Katie Mccullough Talks and Writes

Words will get written here and some videoblogs will appear. You don't have to look but it would be nice if you did.

Firehouse Films – The Result! July 6, 2013

Here’s the resulting film from the Firehouse Film Creative inaugural film challenge I was invited to do. Six writers, six directors, one room. We’re all paired off after being picked at random from a hat and we’re all played the same stimulus. It’s a recording of a woman talking about how she remembers her grandmother being the life and soul of the party, a real chatterbox. But as age takes over she slowly begins to talk less and less, a former shadow of herself.

 


 

So there was our stimulus which we could take anyway we wanted. I was paired with director/producer-duo Dave Thomas and Nell Garfath-Cox who were living in Worthing when we started the project together. I’ve mentioned before how I like to have imposed restrictions as it gets the ideas flowing thick and fast, so this was no different. Although I’d never had to do something so restrictive over a prolonged period of time. A month. One month to write, shoot, edit and finalise a short film with no budget. I was worried that the initial adrenaline rush would drop once we were out of that room and as the days ticked over. But I knuckled down to the script and vomited something down as soon as I could so the momentum would tide us over. And collaboratively myself and Dave worked great together – we’d email the drafts with notes and work out where we both wanted to go, and it worked. People seem to avoid particular areas of collaboration because they feel exposed, or that they feel they have to bend to somebody else’s whim. That’s definitely not the case. You discuss points and open them up. You never have to take on every note, but you’ve got to have a good reason for going against it. And if you can articulate that reason well, then there’s nothing to worry about.
 
Anyways. Script done.
 
Then we had an issue with a location. I’d written the script for one location, but it was proving difficult. So much so that the script that was written so soon after our initial meeting… Was actually shot on the last weekend of the month. It was so close to not happening at all. But then the lovely Beatrice Curnew stepped in and saved the day by letting us take over her house (and cook a whole roast meal) for the short. Thank you Bea!
 
Here are some shots of the filming in action.
 

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I thoroughly enjoyed watching Ingvild Deila, Ian Houghton, Dorothy Lawrence, Oliver Malam, Dave Thomas, Nell Garfath-Cox and Sarita Tam all work. I know that I’ve made some friends from this, and there’s more delights to come.

 

LONDON PRIDE is imminent! April 25, 2013

Crikey mikey pudding and pie!

 

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LONDON PRIDE is impending, like a loveable rogue over that yonder hill. I’ve stopped by quickly to tell you a few things… 

  1.  You can buy tickets here – clicky clicky, buysy buysy
  2.  

  3.  On Sunday 5th May from 4-6pm there will be a New Writing Surgery where both of us, myself and MJ Starling (author of Audience With Ghostfinder), will be present to help or just chat about your work. More info can be found here – click for WAFF info
  4.  

  5.  There’s a post show Q&A with both of us too on the 9th May
  6.  

  7.  I’m quite excited about everything.
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See you there!

 

LONDON PRIDE is cast… AND ON SALE! March 16, 2013

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Yup, it’s all auditioned out and we have our stellar cast. It was great sitting in on the auditions and meeting some of the talent out there. And as always you want to use everyone and have an interchangeable cast because you don’t want to send anyone away… But we whittled it down to a cast that I’m very excited to be working with. The most thrilling aspect of auditions for me, is when it’s the character talking in front of you and not the actor. They make me forget what I’ve written and make it seem like I’m snatching snippets of other people’s conversation. Definitely.
 
So without further ado, here be the cast:
 

Fiona Skinner

Fiona Skinner as SHELLY

Tom Slatter

Tom Slatter as PAVEL

Martin Berhman

Martin Berhman as JOE


 

Details of where and when and how much (including the rest of the programme for the Wandsworth Arts Festival & Fringe) can be found here: clicky linky (we’re on page 15, just so you know)
 
Tickets can be grabbed here: clicky-clicky-booky-booky
 
See you there? Mine’s a pint of gin.

 

LONDON PRIDE – fancy a pint? February 17, 2013

I’ve got a play on soon… The lovely people who are Blackshaw Theatre Company are to produce LONDON PRIDE this coming May as part of the Wandsworth Arts Festival and Fringe. I’m thrilled that the play will get a proper production (it received a reading at RADA back in 2011) and also overjoyed that it’s to be paired as a double bill with writer M.J. Starling. LONDON PRIDE and Audience With Ghost Finder will be performed at The Selkirk Upstairs in Tooting. I’m also really really chuffed that it’s in a pub as that’s where my play is set.
 
