I’ve now had two opportunities to workshop my graduation film in a professional setting and it has been so useful!
The first was with Clare Murphy, who delivered an amazing storytelling workshop for our class last week. Since doing it I am itching to get started on my graduation film, even though we’re entering crunch point with the ENO project. Clare started off making a contract with us about we want to work for the day, we all suggested some rules we should stick by including “listening to each other without judgement”, “taking tea breaks” and “having fun”. I think it was a really good way to get buy in from your participants. Then we played some drama games – my two favourite were gibberish dictionary where we had to make up words and definitions for them under time pressure and an improv one where we had to give each other weird increasingly large gifts and explain why we had chosen them. It was a yes and game and I thought it worked really well to get our minds out of their routine.
In the afternoon everyone told their graduation idea and then everyone else brainstormed more ideas to help them refine or clarify the original. Clare called it collective genius and I was surprised by how well it worked, everyone came away buzzing with thoughts.
It was helpful to me to voice my idea out loud to a group of people for the first time and get really positive feedback as well as have some potential pitfalls pointed out. The main one was how to represent a non-binary character – how do we know when a character is non-binary. Obviously this goes to the heart of the problem with the gender binary in one fell swoop as the whole point is that one shouldn’t assume gender by appearance, which perhaps makes representation through a visual medium difficult – so I will need to think about that.
A couple of weeks later I went to a workshop at the Barbican led by CN Lester and Kate O’Donnell who are the creative brains behind Transpose a showcase of trans performers, dancers and musicians opening at the Barbican next week. I was really excited to meet the two of them as they are both prominent activists and speakers in the trans community and their workshop didn’t dissapoint. Over the course of the weekend we covered
- trans representation and who should tell trans stories?
- barriers to access for trans people
- Ways to cast and run projects creatively to create more space for trans narratives
- workshopping project ideas.
CN and Kate didn’t think that representing someone as non binary would be a problem and instead I should make my film as a universal struggle to be seen rather than stared at, to be believed rather than doubted, to find community and escape violence. It was helpful to have this conversation although in many ways it left me with more questions than it answered. I liked what Kate O’Donnell described as the “dehumanising process of the gaze”.
CN Lester also reminded me of this quote by Toni Morrison:
“I never asked Tolstoy to write for me, a little colored girl in Lorain, Ohio. I never asked [James] Joyce not to mention Catholicism or the world of Dublin. Never. And I don’t know why I should be asked to explain your life to you. We have splendid writers to do that, but I am not one of them. It is that business of being universal, a word hopelessly stripped of meaning for me. Faulkner wrote what I suppose could be called regional literature and had it published all over the world. That’s what I wish to do. If I tried to write a universal novel, it would be water. Behind this question is the suggestion that to write for black people is somehow to diminish the writing. From my perspective there are only black people. When I say ‘people,’ that’s what I mean.”
I don’t have to make my work understandable to people – if it reaches lots of trans people and intrigues a few cis people I will be more than happy.