Friday 13 April 2012, 12:58
“There’s no point entering,” said an optimistic friend through a mouthful of sandwich. “There’ll be hundreds of submissions. The odds are not good.” I’ve only just seen the Writersroom Hackgate Rapid Response competition with six days to the deadline. “Don’t waste your time – you’ve no chance,” is his ego-bolstering parting shot. I don’t tell him he’s got egg mayonnaise down his chin. Six days to write a ten minute play? He’s probably right…but what if, hang on, what if I set it in someone’s voicemail? And what if…?
One day of thinking. Two days of writing. Three days of rewriting and it’s in. A week later “This is Jack, Leave a Message, Alright?” is selected as one of the winners and is published online by the Writersroom. Brilliant. Take that Egg Mayonnaise Man. Job done. Thing is, I like this play that didn’t even exist two weeks ago. If the Writersroom like it then maybe someone else will. Two months later it’s performed as part of the Little Pieces of Gold showcase (advertised on the Writersroom). The audience really go for it. Three days later an agent gets in touch. They saw “This is Jack…” Would I like a chat? Have I got anything else to show them?
Over the last nine months this is what I’ve heard more than anything else – “What else have you got?” A single script (especially a short) can get people to take notice, but everyone wants to know what’s next. I’d been working on a full-length play, ‘Meat’, with up and coming theatre company FallOut Theatre. The play wasn’t in bad shape, but the Hackgate competition really got me fired up – not in bad shape isn’t good enough. So I rewrote the play the way I wrote the short – fast, not worrying about what anybody would think, just writing what mattered to me. The agent liked it. Job done.
I start the next play. While I’m doing that I send ‘Meat’ and ‘This is Jack…” to Theatre503 and between them they get me a meeting. The Hackgate win gives me something concrete to talk about and a little (much needed) credibility. Theatre503 give me some great critical feedback on my work and we resolve to stay in touch. Earlier this year they offered FallOut Theatre a slot in their 2012 season for ‘Meat’. Job done.
Except that it’s never ‘job done’, is it? You finish one story and another begins itching at the inside of your head, or you see a competition and it kick-starts an idea, or someone says that it can’t be done so you do it anyway. The main thing that the rapid response taught me was to only think about the story I wanted to tell and how to tell it my way. Get it on the page. Leave the worry, the ‘no chance’ and egg mayonnaise to someone else.
Jimmy Osborne was one of the three winners of the BBC writersroom Hackgate Rapid Response callout. Download the script for his entry - “This is Jack, Leave a Message, Alright?”.
Jimmy’s play ‘Meat’ will be on at Theatre503 from 5-30 June 2012.
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