Skip directly to content

Blogs

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.

Gold Rush

on Wed, 09/10/2014 - 15:33

BY JONATHAN BIDGOOD

In the 1500s, you could hardly move in South America for conquistadores scouring the land for the legendary city of El Dorado. The Spanish had noted the prodigious quantity of the precious metal in the various kingdoms they had pillaged, and it became their conviction that somewhere in this vast continent, there must be a source, a rare and unusual place from whence all this gold originated, a city made of gold, paved in gold, overflowing with gold, and, just for good measure, a fountain at its heart that could confer eternal life on whomever drank from it.

In retrospect, it seems crazy, but at the time this vision was compelling enough to fuel numerous expeditions into vastly inhospitable regions. The dream of gold, of a mysterious source of gold previously unknown to mortal man possesed the minds of adventurers and monarchs alike. The path they followed led to no end of misery for the indigenous populations of the region, but no one ever found that mythical city.

In the 1800s, a similar but far more populist gold rush took place. Reports of gold being found in the mountains of California inspired huge numbers of prospectors to sell up and head out into the wilds, hoping to strike it lucky. You know the type I mean, that crazy bearded gentleman with the pickaxe and the dynamite who still hangs around american cultural memory, always convinced that he’s going to hit the motherlode any day now.

Why this rather facile history lesson in a blog that is ostensibly about the art of theatremaking? Because I believe that these two stories help us understand a lot about how we approach creativity.

You see, most of us in modern western culture think of creativity as a sort of El Dorado.

Beyond Myself - by Sani Muliaumaseali'i

on Thu, 09/04/2014 - 14:56

BEYOND MYSELF.  

I have just returned from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival where my first ever play,  with songs,  Kava Girls,  had a 16 show season.  Now, I am no stranger to ‘putting on a show’ – take that any way you want to - but this was a level that was entirely new to me (and I have had a few lunches in my time!) - 

To see your vision appear nightly is brilliant: To see audiences love and less than love the piece - perfection. 

Observing the nexus of the cast, the joy of finding truth and the tribulations of challenge form a wonderful life. 

On the whole  the 'writing-producing-composing-arranging-directing-choreographing-marketing-dogsbodying- experience has left me invigorated. Ironic as I could also sleep for a month, but most adventures will do that to you. I also I know the more I do, the more I get to understand the edges of my gifts and abilities. 

'Let's put on a show'

I have been duped by those sunday afternoon showings of the Andy Hardy movies with Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney

Where on less than a nickel, they managed to produce an all singing, all dancing extravaganza - in the local barn - with a full symphony orchestra.

Duped I say,  but I what I really mean is I'm  well trained in the art of optimism.

I've always known of course, that its not as easy as Rooney and Garland would have you believe.

Its hard. And harder. Then harder again – but oh my. Its worth it.

 Which way is up?

I had no preconceived ideas on what was going to flow from my electronic quill with Kava Girls:  I just kept pressing the keyboard and trusting the scribbles would make more than sense. That they would connect – to the actors and out into the world.

I wanted the heart to feature in Kava Girls. Twinning the heart of the piece with that of the audience. For the most part I succeeded. 

The

Presence

on Tue, 08/26/2014 - 07:56

By Mary Price-O’Connor

 

 

 

 

 

On Saturday 16th August I went to day 55 of Marina Abramovic’s 512Hours.

 

 

 

 

 

I stepped into the space, noise cancelling headphones on. Everything , excepting the clothes I wore (including my shoes , my choice, to be barefoot)  in a locker;  the key in my bra. And I made a choice to engage. I stood, sat, lay,watched, smelled. Felt. Went into the room of wearing blindfolds. Twice. The second time I was braver. I moved, noticed how I moved barefoot, blindfolded in a room of silent people. Was reminded of  Café Muller (dance theatre piece by Pina Bausch, two dancers have their eyes closed throughout the piece) how difficult that must be to perform. Decided how I could experience this, how safe could I feel? I played. Walking backwards, is that better? In the other two rooms I noticed when I was present, active, and when absent, watching and how different were they? Time, space, energy. Am I audience? Performer? Who else is here? Why did they come? I sat in the room where Marina was sitting. She sat still the whole time I was there. When I watched her video diary of that day, day 56  at midnight, I learned why. And I think I probably had the best experience because of that. I was lucky. Because she removed herself , was present and yet absent. 

 

Marina had felt that as Friday , day 55, had been “such a difficult day” she decided to sit in one place most of day 56. During 512Hours her status had become an obstacle,  people went to meet her, be touched by her, and because of this they were really protecting their own experience. Protecting their own experience.