 

London Pride

 
 

They’re also casting for both plays so if you’re of the Acting variety then have a ganders at the breakdowns and get applying. And there are also some Designer/Crew opportunities too. More details: here

 
And here’s a bit more info about the two plays…
 
 
LONDON PRIDE by Katie McCullough

In Shelly’s rundown pub dreams are revived, hope falters and someone’s looking for a fight.
 
A new arrival sends ripples through Shelly’s humdrum life and riles Joe, a regular determined to defend his territory.
 
 
 
Audience with the Ghost Finder by M. J. Starling

1912. To lift a cruel curse, ab-natural investigator Carnacki must tread the border between enlightenment and madness.
 
Sherlock Holmes meets Ghostbusters in this original tale of William Hope Hodgson’s classic character, Carnacki the ghost finder.
 
 
 
So times and dates are as follows:
 
May 8th, 9th, 10th, 15th and 17th all kicking off at 7:30pm
 
Tickets are £10 and that gets you in to see BOTH plays – what a bargain! Tickets will be available soon so keep an eye on the Blackshaw Twitter or Facebook or their website. Niceness.

 

 

Firehouse Films – Writing For Film (Again) January 31, 2013

I’ve been invited by Firehouse Creative Productions to be involved in their inaugural launch for the Firehouse Films project, with the first writer-director workshop happening on this Saturday. I’m quite excited about flexing my film muscles again, I’ve been aching to do it for a while… But I’m also excited because I’m going to be meeting new folks AND I like the challenge of crafting a short film in a short space of time – but not limited to a 48hr film challenge this time. The idea of there being a definite finished article at the end of it is always appealing.
 
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The plan will go like this…
 
Every month Firehouse Film will invite a group of filmmakers to collaborate with them. They’ll provide a creative spark and at least one London location. They’ll put potential cast and crew at your disposal and the filmmakers will then face the challenge of producing a short film to be screened one month later.
 
The “creative spark” will be provided by real life stories from people in London through Firehouse’s Story-Station installation (see photographs above). They already have an extensive back catalogue of real-life stories and will collect more as this project goes on.
 
On the first Saturday of every month, they will hold a workshop during which 5 writers and 5 directors (or writer-directors) will collaborate to choose which stories they want to adapt into short films. Firehouse will help partner the writers and directors with actors and crew as necessary. 5 teams will then undertake to produce 5 short films.
 
On the first Friday of the following month, all 5 films will be screened at a high profile venue. With the filmmakers’ permission, these films will then be screened on http://www.firehousecreativeproductions.com and partners’ websites.

 
So I’ll let you know how it goes on Saturday and keep you in the loop. It’ll be great to meet the lovely people behind the project – through a combination of film festivals, Twitter and friends of friends we’ll finally get to meet face-to-face and more importantly, get creating. 

 

London Threeway For New Work (@uglysisterprod & #SP4TT2012) November 1, 2012

 

 
I’ve got a short piece on as part of Ugly Sister‘s The Story Project 4 which means I’ll have my work performed as part of their curated line-up at three different venues on three different nights. It’s my first time working with this theatre company and they seem like Lovely lassies which is always a bonus.
 

Dates and places are as follows:
 
Sunday 18th November – The Arcola 

Monday 19th November – Theatre503 

Sunday 25th November – Southwark Playhouse

 
I’m extremely thrilled that I’m going to have some work performed at the Southwark Playhouse because out of the three, I’ve yet to be performed there. The brief was nice and open taking the title, ‘Tears, Terror and TwentyTwelve’ and a ten minute mark with basic props/set. As I’ve mentioned before I like having restrictions and this was a great task.
 
I’m chuffed with how my idea, ‘Lifetime Subscription‘ came together. I’ve written for two female voices which, for me, is a rarity but is fast becoming a good habit. The conceit is bold and quite expressive of how I feel as a person reacting to our current climate regarding tragic events reported in the media and the collective response. I’d like to think it holds a mirror up to a lot of folks and makes them think about their human response and the emotive responsibility we have to each other. It’s dark. And I enjoyed writing it. I don’t want to give too much away because it hinges on you being there in the moment. As far as I’m aware it’s the last thing I’ll have on this year that’s been asked of me so do come along to support all us writers and the company and if you want to buy me a gin you’re more than welcome. But do come up and say hallo because it’s nice when humans do that to each other. 

