Category Archives: Team Writing

London Labour Film Festival

I was in London last month to see Big Society the Musical open the London Labour Film Festival. Big Society was written and produced in Liverpool by over three hundred and fifty people, who gave their time over three years to make a statement.  It seemed a long time since eight writers got together in a room off Hope Street, Liverpool to thrash out a story.  Our inspiration, David Cameron’s Big Society speech.  When he delivered it, he made it sound like it was his idea, when all over Britain, the ethics of the Big Society had been practised for centuries but then how can someone who has never experienced poverty understand what it’s like.  As a line in Big Society goes, it’s ” …. falling like change through a hole in a rich man’s pocket.”

The Festival opened with a speech from Unison Northwest Regional Manager, Lynne Morris who introduced the film with passion and commitment and explained how important it is that trade unions invest in the arts and in creative responses such as ours.  The screening of an extract from the recent Tony Benn film which followed, was the perfect empowering short to be played ahead of “Big Society” and set the tone for our anti-austerity musical.  Tony Benn’s message expressing the need for the people’s voices to be heard could not have been a better lead-in.   As one character in Big Society the Musical says, “If they don’t hear us shout, then we’ll sing.”

After our screening there was a Q&A with our Director Lynne Harwood, leading lady Paula Simms, performer Joe Maddocks and composer Andy Frizzell, kindly chaired by Carl Roper, National Organiser for the TUC.

Read a review of what Trade Unionist blogger Jon Bigger thought of the screening here 

The screening was attended by Industry professionals, trade unionists, filmmakers and independent cinema owners and the production team were excited to have forged a number of exciting partnerships off the back of the screening…. more will be announced in the near future but in August the team behind this exciting piece plan a one day mutli-cinema mass audience event… to be sure there is a screening in YOUR area sign up for a screening here:http://www.first-take.org/screenings#/

 Help us get the message out about the film. Like us on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bigsocietythemusical

Follow us @BigSocietyFilm 
Other Ways to get involved: 

We are actively seeking partners and champions to help us host screenings around the country, share the Video on Demand campaign and get involved with marketing and distribution.  If you are interested in discussing opportunities to partner with the film please contact the team on all@first-take.org

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Filed under Dance, Feature films, Film writing, Musical, Team Writing

Team writing and the “Big Society”

The UK, 2011 and the financial crisis: cuts in just about every area of life were beginning to bite and more were on the horizon. In May that year I was asked to be part of a writing team to make a film about the effects of those cuts – the title – “Big Society” taken from a speech by David Cameron. But this wasn’t just any old drama – this was a Musical. How could I say No?

The film was a community project – everyone gave their time and skills for free. There were six writers on the outline script, not all of us there all the time – people had jobs, commitments, responsibilities as well as their own projects but from May to July, one day a week, the story grew on the wall, scenes shuffled about, the structure solidified and the characters became real until a detailed scene by scene had been hammered out.

We wanted to get this film made as quickly as possible, while it was of the moment, not history, so there was no time for drafting and redrafting. Instead the director took the scene by scene and went into production with the actors improvising the dialogue. A method that’s used by some famous directors.

Team writing has disadvantages – you never fully own the final product but whether it’s film or anything else that needs a writer, sooner or later you’ve got to hand it over for someone else to put their stamp on it, even if it’s only a magazine editor cutting your 2000 word story by 1000 words to accommodate a full page advert!

The advantages probably outweigh the disadvantages: when you run up against a brick wall, there will always be at least one person who can find a way round it even though sometimes your fellow writers will have you climbing it. Yes, there’ll be arguments about motivations and reactions but objectivity and a week’s distance will always show whether you’ve made the right choice; climb downs and humble pie eating can be good for the soul.

But how do you know that the end product is better than all the other possible products that were discarded along the way? If that quirky, vibrant, funny scene you wrote had been included instead of getting the thumbs down from your fellow writers, who knows what a difference it would have made. Well, so what? Accept the fact it didn’t and move on. If it was that good a scene, it will metamorphose in another story – you can’t keep a good scene down.

I’ve written with a partner on comedy drama, with five men and a woman on comedy sketches, with script editors on television series and a script consultant on a film. To know there’s someone dozing on a sofa at Elstree, waiting for your next scene at 3 am, when you’re working to a deadline, or just a friendly face in the pub at the end of the day to give you feedback can make the difference between failure and success.

At the beginning of your career when you’re writing for the love of it, team writing offers support but teams are like committees, there’s always someone who doesn’t pull their weight when there’s no financial incentive. Whatever the reason they don’t is neither here nor there. Whatever you’re doing, you’re either committed 100% or you won’t get anything out of it. You’ve got to give it everything. And your reward? At 3 am when no one’s there to help you, you’ll have learnt what to do.

Big Society – the Musical is now in post production. Film London has revealed it is to be one of the 12 projects participating in Audience on Demand, the training and mentorship programme addressing the changing face of feature film distribution. For full details visit Screen Daily http://www.screendaily.com/news/film-london-selects-audience-on-demand-projects/5057669.article

Visit the Big Society web page: http://www.firsttake.org/bigsocietythemusical‎
Watch the trailer on:www.youtube.com/watch?v=EiXHmR0F2Ws

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Filed under Film writing, Team Writing