Lessons of a Waterfall

on Mon, 08/18/2014 - 22:52

Lessons of a Waterfall

By Emma Deakin

 
So I was at a waterfall yesterday. I'm in South Korea, staying on an island called Ulleungdo off the country's east coast. In a little port called Dodong. There is a waterfall a short walk from the port, up through a forest and past a 'natural air conditioner' - seriously, you stand in this cave and it's just like standing in front of an air conditioning machine on full. Lovely as it's so hot here, and hot to go walking or hiking! Don't ask me to tell you HOW this wonderful cave creates an actual natural cold air blast inside, I love these occurances in nature but can never remember why they occur.
 
Anyway, I digress... Past the forest and the cave we came to the waterfall, a picture I took here (scroll down to see the pic)...
 
 
I sat staring at the waterfall for sometime. I'm often the kind of person who takes a gazillion photos of water, when I'm near it; a beach, a river, a port, the sea, a lake...and yesterday a waterfall. Funnily enough yesterday I didn't take loads of pics of the waterfall, about three. Very few. I sat and took it in instead. 
 
Watched the the higher tier of the waterfall, also the smallest (you can see it at the top of the above picture). Actually the island I'm on is a Volcano so there is a lot of pretty interesting geological stuff to read about whilst exploring different parts of the island - again, don't ask me regurgitate any of it! But it's cool. I did sort of remember something about the upper and lower tiers of this waterfall though...
So the upper part of the waterfall is made of a harder rock and the massive main waterfall (that's the main bit of the waterfall pic) is a softer rock so eventually the whole rock face will erode and fall away allowing for the water, as water likes to do, find a more

7 Ways to be a good Open Space - er

on Mon, 08/11/2014 - 23:52

By Connie TB Girvan

 

Shaky Isles Theatre Company rehearses and works in Open Space - condensed it’s 5 W’s, 2 feet, Surprise, bees and butterflies. Expanded it’s:

 

Whoever comes is the right people

Whatever happens is the only thing that could have

Whenever it starts is the right time

Whenever it’s over it’s over

Where it happens is the right place

 

Bees (cross pollinating)

Butterflies (still observation) 

 

The law of two feet  (walk your two feet back in, or somewhere else)

Be prepared to be surprised

 

Here are 7 tips I have found useful. 

 

1. Trust the process

 

This is just chatting. 

Nothing is happening. 

We’re having too much fun. 

 

These are often reactions people have (myself included) in the early days of an open space process. I tell the grumbling voice to quiet down. I remind the grumbler that the philosophy “if it’s hard it’s good so if it’s easy it’s bad” is bosh and just to calm down and trust it.

 

2. PREPARE to be SURPRISED!

 

What does preparation for openness look like to you? For me I find thinking and saying phrases like “I’m curious” help. Also breathing before I speak as I’m apt to hop like a cricket to share my thoughts. You can’t plan the surprise but you can sit up and look around. 

 

3. They are the right people even if you don’t like them

 

But I wanted the shiny, cool person, who has lots of ideas, likes my ideas and can climb trees really high! Instead who came to my session: Chirpy McChirpness, Clammy Shyshush, and TiredCynicalMe. There might be magic or there might be not be, but there probably is.

 

4. Take notes

 

The moments whisk one into the other and the playing is flowing. Write that stuff down! I will forget but want to remember. So type it, write it, video it, record it.

Tags: 

Dyslexia in the Acting Community

on Tue, 08/05/2014 - 08:26

Dyslexia in the acting community

Tom Cruise – My Struggle To Read 

By Michelle Witton

This week I was fortunate to attend an event also attended by Tom Cruise. I witnessed ‘star power’- a huge crowd ardently clamoring for his autograph and ‘selfies’. I admired his patience and humour. Tom Cruise is known for his stellar film career. Less known is his self-described ‘struggle’ with dyslexia, describing himself as ‘functionally illiterate’ at the time of filming Top Gun. Though he’d long dreamed of learning to fly - he withdrew from lessons. He attributes overcoming dyslexia to an educational programme developed by L.Ron Hubbard. Much of his charitable work has been providing access to such programmes for dyslexia youth. 

I approach this topic with humility, conscious there are many more well-informed than I. I am writing on this, keenly aware dyslexia is an on-going challenge to some actor-friends, due to which some have been denied opportunity – an injustice. Fortunately, understanding regarding dyslexia is increasing. For the past year, the Actors Centre has conducted workshops for dyslexic actors seeking to mainstream discussion and new approaches to script-learning etc. 

I am not dyslexic though have ‘right-left confusion’. Given a split second, if you asked me to raise my right hand - 50/50 I’ll raise my left. While not presuming to say I ‘understand’ dyslexia, there is some common-ground which makes me ‘alive’ to the topic. 