 

Looking Backwards But Moving Forwards September 30, 2012

 
Several incidents have tumbled into my view the last month and all of them chime with each other in a manner of ways. We had to put our beloved dog down which still hurts – the hardest and easiest decision I’ve had to make. With a constant swathe of self-reflection taking over the home it’s been a case of paddling in the past trying to make sense of the now. It’s a time when the hours seem longer and the jobs seem constant and everything in the zeitgeist is out to get you.
 
I recently had an old piece of work performed for the second time, but two years apart from its first airing. Whilst watching it I found moments I’d forgotten and other elements which jarred. But all in all it was a pleasure to see a different interpretation of the script and it showed my work to have a pulse longer than the few moments it was written. It was extremely well received by the audience and a big thank you must go to Oryx Productions who paired me up with director Ahmed El Alfy and actors Emma Darlow and Tom Phillips who were all ace. Here’s a lovely review of the night: (it’s quite a good one)
 
In my other job I had a meeting recently with a young filmmaker and we ended up talking about our past work and the notion of rewatching it through older eyes. She felt too close to her previous work and had distanced herself from it, going as far as to actually withdrawing it from public viewing. We talked about how we can see what was going on in our lives because of the content of our work, but only in retrospective. It’s true. For me I can glance back at stuff I’ve written and see it as useless because it’s not come from me now, it doesn’t have the same urgency that I strive for presently. Other times I re-read old material and question why I didn’t realise I was on to something back then and commit to the end. I always end up trying to think back about a lot of things when I get to bed.
 

 
It’s a conversation I’ve had with many and I’m sure some of the folks who read this blog will have had it too… New writing rarely gets restaged in London and it makes me wonder, why? London thrives with new writing but as soon as it’s gone anywhere near a stage it loses its shine, its ‘new’ tag, and it’s onto the next piece from someone else. Sure plays go on tour, but it makes me realise with more strength that London is possibly not the ‘new writing’ friendly place that it’s been talked up to be. You get the initial excitement of finally having some work on… But as soon as it’s gone up the first night you’re constantly having to prepare yourself for it to end because then it’s gone. Scurrying back into your computer folder to be forgotten about because you’re being ushered into writing something new, something current, something now.
 
I’ve dipped into my old folder of writing to uncover how different I am now so I can understand what I’ve achieved. I’m a person who can only figure out what I’ve done by glancing back to see what went before. It’s never as galling as you think it will be because let’s put it this way – if your previous work was bad, you’ve learnt something and if it’s not then you know you’re doing something right.
 
You keep going, you keep learning and you keep going. It’s not so bad to take a breather and look at where you’ve come from to see your achievements. I just know that I’m glad that I’ve not given up yet. 

 

48 Hour Film Challenge… London! September 23, 2012

I was kindly asked by new collaborator theatre director Ahmed El Alfy to be his designated scriptwriter for the 48 Hour Film Challenge in London. And of course I took him up on the offer. All the actors involved were Mountview graduates and from a theatre background, some had even graduated that same day. We met at Alfy’s flat.
 

 
FRIDAY 9:30pm – We’d been given the following elements to complete for our entry:
 
GENRE – Drama
PROP – Cream
LINE – “Let me tell you a secret”
CHARACTER – Charlie Cipriani (a minor celebrity)
 
Faced with 6 actors we then set about meandering our way to a story. I got everyone to take a few moments and think of something that had happened to them that day which they considered a drama, no matter how large or small they were. This opened up discussion from each story and then it was rapidly approaching midnight.
 
SATURDAY 12:00am – Straight into an improvised ensemble scene. I wrote down an intention for each actor to have in their pocket that only they would know and got them to interact in small groups. It was interesting to watch (I only knew one of the actors) and to grasp people’s abilities and strengths. I sat at the sidelines and scribbled anything that caught my eye and ear.
 
1:30am – We sent the actors home to return at 7am. Then it was up to me. The more I thought about it the more I realised I didn’t actually have that long. With such an early call time for the actors I needed to get a move on and fast. I definitely decided that it would be a collection of vignettes rather than a standard narrative. With 6 actors to juggle I wanted everyone to have a balanced story and I was never going to get that with everyone and keep it under 7 minutes.
 
2:30am – I sketched down ideas. I listened to Spiritualized (Let It Come Down). I listened to Nick Cave (Abattoir Blues). I listened to PJ Harvey (Is This Desire?). I didn’t know the password to the Internet connection at that point which was probably for the best. I had grasped a rough template of what I wanted to achieve and I nudged Alfy who was tweaking his first short film next to me. We discussed it and he asked me questions about the moments I had chosen to explore. Then I went back and fleshed out the story. The sky is an odd colour.
 
