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.

 

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. 

 

Assurance From Something Completely Different October 20, 2012

I’ve become addicted to watching Andre Rieu concerts. I’d never heard of him until a rare moment of absent-minded television watching a few months back. I rarely watch television and when I do I try to watch something that will broaden my education. By that I mean I don’t watch reality television or soaps. I like to think that everything I imbibe is part of a bigger picture, not a moment for my brain to press pause and reduce in size.
 
I used to play violin in an orchestra when I was younger and I miss it. I wouldn’t call myself a classical buff with knowledge of composers and periods, but I have memories of playing particular pieces and I listen to the composers I know and like. I stumbled across a classical concert on television and from the first few moments I was hooked and I’ve worked out why.
 
Andre Rieu’s main aim for each performance is “for people to have an unforgettable night”. He talks to his audience, he tells stories and more importantly he entertains. He plays as well as conducts and stands up for the entire two hour (plus) concerts. He and his orchestra completely embody the theatricality of performance and I think that’s why I feel so anchored in when I watch them. He’s renowned for opening up classical music and making it accessible to a wide audience and not just classical fans. There are small moments of rehearsed frivolity threaded through the performance and although you know they are planted they remain fun and fresh and just underline how much these musicians enjoy their job. From the outset it may look like another stuffy classical concert and I understand the garish ballroom-esque dresses do promote that. But the entire production is a grand celebration of the spirit of music and the impact it can have. It strips classical music of it’s uptight nature and welcomes the audience to revel in it’s new laid-back costume.
 
I’ve watched a few of his televised concerts and each one brings with it the wonder and spectacle of the audience. I wax lyrical about how envious I am of the gathered crowds that attend these concerts. They are from all walks of life and all ages too. They dance in their couples when a waltz strikes up, they clap along en masse when enjoying themselves and they sing along in their droves when the mood takes them. And they’re captivated. They cry when the music proves too much, they hug each other when a traditional song from their country is played. The sight of seeing 8,000 people link arms and sway for Auld Lang Syne is pure magic especially after he invites the European Pipe Band to stand among the audience:

 


 

They are there to be entertained and they do not go away empty handed or less of heart. And even better is he commends each and every one of his performers, he insists they take several bows so the people can applaud their hardwork. He even drags out the stagehands to do the same at one point. He is a performer who knows the hardwork that goes into a performance and celebrates it by exposing what goes on behind the scenes.
 
[Admittedly some of the flourishes in the production are very traditional (the elaborate wide shots, the choice of some modern songs .etc.) but even a layman can see the awe-inspiring quality to it all. The very fact it’s filmed with several cameras is rare for a classical concert to begin with.]
 
The concert he did in his home town in Maastricht Square is a joy to watch as it documents the passing of time with the night sky unfurling as the concerts goes on (his Berlin concert is in an amphitheatre but the intimacy of the Square seems more potent). He always provides a plethora of special guests and you can see the pride he has of performing in his own homeland. He’s a relaxed performer and a charmer to listen to, a true showman leading his motley crew to entertain everyone within listening distance. He quips in this concert that he asked the surrounding bars and cafes to shut whilst the concert was on, to which they said no. Instead they stopped serving altogether but lined up tables with buckets of wine and champagne for those who didn’t get tickets to sit and listen to the concert.
 

 
The reason why I admire what Andre Rieu sets out to do, is he unites a collected audience of all social classes, ages, creed and treats them as one person to move, to entertain, to reach out and touch. And he succeeds. I write theatre to do exactly the same, to promote that it’s not just for a particular select few or other theatre-makers. I do it because I have stories to tell that are from different perspectives and I want to represent them in all that I do. Whether or not you think you don’t like classical music (or theatre for that matter) you cannot deny that these people are fantastic at what they do and the charm they exude on their audience is moving. It’s a selfless act that has rippling repercussions and it’s a reminder, at a time when I’m constantly in doubt, of why I do what I do.
 
(I can’t find a full version of one of his concerts subtitled – the Dutch man talks fluent English, French, German, Italian and Spanish – but enjoy nonetheless, especially the threat of an impending storm as lightning fills the sky ominously beginning at 11:57 on the video below…)
 

 
Also – if anyone would like to buy me a ticket to see him in December in London I would be eternally grateful and probably weep with joy. I’d like to say this is one of my usual quips, but I really do mean it.  

 

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. 

 

Writers Need Honest Folk July 20, 2012

Filed under: Musings/Film,theatre,Theatre and writing — katiemccullough @ 12:02 pm
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The Innards Of My Story… July 15, 2012

Filed under: Musings/Film,theatre,Theatre and writing — katiemccullough @ 10:20 pm
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