Back In The Game: Why Now Is The Time I’m Returning to Acting and Writing.

You could argue – with some success – that I hadn’t actually left acting in the first place, but it’s true to say that I stopped actively chasing work after the birth of my son in 2017.

Anthony was born very premature and required a lot of time and care in the early months of his life. I needed to be available and I needed to secure a steady, reliable income to be so. As such, I became a permanent member of staff at my local GP surgery (where I’d been temping for many years).

I settled my finances and secured my immediate future but lost my ability to audition.

It needed to be done.

Some work still came my way even without chasing it. I find this a constant, though very welcome, surprise when it happens. A publisher in New York approached me to narrate an audiobook for a NY Times bestselling author (through ACX) in 2018. Working around my surgery hours, I completed the project in early 2019. I’ve also had consistent work from a medical roleplay company that has kept my acting tools sharp throughout, with 2 or 3 one-day gigs a month.

I also gained very strong interest in providing the continuity voiceover for a medical fly-on-the-wall documentary series that was pitched to BBC2. Sadly, the pilot didn’t result in a series comission and Covid meant that the project fell by the wayside.

See what I mean about not actually leaving acting work? It’s probably more accurate to say that it never really left me.

So why am I going back now?

To answer that I have to go back to 2012 when I started a one-person Copywriting and Public Speaking Agency to support my acting and writing ambitions. Having worked as an award-winning copywriter for BT for many years, this seemed like an ideal opportunity to provide income and freedom – and it was immediately successful.

Sadly, in 2015 I suffered a bout of depression. This was compounded by the passing of my mother and grandmother in 2016. My agency work was placed on hold while I got myself back into shape and returned to a lesser degree when I worked at the surgery.

I’d always promised myself that I would move back into performing if the agency started to take up slack from the surgery. In late 2019 this seemed to be happening, with a run of success that closed off the year with a bang.

And 2020,…. we all know what happened.

2021, however, has seen the agency take off once again, with enough work to support myself and my family, and the freedom to choose when I do it. It’s my “side hustle” once more.

You HAVE to have a side hustle as an actor and performer. Unless you’re already independently wealthy, you won’t survive the infrequency of the work you get as an actor until you “make it” – and 99% of us never hit the dizzying heights of “main stars” like David Tennant or Idris Elba, though we must fight to.

My good friend and colleague Catherine Balavage (http://www.frostmagazine.com) once put it best: you have to be an Actorpreneur. Give yourself the income to support yourself and the freedom to chase the work. She wrote a fantastic book on the subject that you can read here.

Which is why, now both of my children are more independent and my side-hustle is secured, now is the time to pound on doors and chase the work once more.

I am intensely proud of my work at the GP surgery and forever grateful for them for providing me the stability I needed when I needed it most. It was with a heavy heart that I handed in my notice in August and left for the final time in September.

So I’m back. Properly back – applying for castings, dialling up old contacts and hitting the streets once more to fight for my place in the great market of creatives. I have already secured a new showing of Alice in Wonderland with my long-term collaborators at Rough Magic Theatre and am waiting to hear on a few other potential opportunities that have drifted my way.

I had my first new headshot photoshoot in many, many years last week with the BRILLIANT Ania Pankiewicz (https://www.aniapank.co.uk/) and will be sharing the results very soon.

And let’s not forget The Secret Keeper, which continues to bubble away as we re-submit funding for the pilot, which will be back in the hands of Arts Council England some time next week.

This is where I’ll be updating you on my progress and sharing my insights as I move forward – it’s very exciting to me and I hope that you’ll find it equally interesting.

Subscribe to the blog, follow me on the ol’ tweets and I’ll see you all again soon.

Stay frosty!

Tim

https://www.spotlight.com/8218-3497-0502

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Photo by Nikola Johnny Mirkovic on Unsplash

Happy New Year…..Happy New “Hero Face” Puppets

I have not been posting on the blog regularly for a while because I only have a limited amount of time each week to work on our Rough Magic Theatre projects. We decided the time would be best spent actually making the puppets, as they are very time consuming. Trying to make the puppets and […]

Happy New Year…..Happy New “Hero Face” Puppets

Writing The Secret Keeper (Part 2)

The trouble with starting again is that you get very attached to scenes and dialogue that you’ve already put together. Something said by your main character gets a giggle or sounds profound,… is there a way to keep it?