We work in a profession in which a CV, LinkedIn profile, website are important selling-tools. It is that much harder for a dyslexic actor to obtain work if no one helps them write their CV. Their skills may be every bit as good as the next person’s – but few get an interview without a good CV.

The Quest

on Tue, 07/29/2014 - 18:33

By Emma Deakin

I am in Japan right now. I have been here for one week and one day. Here for another week then travelling to South Korea. This week it was my turn to blog for Shaky Isles. I thought I would have LOADS to say in a blog after being in a new country for two weeks. And of course I think I do, but to be honest I had no idea where to start. Everything has been brand new and the whole experience thus far has felt quite overwhelming. So, this morning, I found myself on a train travelling from east to west Shikoku (Shikoku is one of the islands south if Honshu, mainland. Japan), and with my boyfriend's iPad I sat myself down and just started writing. This is what I wrote;

The train speeds along. She is being taken with it. Snaking through a valley following the river. The river reminds her of the rivers at home. Reminds her of what is hidden too. Seemingly still water, hiding a dangerous current which could sweep her away in an instant. She must stay focused, mustn't be distracted by the wonders that surround her every moment. Bright green rice paddies. Mountains covered in cedar and bamboo. It was a beautiful place, she thought. Otherworldly and ancient. She could see why he chose to come here.

She was searching. She hadn't found it yet. The key. She pondered it's location as she watched the seconds click by on the digital clock at the front of the train carriage. 7:56 - morning. She had been on the train exactly 25mins. Think! Where could it be... Was it strapped to the side of a bamboo tree? Underneath a train track? Or did the carp have it between her gills? There had been much forest explored, many trains travelled on, and the carp had whispered to her a few times. No, it had to be somewhere ahead of her. Somewhere unchartered. 7:59...that's all she can

A me by any other name

on Tue, 07/22/2014 - 09:00

By Sarah Robertson

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose /By any other name would smell as sweet

My name is Sarah Robertson. I could have been a Victoria as apparently that name was in the mix when my parents were deciding. In my opinion I’m not a Victoria, Vicki or even Tori. But then, maybe that’s just because I’m Sarah and always have been. Despite some kids in my primary school saying I looked like a Georgina (cheers guys), my name feels like it fits. 

But Sarah is just part of it. I was born a Robertson. The extended whanau gets referred to as the “Robbies”; Robbo is the nickname I get from the guys at work (funnily being the same nickname by brother has from his mates…perhaps a lack of originality?) and although I have the Elsmore chin (which means a really little non-existent one!) my other more prominent attributes (breasts and stomach) are definitely Robertson based. Well the breasts anyway…the stomach might be my fault!

Seven years ago I met a man called Neal Browne, nearly two years ago we started dating and in February next year we will be married. And thus endeth Sarah Robertson and in her place Sarah Browne. Which feels strange but absolutely what I want to do. I consider myself a feminist and rally against the sexist world we live in and all the little (and big ways) women are made to feel small or degraded. So maybe some other feminists might question why I’m not standing up for Robertson and am instead taking on my partner’s name. I don’t think I can answer fully and maybe if someone explained to me in a certain way I would feel different. But for me if you pull it back a little, my surname now is a man’s so it’s not as if I’m free of that patriarchal aspect anyway.

The Manifestation in Making

on Tue, 07/15/2014 - 06:14

I am a great believer in opening spaces for the things we desire to happen and allowing them to manifest organically in that space - giving them the chance to come forth and reveal themselves as and when they’re ready to, without forcing them.  That’s not to say we don’t work at them.  That’s not to say we don’t try our damned hardest, or sow seeds which will in time grow in to their manifestation.  But, I think it’s about allowing ourselves to be more receptive to the opportunities that arise – and not limiting our outcomes by anticipating a specific result prior to its occurrence.

About two years ago I developed a real niggle with the way a lot of theatre work was being made in London.  I heard from so many actors that were struggling to learn scripts in a week, as shows were being created, rehearsed and put on stage at breakneck speed. Of course, it’s money that plays a huge factor in this - affordable rehearsal space is difficult to find in London.  Few companies have the money to pay their actors, hence keeping rehearsal periods short so as not to impact on actor’s paid job time.  And if actors are getting paid, the chances are a lot of companies can’t afford to pay them for more than a couple of week’s rehearsal.   I made a decision about a year ago to stop making work like this, it works for some, but not for me.  It was stressful, and I began to seriously question why I was making the work under such agonising restraints.  Relying on actors being at rehearsal when not paid (and as not paid being able to cancel attendance at the last minute), was detrimental to the creation process, and ultimately, we were trying to force things to happen in a rehearsal room when they simply weren’t ready to.

Pages