Friday, 9 October 2015

And That's My Story: Kelly McGolpin, Producer

I have been intrigued to find out more about the creators behind projects that I have been fortunate enough to see and/ or hear for a long time now so I've decided to do something about it. And That's My Story is a series on this blog that shares with you a bit about the creators I've met along the way and their journey towards fulfilling their dreams; it will run for as long as I can find people who are willing to share their story. Today, I would like to introduce you to the lovely and funny Kelly McGolpin, producer of Chewing Gum.

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Casting your minds back to mid September this year, you may remember me sharing a little story as to how I found myself at the preview screening for the new show on E4, Chewing Gum. Anyway, whilst I was there I had the opportunity to meet the very welcoming producer of the show, Kelly McGolpin (thank you Lesley!), who ever-so-kindly agreed to take part in my ATMS series - thank you Kelly! If you have ever wondered what a producer does or are intrigued to find out more about Kelly's story so far or want a peek into the world comedy, then sit back, scroll down and have a read. I hope you enjoy seeing what Kelly had to say as much, if not more, as I did.

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Michaela Coel as Tracy Gordon in Chewing Gum // Source: Courtesy of E4
I am a 34 year old scripted comedy producer. I live in Hackney, along with comedy I am also into yoga, swimming, thai food, my friends and family and smart silly people.

Hectic. I guess the big job is carrying the flame of the show from creation right through to the finish line. And there are lots of obstacles along the way. But you get people on board to help you en route. Pre-production is probably the most 'busy' as this is when it is all coming together- and your team gets bigger by the week. You spend your days running from location recces to compliance meetings, the writer’s room to costume and art department meetings, as well casting sessions and scheduling and budget discussions. The writing stages- are the best- writing rooms are a lot of fun and certainly where my heart lies. As producer you lead the writers through the process, share and encourage ideas, set them deadlines, help structure their days, offer notes. And you are the main communicator between the writers, the execs and the channel- and the production team. The filming bit, production, is about early starts, late finishes and lots of 'getting things done'. 'Problem solving' -all day long. And you are there to make sure it all gets done, well- and on budget, and on time. It is a challenge to reach the end of each day having got everything you need shot. But it helps when there is a warm glow of 'teamwork' and (hopefully) lots of funny moments on set. Editing and post-production can be very fiddly - and it all depends on what your budget is like as to how mad it is. You work alongside the director and the editor, you help to shape each cut – and then interpret and feed in notes from the writer, execs and the channel. Whilst trying to make sure that flame that is the heart of the show remains at the centre of the show. Then you have the finishing stages- the grade to make it look right, the sound mix to make it sound right. It is a bit of a battle, but if you all share have the same vision, it can be fun and very rewarding.

My grandparents on my mum's side were East enders and both had a brilliant sense of humour which filtered down into the family I think- everything was silly if it could be, or at least that is how I remember it. And we watched a lot of comedy growing up - I remember dancing around the living room with my brother to the theme tunes of shows such as 'Red Dwarf', 'The Young Ones'- they were the highlight of the week. I love the connection you get with comedy. Everybody getting something and laughing together is wonderful. And making other people connect to something is great.