Simply put: No. You can’t be precious or sentimental when writing fiction. You’ve got to be brutal and ruthless or you’ll end up going in circles.

I wrote three chapters of a disaster story many years ago and I could not, for the life of me, figure out why chapter four wasn’t working and why I couldn’t get beyond it. Eventually I realised that I’d made some psychological errors back in Chapter 2 that meant the main character’s headspace was wrong by the time it came to concluding that act. Two chapters had to go. And they did.

Because the beauty of starting again is that sometimes the new stuff that you write is better than you wrote before. You’re working with new ideas and new challenges and that takes you in different and interesting directions.

Sometimes you can recycle a line or two, sometimes not. The trick is to not get attached.

I’ve now worked out a new plot to run through the series. It’s more intimate, more detailed and more interesting than the original. Starting from scratch allowed me to look at the format again and concentrate more on individual motivations. Maybe it’ll make the crafting and shooting process a bit more complex but it’ll also make the finished series better.

And that’s the aim.

The Secret Keeper will be as rich and fully-formed as any HBO or BBC drama. It’s a full-fat sci-fi thriller,….. just animated with shadows. A Film Noir mystery in light and dark.

The pilot version of episode One is in Pre-production, with puppets now being drawn and cut. Audio for this rough-cut (to be used to gather funding for the series) will be recorded in the next two weeks. Filming is likely to start in November.

For more information visit Rough Magic Theatre’s blog puppetlady.wordpress.com. See you soon!

Writing The Secret Keeper (Part 1)

Full steam ahead on The Secret Keeper, the shadow-puppet web/TV series I’m writing for Rough Magic Theatre. Episode One – IE “The Pilot” – is written and has been signed off.

We’ve begun to storyboard the episode and settle on the different puppet types and effects we’re going to employ to bring it to life – it’s extremely exciting and is going to look so distinct and unique. For more information on the creation of the puppets and the production itself visit puppetlady.wordpress.com.

But what about that writing process?

Originally the show was going to be a continuation of characters and ideas I’d used in “The Santa Beneath the Ice”, a short novella I wrote many years ago based in 1900 New York. I was keen to re-visit and expand on the world I’d created for that story and I did draft a basic treatment with a mystery set in a slum hospital.

It was decided, however, that the amount of research and the work needed to accurately re-create the accents (RMT being a British outfit) would be too much.

Collette Knowles (AD of Rough Magic) and I sat down and hashed out a basic scenario based on genres we both enjoyed and ideas that we both agreed hadn’t really been tried before. The basic premise became: “What would the world be like many years after civilisation ceased to exist? And what would that world be like if nobody knew how things worked any more but were faced with a threat that needed people to know this stuff?”

This morphed into the idea that the most important (or feared) people left on the planet would be the ones who still knew things – people who still collected and read books (the internet being long, long gone),… Librarians.

The threat then became a murder mystery and our protagonist became the last person on earth to read detective fiction and criminology books.

That was where it began,…. then came the process of forming that notion into an actual script. And the biggest hurdle?

Whodunnit.

A huge array of colourful and exciting characters span into life during early spit-balling sessions but a murder mystery stands or falls on,… well, the mystery. I knew who died very early on. I knew why it mattered. What I didn’t know was why he had to die and who would really benefit from him snuffing it.

Weeks rolled by with me dwelling on this single issue! I have a new admiration for people who write detective fiction for a living – how do you keep all those plates spinning?

Because every descision creates ripples in your script and those ripples bounce off the shorelines of your story in unexpected and chaotic ways. Being a mystery, you’ve got to make sure that the killer isn’t so obvious that your audience catches on immediately (I’m looking at you, film version of “From Hell”) but not so left-field that your audience feels cheated. It all has to make logical sense when you look back at it.

This is a major headache.

The moment you say X does this you have to justify Y’s reaction or Z’s deduction. You have to think “well if X did this then how did they get that thing there?”

My initial decisions worked out perfectly,… right up to a casual remark. “X’s motivations don’t really fit him very well.” And they were right – I needed to re-write X’s motivations.

That single character re-alignment impacted the entire mystery. Suddenly I needed to write in new characters and new scenes. Suddenly I needed new antagonists and new reasoning. Suddenly the Whodunnit was just too damn complicated.

So I did what writers frequently do,… I started again,…

To be continued – see you next week!

