Once again I’ve been busy. But productive. Any fellow writer who knows me will remember me banging on about ICA Labs and about how fantastic they are to airing work and pushing projects forward. The idea is simple – a private room in the plush ICA to read out your work with actors. That’s pretty much it to be honest, but like most things that at first seem simple they’re layered with hurdles and delights.
I had my Lab on Sunday and decided to work on the children’s TV programme I have banging around not doing much. I’d had an earlier draft of episode one read before but since then the theme of the project had changed. As well as writing in whatever spare time I have I’m always juggling three jobs (two out of three are interesting, fair turn out I say). So when I had some time in lieu to take from the boring job I toyed around with the idea of doing a Lab but then at that time all the projects I had at my finger tips were past having readthroughs and had been sent off to the relevant people OR were in rehearsal. So I turn my attention to CIRCUS and decide to write a second episode to see if it has legs. And then in true Katie-style I had several events and writing projects happening up until a week before I needed to send the scripts out. Oh and there was casting as well.
And in between that among deadlines for other such things I had a birthday which went something like this…
I always get ridiculously busy around my birthday to the point where I either forget it or end up doing something work related on the day. I have to write it on my own calendar.
Cut to a week when I’d planned to write the thing and I was struggling. I didn’t have time to indulge in a series outline or even attempt a bible. I was writing blindly and anyone following my Facebook statuses would have gathered that at times I was struggling. And procrastinating as usual. But jeez I love the pressure. By the end of Thursday night I had a first draft that then got posted/emailed/given to all the cast involved and then I had to wait till the following Sunday to see if it was worth investing time and energy into the programme.
Being a kid’s programme I had to cast kids. And going on recommendations from Rosemarie Partridge at Theatrix (where I’m their writer in residence) I had before me a bunch of eager and fully-trained kids. Fantastic. Meeting them to hand out scripts on the Saturday put my mind at rest, I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I could have the intended characters played as close as possible to their ages. A win/win situation. And even more brilliant was the fact that most of the children involved had only finished a production two days before and still all turned up on time and read beautifully.
What was clear as we all read through the two episodes was that my fear of episode two being too dark was nothing to worry about. The general consensus was that people wanted to see more of this which ultimately means going back through episode one and re-threading the dark elements. Not only has this satisfied and reassured me but it’s a massive weight off my shoulders. I wanted to write a children’s programme that wasn’t all sweetness and light. I wanted it to portray an adult world through children’s eyes. We have death, peril and a rights of passage occurring but never are they expressed in a patronising light. They’re meant to be a celebration of how outlooks can differ; it’s the kids that express these things and I wanted that to remain true. It’s one big allegory for life and growing up in a world that’s not the same as every one else’s. But never is anything kooky for kookys sake. Their arena is true to their life but they still experience the embarrassment, the wonder, the pain and the laughter of growing up. It’s a magical environment and one that I’ve had immense fun writing. And never once have I felt like I’m pandering to keeping things simple because ‘the kids will be watching’. It’s had me thinking back to the Q&A session that I went along to at the Royal Court where Steven Andrews talked to us about things to remember. And the one that keeps sticking in my head is this:
“Remember to keep it child centred AND child driven. If problems arising in the script are solved by the adults no one’s going to keep watching… It’s called Children’s TV for a reason, stick to it.”
Utterly true. And that’s something that I do think is prevalent in my script at this present time. But it’s something that I can explore more now I know that there’s something to this idea. The feedback garnered from all the actors involved was thrilling to say the least and it was even more exciting that the children who were reading for me were throwing me some superb ideas and insights. It truly was a great moment especially as I don’t usually write for children. It goes to show that sometimes writing something you’re not fully inclined to do can make you realise that writing is all about telling a good story no matter what restraints you’re up against or used to. And it’s not all reliant on magic.
A big hearty thanks to the following: