Sunday, September 29, 2013

Radio Interview for Turbulence Script Reading

I'm surprised I never thought to post this before. A radio interview I did for my script reading earlier this year. The interviewer is Dita Jevons, the station Radio Fremantle, a community network.

Radio Fremantle Interview 14 March 2013

I remember being nervous before the interview as I'd never been on radio. I was at work so there was the logistical problem of finding a quiet place to ring in... and sneaking off unnoticed. I had secured a small meeting room with a phone down the other end of the building only to discover the guy in the office next door was having quite the loud phone conversation. That didn't help the nerves.

I dialled in at the prescribed time and put on hold after a brief conversation with the, I presume, producer. I was listening to the station on my iPod - a discussion about WAAPA - then it was my turn!

*GULP*

Dita broke the ice by starting off with, on the surface, a ridiculous question. I laughed because it struck me as so absurd and from then on I was absolutely (ha!) fine.

I really enjoyed the interview and was surprised it went for nearly twenty minutes. The only thing I kicked myself about on hearing the recording was the overuse of the word "absolutely" throughout the discussion. Ah, well!

Dita was subsequently at the reading and we had a brief chat. It was a busy night for me so most of my interactions were unfortunately truncated as there were so many people coming up to talk. I discovered afterwards that she had a longer discussion with my parents and was very enthusiastic about the script.

A good experience? Absolutely!

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Two Greatest Words In The English Language...

... when you are working fulltime and trying to meet writing commitments are:

Loooooooooooooooooooooooooong weekend.

We have one person to thank for this particular long weekend:

Her Royal Majesty, The Queen.

I spoke to her earlier today during a friendly game of croquet on the palace grounds...

FADE IN:

A friendly game of croquet on the -- oh, I've done that bit already.

An elderly lady, HRH, batters a ball with a mallet. It scoots through a metal hoop.

Your humble scribe, ME, watches, bemused.


ME: Well played, ma'am.
HRH: Yes, yes, enough with the toadying, what did you get me?
ME: I'm sorry?
HRH: For my birthday?
ME: It's not really your birthday, is it?
HRH: Do you intend to take Monday off from work?
ME: Sure.
HRH: Then I want my damn present!
ME: Are you even allowed to say that?
HRH: I'm the Queen of England and I'll say what I damn well please. Where is it?
ME: You're the richest woman in the world.
HRH: I'm waiting.
ME: You don't pay taxes.
HRH: Only poor people deserve birthday presents, is that it?
ME: Well, no...
HRH: Do you apply some form of means test? Have your friends fill out a survey of some sort?

Insert spurious line of big print to break up the page.

ME: I don't know what to get you!
HRH: I've granted you a whole day off work. A little effort on your part wouldn't be out of line.
ME: You speak far more colloquially than I expected.
HRH: It's all in your head.
ME: Possibly so, but what does one get someone who has everything?
HRH: Simple. Something they've never had before.
ME: Poverty?
HRH: Little snippy, aren't we?
ME: I know, what about a Dockers Premiership?
HRH: Can I keep it in the cellar along with Philip and the other artefacts?
ME: Rather cutting, don't you think, ma'am.
HRH: Just get me two of them then.
ME: It doesn't quite work that way.
HRH: Can I at least choose a colour?
ME: I don't see why not, as long as it's purple.
HRH: This is the sort of gratitude I get. Typical.
ME: I could walk the corgis after I've finished writing?
HRH: No, no, that's no good. It's the only time Philip gets some air.
ME: You really keep him in the cellar?
HRH: Most of the time. There's the occasional state function they tell me he has to attend.
ME: So it's settled. In exchange for the day off Monday so I can write, you get something you've never had before, a Dockers Premiership.
HRH: Sounds positively awful.
ME: I could get you a card and a Lotto ticket instead?

Your humble scribe ducks as the Queen's mallet sails serenely over his head. She storms off full of mutter and scorn.

ME: Thank you, ma'am. I appreciate it ma'am.

She flips him the bird.

Parts of this exchange may have been exaggerated for dramatic effect. As most people know, Philip is actually locked in a small room with an ensuite. Disappointing I know.

Have a good long weekend Perth people. I have no idea why we choose to celebrate the Queen's not-birthday on a different date to everyone else but I shall enjoy the extra day nonetheless. The phone and the internet shall be resolutely OFF. The brain and netbook switched ON.

Your Humble Scribe

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Looking For Top Notch Drama? That Would Be Theatre Australia's Domain

Forget about Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Forget about The Black List starring James Spader playing James Spader chewing scenery the way only James Spader can (if Christopher Walken is unavailable). Even forget about the Fremantle Dockers' march towards a possible inaugural flag.

