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Sunday, February 27, 2011

She Writes - Actor's Workshops

I was just writing an entry on my current redrafting progress, and realised that I hadn't mentioned the brilliant couple of days I'd had with my fellow She Writers at the end of 2010.

Part of the She Writes programme, and an element which sounded really attractive to me, was actor's workshops to help us develop our script. We had these at the start of December 2010 in London. A panel of actors were selected, each of our nine projects had been redrafted (following feedback from our mentors and fellow writers), and various members of the Script Factory were on hand to lead development sessions.

I'd worked hard on a page one rewrite of the script - keeping the same central characters and setting, but completely changing the plot and story. I was happy enough with the draft, but aware that there were still problems with it, and also worried that I was being too 'on the nose' with certain elements.

The actors read the first 30 pages of the scripts cold (no rehearsal) in front of a group made up of She Writes participants and the Script Factory. One actor filled the role of narrator, reading all action and setup. Hearing mine read out wasn't at all as I imagined it to be. I'd thought I would concentrate on how the dialogue worked, where there wasn't enough action, etc, but instead I just listened as if the project belonged to someone else, and made a few notes on repeated words or errors. (Interestingly, far from being too 'on the nose' I discovered that my script was too subtle!)

Following the reading, the writer of each screenplay had to sit in silence as first the actors, then the other writers, gave feedback. It was extremely difficult to stay quiet while people discussed what they thought was happening, and where they saw the story going, but ultimately valuable. When the feedback from the group had been given, we had a further session with a developer from the Script Factory to analyse our feedback and really get to grips with the big questions.

Aside from getting our own development notes, the days in London gave each of us the chance to hear all the She Writes projects. It was just amazing, and once again I was reminded of how lucky I was to be selected as part of a group containing so many brilliant writers. I can't wait to read their scripts, and hopefully see them as completed films in the future.

I found the whole process incredibly useful, and came away with pages of notes. Upon my return to Edinburgh I had feedback from my mentor too, which complemented the notes I'd made in London. I've learned from experience that I should not redraft immediately, that I should give writing projects a while to develop internally first, so I've spent the last few months mulling things over, making occasional notes, and generally trying to think about where I can develop the script. Now, however, it's rewriting time...