Happy New Year! (A 2017 Future-Spective, By Joz Norris)
And here's Part 2, in which I outline my projects and goals for this year for me to look back on in 12 months' time.
1. Please Be Normal - This is the project I'm most excited about at the moment. It's the vaguely autobiographical sitcom I've been working on with Louise at What Larks! Productions, and we're both very excited about it - it's vaguely about friendship, family, anxiety and reliance on technology. Louise has really helped to develop my ideas and made it into the most heartfelt, funny, fleshed-out script idea I've ever written, and we're hopeful we'll find a home for it sometime this year. Of course, like all these things, who knows what will happen? Most comedians are beavering away on sitcoms in their spare time, and many of them never see the light of day, but regardless of whether we find a home for it, it's enormously exciting and rewarding to work on and to collaborate with such a supportive company, so I'm enjoying the work. Maybe if nobody wants it we'll do a Kickstarter and just make it anyway, who knows? Either way, I hope you all get to see it one day as I'm really proud of it.
2. Look At Me, Don't Look At Me - And this will be my other big "baby" in 2017, my new live show. Every year I wonder if I have another show in me as I put so much into each one and never know if good ideas will emerge again. This year everybody said my show was my best yet and had come along in big leaps since previous years, so I felt a bit under pressure to come up with new things. However, in the last few months, I've started to have ideas for a live show which have come together to form something very exciting and maybe quite original in my mind, so I'm now fully committed to it having not been sure a few months ago! It's about social anxiety, performance, false alarms and only ever seeing fleeting glimpses of real people. It's also part of my ongoing quest to express a feeling through nonsense. You can currently see it in Swansea in January, Leicester in February, Glasgow in March and then I'll be booking it into preview venues in London and to other festivals like Bath between April and August, and it'll then be at the Edinburgh Fringe in August, hopefully again as part of the Heroes of Fringe programme.
3. Hello, Goodbye - I entertained vague notions of maybe touring this show to theatres after its more-successful-than-previous-years Edinburgh run, and I was offered a slot at the Vaults Festival in February that made me feel this idea had legs. Unfortunately, the Vaults show then fell through and after that I started getting excited about a new show and felt it wasn't worth the effort of organising a tour (nor was there much demand for one, if I'm honest). However, although I quite like the strange romantic notions that all my shows are things I labour over intensely and then disappear into the ether to become no more than vague, foggy memories for the people who saw them, I was so proud of Hello, Goodbye I've decided I'm going to film it this year to keep a record of it. I'm performing it twice more, once at the Oxford Playhouse next week, and one final one at the Bill Murray, which I'll be filming. If I manage to get it to work I may also do it once more for Next Up, the online subscription Netflix-type service for comedy shows, where full shows are filmed and streamed online. If that doesn't happen, I'll at least have a recording of the Bill Murray show, so I hope there'll be a film of the show I can put online sometime this year.
4. Other TV & Online Projects - Part of my moving away from thinking of myself as a "comedian" and more as a "maker of things" meant that the energy I previously put into trying to book, and prepare for, and do gigs, has been redirected into developing lots of ideas for films, series, scripts, conceptual premises for online stuff, etc, which I've been pitching around to different people. There are a few such ideas, besides my sitcom Please Be Normal, that I'll be trying to work on this year. One of the most exciting is a collaboration with the amazing Ed Aczel and is a sort of spoof documentary about two guys trying to make a documentary. Another is a sitcom I'm writing about a time-travelling private detective who is useless and knows he's in a sitcom, but his sidekick hates sitcoms. It's totally stupid, and very different tonally to what I usually write, so that's been fun. I'll try to find a home for both of these this year so that at the very least they can maybe start to take a bit more shape.
5. Highton-Norris Films - After working on our first short film this year, myself and Matthew Highton pressed on with a second. Whether we get round to making a third this year or not (the first two are both high-concept, character-driven black comedies about ambition, creativity and friendship, so if I think of a third idea that fits those criteria then I'll write it and see if Matt wants to direct it), we'll certainly be trying to organise ourselves as a bit more of a "brand" this year and really try to work hard on promoting our two films - I think Double Act is being submitted to the London Comedy Film Festival, and we're hoping to be really ambitious with Robert Johnson & The Devil Man and hold a formal screening for it, submit it to some of the big film festivals and so on. Watch this space.
6. Other Independent Film Ideas - And there are a couple of other ideas which are less formal, less industry-focused and which I'm hoping to make more for the sake of making things and because I have an idea I'm excited to see realised (this should be the only reason for making anything, of course, but these ideas are currently independent projects I'm undertaking purely because they'll be fun and good). One is a short silent film about a living statue which I've written for Georgia House, who is producing a sort of anthology of silent films this year. Another is an idea I've been developing with Sam Nicoresti and Lottie Bowater and is a sitcom set inside the universe of stock photos. Both are really fun ideas and I hope I get to make them both this year, even if our current plans for both of them are quite vague.
7. Weirdos, Cinema Club & ACMS - As ever, it's always a delight to work together with a host of some of the most brilliant and silly minds in comedy, and these three collectives give me such wonderful opportunities to do just that. I don't know what's coming with these three groups this year - there's vague talk of trying to collaborate with the BFI in Cinema Club, ACMS has its supremely successful and enormously fun Bill Murray residency where I get to go and try out stupid ideas every couple of weeks, and Weirdos is always popping up to indulge in a bit of stupidity whenever a daft idea enters Adam's head, and beyond this I don't know specifically what will happen with these ideas, but I remain as excited about working with all these idiots as ever.
8. Acting! - This one is because it was the main thing I fell down on last year. I told myself I'd try to do more comedy film acting for other people's projects and not just my own. While this year I have plans for lots of film things of my own, or collaborations with other people that will keep me busy, I would like to start putting myself out there more as a comic actor and getting more credits on other people's things. Hopefully if I put it in as a goal for a second year running then it'll give me more impetus to really deliver on it!
9. A Promise - My biggest and most important promise for 2017 is one I'm always trying to do, but that I've never written down before. It is to Always remember that what I'm doing now is already what I always wanted to do. I think everywhere in entertainment and the arts is an attitude that encourages you to think of every project you undertake as some sort of audition for the next "level" - if you do well on this project, perhaps so-and-so will take notice and you'll "progress" to the next "stage" of working in this industry. It's a nasty, unhelpful attitude that it's very important to ignore, even though sometimes the way the business is structured really makes you feel like you ought to be thinking like that. While I'm of course always excited to find ways of reaching new audiences and making new projects, it's important to never, ever forget that the act of making things is a goal in itself. For the third year running I've been able to make my living from performing, and use my time to see a huge number of creative projects to completion that I've been enormously proud of and, away from the hierarchical structure of the comedy world, that's a goal I'm so proud to have achieved. It's my hope that in 2017 I'll get better at completely ignoring the parts of your brain that feel you need to impress people with everything you make in order to ascend to the next level, and to remember to just work hard, have fun, be proud and be myself.
And that's what my 2017 looks like! Fingers crossed I complete at least four of them!