Directors Blog: A Monstrous Production – The five things I learnt about filming

Evening all! 

So, Saturday morning (early, way too early) we congregated at the Uni to make the trailer for Monstrous. I can probably count on one hand the times I’ve been involved with filming anything. So I’m going to share with you the bits I leant.

Be generous with your time scale.

When Yoni sent me a 3-4 hour time scale for filming I gulped. I mean I’ve never filmed anything before – I have no idea how much time everything is going take. But I guess in my head I was like 90 seconds of filming – how long could it take? Turns out he’s an evil genius. When we had access issues and people having transport issues, I’m worrying and stressing and Yoni is just strangely calm. There’s me thinking 3-4 hours is going to turn into 5 and I’m going to have an angry mob of cast members about to turn on me. Actually Yoni had factored in things going wrong and we managed to wrap filming in 2 and half hours! See. Evil genius. 

Film acting & theatre acting are way different. 

When you’re on stage you have to think about the furthest audience member from the stage – which in the Nuffield is faaaaaaaaar. So tiny movements and quiet voices just arent going to be heard. But with filming it’s the total opposite, everything gets picked up by the camera. Which means you have to totally change what you’re asking people to do. But the nice thing is – if something isn’t quite right you can do it over and over again till you get the perfect shot. Then when people watch it, it’s perfect every time.

There is a lot of waiting around.

Ok… maybe not for me, I was checking shots and getting things ready and stuff. But for everyone else there was lots of waiting around. Thing is you don’t quite know how long everything is going to take and if you want to make use of all the time you can, actors have to be there when you need them. Which when you’re filming 5-10 seconds at a time with different people I can imagine can be very frustrating. But the guys handled it well. 

Relationship with your filmographer is key. 

I was really lucky – Yoni and I get on anyway, but we’ve never done anything professional together. My feeling on it was to defer to him, although I’m directing as mentioned above – film & theatre are totally different and Yoni was my resident film expert. But it worked out much more of a collaboration. No friction, no arguments, no clashes of creativeity. Working with Yoni on the trailer actually made something that was stressing me out a really enjoyable experience – I learnt a lot too which was cool. 

Work doesn’t stop when you finish filming

Unlike theatre, when you finish the performance it doesn’t mean your jobs done. Yes the actors get to go home, and you somehow still end up with a bag full of odds and ends and bits of someone else’s costume (which reminds me – Paul I have your shirt). But now is the part where all of those sections of film get put together with sound and animated text and stuff (I’m not very technical…). So now all I can do is sit back with my cup of coffee and wait. It is not the immediate gratification of theatre performance which is perhaps the hardest lesson to learn. It’ll be worth it though. 

Don’t forget to check out Yesh! Video.

I’ll check back next week and hopefully I’ll get to show you all the trailer!!

Imogen signing off for this week. 

Meet The Family – Vic

Meet The Family – Vic

We’ve heard from Mum, now lets see what Dad has to say…

Now someone has told me I need to write this here blog post to let people know about me and me life. I can’t say I’m that sure about this, I’m not really one for writing. Or, for that matter, thinking.

Any road, I’m just a normal bloke really. I live a simple life. I worked down pit for 30 years before it was closed. Since then I’ve spent a lot more time with me family. A very different challenge to being underground. And one I’m not sure I’ve really adjusted to be honest.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being at home, there’s nothing more enjoyable for me then taking the weight off me feet and watching a bit of Calendar. Not everyone sees it like that though, and it can sometimes be a bit of a challenge relaxing while the wife cleans up constantly all around me. And that is to say nothing of that son of mine, who has really caused all sorts of problems though I guess it’s nothing more than the usual teenage troubles. To be honest I don’t really understand him. He’s into all this writing and drama and stuff where I never really used me brain. Apart from when thinking of ways to grab an extra bit of snack without the wife finding out.
Speaking of which I think me tea’s on so I’d best go. I think it’s tinned ham. I bloody love tinned ham.
The Award Winning Southampton Univerisity Players!!!

The Award Winning Southampton Univerisity Players!!!

Each year the Totton Drama Festival takes over Hanger Farm for a week of one act plays as part of the All England One Act Drama Festival. This year the Southampton University Players put forward two plays. Semblance of Madness and Motherhood Out Loud.


These two very different pieces performed on the Friday night of the festival (Motherhood Out Loud) and Saturday (Semblance of Madness). The Directors, Actors and Technical crew worked incredibly hard to put forward two strong emotive pieces. At the end of each evening the adjudicator (Paul Fowler) put forward his thoughts on each piece, and then on the Saturday night there is an awards ceremony where we found out who would be forward to the next round of the All England One Act Drama Festival and which groups won awards.