The hottest new drama to hit the screen - albeit those affixed to computers, tablets and smartphones - is the apparent stoush between Theatre Australia and the Independent Theatre Association over ownership of www.theatre.asn.au, an online portal used by the theatre community nationwide.

Now, I have no idea who the players are. I'm a film guy. The politics and machinations of the theatre are way beyond my ken. My only qualifications in this regard are: I know lots of people who act, often on a stage; I am an eager audience member; and, when the mood strikes, I occasionally write reviews of the productions I attend.

I went to see a production last night in fact. Went to post my review on the Theatre Australia website... to be redirected to some other website called the Independent Theatre Association.

Curious.

Then I discover a tsunami of comments on the Theatre WA facebook group. Claims, counter-claims, controversy, committee actions, people's revolt, chatter about domain names and legal action and all sorts of fun and games. I don't pretend to understand any of it other than someone (or some body) made a decision, people weren't consulted, an unexpected action was taken, a backlash resulted.

Why should I care?

I started writing the occasional review last year largely in support of a performer whose work I liked. Let me stress, I don't write anonymous reviews so I don't talk up shows if they don't deserve it. My name is my reputation and I'm not prepared to tamper with that by writing puff pieces.

That initial catalyst created or perhaps rekindled a love of live theatre. I also quickly came to realise how much talent there is in Perth... and how many of those people I know. As a screenwriter, the many actors I encounter in my film misadventures also tread the boards. I like to get along to shows to support them but increasingly because there's some damn fine theatre being produced here.

Now, I'm no "Gordon the Optom" who appears to be a revered figure in the local theatre scene not only because he goes to a LOT of shows but also reviews them. Those reviews are found on, you guessed it, the Theatre Australia website.

Not wanting to step on any toes being an outsider (read "film person"), I tend to only write reviews for shows Gordon hasn't seen. While he reviews a helluva lot he can't see everything. If I'm impressed by a show I'll comment on his review if he's already covered it. If he's nailed it and there's nothing else for me to add then so be it. Otherwise, if I have enjoyed a show and there's no review on the site I will write my own. If I don't like a show well, I'm not a professional reviewer and I'm not inclined to stray down the harsh critic path. However, there are also occasions I simply don't feel qualified to say anything useful - Shakespeare plays would be a prime example.

I hope these reviews, in some small way, throw a spotlight on the hard work and talent of all involved in a production. I hope maybe they might prompt someone to book a ticket and go see for themselves. I hope it is some form of recognition for the performers and crew as well.

Which brings us back to the issue of the Theatre Australia website currently being "unavailable" (insert whatever the correct technical terminology is here). All those reviews are, in effect, GONE. Vanished. Sucked up into the Mothership. Dispersed into the ether. "They is no more." Nor does there appear to be a way to easily add reviews to this other website. Or find the handful that have been transferred across to an archives section (?).

How then can I tell a wider audience how marvellous I thought last night's production was? (Go see it, it's really good!)

I was a little miffed that everyone was only concerned about Gordon's reviews. Sure, by sheer volume, he is the big enchilada (that is the first and perhaps last time you will ever see me use that phrase!) but he's not the only one who takes the time to knock a few words together.

It also means all the links on my facebook page to reviews I've written are now broken until - if - the website is re-established. That's a little annoying. I wanted that to be an easily accessible portal of my own.

So here's hoping cooler heads prevail and the whole schmozzle is quickly resolved. Though I have to say, the undertone of discussions on Theatre WA doesn't make me hopeful.

Drama, hey? It's all about conflict and this one has all the hallmarks of being a doozy!

Richard Hyde; username "rwhyde" on www.theatre.asn.au

Curtains - Theatre Review

When the supremely untalented star of Robbin’ Hood of the Old West is murdered during her opening night curtain call, Lt. Frank Cioffi must save the show and solve the case – without getting killed!

This sleuthing business seems to be an exhausting task. What with all those suspects and a show that still has to be staged. Sleuthing whilst singing and dancing? Truly remarkable!

Let me say right off the bat that I loved this. Sometimes you go to the theatre for thought provoking drama, maybe to see something experimental or the work of a new playwright. Sometimes you get a rollicking, entertaining ride that is flat out enjoyable from start to finish. The latter was certainly the case tonight at Playlovers production of Curtains.

