December 8, 2016
Welcome back to The Juice Journal! We hope you enjoyed the previous entry and our insight into what it’s like to be an online content writer. Next up, we thought we’d go for something completely different. As individuals at Content Juice, we have filled a wide variety of writing roles, ranging from important corporate roles to positions that allow us to flex more creative muscle.
Script writing falls under the latter category, with many of us here having some previous screenwriting experience. In this feature, we are going to focus on am-dram writing and working with an amateur cast. Ian Arnison-Phillips (Director here at Content Juice) had a wonderful opportunity to get involved in a local community-based am-dram performance; sponsored by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. You can find out more about that on our REELmcr case study. For now though, let’s find out what it was like!
The clue is in the title really – it’s all very amateur! Not in a bad way though. Of course, it’s not like working with Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, but that is never an expectation anyway. You know exactly what you are getting here so there are no high expectations or performance pressures as there is in professional script-writing. The people you work with usually all know each other, or are from the same area, so introductions are less awkward than usual too.
For the most part, if not the entire time, it is extremely fun being an am-dram script writer. You get to work so much more closely with potential or chosen cast members and the whole production feels more of a team effort. Usually, most am-dram scripts are theatre related and it is always bags of fun working in this environment. If you are a people person, then you will love a role like this.
As mentioned above, working with people so excited about what they are doing is perhaps the best part of the role. There is a buzz around am-dram that you don’t really get in other modes of script or screen writing. The people involved take a lot more self-gratification and pride from their work as it is something they are not paid to do. This flows right through to you, the writer. You take a great deal of satisfaction watching people develop your character ideas into living, breathing personalities.
If you are a bit of an OCD or an organisational freak, this style of writing will not suit you. If you don’t like change or you are very stubborn with your writing, again this style of writing will not suit you. Let’s not forget, you are writing material for a bunch of actors. A group of dramatic people. Things are more than likely going to chance, continuously throughout the process. You also must consider people’s capabilities. What you have written may be appropriate for Morgan Freeman or Meryl Streep – but Dave from down the road is hardly going to be able to maintain that Oscar winning performance. There is a lot of give and take in this role – with plenty of revisions! If you are an easy-going person, open to change and suggestions, then this will hardly be a problem for you.
The obvious drawback in this role is actually quite pleasant once you get going. Working with amateurs may seem like an absolute nightmare but in this scenario and environment it is somewhat refreshing. You experience much less diva-like behaviour and less annoyance from overpaid and under-performing drama queens. Believe us, we have had experience at both ends of the spectrum and when it comes to the personnel, we much prefer writing for the am-dram lot! You won’t find anyone walking off set due to bad catering choices or a lack or chai tea! It’s just decent, honest people with a passion for acting and theatre production.
As long as you remember that this also affects how you deal with your cast members, you will be fine. Spoilt professional actors may be annoying, but at least you can throw a script at them and expect them to smash it. With amateur-dramatic performers, a certain degree of cooperation is required to ensure everyone is comfortable with what they are performing.
There isn’t really a defined path into being a script writer of any kind. Am-dram positions are possibly easier to find than screen writing roles, as the latter works very much on a ‘who you know’ basis rather than ‘what you know’. There are various online avenues you can follow in the hope of finding a new writing opportunity, the most well-known of which is BBC Writers Room. Of course, there are many other sites out there and workshops you can join to help further your script writing skills and chances of being published. Am-Dram opportunities can usually found in local community centres, notice boards and on social media. In fact, the web is probably your best place to start. We highly recommend the work of REELmcr and the work they do with communities in and around the Lancashire region. Check out their site for more information!