5:30am – Sitting at the computer I tapped, typed, took my time but ended up finishing a script. I woke Alfy from his slumber and we were both happy with the end product. I tentatively point out that I’ve written two exterior scenes, I ask what the weather’s going to be like later today.
 

 
7:00am – People start arriving and trickling into the living room. I’ve still not slept but don’t feel tired. I’d gone to bed late Thursday night and slept in till Friday lunchtime to conquer this.
 
7:40am – First read through of the script. It was a real treat seeing people notice some of the moments and dialogue they’d crafted from the improvisation seep into the script. Everyone seems happy with what we’re going to be working with.
 
8:30am – Actors are tasked with being off book asap. Most of them, if not all, do this within half an hour.
 
9:00am – Some folks have the brilliant idea of cooking sausages and fried eggs with bread rolls en masse. We are beginning to not be so concerned about the mammoth task ahead. Eggs and sausages make everything alright. This fuels us to chat more about individual scenes and character motivations and collectively scout for locations. I’ve written one pub scene, one park scene and one street scene. People soon realise they will be multitasking throughout the shoot.
 
10:45am – We arrive at the pub where scene two (and a small scene three) are set. The landlady’s been nice enough to let us in before the pub opens for business and this is through one of the actors who works there (and is also in this scene).
 

 
12:15pm – The pub opens for the general public and there’s football on. The locals are inquisitive and accommodating and surprise us all. They creep around like mice and watch the actors work. This amuses me greatly and I smile knowing there are nice folks. Things are taking time because the pub is next to a main road which meant lots of excess noise. We sit outside in the sun. It is sunny, my interior monologue high fives Ra.
 
3:15pm – Second location for us to find – a park with a free bench. We stroll to one near the pub… Which is small and filled with children. We walk to the other one close by and find a football match happening and a free bench just past them. We walk. Someone asks about the props for this scene… No one’s bought them. Off someone goes to the shop. People are beginning to feel more tired. I’m surprisingly awake still. I wasn’t even going to stick around the filming but I’m glad I did. We start shooting scene four, the last scene of the film.
 

 
4:00pm – One elderly jogger runs around us several times making sure to avoid the camera. Another younger jogger runs straight through shot each time on every lap. He does stupid arm exercises each time he gets to our patch. I laugh as I say that Alfy and Jack look like French auteurs as they smoke whilst working – they clamp the cigarettes between their teeth.
 
4:45pm – The squirty cream used as a prop has no squirt left in it. The strawberries look mushed to fuck. I buy Red Bull for myself and Alfy.
 
5:30pm – We head off to the last location to film the opening scene for the film. A dodgy street to film a mugging where in real life it’s known as a mugging hotspot. Great, authenticity. At one point we have to wait for two policemen to walk past before rolling.
 

 
6:30pm – It’s cold and I wish I had a coat. Still not slept, but still not feeling the need to. Everyone is so lovely and there’s no tension at all. One actor has to ‘mug’ the other actor many times and be shot from different angles each time. The last take he stacks it and falls to the ground, rolls it out and pegs it down the street as planned. The scene carries on and he jogs back. We don’t shoot that segment anymore (we don’t need to.)
 

 
7:00pm – It’s a wrap. We head back to one of the actor’s for well earned cups of tea and congratulate ourselves for the hardwork. Alfy looks like death and it’s only then that I feel my body stiffening with something that can only be described as reluctance to move.
 
9:30pm – I’m still at Alfy’s because I can’t be bothered to make the trek home. My gait has slowed and my eyes look like I’ve been crying for days. Still not slept.
 
10:00pm – I leave Alfy and Jack to start the long process of logging everything and syncing sound to start the mammoth intense session of editing. I’m on a bus heading to St. Pancras and sleep and nonsense are beginning to invade my limbs.
 
10:20pm – I stand at the ticket machine for a good 5 minutes before realising I was trying to buy a ticket to St. Pancras and the reason that wasn’t happening was because I was standing in St. Pancras. I buy a single journey ticket for St. Albans.
 
11:00pm – Dad comes to collect me from the station. I warn him that if he keeps the car this hot that I will fall asleep.
 
SUNDAY 12:01am – I’m emailing Alfy and Jack (producer) some music to be considered for the film and clambering into bed. I’m finally tired.
 