More Behind the Scenes with “The Secret Keeper”

Hello lovely peeps! Here’s the latest installment of behind the scenes footage with story-boarding and experiments in shadow puppetry techniques from Collette Knowles and Tim Austin of Rough Magic Theatre: We intend to film the series in our house and we happen to have an underground store room with no windows which we use for […]

More Behind the Scenes with “The Secret Keeper”

Behind the Scenes with “The Secret Keeper”!

Behind the Scenes with “The Secret Keeper”!

Returning to Blogging and the Maddest Project EVER!!

Lordy,… is that the date?!

Okay, it’s been a long while since I last posted – more than three years, in fact. But that’s about to change. Considerably.

That’s not to say that I’ve been quiet and not doing anything in the last three years – far from it. Let’s see (in no particular order),…

  • Had a bout of depression. Worked my way out of this over time. Not easy – people who live with depression long-term have my utter admiration for fighting through every day. Keep your chins high and never be afraid to talk or ask your GP for help.
  • Had a baby boy with my wife. He’s now 3 and utterly delightful.
  • Recorded an Audiobook for a New York Times Best Seller.
  • Continued to work in medical roleplay.
  • Was in early discussions about a major TV voiceover gig. Then came Covid 19. Shittles. Hopefully those chats can resume soon.
  • Had a baby girl with my wife. She’s now 1 and a proper trouble,… and utterly delightful.
  • Used my performing and marketing knowhow to run a successful Public Speaking Mentorship business.
  • Worked on a pitch to create a puppetry, choral and storytold stage show of Beowulf. Sadly, these discussions haven’t yielded a show. Yet.

And now,…

The Secret Keeper.

With Covid basically shutting down the theatre industry, many producers are turning to online options to create new theatre content. My running mates at Rough Magic Theatre are joining them.

And so am I.

The Secret Keeper is a new, original 12-part online shadow-puppet murder mystery series set in a dystopian, broken-cyberpunk future UK. Filmed entirely in cinema-wide 21:9 4K HDR, the aim is,… not simple: To create a shadow puppet online series designed to work on film – edited like an animation, written with the twists and turns of an HBO epic and crafted to thrill.

And I’m the fella they’ve asked to write and co-perform it.

No pressure, then.

World-building, plotting and early design work is already under-way, with RMT’s Collette Knowles knee-deep in research and drawing to establish the look and feel of our world. Over the next few weeks I’ll be firming up the storyline of the series and storyboarding the full serial, episode by episode – looking at what can be done with the medium, how to streamline the show to make filming and performing efficient, and how to keep the twists coming.

So much to do. I’ll be posting about it here, weekly. You can also learn about it over at http://puppetlady.wordpress.com, where the show will premiere (along with YouTube), later in the year.

As an example of what can be done as shadow puppetry on screen, here’s a fantastic short called Baku by John Atterbury – Enjoy!

There is a LOT to do to get this show off the ground! So keep your eyes peeled and subscribe to the blog and share it around.

We’re nuts!! But the good kind of nuts,…..

Stay frosty.

Tim.

A House Mouse at Christmas and other Stories

Greetings and salutations!

The nights are drawing in and there’s a very real danger of Wham! being heard on the radio once again,… yep, Christmas is coming!

I actually have 3 separate Christmas books available online – through Amazon and direct from PawPrint Press, my self publishing outlet.

First up is A House Mouse at Christmas!

A limited edition, handmade children’s tale, House Mouse is also personalised and customised for whomever reads it.  Once ordered you’ll be sent a personalisation form.  Return it to me and the book will be adapted so that your son, daughter, niece, nephew or partner becomes the hero of the book – along with their friends and pets!

For a snippet to whet your appetite, listen to an example of the first chapter by clicking here. 

Order and personalise the book by clicking here.

Christmas Tails and The Santa Beneath The Ice

“Christmas Tails” is my feature-length Christmas Story Collection: 4 longform stories in different styles – from Victorian ghost story to Enid Blyton pastiche.  You can buy this on Amazon Kindle AND as a fully-fledged paperback at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-Tails-Tim-Austin-ebook/dp/B00642GS5E/ and https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-Tails-1-Tim-Austin/dp/1502581345/

“The Santa Beneath The Ice” is an action-packed comic thriller set in turn-of-the-century New York,… with a twist.  Read a snippet and purchase it for your Kindle at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Santa-Beneath-Ice-Keegan-Lestrade-ebook/dp/B0181IF8KE/ 

Merry Christmas one and all!

