Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Write What You Know (Leave the Rest to the Producer)

Setting up a production company hasn’t been as easy as it looks. For Christine. It’s been a walk in the park for me. Since we incorporated, I have spent every day doing what I’ve done pretty much every day for the last five years, give or take an afternoon watching season one of The Office in a room with all the curtains drawn, listening to the commentary (there was actually a moment in the commentary where Ricky Gervais said ‘And you sad gits, watching this with the commentary on, in your living room, with the curtains drawn –‘ at which point I waited for an odd-looking, bearded man to jump out from behind the papyrus plant shouting ‘Gotcha!’) which is: writing, re-writing then re-writing what I’ve re-written. Chris has established a board of directors, devised a business plan, edited articles of association, created directors’ job descriptions, masterminded our invitation to Juliet Stevenson and today downloaded something that is going to chart the next five years of MY pc.

‘Look at this,’ she said excitedly. She pointed to her Mac screen. There were bars of different colours edging between axes X and Y. ‘I did this. And I can do more.’

A document with rows and columns indicating outgoings, incomings and dates slid up beside the bars. It throbbed quietly, in a confident and promising way. I smiled. Ish.

My failure to chart-read is an inability I have tried to hide the way smokers hide their cigarettes or serial killers their piano wire. I know humans are meant to infer meaning more swiftly from images than text but not this specimen. I see images almost solely in terms of narrative. I see stories where stories ain't. For instance on Christine's computer I apprehended a series of long, slender rectangles, side by side; I thought they looked like buildings. Maybe the skyline of New York. Twin Towers even, which led me inevitably to airplanes, causing my heart to speed up as I felt myself being sucked into a nightmare of inappropriate association. Chris glanced at me, noticed my smile, still stapled on, and smiled herself, looking back down. She thought we were sharing a moment. I didn’t disabuse her.

‘Great work,’ I said, slapping her back with enough force to knock her Rooibos tea across the room (she wasn’t holding the cup so this didn’t transpire).

‘Thanks,’ she said.  I left before she saw my pupils dilating and my breathing become shallow.

I know this lacuna in my otherwise comprehensive set of life skills confuses my friends.  Barring a congenital inability to load a dishwasher (I always have one odd-shaped, plastic bowl that I end up impaling on a stake reserved for glassware, distorting the bowl and usually cracking the glass, neither of which, of course, ever gets clean again), I seem capable enough in the modern world.  I can type. I can drive. I can operate the remote. Surely, they say, I can understand a graphical representation of data.

Sadly, the gap isn’t restricted to understanding the arrangement of information.Whole occupations are shrouded in impenetrable fog. I was having dinner with a lawyer earlier this year. He quite liked me, I quite liked him but I knew it was going nowhere and wouldn’t, ever.

‘I will never understand what it is you do for a living,’ I said to him, over a finely-seared tuna steak (he was buying, I ordered big). ‘Never ever. You can tell me in the kind of monosyllables you’d use with a lab monkey and I will never understand.’

I could see a flicker of disappointment glaze over the lustre of his desire. One of my chief charms up til this point had been ‘how clever I am’.

‘Is that because you can’t or you’re just not interested?’

‘You know,’ I said, waving the waitress over to order another basket of rolls, butter and two bottles of fizzy water (I could sense the date wasn’t going to end well and I wanted to eat as much as possible before he found this out and grabbed the dessert menu out of my hands), ‘I can’t tell. Either I haven’t got the Velcro because I’m not interested, or I’m not interested because I haven’t got the Velcro. Either way, it doesn’t stick. It doesn’t make sense.’

It didn’t work out with the lawyer, I was right. And he was a nice guy, so if this ineptitude is some kind of affectation, it’s costing me.

Chris does more than plot points of course. Those are her photos on our facebook page. Within four weeks of us becoming a company she had script-edited two new plays and cast and produced two readings of two new scripts. I can see that five year plan stretching ahead, rising through the delight of workshops, the hilarity of rehearsal, the collaborative effort of a team realising a piece of theatre using film, projection, video and live music. I feel the combined imagination of artists applied to a vision that we co-create, with all our hearts, to entertain as many people as possible.

And the moment someone draws this in the shape of a pie I’m going to wonder -  if that were a real pie, what kind of pie would it be and how much of it could I eat? while I imagine what prescient and disturbing truths Ricky and Stephen are sharing on the DVD of season two.


  1. i loved this! very funny and true. i share your inability to understand graphs. i also cannot read instruction manuals. sounds like you and chris are a dream team!

  2. More more more...!! We've been waiting for this voice to talk to us. Through the non-audible medium of our computer screens. Wait, no... That doesn't work... Anyway, as always, tripping through sentences with you is a joy, a light-on-the-feet journey with a sharp, huge-hearted friend. It's always a lift. Always. Good luck with the projects and the ongoing storytelling of Who You Are. I'll be tuning in for sure.

  3. Hi Stephanie,

    Its been a while since we've seen each other but having read your blog entries I feel like I've just spent time with you and that feels great!

    Its refreshing to hear you reviewing moments in your life with a humour that is both gentle, honest and inviting.

    Thanks for emailing me the link. I look forward to more.

    Much love,


  4. Step!!! A long time coming, it's lovely to hear and see your gift being exercised.

    It sounds a dream being a writer and over hearing interesting conversation's of people's lives.....i so look forward for more and the your book :-).

    Much Love Mary x.

  5. Hi Stephanie,

    Once again - thanks for the invitation to you.

    Big hugs,