Motherhood on Stage  Semblence on Stage

Well… The hard work from all involved really paid off, the festival and the Adjudicator commented on the high quality of performances this year from the 9 plays put forward from groups across Hampshire. But the hard work of all paid off.

14 Nominations across the board…

Best Technical Achievement

Motherhood Out Loud

Semblance of Madness

Best Director

Alison Wells (Semblance of Madness)

Jane Beesley (Motherhood Out Loud)

Adjudicators Award

Semblance of Madness – The final moments

Motherhood Out Loud – The final moments

Best Supporting Player

Michelle Heffer (Semblance of Madness)

Alison Wells (Semblance of Madness)

The Entire Cast of Motherhood Out Loud

Best Adult Actor

Jonathan Shepherd

Best Adult Actress

Hazel Burrows (Motherhood Out Loud)

Sally Scott (Motherhood Out Loud)

Imogen Higgs (Motherhood Out Loud)

Bridget Wilkinson (Semblance of Madness)

From the headline, you can tell that not only did we receive a plethora of nominations, we also won in several Categories…

Best Technical Achievement

Motherhood Out Loud

Best Supporting Player

Michelle Heffer (Semblance of Madness)

Best Adult Actress

Bridget Wilkinson (Semblance of Madness)

Totton Dama - Jane and Adj Bridget Winning Michelle Winning

But that’s not it! Not only did we get 14 nominations and 3 wins. Motherhood Out Loud came third overall and will be moving onto the next round at Shaftesbury on the 2nd May!!!!

MOL Cast Winners

I hope you will join me in congratulating everyone involved. What an amazing achievement for SUP!

Director’s Blog: Auditions with #doodle

Over the past two weeks I have auditioned 36 brilliant people for 6 roles and now I need a lie down.

I find auditioning hard, I know some directors run auditions by letting people use any audition piece they like but I  am not that skilled or brave. In order to know how someone would be in the part, I have to hear them reading the actual part and usually 2 or 3 different snippets from different scenes particularly if they are portraying different emotions. This makes for a long session, actually it ended up being four evenings which is the most I have ever had to do.

I know from auditioning myself that it gets boring hanging around waiting and that when you do audition you want your fair shot at everything you may have read through at home. Quite right to, so I need to organise an evening where people don’t get bored but also everyone gets the time they need.

This year I came up with a secret weapon, a doodle poll. In past years, auditionees have all completed an audition form on arrival stating which roles they want to audition for. Usually most people want to audition for more than one. This means that at the start of the evening you are presented with a big pile of papers that you have to immediately sought into order and work through in as much order as possible. This is where things go wrong, a big pile of papers in my world tends to spread all over the table, drop on the floor, and get completely mixed up and cause stress and delay. No more. this year by the wonder of the internet and a doodle poll, everyone signed up in advance to say which evening they were coming and who they were reading for. One piece of paper replaces 36.

I did get it dreadfully wrong in one case. I was working from left to right on my doodle poll taking one character at a time and trying I thought to be efficient. It was only at 10.15pm that realised that one person had only chosen to audition for the part furthest right on my page. If I had done that part first she could have gone home, rather than spending 2 and a half hours sitting waiting. I did feel bad.

Seeing people on different nights is not easy, memory problems get in the way, so my learning for next time is to video on an ipad and watch at home one after the other for comparison purposes.

At the end of the day what I can report is I saw some really great auditions and met some really lovely people. I am so happy with my wonderful cast and at the same time quite sad that I couldn’t offer roles to a number of people who were also excellent but perhaps slightly too young or old for the roles.

I hope everyone who auditioned will keep involved in some way. Backstage, Front of house, sourcing props etc, There is so much to do.

Set design , the caravan and chocolate fingers way

Set design , the caravan and chocolate fingers way

So determined was I to get the details of the set, in terms of entrances, exits, sinks etc sorted before I go into rehearsal (only 3 weeks away, Yikes!) that I took my 1/2 complete model of the set on holiday with me in a plastic bag.  Made entirely out of one Cadbury’s chocolate fingers box, (plus a little bit of crunchy nut cornflakes) when complete there were 3 walls, oven’s (one with an opening door), two sink units, 1 fridge, 1 washing machine,  1xFrench windows, 5 doors, 1 walk in cupboard, 4 windows and a bin.

Not very professional, I hear you cry and I admit I was feeling anxious. Set design  is the area that I really am scared of. I have seen some amazing sets, particularly in some of the new Nuffield shows, Tonight at 8.30pm was brilliant and Last Christmas’s revolving stage for the Nutcracker would have been perfect, however back to reality with a bump. We are a small amateur theatre with a corresponding budget and unfortunately that means something not so grand.

