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Joz Norris

  • Tape 86: Coming Up In 2023

Coming Up In 2023

Happy New Year! I hope you all saw it in in style, and are looking forward to a happy 2023. Thanks so much to those of you who reached out last week in response to my Word of the Year prompt, both to let me know how last year’s Words worked out for you and to let me know what Words you’ve chosen to give direction to the year ahead. Some of the words other readers have gone for include Create, Focus (funnily enough, two separate readers have chosen “Focus” as their word, and a third considered it before settling on a different word), Me, Play, Ownership, Control, Disrupt and my two favourites, Naughty and Revenge. I look forward to finding out what they bring to us all in the months ahead!

As for me, I’m in the midst of the usual process of looking at the diary for the year to come and trying to work out what to fill it with. To be completely honest, I find myself feeling very anxious and scared and uncertain about the year to come, because it’s the first year I’ve had since perhaps 2018 where I’ve started the year with absolutely no idea what it’s going to revolve around. Last year, at the start of January I knew I was undertaking an R&D process to make a new show and that that show would probably go to Edinburgh (though I didn’t have specifics like a venue and so on pinned down yet). I also knew I was making a radio sitcom and a podcast, and those three things which were nailed down at the start of the year became the big focuses of my year. In 2021, I had no such fixed points in the diary, but it was also clear that we were looking at another year of lockdowns and that it would be unrealistic to expect too many big projects to emerge, and lo-and-behold, they didn’t and I spent most of the year keeping my head down and getting by. In 2020, I had plenty of plans for what was supposed to happen at the start of the year, and obviously none of them happened. In 2019, I had an Edinburgh show ready to go which became the focus of my year. I think the last time I looked at the year ahead and genuinely had no idea what was going to define the year to come was 2018, five years ago. I obviously feel pretty weird about that, and a bit worried about where my money’s going to come from, and what my creative energy is going to be directed towards, but then I have to remind myself that this is why I chose Change as my Word of the Year this year – because I chose to do things differently. I chose to throw myself into the void a bit in order to find out what comes of it, rather than to fall back on the easy option of just telling myself to make a new show in order to give myself some certainty. When you choose to do that, the start of January, when everything is still dormant from the Christmas break and new creative avenues are yet to open themselves up, feels very much like the centre of the void. But I will keep hold of the hope that good things will come out of the change.

A picture of early January for freelancers

Of course, I have plenty of ideas of what might end up happening in 2023, but none of them are in my control, which is why things feel a little weird – when your years are largely defined by the Edinburgh Fringe, it’s pretty easy to make sure you have creative and administrative control over whatever you want to do with the year because the Fringe is an open-access festival, whereas this year, I could work as hard as I possibly could on all the various irons I have in various fires, and could still get to the end of the year with none of them having gone anywhere due simply to circumstances outside of my control. But I thought I’d use this newsletter to do a quick run-down of things I might end up doing this year, partly to update those readers who initially signed up just to stay up-to-date with what I’m working on and might be curious, and partly to give myself something to look back on in a year’s time to see how many of them came to fruition. I also know some of my readers use this newsletter as a sort of creative accountability project, for them to keep track of their own long-term creative projects alongside mine, so if that’s you, then let me know which of these projects chime or resonate with you, and let’s use the year to come to help one another keep on top of our projects, and check in with how they develop for one another! Here’s what might end up happening:

