Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Tales From The Script

Yesterday I was invited to a casting. It was an exciting moment because castings are normally preceded with begging letters and me trying to come across as a wonderfully employable actress rather that a director would be foolish to overlook. But this one was different. This one I hadn't applied for. They had found me which basically means I'm now as sought after as Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith combined. Or so I thought. Y'see, I'd let excitement get the better of me before I delved a little deeper. As we tried to work out whether we were going to have to extend into the garden to make space for my rapidly growing head, I took a look at the script. And it was then I realised that I'm still right at the bottom of the pile, somewhere beneath a TOWIE cast members bumcheeks...

This script was, by far, the worst thing I have ever read. It's four pages of near nonsense. It contains six separate references to the penis and one single paragraph mentions the word 'dildo' a eye-watering three times. Now, I wish I could just post the script here because it would honestly get more hits than my writing could ever achieve but even I'm not that cruel. But please take it from me that it's incredible. Any script that contains a sentence talking about sexual problems and how they need to be remedied with a diet of pulses is up there with the greats. It has no punctuation whatsoever, they've bafflingly used the word 'eats' instead of 'means' and they've ended one sentence with the phrase 'shouldn't be it?'  The script is so bad that I've actually replied to ask when and where the casting is because I can almost guarantee that the experience will be so blogworthy that I might be able to retire on it. I'm still waiting to hear back, I think they might have been confused by my question on whether or not the job is paid...

Now I don't want to start on too much of a rant on scriptwriting because I know very little about it. I've got full admiration for those that can do it well and I think it's an incredible skill. However, I've been whacked round the face and slapped on the bum by so many bad scripts that I finally feel that I need to say something. Now I make secret of my incredible ability to create overly long sentences that are infuriating to try and read. And I know that I probably get spelling and punctuation wrong on occassions. But I don't expect anyone to act out my blogs (if anyone would like to, please record it and send it to me, I will post it on YouTube and I can become a millionaire at your expense.) Surely, if you've written a script, it's generally a good idea to get a few trusted people to have a look over it so they can let you know if things don't make sense/you've written the worst script since Showgirls/you should never be allowed near a keyboard and an idea ever again.

But more than a poorly written script, it's the ideas that really make me want to dive into a bag of Salt & Vinegar McCoys and never come out again. I've spoken before about my frustration at writers who seem unable to write a Middle Eastern character without mentioning terrorism and/or arranged marriage. I'm amazed at the amount of writers who've done this and, as an actress who often goes up for these roles, it's so hair-tearingly dull, I'm amazed I still have a full head of unmanageable locks. And then there's the problem with female roles. Recently I have seen so many casting calls where all the male roles are interesting parts with wonderful quirks and intriguing back stories and then all the female roles are described as 'beautiful' 'model like' or 'prostitute/lap dancer/slut.' I'd reluctantly accept it if it was every so often but every single day I'll see more than one casting where a writer has clearly enjoyed writing brilliant characters for men and then, realising they've left the ladies out, throw in a few bikini-clad beauties for good measure.

After all this then, we're left wondering what's the answer? Hopefully we've got a new wave of wonderful scriptwriters out there who are just about to leap over the horizon with their imaginatively written scripts in their eager hands. Or, the other answer which I usually hear, is that actresses need to write their own stuff. This annoys me because we shouldn't have to do this, but I understand the point and yes, maybe we should be doing this more. But then you read an article such as this one here: http://www.chortle.co.uk/news/2012/05/05/15326/bbc_one_faces_sitcom_drought and you wonder whether it's even worth it. (Of course these thoughts come after you've screamed at the screen for ten minutes having just read the sentence "But because it's a small gene pool for talent, on and off screen..." but that's for another blog.)

So maybe I should be writing my own work instead of complaining about everyone else's. When I've written my sitcom about an Iraqi lingerie model who commits acts of terrorism to get out of an arranged marriage, I'll let you know...

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