I digress, I had a cunning plan to my madness. For the second half of our holiday we were joining a groups of thespians camping or caravanning in Dorest. It was the annual Masker’s Camp, Loved it by the way, Thank you to any Masker who may be reading this and was involved in the organisation.  A number of SUP members are also member’s of Maskers Theatre Group and one such person is Adam. Now if you check back you will see from my second blog entry that Adam is a person who does a huge amount for the society and amongst other things he is the person with the stage plan of the Nuffield and the set designer.

So there we were, hiding in a caravan, in the pouring rain, in the middle f a field, moving around bits of Cadbury’s chocolate finger box and checking that it all fitted on the plan. Eventually it did.

If you see the show, keep an eye out for a box of Cadbury’s chocolate fingers they will be on there somewhere in homage to our soggy afternoon, who said theatre was glamorous!














The Effect of Colour on Audience Response in Theatre

The Effect of Colour on Audience Response in Theatre

Haven’t got the plan of the set yet, but as usual my mind is wandering to the colours that the three kitchens need to be. Colour has always been very powerful for me. Put something on a purple background I am likely to like it, it is the colour I feel safe in. Make it a green background and I am running a mile (too many memories of school uniforms).

So colour will play a definite role in Absurd. I know the Hopcroft’s house (Act 1) will be white and yellow, although some people have suggested white and pink but that is just a little too fluffy, Yellow and white for me says cleanliness, exactness and perfectionism, which is how the scene definitely starts, but will the audience think the same way as me or have I got it totally wrong. Research needed…

The effect of colour on Audience Response in Theatre Scenic Design (Thesis by Alison Bell)   Worth a read!


Forestage or no forestage  (#amdram director’s blog day 4: The Making of #Absurd)

Forestage or no forestage (#amdram director’s blog day 4: The Making of #Absurd)

I have found that when one part of  putting on the play gets to difficult my mind flitters across to another topic to see if I can’t make progress in that area while hoping that deep in my subconscious I will be sorting out the original problem.

The most pressing and difficult thing at the moment is the set (Casting isn’t until September so I have happily put that out of my mind for now). It is pressing as the box office are already selling tickets based on the fact that I am not having any forestages as that is what I have told them. For those who may not know if you have forestages they have to remove some of the seating at the front of the theatre, thus cutting down the money you can make from Ticket sales.

When I was asked whether I wanted a forestage I said no. I have to admit I was in marketing mode at the time so was thinking maximising ticket sales but now I have director hat on I am not sure. (I am also the society’s vice chair and head of  marketing – we are a small society – committee of 5 but that is another story).

This is causing a little concern because the seats which would be taken away should I change my mind about the forestage are currently on sale. So if people book them now does that mean they get taken away as well. Luckily being a small local society the likelihood of selling tickets 6 months in advance of the show is more or less nil, but you can always hope. Actually as an aside for a moment, I believe we have actually sold 19 tickets, (o.k. I admit it some of them are mine for my family on the last night, best seats in the house and all that). If you want to keep track check out (Do you see how sneakily I took you to the ticket booking page, that the marketer in me again – sorry old habits!) Actually let me do a check I haven’t checked for at least 24 hours…..

Ladies and gentlemen, I stand corrected it is 24 not 19, how exciting. Luckily none of them are in the danger forestage area of rows B to E so we are ok.

Actually I probably should sort this out, so soon as I have done this I will be facebooking my mentor Meri (see earlier blog) to see what she says.

I really have wandered off my original topic haven’t I . I had called this blog Suicide Music as I was going to tell you that as I was struggling with the set I my mind wander to the subject of music. (Interval and during the show)… Why suicide music you ask….  (Eastenders music starts to play and I have learnt the art of leaving a cliff hanger….)

Rotating #Theatre set

The thing I am mulling over at the moment is how to get three kitchens on stage for the production.

I watched an excellent production of the Nutcracker at the Nuffield theatre last Christmas where they have built a huge rotating set, A bit like a pie chart, you turned the circle round to reveal the next scene. Check out the review

I would love to do that as it was stunning however cost is restrictive and also in The Nutcracker they went back and forwards between scenes quite a lot whereas in Absurd you have a different kitchen for each act but never return to it.

My thoughts then wandered momentarily to having one kitchen on either side of the stage, but that would be no good as the audience on the other side of the auditorium would quite rightly be fed up and also this doesn’t solve the issue of the third kitchen.

When Alan Ayckbourn originally did the play, it was in the round and each kitchen was dismantled and the new one set in full view of the audience in the intervals. There is a brilliant video of this on youtube

. and I am completely taken with how they change the floors.

Could do this in the Nuffield, but with the best will in the world we wouldn’t make it look slick and it would probably take ages, which was a bit of a problem with a recent production, so delays must be avoided at all costs.

Thinking caps remain on…