Billed as a "musical comedy whodunnit", the show has an immediate pedigree with the presence of Kander and Ebb in the credits. There were, indeed, moments of dialogue and music, even story beats that reminded me very much of Chicago. Then there was an odd [I named a play here that might give the game away so I have redacted it] vibe in the latter stages but we'll get to that later.

This is a big, bold, sassy musical with great songs, big set pieces and is genuinely funny. For an independent theatre company to tackle such a huge production (26 cast and a 10 piece orchestra) is wildly ambitious. To pull it off in such style is to be absolutely applauded. Great also to see a full house on the night a local football team was dominating the conversation around town.

The story revolves around the murder of the presumptive yet untalented star that no-one likes (an amusing cameo by the director!) of a new show opening in Boston that all involved hope will make it to Broadway. The cast are "sequestered" within the theatre as a police detective struggles to solve the crime whilst falling for one of the show's lesser stars; advising on how to make the production threatened by poor reviews better; oh, and dealing with the murder of other cast and crew members along the way. 

It plays with the isolated murder-mystery trope but also amusingly comments on the myriad of issues faced when mounting a large musical production. The show within a show device plays out nicely with numbers reworked and reprised as part of the race against time to garner a more favourable review from a nasty Bostonian critic.

I apologise in advance for not mentioning the whole cast but they were uniformly excellent. Of the main performers:

Tyler Jones plays Lieutenant Frank Cioffi and he was fantastic in a role that had a LOT of very precise, rapid paced dialogue. He handled it with aplomb and was the standout from the moment Cioffi makes his introduction. 

Claire Taylor plays Nikki Harris who "has her fingerprints over everything" and is the attention of Cioffi's romantic affections. They have a lovely dance number in the second act and Taylor plays Nikki with an endearing mix of ditziness and innocence.

Therese Cruise is the lyricist who assumes leading lady status after the murder of unpopular star Jessica Cranshaw. Sporting the strongest singing voice, Cruise has several great numbers, the highlight being the "Wide Open Spaces" finale. Her character is involved in the second love story here, playing off Tom Hutton whose character is her songwriting partner and estranged husband. They have a touching moment in "Thinking of Him/I Miss the Music (Reprise)" in the second act.

Other standouts are Helen Carey as the producer Carmen Bernstein who has a hard-headed approach to the theatre business ("It's A Business") and daughter Bambi played by Tamara Woolrych. Why does she call herself Bambi? The answer says a lot about the mother-daughter relationship and Woolrych threads the needle between bitchiness and disappointment as her character tries to prove her worth in the large shadow cast by her mother. Speaking of bitchiness, David Nelson as the director has a grand old time slinging insults the way of all and sundry to hilarious effect.  

The set is simple but effective. The costumes are great with the added razzle-dazzle of typical showgirl flourishes. The orchestra was at times a little too loud for the singing but otherwise was in good form. The choreography took total advantage of the large space and the show was full of movement, never slowing down for an instance.

The story gets a little convoluted and silly deep in the second act as twists are revealed and revelations made but by that stage I was well and truly sold and having a great time with this. So I forgave the few quibbles I had with such plot machinations which reminded me of the aforementioned play that I didn't aforemention. The cast had insisted in the closing number bad things could happen to anybody who revealed the murderer! So I'm not even risking an obtuse reference!

Directed by Kristen Twynam Perkins with Musical Direction by Belinda Flindell and Choreography by Tammie Anne Rafferty this is definitely one to recommend. Remaining shows are on 22, 26, 27 and 28 September at Playlovers in Floreat. Details here.

For more reviews go to Perth Theatre Reviews.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Facebook Portal

"Oooooooooooooh, a portal! Like one of 'em things in Stargate that takes you to a whole new world, Richard?"

Yes, yes, exactly like that! Except maybe minus the aliens... and Richard Dean Anderson.

As news of my demise from social media spreads like solidified concrete, it occurs to me there should still be an easy way for those left in that teeming virtual world to find new posts in the remote outcrop on the edge of the cyber galaxy that is my blog. Okay, that was a long sentence. Let's not do that. Again.

Anywho, as the kids these days say, I have created a facebook page so my ramblings, rants and general musings will appear on your Ticker if you so choose to like it. Okay, not quite as long but still pretty wordy.

Let's cut to the chase:

www.facebook.com/rwhyde 

Like it. Love it. Follow it. Send donations. Testimonials. Small, cuddly animals. Swag. Oh, and I need a new pen.

What are you waiting for? Click on the link, click like and say hel-- no, no, don't do that! I am procrastination free and all the better for it.

Seriously though, if you want an indicator of how I'm going writing wise, the frequency of posts on this blog is a pretty damn good one. When I'm in a writing mood I write.

