond, respect and hit a deadline with a goodie. (What do you mean, “did we?” Of course we did!).
Anyway, it was yet another of those weeks where I stand, grin and kalloo-kallay my lucky stars to be able to do the stuff I do. I saw and reviewed great & thought-provoking theatre (heading to London in the new year, I believe) and worked with a great international group of merry writers and producers. And we all learnt from our group’s ace showrunners, Jeppe Gjervig Gram & Adi Hasak, with the sharp and steady Hayley MacKenzie of Script Angel’s hand on the tiller.
I’ve just reviewed the new Daniel Kehlmann show at the Ustinov, Theatre Royal Bath, for Bristol 24/7. In short, this was a tough review – I wish with all my heart I could have written a happier one. Click the pic to have a read:
Ha, make em laugh, eh? More like, make yourself laugh. I just spotted an old post from a year ago: The Awful Art of Unwriting. It’s a confessional, where I admit to not having done a new spec screenplay (as opposed to a play) for about 5 years.
In the last year, I’ve written three: one comedy pilot (30 mins) and 2 dramas, an hour each. They’re each still being polished in their own way, and one of them is under the radical surgeon’s knife, but blimey, it’s really worth a backwards glance from time to time.
Various other projects are still in the cauldron – not least the quantum 2-hander & the glorious, audience’s darling, Glitter Knickers – so if you have a time machine/ magic wand/ producer/ magic money tree, you’re very welcome to drop me a line…;) And meanwhile, new things start to sizzle for theatre and screen (oh, boy, and how….)
Way, way back, many moons ago, I spent a disproportionate amount of my degree studying fairy tale, folk lore, myth and language. A very lucky soul, I was.
I ended up examining the evolution of one character in particular – Morgan le Fay, King Arthur’s half-sister. A powerful woman in every version of the tale, she morphed from pre-Christian tri-partite fertility goddess (Celtic Morrigan), to an evil, conniving force of darkness. Over the centuries, society’s attitudes to women changed, as Christianity spread, and as things like the Marian Cult of the Virgin Mary took hold in scriptoriums (remember, back in the day, the monks were the publishing houses!).
And so, as Christian men took over, the earth-mother became a demoness. The other significant woman in Arthurian legend, Guinevere, herself changes during the story from sweet virgin to unfaithful wife.
As my own tale morphs and grows, and I constantly learn about the importance of story-making and -telling, I’m reminded again and again how, fundamentally, stories are universal. No matter the surface differences between Peppa Pig, Greta Expectations and The 40-Year-Old Virgin, a closer look will find the parallels: regardless of age or culture, we all want and need our story medicine – we just take it from different bottles.
So if there’s nothing new under the sun, that should remind us: our tribe is always out there.
As a writer, that might goad you to keep writing. You’re not doing it for you – it’s for the people who need that story.
As a reader/viewer, remember to try some new stuff, regularly and not just on the screen. Just as your own tale keeps growing, so others are sharing theirs for you to enjoy.
And as the changing depiction of Morgan showed how “society” (the story writers and publishers, reflecting an increasingly male-led world) viewed women who had power, so our stories reflect the way we want our world to be, and how it is. Which means, ultimately, that if we don’t say it, publish it, produce it, watch or read it, it canot be heard.
For those who like delving deeper in such things, both TV Tropes and the Aarne-Thompson-Uther Fable Index can lose you several hours down the rabbit holes of linking themes, motifs, lessons and characters….Just remember to come back!