I started writing and performing comedy at university. I was studying Drama and English at Queen Mary in Mile End - we had a performance art module as part of the course and every Tuesday night we would put on shows and perform pieces we had written to an audience. All of us gravitated towards making funny stuff- and we started writing shows and taking them up to the Edinburgh festival. A lot of us Queen Mary people have ended up in the comedy business. When I graduated I worked as PA to some great heads of comedy, and learnt a lot from working alongside them - and I would run comedy nights on the circuit in London. I just fell out of love with the performing bit. To be a comedy performer you have to want it more than anything else - and I wanted to make comedy and collaborate with others - not just be in it. I didn't feel the need to perform anymore. I started producing my own stuff in my late twenties, having built up a decent amount of contacts in the industry and having had some production experience. I was offered development roles and started developing scripts and ideas with writers and performers I connected with and felt others may connect with.
Cast of Chewing Gum // Source: Courtesy of E4
Michaela’s agent suggested I read her writing - she thought I would love it. And I did. I had just been working with Doctor Brown and we were discussing how he makes comedy from the everyday- he sees comedy in everything- his comedy is about truth as much as it is make believe. As is Michaela's. I don't even know if she was out to write a comedy- but I arranged a meet with her. From there we started to hang out, talk about her writing, her world. I read lots of other bits she was writing at the time . One day we played about with a camera - I got her to speak the lines of the play straight down the lens - like she was speaking to her best mate at the back of a bus. We ended up constructing a script that was partly ‘Chewing Gum Dreams’ the play and partly other things she had written as well as other ideas/ characters we had spoken about. I remember Michaela saying ‘You remixed my shit and I love it - I want to make this show’ and that was our intention set. We got a taster script together- got a brilliant cast together and performed it to C4. They gave us money to make some on screen tasters and from those, we got a series on E4!

Be around good people, learn from them. The role of PA was great for me as it meant I got to work with some fantastic bosses, who would throw scripts my way, ask my opinion on things, show me cuts from recent edits and get my thoughts, send me along to casting sessions and give me small projects to produce. Go watch comedy, a MUST. Especially if you live in London as we are so lucky to have one of the best live comedy scenes in the world. There is comedy going on here every night of the week all over the place. Always meet talented people you connect with- hang out with them. Go meet their agents- get to know them. Watch stuff. Try writing stuff, share ideas, pick up a camera and film ideas. Get stuck in.

Amelie. Synecdoche, New York. Ferris Buellers Day OffThe Godfather- all of them. One film we spoke about ages ago in reference to ‘Chewing Gum’ was ‘Beasts of the Southern Wild’. Which is super dramatic and not funny at all. But the little girl in it carries the audience through. She makes us connect to a world that we may or may not already know- either way she welcomes us in, takes our hand and shows us around. As does our Tracey I think.

...And that's my story.

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And there we have it folks! I hope this little insight into Kelly's journey as a comedy performer turned producer for scripted-comedy has not only shed light on what the role of a producer is but also inspires you to go chase after your dreams. Thank you again Kelly for taking the time to answer these questions! 

Mo x


P.S. Don't forget, Chewing Gum (a 6 part series) can be seen on E4 at 10pm on Tuesdays.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

WML is Three!!

A few days ago this beautiful, complex, slightly disorganised but joy-inducing (well, I don't know about you but WML brings me tons and buckets of joy so...) blog of mine turned the magic age of THREE!! It endured through the terrible twos and has come up on the other side and I could not be more proud.

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I do not know what to say. I guess, first things first: A massive thank you to all those who have been with me on this journey of mine from the very beginning and to those who joined sometime since then! I am still finding it difficult to describe WML but what comes to mind is that it is essentially a personal blog that dabbles in entertainment and shines - admittedly, a poorly lit - light on my life so far. I love coming on here and sharing with you, and really my future self, the things and activities that put a smile on my face (like, for instance, the spring rolls used in the photo above not only made me smile but it also made my tummy leap with joy) in the hopes that it at the very least dares you to smile and think a little deeper about what brings you joy. 

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I think it is safe to assume that I will not stop blogging about films, TV shows or theatre productions anytime soon. Nor will I stop sharing interviews I have conducted with creators I have been fortunate enough to meet (Note: there is a new one coming your way this Friday that is related to the new TV series, Chewing Gum!). I am aware that the spotlight on my own blog may seem like it is primarily on the work of others and not me but trust me when I say this, I am very much in those posts. Some of my favourite writers and/or bloggers unashamedly share themselves, their struggles and victories with the world in a straightforward way that leaves me in awe. My way is not so straightforward. I am shy. Fact. And I sadly kind of also live quite the uninteresting life at this stage in my life. So writing personal lifestyle-esque posts in that manner does not come naturally to me and that is ok with me. Writing about whatever has caught my attention week after week has still given me the opportunity to slowly figure out my voice and what kind of writer I want to be. Seeing how my writing-style has evolved over the past three years has been incredibly useful and encouraging! And for someone who doubts herself constantly, to the point where I won't write a short story for months or even contemplate the idea that I have any sort of writing talent, being able to notice even an inkling of improvement in my writing is amazing. For some reason sharing my thoughts on WML in the way that I do frees me from the pressure I put on myself hourly to create the kind of work that I dream of creating.  And for that I am forever grateful.

