Getting In… To YouTube

If you’ve been out and about on social media in the last few days, then you’ll probably know this ‘cos I’ve been a bit of a pain-in-the-ass about it on my Twitter and my Facebook. The short film I wrote, ‘Getting In’, has now completed its remarkable run of eleven film festivals and has come to rest and found a home on YouTube.

You can see it by clicking on the link that’s right at the end. If you can't wait that long, you can click on the photo. If you can, click right through to YouTube so you can get the full screen effect.

I’m usually quite coy about the stuff I write. Like with this blog. Come and have a read if you like but there’s no pressure and I won’t think ill of you if you don’t. Mostly, I’m just writing for myself anyway. Keeping a little record, making sure the scribbling muscle remains in trim. But this time is different. This time, I’m actually quite keen that you take the requisite ten minutes and have a look at this little film.

There are several reasons for this. Yes, I wrote it and the story is very close to my heart. That’s a thing in itself, I suppose. But, also, this isn’t just about me. Far from it. My good friend, Richard Keaney, not only directed it but showed the initial faith in it to take it on and push to bring it to fruition. Frank Prendergast, Liam Gaffney, and Brendan O’Flynn, all fine actors, brought their A-game to our little film. They all seemed to find the heart that, love it or loathe it, definitely exists there. Sonya Deegan brought great Production and Cinematography talent to the show. My son Sam who, like me, was at the centre of the story, provided the soundtrack with his own percussive narrative and also in other, much more subtle ways. And, by no means least, the actors in the briefer roles, who brought so much colour and texture to the piece.

I’d like you to see the short film for all these people too. It is a curious social media equation that, the more people see a thing, the more additional people will see it too. It’s a reason why I would like you to watch this film, and click ‘like’ on it, and even perhaps share it and leave a comment on it. Because creativity begets creativity. Somebody might like the work of someone here and approach them with some new work.

So that’s one reason why I’m shameless with this plugging. Go and see it. Go on.

There’s another reason and it’s harder for me to say. Mostly because I’m not a braggart. I’m more a ‘hide my little light under a bushel’ type of a dude. It’s this… (deep breath) … I love it. That’s why I’d like you to see it. Because I love it. The story has a place carved out in my heart and the film catches moments that happened and were real to me. Granted those moments are occasionally heightened and often edited. But that’s the nature of storytelling. Stories have to be shaped and worked and some pieces invariably fall to the workshop floor and are swept away. Matt is not in the film and his contribution to the events depicted therein was earth-shatteringly important. There would have been no story without Matt but he just didn’t fit into the necessary shape of the film. I won’t forget him though. I’ll buy him a burger whenever I can and I’ll shake his hand in eternal gratitude. Cheers Matt.

So here’s the link to the film on YouTube. It’s a very little thing. Little in budget and little in length.

But it’s big in heart.

And that, I believe, is where it counts.

Showing Somebody Else Is Like Showing Yourself All Over Again

I’ll be in the audience in the Linenhall Arts Centre this evening. One of my favourite places in the world and seat to a solid handful of my happiest memories. This evening, the Fighting Words and Linenhall Arts Centre Young Playwright’s Showcase project is coming to fruition with rehearsed reading performances of five new plays by five new young playwrights. The performances will involve professional actors and will be directed by professional directors, all of the highest calibre.

It's quite something.

I feel very lucky that I got to be one of the writing mentors on this endeavour. Over the last number of months we’ve been meeting for long sessions on Saturdays, looking at the mechanics and the art of writing for theatre and then doing quite a bit of writing for theatre too. It’s been an absolute blast and the five young people are, without exception, some of the most committed, imaginative, and talented people I’ve met.

So this evening should be a bit special. The five writers will see their new plays performed in rehearsed reading, with full tech support, before a lovely audience. Hopefully, some of the seeds of encouragement that will have been planted by this process will germinate into a continuing writing habit for at least some (if not all) of the participants. And we all know where that can lead.

Because, in my small opinion, a little encouragement can be the difference between being a continuing writer and not. It’s an often-lonely endeavour, with nobody to lean on but yourself. If somebody comes forward at some point, and leans over your shoulder, and says, “Hey, that’s pretty good,” well, that can sometimes count for a lot. More than you might imagine.

In my own case, and I know I’ve written about it before somewhere in these pages, I received writing encouragement from my English teacher Patricia O’Higgins. She would slip me the more challenging books to read and talk to me in terms of my ‘writing’ before I ever even considered I had any writing in me. She started me thinking that maybe I could scribble something along the way.

These seeds sometimes take time, though, to germinate. Through my early twenties, I did some writing but never showed anything to anybody. I wrote sketches and little comedy routines and I kept a diary of my time bussing my way around Australia. In the reading room of Melbourne Library, I wrote my first full length screenplay in longhand. I was writing but, in another sense, I wasn’t. 

Then IRDP and LBC held a ten-minute play writing competition in London, not unlike what this evening’s cohort have been working on. I was newly-returned from the world trip, unexpectedly unemployed, and a little adrift. I entered and I was one of the winners. As a result, I spent a magical, unforgettable, Saturday in a studio with professional actors and a wonderful director, who teased out my fledgling script and made it into something. That was me. Done. From that moment on I was sold. I wanted to write, not just for myself, but for people. I wanted my little plays to be seen and heard. And I went off and managed to do that. I’ll never be rich, I’ll never be famous but, in my own small way, I am a writer and that brings me joy and some peace.

