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Being Outside My Comfort Zone

on Wed, 11/19/2014 - 16:23

BY BEX HARDING

This is the first blog I have ever written- and I find the concept really quite terrifying. But, something I have learned quite early on in life is that challenges are what drive creativity and energy.

I’ve been assistant stage-managing on a West End show for the past 11 months, and it has shown me how easy it is to get stuck in a lazy uncreative rut. So, when Miss Emma Deakin was asking for volunteers for the weekly blog, I thought this was just the challenge I needed to push me to do something else, something outside of my comfort zone. Those who know me will know that I don’t have much confidence in my own creativity or voice. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a self-deprecating person in any way, and I think I’m relatively confident in life. But, I have never been an overly creative person - but maybe I think that because I am a manager. Is it possible to manage something and create? Or do the two contradict each other?

In my experience so far, it depends on the company you are working with. There are directors and designers who welcome ideas and input, and others would prefer you to sit in the background and speak as little as humanly possible. The absolutely beautiful thing about working with companies like Shaky Isles are the inspiration and experiments every single member of the company makes from the first day of rehearsal to the last second of the performance. Expectations was a year ago, and I still think about how much the production affected me.  Not so much because of the material of the piece, but how everyone in that company made me feel that my creative voice was something actually worth listening to. I’m usually the person sitting in the background being amazed at all of the astounding things that people create.

Pendulum

on Wed, 11/12/2014 - 07:40

BY LAUREN COONEY

[A bit on Pendulum: Two friends seek spiritual salvation in India from their hedonistic and disconnected lives, in advance of the impending collapse of the cosmos.]

In January 2013 I asked an acting pal of mine if he wanted to make a feature film with me. Scott and I had acted together recently on an improvised film, and I had respected both his skill as an actor and his tenacity to learn more about technical filmmaking. He said ‘yes’.

In September 2013 we began shooting Pendulum in London, with some scenes including an extended cast of 35 extras (or supporting artists, as we prefer to call them on set), and 20 odd crew.I was completely out of my depth, and have remained just about gulping down air from an endless tide of learning until the present day.

In committing to making Pendulum, I wanted to follow in the myriad paths of American Indie filmmakers who pulled the resources at their disposal. Gareth Edwards and Ben Wheatley are two Brit filmmakers whose debut films has cemented their individuality, and allowed them to carve beyond enviable careers. Individuality comes from obstacles; I believe, from now an exponential vat of experience, that real creativity comes from challenge, difficultly, and from asking ‘how?’

By asking ‘how can we do this?’ we went on to fly out a crew off 11 to India, to shoot Pendulum, our backpacking, character-driven sci-fi

The resources at my disposal included the following: I had a tiny bit of savings, my parents lived in London so I could move back in with them for 18 months and save on rent money, my degree meant that I could raise funds via private tuition (a job that was not always time-consuming, allowing me to get on with making my mo-o-o-vie), my filmmaking-partner Scott was also able to raise some funds,

You've Got a Friend

on Tue, 11/04/2014 - 11:03

BY SARAH ROBERTSON

Lately I’ve been thinking about what it means to be a friend. And more specifically, a good friend. I’ve been wondering if I am a good friend and how to be better. I’ve realized during my musing that like most things in life there isn’t a one size fits all answer. What it means to be a good friend to me might be completely different to someone else. The fiercely independent person might see someone who respects their space as a trait of a good friend whereas someone prone to loneliness might really value the friend who makes contact daily.  This might seem pretty obvious but it wasn’t something I’d really thought about. I think friendship can be one of those relationships that we can take for granted at times. I know I’ve been guilty of that and have also been guilty of someone who takes from the friendship more than I’ve given back. Friendship communication lines are sometimes not as open as they are within a romantic relationship which is funny really as friendships can last for years and in my opinion are never a substitute for love; They are also love and something to be nurtured, worked at and something that brings you joy.

I had my hen do at the weekend and celebrated with a bunch of my good friends.  I’ve never had one group of friends who all do everything together; the friends I have I’ve met through a variety of ways and all of the people who were with me I have known for at most seven years (as I met them all in London). I have friends back in New Zealand and Australia but I don’t have any friends I’ve known my whole life (well excluding my siblings).  I think sometimes it’s this fact that has made me think I might be a bit of a rubbish mate. How come I don’t have someone who has been through it all with me?

Being the Peacemaker on your Journey

on Mon, 10/27/2014 - 22:33

BY AMIE TAYLOR

Conflict, I learned a while ago is not always a bad thing.  For my entire life I had believed conflict to be a terrible thing, and avoided it at whatever cost – the cost often being my artistic or personal thoughts, ideas or beliefs remaining unvoiced.

