I shall, from the outset, put my cards on the table and say that I am, at least numerically speaking, old. I don’t feel it mind (and I certainly don’t act it) but it is fair to say that at 58 I’m much closer to my closing scene than I am to the opening act.
The reason I mention this is because for fairly obvious reasons, my age impacts on my writing output. Rule number three in Doug’s Guide To Writing is ‘write what you know’ and since I know more about being a male over 50 in 2017 than I do about being a teenage lad in 2017, my central characters tend to be older and I hope, more realistic. There will after all, be a part of me in all of them.
Thankfully, this is working to my advantage. For example when I worked on We Still Kill The Old Way it received a great deal of press because of the age of the main cast. Great for me, the film and the actors involved, most of whom were actually older than I am which leads me nicely into the central reason for this blog.
You see generally speaking, when I start thinking about a project, be it book or film, one of the first things I consider is who is going to read or watch it. But recently, when it comes to screenplays, I also think about who might be can cast. Something which helps me actually create the role.
Therefore with that in mind, what follows are 5 reasons why these days my mind tends to wander to those actors who have actually been around for a while.
Choice – We have a huge untapped source of talent in this country and it isn’t lurking in acting classes or talent schools, it’s working in small theatres or sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. Sad for them but great for writers like me when you’re working on something and putting together a dream cast because you know that there’s a bigger chance of actually getting them.
Gratitude – The main reason why they’re sitting at home is because the phone rarely rings. And it rarely rings because there are so few decent roles being written for people over 50 (let alone 60 or 70). As a consequence, if you create these age specific roles and cast accordingly, not only are the actors grateful, but they give you everything from vast experience to PR gold!
Talent – To me, it’s criminal that all this amazing acting talent is being allowed to go to waste. Aside from the ones I’ve already worked with, I can think of ten amazing actors and actresses I’d crawl over broken glass to hear reading my words yet I doubt one has had a decent film or TV role in ten years. That’s tragic, not least because, as has been proven with We Still Kill, the public genuinely want to see these great actors on screen.
Fun – If you don’t think working with legends of the entertainment world is fun, you really shouldn’t be writing screenplays.
Inspiration – When an actor you’ve watched for years and who you have nothing but respect for comes up and not only praises your script but thanks you for the opportunity you’ve given them, it’s both humbling and gratifying. But equally, such praise drives you on to create more of the same which is exactly why I currently have two projects in development that will feature ensemble casts of actors over 60. And d’you know what? I can’t wait to get them moving primarily because above all, they’re going to be fun. And isn’t that why we got into this business in the first place?
The problem of course, is that the production process isn’t down to the writers or the actors, it’s down to those mythical beasts called producers. So what’s really needed are a few of those to step up and take a chance or two.
The talent is there, the ideas are there and as movies such as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (1&2) and Philomena have proved, the audience is certainly there. So how about it?
Who knows, the results might even shock you!
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