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Monday, 6 January 2020

2019 Concluded

This ol’ creative career o’ mine can be likened to steering a ship through dense fog. I’ve set my compass towards that place where it’s said the sun shines and artists earn enough to pay their bills. At times the winds times it’s doldrums, but mostly it’s fog and I can’t even tell if I’m headed in the right direction.

Writing these posts, reflecting on what I’ve been doing and what I plan to do next is like taking a moment to check the star chart and consider the navigation. Log the distance travelled and take stock. Feel grateful for the journey behind and try to relish the unknown that lays ahead.

My last post was a vlog to practice my videography/presenting skills. I reported having signed with a new agent and recently shooting a lead role in a music video, you can check it out here:
Also continuing to learn about videography by making short films and planning to attend Burning Man Arts Festival again. I'll update on each of these 3 threads - acting, filmmaking and Burning Man.

My confidence as an actor is stronger than ever. I'm connecting with a sense of ease and relaxation in my approach for the first time - a freedom that unlocks my creativity in the moment. I can especially thank two books that have been instrumental...The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and New Thoughts for Actors by Jack Plotnick (which you can find online for free!)

I've been able to keep up a daily practice of applying for jobs (something I've struggled with in the past - perhaps by way of creative block). The result has been wonderful...lots of opportunities converting into four screen acting jobs!

Just before Christmas I won a role in a comedy pilot, set to shoot in the Spring. I also got a day’s work at a film school, playing a scene from ‘Eyes Wide Shut’ for a multi-camera shoot. Then two comedy shorts for Channel 4 - one which is already released. Follow the link to see me playing a drag-queen-pantomime-villain here.

The filmmaking learning curve continues. My creative partnership with friend Jack continues to yield riches. In the Summer we made a couple of self-contained dramatic scenes written by my actor/writer friend Joe. It was my first opportunity to direct and I’m very happy with the team we made (including Jack's girlfriend Melissa) and how the films turned out.

Buoyed by our success I set about finding further scripts to shoot. At this stage as a filmmaker that’s half the battle - sourcing original content that is achievable to realise on zero-budget. I needed to meet good screenwriters. I had an idea- to host a competition. In partnership with a new contact we co-hosted a '‘Four Minute Screenplay Contest’. Submit your 4 page script - we’ll create the winning script!

We received over seventy submissions which I read, choosing one overall winner, two merits and seven runners up. Boom - I had my next two projects set and a list of active writers to develop with in future. We shot ‘X Marks The Spot’ in Autumn (now in the final stages of the edit) and I’m in the middle of shooting ‘Angel Falls’ probably the most challenging project yet (10 cast and crew in total) with the first day of shooting complete and the second to arrange.

On reflection I’ve really thrown myself in the deep end. It’s outside our comfort zone where we learn the most after all! What have I learnt? Well I’ve had a good grounding in the stages of preparation and process that goes into filmmaking. From location scouting, casting, recruiting crew, equipment hire, planning a shotlist, blocking a scene, scheduling, directing actors, catering, assisting with the edit, understanding how to lead and be led.

What I’ve loved most about these shoots is the brief, but strong camaraderie around our dedication - an ensemble of virtuosos. What I’ve liked least is the staggering amount of time I’ve had to invest (all unpaid of course). It’s truly striking how much work goes into a mere five minute film (when you’re aiming for professional standards).

As I conclude these two projects I’m considering the specifics of what I commit to next. I attended a filmmakers convention at the BFI which was useful in illuminating the two potential paths ahead. On the one hand I work towards becoming a successful feature-film maker. Steps to this include:

· Continue my learning curve as a videographer/editor - developing my taste/style/aesthetic/skillset

· Continue building a company/network of fellow creatives including screenwriters keen to make content with me

· Find a producer to help me access funding and generally share the logistical workload

· Continue making short films - gaining acclaim by winning awards at film festivals

· Make commercials/music videos/corporate/showreels etc on the side to earn money

Then there’s a different path - that of comedic content creator. The focus here is on developing original and vibrant creative ideas. I leave the technical learning curve of filmmaking to others and focus on using the devising and performance tools that I’m already professionally trained in:

· Develop comedic creative partnerships with other performers willing to script, shoot and release simple comedy shorts with me

· Focus on making ideas that require very little crew/production value to allow for high turnover of output

· Focus on making ideas around my personal passions e.g. Afrobeats Dance Moves, Environmentalism, Mental Health, London, The Absurd.

· Focus on micro-short content (30 seconds or less) that plays to the popularity of shareable online ‘viral’ content

· Workshop characters/situations with other performers using learnt techniques like Mask

· Consider further comedic training like Gaulier’s Clown School

· Develop relationships with producers that pitch to commissioners of TV channels and streaming platforms (if they like the idea they will fund it)

· Get one of my projects commissioned for TV/Online - build a following/community

· Raise a profile as a comedic creative/performer leading to further acting opportunities

I’m definitely more excited for this latter path. In fact my recent run of comedic acting jobs especially turned me on to this possibility. I got to witness first hand the vibe of the small production company working for Channel 4. I was impressed by the quality of their output with limited resources, but strong ideas.

I’ve already started working along this tack - teaming up with my friend Jamie to shoot a bizarre little short that he’s written. I handled the video and sound facilitating his direction and we’ve been editing it together in the past couple of weeks. And because it's comedy the process is an experience of continuous laughter - in the making of it and in the editing. Here’s to many more comedy shorts.

What’s left to tell? Ah yes - Burning Man. I took myself off to that big immersive art experience in the Nevada desert. Part-holiday, part-research trip, part-work, part-play. As expected it was Full On and I’m pleased to report utterly joyous. New friends, adventures, epic art and connection to a spirit of humanity that is sadly missing from our modern urban societies, though innately distilled in every one of us.

I returned with my heart full and keen to apply the prevalent Burning Man artistic principle of Immediacy to my own work. For some time I’ve been considering street performance - engaging the public outside of anything organised or ticketed. Direct action.

The Extinction Rebellion protests saw thousands of rebels take to the streets, offering a timely opportunity to test the waters. I rehearsed into a couple of performances with a theatre company that supports Environmental action - Earth Ensemble. Then the week before the action I bought a large PA speaker with microphone which I thought would be essential for street performance.

On the first night I used it to play funk music - sparking street parties. It was a joy to bring music and dance in support of the political action - raising the morale of those steadfast rebels engaging in road blocks - facing off with the police. Certain songs were especially popular- like ‘YMCA’ - everyone was able to physically engage. Well, not the police but they were definitely tapping their feet.

I was addicted. I came back twice more that week. What a joy to spark connection and movement - dancing and singing in the streets. I made friends with a man who was doing the same activity - in fact he’d built a business around this practice during the past few years - Jacques...a self-titled 'Party Scientist'. He actually stayed with me for a couple of nights and we went out together to practice his technique. Once again, under his tutelage, I experienced the unbridled joy of facilitating connection between strangers in public. I’m keen to take out my speaker before long and develop my confidence.

So I guess that’s about it. In summary - acting, filmmaking and street performance projects are coming along well. The ship lurches forward through the fog. I'm looking forward to completing post production on my short films and focusing on comedic content thereafter...whilst keeping up my practice of acting job applications…with the intention of heading out to the streets before long to spark human connection as a party scientist in training! Check out Jaques’ instagram here by the way to see how a Pro does it. Until next time!