Conflict is conflict, it is neither good nor bad, conflict emanates waves, and the way we choose to approach those waves determines positive or negative outcomes of conflict.  Some conflict results in great wars.  Some in tiny arguments, which we laugh about soon after.  But if we carefully choose our response and approach to the conflict in our lives and in our relationships with others, we have the power to open up spaces for growth, development and learning in those relationships, and to strengthen them.  It needn’t be a bad thing.

This also applies to the inner conflict we often experience on our own journey. 

I soon realised about two years ago that if I wanted to stand a chance of succeeding in the arts then it was time to start working hard, seriously hard.    Time to lock up my dreams of being ‘that’ artist - the one that raves barefoot in fields several nights a week, drinking too much wine, and writing the occasional half-play,  knowing that the ‘big break’ is just around the corner.  I used to berate myself for my naivety back then, for wasting time, but have come to feel that that was all part of my journey too

I no longer believe in ‘big breaks’.  I imagine the people we perceive to have had ‘big breaks’, felt as though their 'breaks' came to them quite slowly, little by little, through hard work and patience.  And then continued hard work and patience. If they felt their 'break' came at all.

The truth is that you just have to work hard day in day out, pasionately.

It's all about the knitting!

on Tue, 10/21/2014 - 08:27

By MARTYN DUFFY

 

Recently I took up a pair of needles and tried knitting again after a gap of at least fifteen years.  It wasn’t so much the restarting that was the remarkable thing it was the circumstances in which this occurred.  I found myself talking to a group of women who meet weekly to knit and to talk.  They talk and knit around a table.  The talking is lively and the knitting is effortless.  There is a great deal of laughter.

 

When I joined them and began chatting and finding out more about them they were curious as to my interest in them.  I told them that many years ago I used to knit a lot and had somehow just stopped and never started again.  They said that if I wanted to be taken seriously around this table I would have to start knitting again and so that is how I came to take up those needles and wool and to knit once more.  So here I was knitting and sitting around a table with a group of six women and feeling less self-conscious as a bloke knitting in public than I have ever felt before.

 

I drift off for a moment in my thoughts.  I am reminded of a Stanislavsky acting exercise I once did where you had to speak scripted dialogue while you were doing something requiring high concentration on a reasonably complex manual task.   It is as if somehow the effort put into the action of the hands freed the mind up enough to be able to relax into the conversation.  It occurs to me that this must be why the knitting circle has for so long been such a popular way of meeting up to talk . . . and to listen . . . and to wonder.  There is something liberating, something uplifting and something definitely tongue-loosening about chatting whilst your mind is occupied with a manual task that requires a certain amount of dexterity.  

 

The talking veers from

Endings Are Always New Beginnings

on Tue, 10/14/2014 - 15:00

BY EMMA DEAKIN

I’ve found myself recently in a place of things ending. And at the same time brand new, exciting things, beginning.

It’s an odd place to be sometimes. In the middle. In suspension. In limbo.

One could easily choose to despair when one’s life is turned this way and that, churned about and suddenly in many ways unrecognisable from before. When massive upheaval and change takes place in life it is often painful. It is often confusing. It is often tremendously sad.

Lately I’ve been experiencing all of those things. And sometimes it comes in waves. All the emotion comes all at once. And sometimes the dimmer is turned down and it’s there but not pouring out of me, and I’m feeling lighter. And other times it’s all there, dimmer turned way up, and at the same time I am feeling absolute joy. I’m sure we’ve all experienced how tears and laughter are right next to each other. How we can get so angry we burst into tears. Or how fear makes us laugh uncontrollably. I know that when I’m going through any struggle I need to keep checking in on me. Making sure I’m allowing myself to feel all that I’m feeling, not burying it for later. Feeling the loss of something, taking the time to do that in whatever way we do, is how we move on and how we break through to the new beginnings. And it takes courage to do this. Letting the tears flow for instance certainly isn’t a weakness.

I was speaking with a wonderful friend of mine this morning, and she is struggling through so much. And for her it manifests as tears, often, and for now, but that is just where she is at. And we spoke about the image of someone crying. And how our society too often sees it as weakness and misconstrues it for something lacking strength or courage. I don’t believe this is true.

One (of the many)

How to Make a Dream Come True

on Tue, 10/07/2014 - 19:38

I forgot to write the blog. This blog. The blog I’m writing. I forgot to write it because I was making a dream come true. The Fun Palaces dream.

Not Joan Littlewood’s dream, not Cedric Price’s. Mine and that of many other people and they were busy making it come true as well. This past weekend, the first Fun Palaces weekend, was a collective dream, co-dreamed, co-created.

A dream and a vision and an idea born out of a session I’d called at D&D 2013.

A dream talked into being by some people who happened to be in a room at the same time – who happened to come to the same, nebulously titled session.

A dream grown by me reluctantly taking it on ("I don’t have time, I don’t know how to do this, I don’t want to be a producer, I really can’t afford to do so much work for no money ... and yet ...")