Now, back to that portal... step inside and be amazed by a whole new world...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Screenwriting and the Sounds of Silence

There I was sitting in a cafĂ© having a late night meeting about two months ago - option agreement, lawyer’s advice, a little haggling, a lot of momentum, a sense of excitement. In principle agreement is reached between me, my director and the two producers we’re meeting with. Plans made, actions assigned, market to attend.

Word finally filters back that there’s interest in the project – potential sales agents on two continents. Fantastic! Further details to follow. “Full steam ahead”, I think to myself.

Since then the following has happened:

Well…

Um…

There was that… oh, no, that was for something else…

We had a great meeti—hmmmm, nup, that was for the other thing…

*thinking*

Oh, I know!!!

No, no, don’t tell me…

It’ll come to me…

That’s right!

There was a change of government in Australia!

Think of something really quiet then attach a silencer to it then put it in a padded chest in a soundproof room with extra sound dampeners and maybe some hi-tech gear not yet invented that enhances noiselessness and that would be the extent of what I’ve heard from my producers. Well, I think they are. I’m not sure anymore.

Yep, not even crickets. I’m talking NOTHING. Not a call, “how’s it going?” Not an email to finalise the option paperwork. Not a meeting to discuss the next draft.

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zip. Stuff all.

DEAD. FUCKING. SILENCE.

My director assures me this is standard practice.

This strikes me as beyond odd.

Momentum. Interest. Excitement… Silence.

An odd sequence.

So what’s a writer to do?

Well, it’s my fucking baby so in the absence of any direction or guidance I’ll raise the damn thing how I see fit.

I have been working spasmodically on the draft, more regularly recently. And you know what? I like it. It’s got promise. It makes me excited. I’m changing things. I’m omitting a ton of scenes and really making it tighter. I’m adding stuff that addresses character issues and story points from the reading and my subsequent discussions with the director. I like delving back into the script. I’m in a writing mood.

I have absolutely no idea what the situation is with the option, the supposed market interest or what the producers are doing. Right now, I couldn’t care less. I’m simply going to write. This version of the script only exists in my head and on my netbook. You want it you have to chase me. I’m done chasing people who can afford to invent hi-tech, anti-noise technology from the future.

Silence.

As a writer I hate fucking silence.

No, not the serene, peaceful, productive kind; the “why the fuck aren’t you talking to me, I thought we were a creative team on this together” kind.

I feel better now.

I’ll go work on the script some more... in silence…

The good kind.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Balance - Epilogue

The other great challenge, as people who note my increasingly erratic behaviour in social media will attest, is the balance between writing and pfaffing around on the internet.

Okay, that makes light of the situation and I've spoken about it more seriously before. The tragedy for me on re-reading that post is that nothing much has changed in over two and a half years.

Like any addiction it needs to be managed and I haven't been doing that of late. If ever. Well, I'm tired of it now. Really, really tired of it.

So there's nothing for it but to cut all virtual ties as stark and as incomprehensible to some people as that might sound.

Tonight I have deactivated by Facebook profile (for those counting at home that's maybe for the fifth time - have a good chortle) and it is scheduled for permanent deletion 14 days from now.

More difficult for me is the fact that my Facebook screenwriting page will get lost in that process. I took that seriously and hope it gave people some insight into me as a writer whilst also being entertaining. But it's a necessary casualty.

You see, some people in the past have said, "just log on for an hour a day. You'll be fine." That's like telling an alcoholic to have only one glass of Scotch. Simply doesn't work that way.

So Facebook will be gone.

I deleted my Twitter account tonight as that was something that did change from 2010 - I got hooked. Over 8,000 tweets later it has to go. Goodbye #QandA, goodbye a range of interests from sports to politics to writing and films with an unnervingly large contingent of film critics on my feed. Will it be missed? I guess but it was always fairly whimsical and ephemeral to me.

Instagram, as someone noted tonight, has been on again off again the last couple of weeks. There is a reason but it's an entirely stupid one which only fuels the anger I feel at myself. It's gone.

My inexplicable flirtation with Tumblr is also over. Wish I'd never seen it. Won't ever use or visit it again.

Stage 32 survives only because there seemed no way to delete the damn thing and I'm too tired and cranky to bother.

LinkedIn also survives as I never figured out what the hell it was really for anyway.

What's left?

Email and this blog.

Email is still the preferred method of communication for most of my key collaborators. This blog is also part therapy, part entertainment and, I continually hope, of some benefit to other writers. That's it.

