A little helping hand
READ & WATCH
You may have always wanted to become a playwright or perhaps you become a playwright through the performance route, realising that the written word was more appealing. No matter how you have arrived, you may feel lost as to where to start.
As with any skill, you must immerse yourself in all the world has to offer in the chosen industry.
Without sounding cliché, read plays. Lots and lots of plays. Then watch even more than you’ve read. Absorbing the works of other playwrights, you will start to develop an understanding of what works onstage and what doesn’t. How the audience responds to certain themes and what is going through the minds of other writers.
Do not be averse to seeing plays that are not to your liking, you will always write from a position that inspires you. Witnessing works that you perceive as ‘not your taste’ may just get your creative juices flowing in a way you would not expect.
Inspiration can come from anywhere; books, novels, biographies, fiction and newspapers, read every day.
You need to live and breathe it. The major problem that I have found with most people starting out in play-writing, and most other industries for that matter, is that no-one takes it as seriously as they should.
That isn’t to say everyone, but a heavy percentage do not take the full amount of action they can to achieve their goal. You will have to struggle and work tirelessly before you are happy with your work. Even then you will find ways to keep improving.
If you want this, like truly want this – nothing else is important. Unless you have a major benefactor or your own finances to support yourself while you dive into this journey, you will need to take it seriously. Money does not come in straight away and you’ll be faced with many tired nights, frantically writing and rewriting.
Leisure activities are not important. No longer do you sit around watching Netflix, going out for drinks every weekend or cutting off early to go see a movie… well I guess movies aren’t so bad.
One of the biggest barriers people create for themselves, is that they don’t think they are good enough. That there are so many others out there better than them, I am here to tell you that you can beat them with a very simple step; out work them. Just work harder and faster than they do, whilst they are out sipping drinks, you are developing, creating and networking.
With many theatres and small production companies around, you are able to volunteer your services. Get behind the scenes, talk to directors and actors, learn the flow of theatre and how each role works in tandem with each other. The entertainment world is built on relationships. The phrase ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ has never been so relevant than in this industry.
I started out as a performer and moved into sound engineering, video and then into management. By going through these different sectors I learnt so much about how everyone works. I picked up an array of skills that later helped when working with people solely in that sector.
Knowing your ‘live sound lingo’ allows you to communicate with your sound engineer better (which makes a much better conversation than just ‘I need more of me!’ mimed over to the back of the room).
If you can get involved in every aspect I promise you will find yourself a lot more well rounded. Go ‘one inch wide and a mile deep’ in what you want to do, but learn about what goes on around you. Write some short 10 minute tasters, write, cast & produce the show to get a sense of it all.
You’ll find that a lot of people are in the same boat as you and don’t really know what they are doing when they start out. Everyone is wanting to jump into a project and be a part of a team, so get out there and create your community. Which leads nicely onto our final part of this article.
You will have heard growing up as a performer, singer, songwriter or any artistic medium this very common phrase:
‘When are you going to get a real job?’
You’ve got a real job. This is one of the most important parts of our culture. Art in all of its forms is the most important part of us. We drew on walls before we had words, we beat drums before we could talk, and we chanted melodies before we had sentences. To have the gift of communicating through these channels is something to be treasured and explored.
You are also not alone in hearing this, there are many others like you. Whether you perform or write you may feel a bit disjointed from the capitalist world. Don’t get me wrong, capitalism is great as it drives our society forward through innovation. Yet art is never at the forefront of its mind… well at least not right now, but it will be.
By doing this they’ve created a social group that longs for community, be the person that facilitates that. Create regular meet ups, Facebook groups, reading sessions or start a short film project on YouTube to create some exposure.
In your local area you’ll know someone with a DSLR, I mean even the new iPhone’s have good enough cameras. Offer some of your work to be read for casting, test shots or group discussions. Post them online and write about them, dive deep into the online world and share your thoughts and ideas.
You’ll be amazed at how many people will respond if you write and talk about something you are truly passionate about.
You never know, someone may come across your work that likes the passion you’ve got. The sense of community you foster, your drive and they just might be the one to pick up your work to put on stage.
Lets end with a video –