The Celebrity Blog: Day One

Reading & Writing

It started when I spoke with an old friend who worked for a film PR agency. She looks after major Hollywood stars when they come to London, and sometimes her job, which seems glamorous, turns into a living nightmare. I made notes, changed names, and wrote her indiscreet tattle out as a short story. Some time later, trapped in development hell, I thought I might try to write it as a play. I’d had some advice from a theatre director and an actor, knew a casting agent and had a little knowledge about what to do, so I sat down and wrote it as a one-act comedy.

In films you show, don’t tell. But plays are the opposite, which in a way is easier. Dialogue is not conversation, and many things you hear in actors’ mouths are unlikely to be heard on the street, because ordinary people haven’t had months to prepare what they’re going to say. Reading play scripts is tricky, but hearing someone say them back to you with ALL the WRONG emphasis on words is very peculiar. I wrote a play for Radio One a couple of years ago and it sounded completely different to how I had written it.

My director, Amber, is an old friend, so I’m going to have to trust her. The first thing she explains is that the assembly of a play is upside down to that of a film. Instead of getting the producer first, you get the venue and the cast, then the producer, which seems all wrong to me. Anyway, she read the piece, suggested changes, and we did a read-through, where more problems came to light.

Now I have a sixth draft, and it’s making sense. So we’ve been to see a venue, The Phoenix fringe theatre, underneath the Phoenix Theatre in Charing Cross Rd. It’s a good space, small, atmospheric (ie smelling of beer), with good sightlines. But the stage is shallow, which means I’ll have to cut a climactic scene – unless we can find a way to stage it. The venue is available on the last week in November, which gives us eight clear weeks – very little time when not everyone will be available at the same time (day jobs).

Amber has a list of things to do that runs into many pages. We’ll all have to double and treble our duties. It’s a good start, though. The casting call goes out next week.

12 comments on “The Celebrity Blog: Day One”

  1. Alan Morgan says:

    This might even coincide with one of my few trips to the smoke each year, which’d be nice. Hoping then it all goes well.

    As a slight aside and because the damn places tend to change so rapidly nowadays – what’s the best pub nearest the BFI in Waterloo? I used at times the Hole In The Wall but that was some time ago. Anywhere especially good nowadays?

  2. Stephen Groves says:

    Hi Chris,
    So you’ve written a play and it’s a comedy.Have you ever thought of becoming a blindfolded sword swallowing chainsaw juggling lion tamer i’ve heard it’s safer.

    Hey live on the edge dude.

    all the very best


  3. admin says:

    They tend to be across the river, so for wine, head to Gordon’s in Villiers St, just across the bridge, for beer go to The Ship & Shovell nearby or Popstarz.

  4. admin says:

    Funnily enough I am also doing Circus Skills at the moment!

  5. vigo says:

    If you wont be there for the rehearsals (as with the radio play) then try determining emphasis by using certain words in italics. This will go some way to directing the actor into the kind of rythm or pattern/emphasis you want to convey.
    Wrong emphasis and they will speak something altogether different from what you have heard and then written.

    Its difficult if you are not there to put them in the right groove as it were. Once you establish the pattern and rhythm of the dialogue early on you will find that the actors will pretty much fall into speaking the lines the way you heard them. But it sounds like you are close to the project so I will go to see it.
    Good luck and –

    Break a leg as they say. (How did that saying come about?)

  6. Helen Martin says:

    You say break a leg because it’s bad luck to wish performers good luck. On the other hand the Atomic Fez owner was in Annie Get Your Gun and we all said, “Break a leg” so he did and played the role as an old man with a cane for the rest of the run.

  7. Steve says:

    Theatre people are a superstitious lot. For instance, one never names a certain play By Shakespeare in a theatre – it’s referenced as “The Scottish Play”.

  8. Helen Martin says:

    And you don’t use peacock feathers in either costumes or sets. You don’t whistle backstage, either.

  9. Steve says:

    And you never, ever walk backwards while carrying seven silver salvers on stage.
    Ok, ok. So I made that one up.

  10. Helen Martin says:

    Walking backwards is part of the ritual for negating the committing of one of the above mentioned faux pas, though.

  11. Steve says:

    Why am I not surprised?

  12. costumes says:

    I am happy someone was willing to finally clear things up on this. I have contemplated it from time to time. 🙂

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