Opening the door to a new season always comes with a mixture of excitement and nerves. The nerves are about whether we can keep developing fresh ideas – especially after 12 years! But the sight of both familiar and new faces coming through that door for the first workshop is all it takes to know that whatever journey we embark on – it’s going to be a good one.
We began our 12th season last October at Hope Studios in the city centre, knowing it was closing at Christmas. In the nick of time we found a new home at Trinity Sports Centre in Hulme, with their endlessly patient and friendly staff. We occupied the Dance Studio and Daniel Bradford, director, actor and teacher from Hope Studios directed the workshops over 13 fortnightly Sunday afternoons.
The early sessions were spent looking at comedy, in particular, what makes a farce. Working with snippets from well-known film scripts, the actors were soon able to create their own crazy scenarios and surprising characters. Many of these made their way into the film. Then it was over to Writer/Director Lauren Pouchly, who watched the exuberant workshops in action to hoover up ideas for the script. She walked away with the longest list ever of topics, scenarios and characters. At the head of the credits you will see the words ‘created by the cast of AOI.’ That is absolutely true and we salute every one of them for their energy, enthusiasm, discipline and boundless ideas.
It became clear that a mockumentary style approach would be the best way to tackle the storyline, seen through the eyes of Peter, a media student filming the project for his course. But it’s not a promising start when, on Day One, the actors declare independence and throw out the staff. This disparate and inexperienced group have just a few weeks to write, rehearse and produce a film from scratch. What could possibly go wrong?
The idea of a courtcase drama popped up from various improvisation and script sessions in the workshops and felt right for our central ‘film within a film’. Would it be a musical, as in the title? Make your mind up when you’ve seen the film.
But the film was never about the courtcase… it was always about the process around it – the fun of seeing what might happen if a bunch of ordinary people tried to pull something off without any professional help – and the warmth of the community spirit that sees them through.
Filming took place over 3 days at Chief Productions’ film studio in Salford and at Trinity Sports Centre in Hulme, with 22 actors and a production crew of 30, led once again by our wonderful friend and Producer Luke Filz. Many of the team are old friends by now and we are eternally grateful to them for their encouragement, focus and skill.
When the actors and crew go home, the work of the post-production team begins, again, with so many professionals giving hours of their time and facilities. You only have to read the list of credits rolling up at the end to realise that this film has been made by a whole phalanx of talented and skilled people.
The premiere was held on 20th July at HOME Arts cinema in Manchester. The actors performed live as they entered the auditorium and bowed at the end to massive and enthusiastic applause. They had their photos taken on the red carpet and were swept off to a celebration lunch. They can be so proud of the joyful, feel-good film that they have created. We are certainly uber proud of them.