Sarah Courtald shares tips on how to attract the criminally insane, as learnt at the New York Television Festival (among other things) .
So, we’re just back from a whole week at the NYTVF, during which us writers got to waltz around referring to ourselves as the “Talent”, drink free beer, get given NYTVF knee socks (amazing), and wear super cool lanyards (still haven’t taken mine off) while the team from Rocliffe/Bafta did the real work of actually putting the showcase together.
The main events were: the showcase, pitching to Hasbro, and my speciality, attracting the criminally insane (see pic).
After a rehearsal in possibly the swankiest rehearsal space in Manhattan (all exposed brickwork, designer sofas, and pieces of technology from the future – only one of which I tripped over and broke)… we were all set.
Our very calm, and brilliant director, Susan Jacobson, had brought everything together in an amazingly short space of time, and soon we were all sitting in the theatre, waiting for the show to start.
First came Grey and Happy as Larry, which were both brilliant and went down a storm. I completely fell in love with the cast of Grey, who seemed – a credit to the writing & the actors – like they’d been hanging out with each other, making wisecracks and occasionally running over livestock for most of their lives.
Then came my script. Listening to it, my stomach began to eat itself. During one scene – which was basically a joke free zone, time actually slowed down.
It seemed to last for months.
Long, winter months.
But apart from that terrible scene, I think it went OK.
Two particular members of the cast were so great, and so right for the parts, that since I’ve been back, I’ve been imagining the actors as I write –it’s helped my writing massively.
It was a great chance to hear the rhythm of the piece, see how all the scenes fit together, and get a sense of it which is impossible from reading it on the page.
After the extract, our guest, Jenni Konner (the showrunner from Girls) gave me some very thoughtful feedback – which gave me a new perspective on my script, and was probably the most useful part of the whole week.
Then we had some questions and answers, which went by in a blur. All I remember is that I began to talk about my real life office job, while thinking: “This is inappropriate. I shouldn’t say this. Oh look, I appear to be saying it. If anyone from my office ever hears this, I will definitely get sacked. But I definitely won’t say that. Oh look! I did. How interesting… ”
The other main event of the week for me was pitching an idea for a children’s animated series to Hasbro, which was a surreal experience, as the people from Hasbro were so friendy.
Almost too friendly.
They kept saying everything I said was “very, very cute”.
“It’s about two sisters,” I began.
“That is very, very cute,” they said.
“And a goat with halitosis.”
“That is very, very cute.”
“And a grandmother who’s obsessed with the Black Death…”
“We love it”.
“And has a lot of boils….”
“That is very, very, very cute.”
After that surreal experience, they actually decided to develop my script. I don’t know how this happened. Were they hypnotised by my English accent? Or just had strict instructions to develop scripts featuring goats? I don’t know. I’m not complaining.
Anyway, Ian Thake and the other people from the NYTVF could not have been more friendly. And the lovely Bafta/Rocliffe people completely looked after us all week (ie. constantly plied us with alcohol and fun). The criminally insane people I met were quite entertaining too. My two favourites were “rubbish bin man” and a guy who kept offering to get me a meeting with his great friend, “Ian Armandonucci.”
“You mean, Armando Ianucci?” I said.
“Exactly!” he said. “Ian Armandonucci! I can totally get you in a room with that guy…”