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I want this next year for WML to surprise me even further in the way that it does best. It has brought me some fantastic opportunities so far - holding my first readers surveyattending a preview screening for E4's Chewing Gum and being able to interview talented creators - and I cannot wait to see how this next year is going to turn out. Thank you once again to all of you who have stuck around for as long as you have. I have not set targets for WML as such (...yet?) but if there is one thing I would love to happen in the next year it is that I get to know you kind souls who read my ramblings much better than I do now. I hope October is treating you well!

With love,
Mo x


P.S. I am currently down with a bad cold which is why there have not been any posts so far from me this month but I kinda like the fact that this is the first post of the month hehe. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Spotlight: Magic Lessons with Liz Gilbert || Podcast Vol. 1

When I listened to episode four of Elizabeth Gilbert's podcast Magic Lessons and Rob Bell, a pastor, writer and public speaker, was talking about people feeling trapped and not being able to visualise their future being drastically different from their present, especially when their present is not the bees knees, I was at work. I was at work completing an online course that held some sort of interest to me when I started it way back in February. Mind you, the course estimates you can complete it in less than a month. Yeah. Anyway, I was doing the course and feeling the usual Monday feels and listening to this man basically describe me and I started to tear up. It wasn't until I heard the rustling of papers to the right of me that the sudden realisation that I was at work, and surrounded by people I would rather eat mushrooms covered in cheese than see me cry, caused me to tug hard on the reigns of my tears and blink them back. So, naturally, I wanted to share this illuminating e-treasure-box with you as part of my Spotlight series.

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I came across Liz Gilbert's book Big Magic on my travels across the beautiful and insightful Blog Plains whilst at my read-cation at Emma Gannon's great space Girl Lost In the City. As soon as I saw the the cover of that book I knew I just had to read her whole post - slowly. I made a note of it because not only was the author of Big Magic the author of a book that I love (Eat Pray Love) that was then made into a film that I adore, the title of the book resonated with me so much that I could not think of much else. Later that evening, after cleaning my laptop for the umpteenth time (If you are planning on getting a macbook let me tell you a little "secret", this thing attracts  dirt like no other. My screen makes me want to vomit daily), I decided I need a laptop case and so off to Amazon I went. When I found the one and soon after discovered that Amazon no longer did free delivery for items over £10, I racked my brain to see if there was anything else I needed that was at least £7 to tip me over that £20 hurdle so that I could kill two birds with one stone and get my free delivery (I am sure Amazon's marketing team are overjoyed). And then, it floated into my mind; all majestic and all knowing. That beautiful cover of the new book of the author that is the same author who wrote a book that I love - Eat Pray Love - that was then made into a film that I adore. I popped it into my basket, grinning from ear-to-ear because not only was I getting the book, I was getting it for half-price and it will be delivered to my work place - my post box is not the most reliable of post boxes - which I think is a perfect place to crack open that book. During lunch of course... Anyway, I figured in the meantime I would have a quick look on the internet for any interviews she's done recently and that is when I discovered this podcast and that episode I briefly described earlier became but one of 12 episodes that had some sort of powerful effect on me. 

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If you are in some sort of rut or pool of creative stagnation or you feel trapped or hesitant to create something that has always been gnawing at you then maybe you need to have a listen to the stories, lessons and terrific quotes Liz Gilbert and her insightful friends share whilst discussing some magic lessons. There is one Rumi quote that she shared - I think it was in the second episode  that I will end this post on as it created a somewhat childlike image that sparked a little creativity in me.

"What you seek is seeking you"

Mo x

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