Last night I attended an event called Write, Camera, Action. It's a monthly event and this was my first time. It's an evening of workshops which bring together writers, directors and actors. Each month, writers submit a 5 minute (or so) script in advance and five are then selected for the evening. People also register their interest as directors and actors and each piece is then allocated a director and a group of actors and the scene is then workshopped for two hours. You can also go along just as an observer (which is what I did). Each time there are 5 workshops going on. Writers have to submit their scripts (which can be a standalone or part of a larger piece) with brief character descriptions and a couple of sentences as to what it's about. Directors must have experience directing actors. The actors seemed to be a mixture of drama students and people just interested in acting. I'm rubbish at guestimating numbers but I would guess there were about 100 people there.
The event is held at Glasgow's CCA which is a great venue. After registering, we were pointed in the direction of the synopses of the various pieces being workshopped that evening. the evening is split into two and you can stay in one workshop from beginning to end, or you can change at half time. At the end of the evening, all the groups come together and each piece is performed.
One of the synopses was marked 'Part 2' and, although it looked really interesting, I decided to forego that one, Two of them were science fiction which did not immediately grab me. The other two were a comedy scene set in a pub, and a drama about an unmarried mother in the 1960s. I decided that I would go to those two.
The first one was the comedy one. Two actors, sitting in a pub, talking about the fact that one of the guys had been out on a date. The director was very hands off. After a couple of run throughs, he suggested that they get a bit of action in the scene by pretending to be painting the pub rather than sitting in it. Another couple of run throughs and he then asked them to do it without the script and just improvise. The scene was very funny, but for me the major weakness was that only the guy who had been on the date really had anything to say, the other guy was mostly responding by facial expressions. As part of the improvisation, the second guy was saying much more, and it made it work much better I thought, so that was really interesting to see.
At half time, we went to see the other workshop. This one was totally different. The writer was also the director and he was more hands on - much more hands on. So much so that he was telling one of the actors to sit up straight and what tone of voice to use. He was being quite...directorial... in his direction. Sometimes it seemed as though the actors were getting a bit frustrated. The scene had a bigger cast of characters, and much more action. There were frequent changes of scene with only a couple of lines of dialogue in each. The script was seven pages long, but by the time we got there, this had been reduced to about three, characters had been condensed, and scenes had been discarded. To say that they'd already spent an hour working on it, it seemed quite chaotic and frenetic - totally different to the more laid back atmosphere of the first one we'd seen. It made for a totally different experience and it was fascinating to see the differences resulting from the script, the action and the style of the director. I also thought it was interesting how the director who also wrote the piece was so much more fixed on his own ideas and words than the other session. In that one, the writer had very little to say, he just sat back and observed.
Then it was into the theatre for a performance of each of the pieces. Prior to each one the writer stood up to say what the piece was about, and, if it was part of a larger piece, to give some background about the whole thing. I was really impressed by how well done each one was. It turned out that the piece that was Part 2 we could have gone to see without being bamboozled. It was very good - probably the most professional of the five scenes. And one of the science fiction ones was very well done with some very clever directorial bits added. The writer of that said that while they were doing the workshop quite a bit of dialogue had been cut and he was really happy with that as it sounded more flowing. The piece that we'd seen first hadn't changed substantially, just a few tweaks with some additional dialogue for the second character, and a little bit more action. Then came the other one we'd seen. When the writer stood up to explain what his piece was about and how it all fitted into the longer piece, it all made much more sense and I think that, as a short film, it could be really good. I wish I'd had the bottle to ask the guy why he chose to direct his own piece - especially as it was his first time. From the other one we saw, and from the sound of what had happened in the other workshops, a subjective director had added a lot and really helped the writers to see what needed work and maybe consider a different way of doing things.
It was a great evening. I am definitely going to go every month and am even considering submitting a scene from OLD DOGS. Well, maybe in a few months. I certainly won't be directing it though!