who is your sounding board?

3, July 2010

For as long as I can remember there has been one person who has always read my material. I’d say he’s read everything I’ve ever written as well as heard a million stories that never made it to the page. He’s my best mate since our amateur theatre days and is the first person I go to when I have written something new.

Why? He’s a sounding board I can trust. He’s someone I know I can talk honestly with, he’s someone who understands story, he gets me and my writing and sometimes he has moments of brilliance that he lets me steal!

Graham Linehan (The IT Crowd, Father Ted, Black Books, Big Train) recently said:

“Writing with a partner is paid socialising. Writing on your own is work.” Chorltle.co.uk

This is what bouncing stuff off my mate is like; a great opportunity to not only hang out together but also do what we love – discuss and pick apart stories. And after countless months bashing something out on my lonesome it’s a great reward and has now become an invaluable part of my process.

Now your sounding board may be a co-writer, an editor, a dramaturg, a script assessor, a director, a producer or even your mum. But what makes someone a good sounding board?

  1. As I said before they have to be someone you trust to share new and often raw work with.
  2. Someone who knows what they’re talking about. Anyone can give an opinion but not everyone can give constructive criticism.
  3. But make sure you pick someone you respect. There’s no point bouncing stuff off some lauded genius if you don’t respect their opinion.
  4. Same goes for having someone who gets you and your writing. You need someone who can challenge you but ultimately is on your side.
  5. Oh and get someone who makes you smarter. Two brains are always better than one but they have to be the right two brains.
  6. And finally, someone you want to hang out with and can be comfortable with. Not just over a beer but someone who is as equally willing to share personal truths, embarrassing memories and human observations as you are.

I recently finished a session with my mate reviewing my latest work, a 60 minute comedy/drama pilot (writing sample + competition fodder) called ‘Mad Love’. I have a script reading in about a week and I needed someone to go over it with one last time before spending a small fortune in photocopying and shooting it off to the actors. So naturally my mate was the first person I turned to.

What was meant to be just a couple hours turned into a six hour session. We read, discussed, pulled apart scenes, put them back together and general had a great day with a cheeky break in the middle for kebabs from up the high street. The script is now all the better for it. All my niggly little bits of dialogues and moments got duly addressed plus some other ones I didn’t realise needed hammering out as well. Six hours may sound like an eternity but for me to potentially achieve the same result by myself whilst dealing with being way too familiar with the material could have taken six days, so in my mind it was incredibly efficient.

Thanks mate.

So, who is your sounding board?

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2 Responses to “who is your sounding board?”

  1. Amanda Says:

    well dinner was worth the wait, glad you had a worthwhile afternoon.

    • Barry Mañana Says:

      I’d love to have an unbiased ‘sounding board’ – the best I can do is put on my ‘editing head’ and read something after it’s been on my wall for a few days.
      I do have lots of ‘spring boards’ though – people I click with, then run home and write it all down. I try not to make it obvious but I often nip into the loo and write things down if I’m having a good conversation. It’s totally vampiric, and I know i should be ashamed, but I’m a litmus paper for other peoples’ remarks – what colour the paper turns when I read it back a few days later is another matter.


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