A dream nurtured by Sarah-Jane Rawlings saying yes to dreaming it with me (long before we had any money to make it), to the rest of our team then saying yes to dreaming it with us.

A dream cared for by my wife accepting and supporting me emailing and writing and working on funding applications late late into night after night.

A dream held by good friends, almost all of them connected to Shaky Isles in some way, when I was very ill with a cancer recurrence and didn’t know where I would be on the Fun Palaces weekend.

A dream blossomed into being by dozens of other people saying yes. People who said yes to making their own Fun Palace, yes to giving something to their community - GIVING!

Patterns

on Tue, 09/30/2014 - 19:46

BY MARY O'CONNOR

 

“The mathematician’s patterns, like the painter’s or the poet’s must be beautiful; the ideas like the colours or the words, must fit together in a harmonious way. Beauty is the first test: there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics.”

GH Hardy “ A Mathemetician’s Apology”

 

Patterns. Beautiful patterns.

Breath in Breath out.

Heart pulsing heart beating

Three meals a day

A day a night

Open closed

In out

Often, but not always binary

Pattern of a life death life death

Seasons, The moon, menstruation, gestation, our gestation not our mother’s ours.

7 days a week. we have symmetry and asymmetry. We have both.

In a Dalcroze Eurhythmics lesson recently, where we learn many things, one is to see that what happens in music happens in life in the world around us, we discussed the chaos but order of conversations. Of weather where there is pattern and chaos in the pattern but rain will fall, sun will shine, words will be spoken, speak, listen, respond.

Patterns of coincidence, patterns of clusters of events. We are pattern makers, weavers, interpreters, pattern sorters. We circle towards and away. We spiral. Twist turn. 

Whoever Comes

on Tue, 09/23/2014 - 16:09

         Shaky Isles works in Open Space Technology. One of the principals is “Whoever comes is the right people.” No matter your race, gender, age, orientation, religion, politics. Shaky Isles ticks quite a few boxes on the diversity rubric. You may fund us accordingly. ;)

        One thing I love about working with and being a part of Shaky Isles is our age range. Truth be told, I hadn’t fully appreciated how special this it until a different company’s main view of me was based upon my age and other aspects of “identity.” In Shaky Isles, I rarely notice our 40 year age range. We play, we discuss, we dream, we work. Together. 

I beg for more specificity in our language.

      “You’re so old/young for your age”  This is may be complimenting you in some way. It’s also suggesting you are too different from how you should be because of the years you have lived in X's opinion.

     My actions are determined by my past experience and my past experience is not determined by my age. 

Things that are determined by age:

When you can vote (not when and if you do)

When you can drive (not when and if you do)

When you can drink (not when and if you do) 

Other legal things.

 

     Education (more significantly learning), employment, relationships, physical ability and the all encompassing ‘experience’ are not directly determined by age. At some time, at every time, we have and will experience pain and joy at varying levels. Need they be compared? 

Age is an unreliable meter

   I dislike saying my age. It’s often surprising because folk think I am more something or other than other people my age. This can lead to disappointment when I mess up. “Oh but we thought you were more mature.” I reply thus impervious to failure?

Adventures of an Off-Screen Reader

on Wed, 09/17/2014 - 11:43

BY MICHELLE WITTON

Last year, a friend who works as a film Production Assistant asked if I’d like to work as an Off-screen Reader - reading in lines off-camera for actors unable to be on set. She couldn’t tell me the name of the film. She couldn’t tell me who or what I’d be reading. It was all very Hush-Hush, Secret-Squirrel, Have-To-Shoot-You-If-We-Tell-You. Keen for experience and enticed by a mystery I said yes. The work of Off-screen Readers isn’t much talked-of, so I thought to write of my experience. Jump Cut to….

…Catering bus on a Pinewood lot 8am on a foggy Autumn morning. Over my plate of scrambled eggs, a Runner shakes my right hand and into the left passes sides of film script, printed on luminous red paper. I’m told the film is called “Maleficent” and whoever or whatever Maleficent is, is one of the things I’ll be reading that day. Alone on the catering bus, I whip out my Blackberry, google IMDB and “Maleficent” - and read that Maleficent is film produced by Disney and that the character is played by - Angelina Jolie. Right, so, absolutely no pressure!!! Furious side-learning ensued…. (The sides are on bright red paper and have to be returned to the production office at the end of each day because there’d be litigation-frenzy if they ended up on the internet).

Off-screen Readers are sometimes used for film reshoots. ‘Name’ film actors being expensive and busy they’re not recalled if not in front of camera i.e. if the reshoot involves shooting a reverse. Usually, I’d be shown the scene originally shot on as a reference-point for the reshoot – the objective not being to copy the original but to get a sense of story and emotion.

Day 1 involved reading-in for the Motion-Capture filming of a trio of actors who were playing fairies.

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