You Build The Thing You Think You Are: A Debrief
I spent the last two months or so working on a feature film adaptation of the show I was going to be making for EdFringe 2020, and we've now completed its run of online screenings so I thought I'd do a bit of a debrief here on how it went and what we achieved.
First up, I feel sadly like I need to dwell on some of the technical failures of the project, and to apologise to any ticketholders who saw it on days that were affected by those tech issues. When I was trying to think of a way to distribute the film, I wanted to do something other than just putting it out on Youtube or whatever, but to come up with a model that replicated some of the feeling of the word-of-mouth buzz of a cult underground Fringe show, with people watching it on day 1 and then saying "Oh, you should see this!" over the course of the week of screenings. That meant distributing the film as a livestream on Citizen Ticket, which mostly worked great, but did result in a couple of moments where the stream cut out near the end and people missed the climax of the show. This, obviously, is a huge disappointment, and to anyone whose enjoyment of the film was affected, I'm truly sorry. I'm currently figuring out a way of making sure everybody who booked a ticket will get to see the film in its entirety, which will probably involve sending out a private link, so if you're reading this and feel a little let-down by the fact that you didn't get to see the ending, I promise I will find a way to get it to you.
It's a shame to end such a big, consuming project like this dwelling on the things that went wrong, because what I'd really like to do is take pride in its successes and the things we did manage to achieve with it, which were numerous. I spent the first month or so of lockdown desperately thinking about things I could do to fill the time, or plans I could make for the future that might help to fill the gap now that the Fringe in particular, and live comedy in general, no longer existed. Eventually I realised I was flailing around and needed to land on one big project or idea that felt authentic and important to me, and put all my focus into that as a way of getting through these difficult times. The show I was going to make for Edinburgh this year was significantly more developed than it usually would have been, thanks to the artist's residency I was given by Battersea Arts Centre in early February which I used to get the show into a state of readiness - huge thanks to them for helping me to be able to finish this show. I therefore decided that, rather than let those ideas rattle around my head for a full year getting less and less interesting or important to me, I would do something with them now and get some closure on that aborted show. The other side of the challenge was to try and put those ideas onscreen in a way that didn't feel compromised, or like anything had been lost in the translation from stage to screen, but to focus instead on what a film adaptation could add, to find a new way of making online comedy that successfully adapted other elements of the live experience, the ones that are harder to approximate.
I did all this mostly for myself, partly to keep myself occupied, and partly to see if there could still be a home for quirky, intimate, "artsy" comedy in the New Normal, and whether it would still be possible for me to continue making the sort of thing I used to make before all this happened. The end result was, by and large, successful, but I hoped through this run to find a way to make it significant for other people too. We did this partly through the post-screening Q&As, in which I discussed creativity with Alex Hardy, Ben Target, Saima Ferdows and Grace Gibson, then indulged in silliness with Sean Morley, Adam Larter and Aniruddh Ojha (the less said about the final Q&A with John Kearns and Lucy Pearman, another victim of tech setbacks, the better, I reckon), and those Q&As were a delight and helped to make the film feel slightly more outward-looking than it could otherwise have. And most of all, I was just delighted by the feedback from several different places, much of which focused on the fact that the film successfully recreated the feeling of watching a cult Fringe show, while a few people even suggested that I'd sort of invented a new form or a new way of making comedy shows. Whether that's true, and whether the thing I made becomes a blueprint for a new way of doing things moving forwards I've no idea, but I was very flattered by all the kind things people said. I'm very proud of this write-up in the Guardian which sort of validates all the things I set out to achieve with this idea.
I know that some people were unable to watch the film, either due to time differences from being outside of the UK, or just because real life gets in the way of things, so I will be figuring out a way to distribute it more widely a little further down the line, probably as a paid-for download or something like that, so do keep an eye out for that. In the meantime, I'm going to treat myself to a bit of time off having put a lot of time and energy into this project, and then will figure out what I do next. I've got a couple of short film ideas which I might move ahead with in the coming months, and a couple of scripted things to be getting on with, so I'm sure you'll hear more from me in the fullness of time. For now, though, I'm going to go and enjoy my garden for a bit and try not to think about comedy for a while. All the best, everyone, and thank you for watching. xxx