Oh, and if you want a truck load of FREE 100 word stories, visit onewordonestory.org (more about that next time!)

Stay Frosty!

Tim x

Narration: a New Blog Series

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Ahoy one and all!  Time for a bit of an update and some news!

Since my last update, I’ve been a busy bunny – not all of my business on the acting side, but a significant chunk.  My work within the NHS as a Simulated Patient has been frequent and productive and I’ve been out and about as a storyteller on a few occasions.

My main focus in recent months has been in setting up my own home narration studio.

During an acting gig earlier in the year I got to reading aloud a selection of my One Word One Storys.  I was made aware of, and strongly encouraged to join, ACX – Amazon’s audio narration exchange, where authors and audiobook narrators could come together for projects on the Audible platform.

A few years ago I contacted a few audiobook companies to sound them out about lending my voice to their clients’ works.  Sadly their interest was almost solely in using “established” (read: famous) names.  To be honest, I’d written the notion off as something that would wait until I had risen in stature as a screen performer.

ACX turned out to be something quite different – a place where the only thing that really mattered was the quality of your work.  Speaking to a few colleagues assured me that my work was of a standard that would stand out on ACX and so I set about building myself a voiceover booth.

I could’ve approached a local studio but I felt a need for flexibility.  I wanted a studio space of my own.  And that’s what I created.  In the walk-in closet of my home I set to adding sound-deadening insulation.  I then purchased a quality condensing microphone, stand, pop-shield and digibox (to turn the analogue signal from the microphone into data for my laptop).

I’ll be writing another blog to properly detail my rig, if you’re curious.  I may even include a video.  Suffice it to say, however, that the booth has been a tremendous success, with an extremely low noise floor and very creditable sound deadening.  In layman’s terms, it produces a good, clean, rich sound.

I’m now busy auditioning for audiobooks and recording a few works of my own – including a full reading of Christmas Tails and The Santa Beneath The Ice – both to be completed and available on Audible in time for Christmas.

If you’d like to hear samples of my work as an audiobook narrator, do check out my ACX profile here.   If you’re an author, drop me a line and we can have a chat about working together on your book.

I’ll be writing a series of blogs about my audio work so keep those eyes and ears peeled!

Until next time,

Stay Frosty.

Tim.

P.S.  If you haven’t checked it out already, please take a moment to read my short story blog over at onewordonestory.org.  You won’t regret it  🙂

Storytelling, Upcoming Gigs, Beowulf and “The World’s Most Insane Writing Project”

Didn’t I say something about making this blog a daily thing?  Yeaaaaaah,…..

ANYWAY

A lot is happening at the moment so there’s a lot to say.

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First up, I’ve been contracted to be the official Bentham Storyteller at the “Bentham Carnival” for the second year in a row!  I had tremendous fun at the last Carnival (read about it here) and am expecting to enjoy this year’s just as much!

The title for the storytelling is “Rain or Shine – Umbrella Tales”.  I’ll be performing 4 stories through the day.  Just like last year, I’ll be writing them in advance.  Come along to High Bentham on Saturday the 4th of June and enjoy!

There’s a good chance that I’ll be returning to my role as DCI Clueless in “Clueless and Wuffles: The Case of the Missing Jewels” a little later in the year.  Situation still developing on that.  News soon.  If you recall, that’s the show that I took to Glastonbury Festival in 2014 with Rough Magic Theatre. It’s about time the ol’ trenchcoat was dusted off again!

ANOTHER thing I can’t talk about is Beowulf – a show that’s currently undergoing very early funding talks.  I hope to be able to tell you a bit more about this once things are firmed up.  Again; more soon.

So what CAN I tell you about?  Well, I can tell you all about One Word One Story: a short story marathon of quite ridiculous insanity.

I recently challenged myself to write a brand new 100 word short story every single day for an entire year.  Yes, really.  And I’m doing it – you can go and read them right now over at https://onewordonestoryblog.wordpress.com/.   It’s already got more than 700 views and it’s less than a month old.  It has also garnered a few celebrity fans, including Red Dwarf’s Danny John-Jules.

There will be more to say and talk about next time!

Until then, stay frosty!

Tim.