  • Obviously, the big thing I would love to spend this year doing is writing a second series (or first proper series? The first “series” was only two episodes long, so I don’t really know if it was a series or not) of The Dream Factorythe radio sitcom that I co-wrote with Miranda Holms that went out on BBC Radio 4 in October. I loved making this, and we have so many ideas for further storylines within this world that explore these characters, and I’d love to get that amazing cast back together again and make more great work with them. This, of course, will all come down to whether the powers-that-be at Radio 4 liked it enough to want more of it! Fingers very much crossed. If they pass on it, then because I already know I love making it, I might look into getting some funding to make more of it as a sort of independent podcast, but let’s cross that bridge if and when we come to it.
  • 2023 might also see a second series of Can’t Keep A Secretmine and Alison Thea-Skot’s podcast about secret-keeping. This podcast is masterminded and produced by Aurra Studios, and whether there will be any more is down to various conversations they’re having about funding. Let’s see!
  • I’m waiting to hear on a decision about a short film version of Blink which takes the central characters and premise – a deluded former comedian reinventing himself as a magician – and moves them out of a live environment and repurposes them into a storyline that will hopefully work better as a self-contained film. I’d love to make it as I loved this show and I’m proud of the script I’ve put together for the short, and I’ve loved working with Monkey Kingdom on the adaptation process. Fingers crossed we get to do it!
  • I’ve written another short film script called Good Boy which is based on an idea I explored at one of the Dinner Time sharings I put on with Ben Target and Miranda as part of my residency for VAULT Creative Arts. It’s about a dog…sort of. It’s slightly too stupid to be worth the months of time and admin it would take to pitch it formally to a production company, so it might be a script I try to self-produce as an independent short, maybe sometime in February? I want to get on with this as early as possible in January, so hopefully there might be some movement on it soon.
  • I’ve started working on a new scripted sitcom idea about cloning called Re-Connect, which I talked about a bit in this newsletter. I like the idea and am proud of how it’s coming together, but it’s not formally attached to a production company yet, though I’m in talks with a few places about it. It’ll therefore be a while before there’s any big developments with it, but I’d love to make some sort of progress on it this year.
  • As ever, the live scene remains the only place where you can make concrete plans of some sort without big decisions being in the hands of external forces, so there are a handful of live projects definitely happening this year, though none are big enough to feel like they’ll be major focuses of the year. The first is a new experimental storytelling show called Joz Norris Is Your Private Dancer (A Dancer For Money) for Mark Watson and NextUp’s online Access Festivalwhich I’ll later be attempting to recreate live at Machynlleth Comedy Festival. I’m quite interested to see how I can develop one show in both a live and an online incarnation at the same time. It may be a total mess, but I’m proud of what I’ve written for it and because it’s firmly in “experiment” territory at the moment, without the looming deadline of any Fringe festivals to force it into shape, I feel quite free in terms of how I can develop it.
  • And finally, there will be live outings of Blink at VAULT Festival in February for those who missed it last year, and one more live thing might be happening later in the spring which I’m not ready to announce yet, but should be fun if it happens.

Obviously, that’s more than enough stuff to keep me busy, so I do look at the year ahead feeling excited and optimistic, but I do also feel nervous about the fact that, other than the Access show in January and the VAULT show in February, literally every single one of those projects might end up coming to nothing even if I give them my all. But this, I suppose, is a consequence of choosing to direct my energies away from what I’ve become comfortable doing and towards things where I’ll be learning a lot of new stuff and proving things to myself again. I’m sure I’ll look back on this list in a year’s time and feel a little sad that some, or even all of them didn’t end up happening, but hopefully I’ll also be able to look at it and feel proud of all the things I learned while trying to nudge each of these things forward, and perhaps there’ll be other things to reflect on that I could never have predicted.

What about you guys? What are the big creative projects you’re hoping will define 2023 for you? Let me know if you’ve got anything coming up that I might be interested in, and here’s to a year that brings a lot of new adventures and opportunities to us all!

A Cool New Thing In Comedy – NextUp and Mark Watson’s Access Festival has officially kicked off, and features livestreamed comedy shows over the next couple of weeks from people including John Robertson, Stuart Laws, Sarah Keyworth, Bilal Zafar, me, and many more. You can find out more and purchase your pass for the festival here.

What’s Made Me Laugh The Most – The music video to Dadi Freyr’s amazing 2021 Eurovision entry, Ten Yearswhich you can watch here. The video has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the song, and is an absolute masterpiece from a design standpoint. I love the monster so much.

Book Of The Week – Just started Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple, which so far is about a suburban mum going to war with the other suburban mums who are trying to make their school more competitive and cool. So far, nobody in the book is particularly likeable other than Bernadette’s daughter Bee, but I think that might be the point. Or maybe we’re going to learn something about Bernadette that makes her more likeable, who knows? But so far I’m having trouble rooting for her as she kind of seems as unpleasant as the other horrible parents she’s trying to out-manouvre.

Album Of The Week – Knock Knock by Smog. I’ve been enjoying Bill Callahan’s stuff for a couple of years now, but for some reason hadn’t yet delved back into the album she recorded under the Smog pseudonym. Knock Knock is probably my second-favourite album of his after Sometimes I Wish We Were An Eagle. He’s kind of hit-and-miss for me, really, but when he hits I really like it. “Held” is a truly brilliant song.

Film Of The Week – Not seen any films this week, been watching Sex Education instead. Going to see the new Avatar this afternoon though, which I’m dreading if I’m honest. The first Avatar was one of only two films that have caused me to fall asleep in the cinema, and this one is about half an hour longer, I think. But you gotta see it on the big screen, right? That’s what they’re telling me.

That’s all for this week! As ever, if you’ve enjoyed this newsletter and wanted to send it to a friend, or encourage others to subscribe, I’d hugely appreciate it. Take care of yourselves until next time,

Joz xx

PS Here’s the trailer for the final shows of Blink at VAULT Festival. If you fancy sharing it around, I’d really appreciate it!

Blink at VAULT Festival - Trailer

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