For twenty months, while my life was fat with “material” (running away from domestic abuse with a freshly-two year-old), it was thin on cash. As the months went by, the rent went up, the flexible hours vanished and the hope of ever getting a mortgage and stable home shrank into the distance.
I planted every creative seed I could think of (and that energy allowed): theatre and film competitions; TV pitches; feature treatments…all unpaid, but them’s the breaks. Alongside, I applied for jobs, jobs, jobs…
Some of it was hilarious. There was an Officially Exciting BIg Theatre Interview. On the application form, it said, “Tell Us Why You’d Benefit From This Opportunity…” – and they got a shame-faced / chin-up statement about being a single parent writer hundreds of miles outside London: the lack of bar-led chances to gel, the niggles of childcare and travel… Then kalloo-kallay! I got an interview! At 9am on a Monday morning…
After that long period of fallow, and superb support from other artists (you know who you are; and it’s not gone to waste), I had so many seeds underground, I was eye-high-filthy and spent – both financially and creatively.
No single project could justify my focus – because no single one showed any more hope than any other. I ended up running up and down empty rows of soil, again and again, doing absolutely nothing of value and no-one any good. Surely ONE of them must grow? There must be a magic bean in there somewhere? Now? Now? Now?
= Eventual panic.
I was very lucky.
Someone put me forward for a job. The Other Job, the one that pays the bills. It allows me to work as a well-paid, qualified professional and even gives me the flexibility that single parenthood demands. I travel hundreds of miles a week to do it but it’s worth it – the considerations are not My Art (yup – bum firmly in air as I say it), but whether my just-four year-old is OK with it.
Being an artist is a luxury. It requires head space, an absence of survival-fear and the room to roam in your mind.
These things can be taken for granted by people who have others to fund them, care for & protect their offspring. …Is it any surprise that white men dominate the arts when they – perhaps more than any other group in this country – can most easily avoid the imaginative and creative paralysis of poverty?
I’m extraordinarily fortunate and I know it. If you’re looking for a lesson, then the only one is don’t panic. (And if you’re still in school / college, always make sure you have a Plan B….)
Just a very quick cheat of a posting: click here for the first update for supporters of the quantum play. News on our support from Old Vic New Voices Lab, how we beat the fundraising target by 25%, a piece in Arts Professional on what not to do and the skinny on this month’s big professional development day…
Last week saw the London VAULT Festival outing of Passion, thanks to Allie Butler and Helen Cuinn at tidycarnage. I’ve also been working up the notorious ten-page treatment (and other stuff) required for ifeatures and proposals for Screen Yorkshire’s Triangle. And we’re moving towards the development day for the all-consuming quantum mechanics play (I still can’t thank everyone enough for their support. That includes offers of help in kind, which are still coming in. Thank you!)
Sadly, it’s all unpaid. In fact, it costs me money.
If I can get some spare time, I fancy speaking to some economists or think tanks about quantifying the “private investment” that individual artists give to the British economy. All that time given for free, subsidised by the individual. If we were rich/organisations/accountants, we might know. And if we know, we could perhaps argue for better funding models. And drama GCSE…
We might know the knock-on income we generate for our local economies (pay to venues, technicians, printers, costume hire; income for local pubs, restaurants, taxi firms). We might know the cumulative impact (say, 100 professional writers, investing X hours a month in one small city alone…). We might know what would be lost in the longer term if we stopped subsidising the public’s entertainment.
Where would the UK broadcast, theatre, TV and film industries be in ten years’ time if the underpaid refused to be unpaid? If it was decent pay or none?
If anyone knows of a union or think tank who fancy developing this further, I’m up for it…(you can reach the professional campaigning version of me at http://www.lyric-communications.com or contact me here. Love to hear from you.)
The thoughtful and thought-provoking Bristol actor Annette Chown has a bit of a thing about quantum mechanics. Which is lucky for me.
Annette has very generously given over a blog posting to a Q&A with me about my quantum mechanics script and current attempts to crowdfund enough cash to pay for a day in the rehearsal room. Here it is: http://downstagewrite.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/to-be-or-not-to-be-that-is-question-but.html.
It goes without saying: I’d love you to be one of our theatre angels – please feel very at liberty to pledge your support before 15 January ’14 here : http://www.talentbacker.com/talents/view/gill-kirk) – You can start at a fiver and there are quantum-related rewards!
If this was a play in development with a theatre, they would give me/it some dramaturgical (script editor-like) support as well as time with a director and actors to try things out.
I’ve already paid for a brilliant dramaturg, David Lane, to support me through the various drafts (you can read Hannah Silva talking about her similar work with David here.) But I can’t pay for directors, a cast and a rehearsal space. So, I have some choices:
ask actor mates to do it for free, one night after their day jobs, but knowing there can’t be time for proper thought / exploration
just send the script as it is to theatres (my best version, but without input from a director/actors), cross my fingers and hope they can see the potential
get out the sock puppets
raise the dosh to pay professionals.
So, as you will see in the crowd-funding film, I got out the sock puppets. It didn’t go too well. So I’m fundraising.
If you, or anyone you know, can help me pay real actors – instead of putting a quantum rifle in the hands of a drunken Upsy-Daisy – this script has a far better chance of being the best it can be. AND the wonderful backers / theatre angels get rewards! (Am very happy to talk about extra reward options to anyone!)
Thanks for reading – please, PLEASE feel free to share this page online, pass it or the talent backer page to anyone you think might be interested! Thank you! I’ll be back…..