It’s mid-December, the weather outside is pants and it’s the office Christmas party. In the warm pub, glass in hand, I’m chatting away to my friend, a fellow actress, Natalie Bray. Talk turns inevitably to the ‘industry’ echoing conversations that millions of actors and creatives have every single day. As I’m talking in actor clichés about the desire ‘to keep active’ and the ‘cost of acting classes’, Natalie stops me and says ‘Well, I’ve been thinking about this and I’ve had an idea – let’s do it ourselves’.
Early January, five actresses are in Natalie’s living room, all looking at each other nervously. One tentatively sits in the chair, another holds a script, another an iPhone…pause, breath and off we go.
And that is how it all started. Natalie, Caroline, Isobel, Rachel and I all in Natalie’s living room reading sides from Mad Men, Black Mirror, The Princess Bride, Angels in America and Hollyoaks. It was all weirdly scary at first, then it became fun, and then liberating. We stopped looking at our hair or skin or the weird thing our mouth does, and started saying, that choice didn’t make sense, that can be stronger, that can be bolder, that can be braver. It was freaking awesome fun.
From this tiny Tuesday night group, grew another branch which we called ‘Industry Emails’. Every Thursday we would meet, send emails together with the aim of getting employed as actresses; it felt weird. Whilst no one denied that having a great network of contacts is vital to success, it didn’t feel brave, it didn’t feel bold.
A name change was needed and it became ‘Industry Actions.’ Yes, emails would still be sent, networks kept up, but let’s bring ideas, scripts, make it an open creative space. It felt much better and, more importantly, it worked. We wrote dozens of sketches and shorts, we laughed a lot, we got angry sometimes and we wrote stuff, filmed scenes, edited sketches. Were they a little low-fi, yes, of course they were! We didn’t know what we were doing but it didn’t matter – we were learning and having a blast doing it.
In May 2016 Natalie brought something to the table which would change the course of our work. It was a pilot for a TV show called Nutritiously Nicola! and it was golden.
It was the story of the hapless, yet incredibly loveable, Nicola Woodford a not so healthy, health food blogger living in East London. The story followed Nicola as she tries to come to grips with her reality. It was dark, it was funny, it was bloody beautiful.
Nutritiously Nicola! was by far the longest form piece we had ever handled. Natalie, Caroline and I knew that it had legs but we didn’t have the money to make it in its full glory. We also need a crew who knew what they were doing – the iPhone and monkey grip were just not going to cut it on this one.
We assembled the most fantastic cast and crew of brilliant, talented people and over three hectic, summer days in August 2016 we filmed a promo for the series, a couple of sample scenes and two Vlogs. It was intense, we still didn’t really know what we were doing. We got advice from people further along in the industry – producers, directors, people with expertise, did our research, pulled favours, worked with great people, went with our gut and we did it, we made it happen.
And what’s more…we loved it and there was no going back. We had birthed a fire-breathing, funny-making, female-led, goddamn-beautiful-comedy-monster called Double Yay Productions.
Double Yay’s remit is to write, develop and produce female-led scripted comedy for TV and Online platforms. We make f-rated comedy, always. And we mainly write about women, not because we are forcing ourselves to, but because we find women genuinely very funny!
All filmed, edited, mixed and graded, the Nutritiously Nicola! footage went out to the larger independent production companies. And whilst it did the rounds, Double Yay got together, we started to write again, build up our slate, write new scripts and drink shite loads of tea.
Nutritiously Nicola! was getting good interest and we had an offer on the table from a large production company. The deal was being negotiated and was progressing well, but something didn’t feel right… we didn’t feel creatively aligned and we would have had to sign away creative control. Even more worryingly, we weren’t even sure anymore if the traditional TV route was right for the series.
So, we did the scary thing – we said no. We turned down the deal. But it felt like the right thing to do. We fell back on what we’d done before, we asked for advice, we discussed it at length and we went with our gut.
Nutritiously Nicola! The Web-series was born. We are going to do it ourselves. Again, it’s bold, it’s brave, some would say stupid, but I’m not scared, we’re not scared. I have every faith that with the help of those around us, our brilliant collaborators, our advisors, our friends and our loved ones, we absolutely can.
And so can anyone. Be bold, be brave, and fucking do it!
Rebecca Tanwen Morgan
Since graduating from Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Rebecca’s work as an actress has included roles for the National Theatre, Channel 4 and ITV. Rebecca is in high demand as a voiceover artist, and still acts when she’s asked to! Alongside this Rebecca is currently producing her first indie feature!
For Double Yay Rebecca acts as Producer and Operations Director.
Nutritiously Nicola! Kickstarter campaign runs until 15th August. To donate please go to: https://goo.gl/zM8vLS
For more information on Double Yay check out their website: www.doubleyayproductions.com.