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netribution > features > interview with farah abushwesha > page two

Farah with Alan Plater

What questions are most frequently asked of you?
I don't mind answering any questions because it's a very curious part of the industry. I tell people that, once they've attended a forum, what I do is really very clear. People reserve a place by emailing me at and once they come along I separate the actors, directors and producers in different groups. I ask the directors to come along half an hour before the start to read the scripts, no one sees them prior to that because I'm not going to get into copyright or intellectually property rights issues.

Then all the sections break up into the four different scripts that I choose and they rehearse their scene for half an hour. Then each scene goes up after an introduction by the director stating the type of script; whether it's film, TV, theatre, radio play or sitcom.

And I suppose a description of what's happening within the story at that point?
Yes, they sometimes give the audience an idea of what's going on. The scene is then read and performed by professional actors, I must make the point that attending actors must be professionally trained or very experienced. It is not for amateurs due to the demands placed on them, you have to be able to sight read at will because you only get half an hour to get work on the part before you stand it up.

The quality of acting is amazing and the great thing for them is they are getting audition experience they don't normally get. Other organisations work on scripts for days, this is two hours on a Tuesday evening. Directors get the chance to work with new actors, new material and they are very challenged because they only have thirty minutes to pull it off. Also, everyone works with people they don't know, all with different skill levels so it is a very challenging environment.

While they are working on the script the writer sits in to take questions and suggestions on how a certain line can be tweaked etc. So the writers get to see how their script works at the rehearsal period, and after the script is performed the writer can get feedback from the actors that performed and from other writers, directors and producers.

The producers get to see snippets of new material, and if they like what they see, they can then get in touch with the writer or even with the director that worked on the script.

Are you attracting a lot of producers?
I get a lot of independent film producers coming along but I have a lot of well-known directors and producers on the mailing list who get very interested in a script and start asking me what the entire script is like. I just say, go and email them, I'm not going tell you." If I see something really good I might ask the writer if I can pass it on to so and so if I think it fits in with what they are looking for.

What gap are filling here?
I don't know because I don't think there was anything like this before. It's like Shooting People, it's about getting a cross section of the industry together. What I'm doing is exposing scripts and expanding the network. Everybody benefits from it because, if you attend and sit in on the rehearsals you come out of it knowing more about yourself and you also get to meet other people in what can be an isolated industry.

The greatest thing for me is seeing the written word come to life and seeing people get excited by it. Seeing people get their confidence back after so long without their work being seen, so they know that they are still involved. It keeps people alive, active and productive.

Would you like to see this spread elsewhere in the country?
I think the forums are great as they are, no forum is ever the same. There are only a few regulars and I try to bring in as many people as possible to keep it fresh and I think the forums have found their own footing now.

Apart from exposure, what do you think you need to maintain it?
For Rocliffe I want to get into productions again, that's where I see myself going but the forums stand on their own - it's a part of what I do, but I'll make it quite clear, I am not an events organiser. I'm not a facilitator for people, I see myself as an enabler but I did this as an actress. I want to meet directors, I want to meet writers and I want to meet that perfect part for me.

What do people expect?
Well I'll give you an example, I'll do the forums and I'll do the list but I won't get into negotiations with production companies and writers. I'm here because I've created something, the networking part people will have to do themselves, they have to be responsible for that because I've got an awful lot to do. I receive about 25 scripts and about a hundred c.v.'s a week.

I'm interested to know whether you feel the forum needs to progress.
I think the forum is at a stage where it runs quite nicely and I know a lot of people would like me to do a lot more of them.

I don't think you'll see me running up and down the country starting up forums. I tried to do them every three weeks but it was just too much work, there's a lot that goes into each one. I respond to every email personally, I have a lot of scripts to read through and I also have a full time day job so I get about three hours with Rocliffe every night. The bulk of my work is reading scripts, I haven't read a book in 12 months.

That's terrible Farah.
I just don't have time but the stuff I'm reading is fantastic. It's very brave what these writers are doing, some scripts are still in draft form so they are letting people see their rough material. What the writer will do is give them a lot more direction, it works particularly well for a writer who is stuck with something in the script. It also works for the polished script, they want to see it in action and I know of four or five that are being made into something as a direct result of the forum.

I know that actors have found fantastic parts in the forum that they can use as an audition piece, they've got in touch with the writers themselves and, really, everybody seems to be gaining from it. I did set it up to perform as an actress and that's the disappointing part of it, I don't always get the chance to perform at the forums and I feel guilty for others in the same position.

I often get calls from directors, casting agents and by Channel 4 and the BBC for example, for recommendations. People have found auditions and work through sessions at the forum.

That's a big responsibility on your part isn't it?
It is but I don't want to be thought of as an agent or manager.

Do you feel comfortable recommending talent in that way?
Yes because I've seen what they can produce in half an hour. The same is true for directors and writers, there's a play being used in Australia at the moment from one of my recommendations - I know the writing so intimately and I also know the people who are using it.

Tell us about the shows?
Well I was recently in the rehearsed reading of the winning script of the Rocliffe Short Script competition and that was judged by the Emmy winning writer Alan Plater (pictured). I'd been in Australia in April and had met a lot of the independent filmmakers there, and I actually saw a screening of that film projected up on a sheet strung between two palm trees.

Before that I'd been in a couple of plays and short films and I want to go on and produce my own work but the forum have taken up a lot of time to set up. The great thing is that I have a passion for it and the forum exposes me to other peoples' passion and creative vision and original material. There's so much talent out there and the majority of people don't get the opportunity to perform. As many of these sorts of things that start up the better.

What will happen when you want to move on from it?

I don't see myself moving on, I see it developing. This didn't exist a year ago and now it does but you never know what's around the corner, even if I became some big star there'd be someone out there that would continue it. It lives and as long as original work keeps coming in it will continue to live.

What is in the monthly newsletter?
It lists the scripts that were used in previous forums and it lists productions that members are performing in. There is showreel and casting information, voice coaching contacts, acting techniques and different things that actors branch off into. It acts as a notice board and lists the email contacts of the writers for that week and synopses of their scripts.

Tell me about the book…I've always wanted to say that.
(laughs) It's a very trashy novel that I've been writing for a long time, Rocliffe takes up so much time but I'm very excited about it. It's got a very risqué name but I won't give it away, I've met people that would like to direct it and I look forward to starring in the adaptation!

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