I guess I might still write the occasional amateur review on theatre.asn.au though the original impulse for that has long since disappeared and I'm probably not very good at it.

Otherwise, I need to write - real writing. Not pointless, witty banter on the internet.

Most people probably won't understand; many will roll their eyes; and maybe only a few might grasp what I'm talking about. Isn't that the way with any addiction though?

If you see me in any of the above places from now on - meaning my intent has wavered and I have relapsed - you have my permission, in fact I beg you, to hurl such vitriol as would make me scurry back to reality with my virtual tail between my legs. You'd be doing me a favour... but let's hope it doesn't come to that.

To those people I may never "speak to" again as a result of my self-imposed exile, I apologise. Though if our 'friendship' or interaction was based solely on words on a screen then what was it really about?

I'll still be kicking around in the real world. I manage to see quite a few shows and you're pretty much guaranteed to see me at the PAC Script Labs. But for now, from cyberspace, it's goodbye. I'm sure I won't be missed.
 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

The Balance

Alas, I'm not talking about disturbances in The Force. I went to my GP last week and the pathology tests had come back with a disappointingly low midi-chlorian count. He's referred me to a naturopath who tells me to cut out dairy and start taking extract of Bantha tusk and maybe, just maybe, I can grow up to be a Jedi one day...

No, I'm talking about the balance between full-time work and a creative life.

Last Thursday was my ten month anniversary at my full-time office job.

TEN MONTHS!

Ten months of 7.30am starts (okay, maybe closer to 8am now) and 8 hour days that are pretty full on. Ten months of being bone-tired weary by the end of the week (Saturdays I pretty much sleep). Ten months of trying to find the energy to write after 26 months where I could write whenever I wanted.

It's fucking hard! I know that if I go home after work it's game over. I'll flake out and that's that. I have to force myself to go somewhere to write and switch from left brain to right brain and sometimes just gut it out. Writing when you're tired is agonising. Except that's not strictly true...

Beginning to write when you're tired  is excruciating. IF you can get into your script often times magic things happen and you get lost in the world and characters you have created. Then you are revitalised. Then you churn out pages. Getting there is the problem. It feels like you're at the base of an insurmountable mountain pass. The first step is the hardest.

I've never considered myself a particularly disciplined writer but somehow I generate a reasonable amount of content. There was a day about a fortnight ago I was writing after work simply to get the fingers tapping and the brain somewhat thinking. It was mostly garbage but I NEEDED to write even if it was horrible. I NEEDED to punch through the tiredness because I didn't want my life to become work-sleep-repeat.

But the weariness isn't the only problem, perhaps not even the main one.

There is this: the corporate world has its own seductive charms.

SIII Galaxy sitting atop the Galaxy Tab 2
The day after my ten month anniversary I was informed by my boss that I was getting a pay rise and a hefty bonus after the annual performance review. He later even took me out to lunch. Throw in all the gadgets - an SIII Galaxy with a 20GB/month data pack, the Samsung Tablet, the laptop, the work conference on the Gold Coast, the occasional free luncheons and dinners, and it's an easy world to get lost in. I am also very good in it and can function quite happily at a high level.

THAT is the real danger. I could easily get used to the money and the perks while tolerating the hours even though my writer's soul despises the early starts. But that's not what I want.

I NEVER thought I would be a full-time corporate zombie again. But circumstances dictated that I had no choice. At the beginning of November 2012 I was in dire straits financially. Now I am at the point where I can put away a couple of grand a month in savings. Another enticement.

The other thing I miss is the meetings. When I wasn't working I could meet anyone, anywhere at a drop of a hat to talk scripts, and projects, and ideas. Working full-time puts a horrible crimp in that. Sure, there are plenty of interesting people at work but predominantly they come from a technical background. Simply put they are analytical, left brain people who think entirely differently to creative people. There are times I feel isolated from the creative Zeitgeist.

It's a balancing act. Remembering what my priorities are while maintaining financial security to attain those goals. I need to spend more time writing which means better sleep patterns, healthier eating, and not getting stressed at work. The latter hasn't happened in a long time and I am largely immune to it but lately the workload has seemed overwhelming. I'm pretty good at compartmentalising after my managerial experiences in Sydney so time to shore up those boundaries.

Also remembering perhaps the most important thing like this morning when I was working on my feature script - that feeling when you're writing well. That feeling is priceless. Battling the weariness, the distractions and all the inducements to get to that feeling is what makes the struggle all worthwhile.

How do you cope if you are juggling a full-time job and writing? What tips do you have? How do you cope?