And this process, the dealing with these wonderful young writers and showing them the bits and pieces I have picked up along that way, it’s a mutual-beneficial process. At least, I hope it is. I know for sure that it benefits me. To tell somebody these things that you know, these things that you believe to be important, it’s like telling them to yourself all over again. It’s like reciting a sort of a Creed. And doing that reinforces for me what is important in my writing and what is not. It refreshes the techniques and the technicalities and makes them relevant and new again. More importantly, much more importantly, it refreshes the creative corner of the mind. To see the young people conceive and develop their writing, unencumbered with fear or trepidation, it can’t help but rejuvenate your own process and send you back to your desk with brighter and better ideas.

It’s the old, old story. Whenever you do something a bit good for someone, you also do something a bit good for yourself. The benefits of committing a little time and energy come back to you twofold, if not in time then certainly in energy.

So I’m looking forward to this evening. There’ll be a little edge in the air, as there always is with theatre. I wish the participants a good experience and I hope there is encouragement in it for them.

I’ve got mine already but, who knows, maybe tonight I’ll get a little bit more.

Learning to Go Away Again

Patricia and I seemed to have forgotten about going away long before the Pandemic hit.  Having spent a year in our twenties going around the world and back, we fell into the pattern of annual holidays and trips. Then the boys showed up and, for a time, there were fewer trips. Then they were of an age where there were journeys again, weeks in the sun with pool and pizza in close proximity. All to be expected. All okay. But then there was a funny moment where the boys were a little older and there were other things and going off together didn’t seem to fit into the agenda and going off alone didn’t seem right so there was no going off at all. Then there was Covid and the going off was done anyway.

So thank heavens for lovely nieces and nephews, who see the romance and the fun in tripping off to somewhere sunny and bright to be firmly wed to the love of their lives. Thank heavens for the magnetic invite, long stuck to the fridge door, promising that all this stasis would end someday and there would be travel – there would be ‘going away’ once again.

Yes, folks, we’re just back from a week in Nerja, where Keara married her lovely fella David, and where the sunlight and the festivities just kept on coming. Where you could hardly trapse down a little alleyway without encountering a family member or a new-found friend along the way.

I won’t dwell on the wedding here except to say that it was wonderful – thank you – and that it gave me a first opportunity to explore my new permanent role at family weddings. That of the elderly relative. Of course, I’m not old. I know that. But I am of that age that seemed old when we were all getting married back in our twenties. The fifty-going-on-sixty-something uncle who is reasonably good fun but who you might not want to get stuck in an overly long conversation with. The dude who occasionally limps up to demonstrate some outmoded form of dancing to some upbeat rap tune. The guy who is allowed to sneak away and sit outside and watch the stars gently appear over the olive trees on the hills and reflect on how darned lucky he is to be there. That role. I thought I did it pretty well. Just the right balance of mischief and boring.

Nerja is interesting. It is a place for tourists to come and be gently accommodated. It is beautifully appointed with the azure sea in full display and the picturesque hills in striking backdrop. Everything is to hand. Nothing is prohibitively too far away. It is a good place to takes one’s ease for just a little while. King Alfonso XII visited in 1885 and allegedly called the view from the Mirador, ‘The Balcony of Europe’ and the name stuck. The Balc√≥n de Europa, is the centrepiece of the town and there is always something happening out there on the promontory.

I liked Nerja, the prettiness and the convenience of it. As with everywhere I go, I am always looking for a glimpse behind the scenes of the coffee shops and ice cream parlours, the hotels and apartments and bars and leather shops. One easy glimpse was found in the church right at the centre of town. Clearly genuine and very old, it afforded a cool and a quiet place to retreat to, as well as a taste of a religious culture which is not dissimilar to our own Christian one. Except, perhaps, that the statues of the saints are more ornate and perhaps a little more belligerent. Better armed with swords and looking much more inclined to use them. The faces on the statues seem more Spanish too. I guess we tend to see ourselves in the things we chose to venerate. With fifteen minutes to kill, I watched parents and children prepare for their First Communion, reading their handwritten prayers, singing a song that involved some intricate clapping, while mothers tried to keep them in check and muscular fathers shrugged helplessly at each other.

In my quest to see the ‘Real Nerja’ behind the tiled and painted frontage, I was not disappointed by peering over the parapet on the roof of the hotel and seeing how much of the impressive central area has been constructed in front of much more humble little houses, which were only part demolished to make room for the new development. Thus, little ‘part-houses’ still nestle in behind the new walls. Frontage pulled away to make room but little back kitchens, tiles and counters and windows still remaining.

Another thing I loved about Nerja was how it ended. You didn’t have to walk very far along the beachfront before coming to a dried-up watercourse with a little wooden bridge over it and there, obviously by some strong local ordnance, the development all stopped. The hotels and forecourts and pools and pool chairs and German towels all ceased abruptly, leaving only the shorefront as it doubtless was before we tourists arrived. The brightly paved terrace becomes a dust path and the land is undeveloped run-down single storey residences which look more like makeshift sheds than houses. I loved the illusion of being out of the tourist zone, if only for a brief time. I don’t think I’m alone in being very happy to be cossetted and cotton-wool-wrapped and fed and watered for a short time but, before long, starting to crave some measure of authenticity, even if that itself is only a slightly more convincing illusion.

Yeah, get me, the rugged travelled who never ventures more than twenty minutes from his saltwater pool. Ah well, we only do what we can do.

And, by the way, the character in the photo is Teddy Beag (Small Teddy) who has travelled the world with us since 1990 and who has been everywhere. He was glad to feel the sand between his toes again.

So thank heavens for family weddings off in the sun for all kinds of reasons. One of them being that it’s awakened us, once again, to the possibilities and pleasures of going away.

Boldly going where we used to go before.