Focus and motivation are two friends I don’t hear much from these days. Somehow lockdown makes a blank page emptier, daily word counts unobtainable and tea breaks half-hourly. Remember March 2020? The Before. The Brink. It brought us a most unwelcome, but necessary, first lockdown and the phone call that got me through it from the BBC New Creatives scheme.
Supported by the Arts Council and BBC Arts, BBC New Creatives is a national development scheme offering commissioning opportunities for emerging creatives 16-30 years old, creating film, audio and interactive works. With the direction and encouragement of production company Rural Media, my humble story The Cupboard, would be produced into a 15-minute audio drama. Working alongside other successful Midlands applicants we had the opportunity to push ourselves, learn new skills and reach a wider audience.
There’s a special kind of joy reserved for hearing your work acted out for the first time
Over weeks of intense rewrites what started out as a quirky, light-hearted story on the assumptions of growing old transformed into simple yet incredibly emotional script about communication, loss and attachment. I was unusually eager to kill my darlings and learn a thing, or ten. Working with producer Paul Dodgson, he challenged my writing immensely; I’d dropped characters, ramped up the stakes and simplified the structure. Now I was facing a character-driven, dialogue-led script. Emotions and conversation? Heaven forbid. It was unlike any of my previous writing and I loved it.
I have been known to latch onto podcasts with a disturbing intensity, easily exchanging human interaction for glorified eavesdropping. I’ve always been interested in combining story and sound; used well it colours a scene, encourages imagination and, especially important these days, it’s a lot safer to record. What’s more, radio drama opens up an infinite world of locations and theatre. You can write it? There’s probably a sound effect for it. The possibilities are endless and inexpensive. So where is my piece set? A cupboard under the stairs. Way to flex the medium, Sophie.
In normal circumstances we would have been invited to a studio to experience the recording process first-hand. Instead, Rural Media helped me cast actors who could record remotely and I couldn’t have been happier with the final cast. There’s a special kind of joy reserved for hearing your work acted out for the first time, and an inexplicable giddiness at witnessing three accomplished actors, miles apart, pretending to squeeze into a cupboard together. This is acting, darling! All credit due to sound designer Martyn Harries for reflecting the intimacy of the piece in post-production.
The scheme provided a guiding hand through the whole process, from casting and production to my own personal nightmare: marketing. For someone so attached to the internet I definitely have an aversion to posting on it. With the help of digital agency, The Space, equipping us with techniques to approach third parties and Rural Media’s in-house marketing wonder, Elle Adams, I have carved a little rudimentary social media home and I’m slowly settling in.
At the heart of it all, I forgot how energising it is to be around creative talent. My fellow New Creatives are a truly inspiring community of Midlands artists at different stages of their journeys; a genuine melting pot of poetry, theatre, comedy and journalism with oodles of originality. The range of themes and subjects are challenging and insightful and to be surrounded, albeit virtually through Zoom meetings, by all this talent has been such a boost.
BBC New Creatives was a perfectly timed, vital attack on my well-matured imposter syndrome. I’m now third-draft deep into an attempt at full-length script. Who even am I? And far more open to new challenges, in fact I’m just a few sessions short of completing Nottingham’s Gobs Collective‘s performance poetry workshops. This (I’m gesturing frantically around me) is a lot, but there’s opportunity out there. I’d encourage you to keep an eye on the scheme and apply if you can or consider writing for audio for a change, we’re all ears.
The Cupboard is on air this evening (Monday 6th September) at 1.30pm / 8.30pm and on BBC Sounds shortly after.