the old vic bridging the gap between stage and screen

– . – The Old Vic: Bridging the gap between Stage and Screen


The Old Vic: Bridging the gap between Stage and Screen

When Kevin Spacey took over the struggling Old Vic theatre in 2004, many believed that he would act merely as a pull for Hollywood talent while leaving the hard work to someone else. Although he has certainly done plenty of the former, he has also, in the last four years, defied his critics by rolling up his sleeves and staging, directing and sometimes starring in a host of diverse plays that have helped put the Old Vic back on the map.

However, it’s not just Mr. Spacey’s A-list contacts that are closing the divide between stage and celluloid. The Old Vic has also begun to explore the boundaries between theatre and film production in its affiliate programmes, as evidenced by the Old Vic New Voices Silver Screen workshop, held there last autumn.

Created in association with the Old Vic by production company Poisson Rouge Pictures, the Silver Screen workshop took thirteen young writers associated with the theatre through its New Voices programme and introduced them to screenwriting and the film industry as a whole. Each was selected on the basis of a submitted film treatment that would be workshopped over the course.

Course director John Schwab explains the course’s conception: “The idea came about after our successful experience of producing our latest feature film, THE HIDE. It started its life as a theatre play called The Sociable Plover and enjoyed a highly successful, sold-out run. Together with the Old Vic, we decided to run a six-week course that would take writers who were new to screenwriting and introduce them to industry professionals.”

“The thing that impressed me greatly on the course was the calibre of the guests each week.”

Each week the students met with a host of industry insiders, including producer Damian Jones (ADULTHOOD, KIDULTHOOD, MILLIONS), director Paul Andrew Williams (LONDON TO BRIGHTON), casting director Julie Harkin and representatives from, among others, Working Title, Paramount Pictures and Odeon Cinemas. The structure of the six-week course followed the natural life of a film: week one was screenwriting, week two was an introduction to producers and directors, and so on. It culminated with professionals in the fields of acquisition and distribution in week six.

The key difference between the production of plays and films is that plays are, in the words of course co-director Christopher Granier-Deferre, “a one-stop shop; they commission, produce and exhibit the play from start to finish, whereas film is a complex multi-level of development, finance and distribution that can take a long time to understand.” For a theatre writer new to screenwriting, a lack of knowledge of the filmmaking process can be a barrier to success, and the course’s aim was to make this process more transparent.

According to the students, they completed the course with a much better idea of what to expect from the film world. Megan Pugh explains: “Each [delegate] gave us a detailed account of what works for each department… they took the time to tell us this with detail and enthusiasm.” Student Hamid Amirani agrees: “The thing that impressed me greatly on the course was the calibre of the guests each week. It was a rare opportunity to chat to and get constructive feedback from professionals who have been in the industry a long time and who we might not otherwise get to meet while we all try to break into the industry.”

These kind of initiatives mark out the Old Vic, under its current direction, as a dynamic innovator in the realm of London theatre, and not just a fading institution with a glamorous token figurehead. Surely Spacey’s former detractors must be getting ready to eat their words.

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