We then get word Sunday afternoon that there’s been technical difficulties. We won’t be able to hand in a version of the film to be considered for the competition because there’s no time to amend and edit before the cut off time. No one is angry, we’re all respectful of the hardwork we’ve all put in and are still excited by what we created. We’re all happy to have been involved in something great in a short amount of time and even though it won’t be part of the competition, we made a film and had a brilliant time doing it. A film is still a film and once it’s done and ready for folks to see, you’ll see it. I loved every second, shot, film roll, sound roll, and sleepless hour I got. 36 hours with no sleep and a bunch of new friends and a film. That’s not bad going considering we were all doing it for the experience… I think we’ll have to credit the sausages and the eggs. 

 

Doing Things Theatrically Differently With @Soup_ToNuts August 21, 2012

One of the scripts I’ve been trundling along with nicely is a commission for new theatre company, Soup To Nuts, which now has a name after being a heart symbol quickly followed by the word ‘play’ for an extended period of time. The play has now been christened, ‘The Thump You Feel When You Fall‘ and has been through many incarnations from the start including a completely new narrative. Soup To Nuts is a new writing company formed by Jayne Edwards and Laura Atherton, who met whilst studying at Bretton Hall College. Their mission is to develop work in an open forum similar to devising where the creative process is shared and discussed. As part of their ethos I’m allowing them to be parry to the writing process of the script so they can both see the decisions/changes as the script progresses from being a nub of an idea to a fully grown finished version through the different drafts. This is really interesting because where my role of a scriptwriter has normally taken me before is handing over the finished product at the end ready for rehearsals. So it’s a nice working relationship where the respect is noticed from the beginning and we’re all learning how we develop ideas in our own creative roles. What they’ve learned from me is that I write stern notes chastising my stupid ideas and demands to rectify them.
 

This is from another script but in the same vein.

 
The writing process is a lonely one. You spend an undisclosed amount of time trying to fling your story onto pages and hoping that it will stick. Then you have to make it interesting. And then you have to find some actors to read it. And of course find someone to stage it. Soup To Nuts’ ethos of opening up the development process to all those involved is not only informative but incredibly useful. After talking to many actors it’s clear that they have many questions about the simple task of writing but never have the real opportunity to act on them. Having the opportunity to open up the development at such an early stage in the writing experience was slightly daunting but extremely helpful. It’s rare for a playwright to still have the script in an undeveloped state to produce before actors. And it’s even rarer for actors who it’s written for, to read it and give feedback. The initial anxiety of handing over a script knowing it’s not finished soon vanished after the readthrough started. It was actually quite thrilling having an open discussion about the themes, narratives and characters with the actors as if we were further down the development path. The feedback was being explored knowing that the script was in a state of flux and sometimes it’s good for an outside eye at such an early stage to point out slithers of plot that have been forgotten or not tied up. Being so close to a script can blinker your ability to see what’s going on. By having actors who are invested in these characters that you’re still forming, it gives you the incentive to carry on. But more importantly it allows the writer to have an explorative relationship with the actors without the constraints of a rehearsal period and the end goal of a production. In no way was this new method restricting or hindering on the overall genesis of the script, if anything it’s added depth to the writing process.
 
Soup To Nuts can be found on Twitter: @Soup_ToNuts and Facebook here

 

My First Restaging Of Work With @WeAreOryx August 18, 2012

 
**PLEASE NOTE THE DATE HAS NOW CHANGED TO TUESDAY 4TH SEPTEMBER**

 

Oryx Productions, some lovely folks who run a new writing pop up night at 93 Feet East, have selected one of the first short pieces I ever had performed in London to be included in their next night. The piece is called, “Love-Aged-28” and is part of the Interrobang Trilogy I had put on at The Book Club back in 2010. I’m really intrigued to see how it will differ from the original staging… It’s an odd piece to begin with, abstract with direct addressing to the audience, and in terms of theme it’s a little bizarre. A bit like “Brimstone And Treacle*” but with menthol fags and no forced sex.
 
 


 
If you’re free to come along to the FREE event, then please do. I’ll be there so come along and say howdy if you can make it. It’s Tuesday September 4th starting at 7ish and it’s in the bar. Which means gin, right? Right!
 
[the gin is not free]

 

 
 
*If you have not read this play, do. It’s the play that got me into being a playwright and that. At least the first ten things I wrote were a rip-off of it.