Interview: Scratch Me 2020 Participants Pt. 1Discover how they found the programme & where they are now
Lily Levin, Harry May-Bedell & Melody Sproates talk to us about Scratch Me 2020 and share what they have been up to since then.
With our character development lab Scratch Me returning this year, this time in partnership with Fulwell 73 and Northern Film + Media, we caught up with some of the brilliant creatives from Scratch Me 2020 to discuss why they applied to join the programme, what they enjoyed, what they found challenging and what they have been up to since the lab.
This interview is split into two parts. In the first, we hear from director Lily Levin and writer-performer Harry May-Bedell, who both worked together on the Scratch Me 2020 short MONSTER, and writer Melody Sproates behind the Scratch Me 2020 short PORK SCRATCHINGS. And in the second, we hear from writer-performer & theatre-maker Sian Armstrong, writer-director Steph Leigh and writer & occupational therapist Chris McClure.
Note: The deadline to apply for Scratch Me 2022 is Monday 23 May, 12pm (noon)
Lily Levin - Director
Lily is a neurodivergent theatre and film director. She completed her first BBC directing job in Jan 2021: a one-off short starring actor and disability advocate Melissa Johns. In theatre, Lily Co-devised and Directed SNATCHED, Johns' autobiographical one woman show about sexuality in the context of disability and growing up with a body difference. The show has received several 5 star reviews and sold out at the Soho Upstairs. Touring to more cities including Liverpool, Bolton, Newcastle, Bath, Cardiff. Lily believes in making groundbreaking, high quality works which reflect our diverse society rather than simply ticking boxes. Her work seeks to prove that there is no reason why proportionate representation should compromise quality. Twitter | Instagram
Harry May-Bedell - Writer/Performer
Harry is a writer and performer working across theatre and screen with a passion for bold stories and characters with a comedic flair. Harry wrote and performed in 'MONSTER' a short supported by Film Hub North & the BFI Network. In the last year, he completed R&D on a theatre show that touches on grief, queer identity, and the role of family in the queer community, funded by Arts Council England. Most recently he created and directed 'The End is Queer' - a hybrid durational immersive work that blends digital and live performance also funded by ACE. Twitter | Instagram
Melody Sproates - Writer
Melody (they/them) is a trans / non-binary theatre maker, writer, facilitator and zine maker from Newcastle. They make challenging and sometimes daft work to help represent the underrepresented and advocate positive well-being for the LGBTQIA+ community. They have toured theatre shows such as *gender not included, Raising Shame (BRASH) and ReTake ReMake (The Lawnmowers Theatre company). They were recently published in the TransBareAll 10 year anniversary book, were the winner of Live Theatre's New Writing Prize in 2018, and are also 1/2 of the comedy double act, Sowersprouts. You can find Melody online here: Instagram
Why did you decide to take part in Scratch Me?
Lily: I was excited to have the opportunity to create another short fiction under guidance - I had only made documentary and theatre other than the BBC short, for which I was very much thrown in at the deep end. I think Fiction is one of the hardest formats to get right.
Harry: I was actually sent the details by a producer who thought it would be up my street and knew that I had a character idea that I wanted to explore on screen. I didn’t really know Film Hub North a great deal. What appealed the most was the focus on surfacing exciting northern characters, and that it was a great opportunity for a writer/performer like me. I absolutely knew that I wanted to perform this character and that he would shine on screen, but that I needed a chance and some support to be able to make it happen.
When it came along in 2020, I was a little bit aimless and stuck indoors so the structured approach of the lab was just what I needed. I think Scratch Me was just the right opportunity for me and just the right time so thank God that producer sent me the details otherwise I might have completely missed it.
Melody: I had been working on my character Rik for quite a few years, first starting as a character used in my TV show idea, which I wrote a script for in my final year of Uni. After Uni I had been working mostly in theatre but I came across that script again and realised that there were still some more aspects to Rik that I wanted to explore. A few friends suggested that I should apply to Scratch Me, so I gave it a go! I was also just super excited to be trying out something new, and collaborating with others.
What did you enjoy most during the programme?
Lily: I really enjoyed working with Harry, I have gained a fantastic friend and colleague and we consult each other regularly on different professional issues and writing projects. I also had the privilege of being mentored by the wonderful Benjamin Bee, who was incredibly encouraging and I learned a lot from him. He also very kindly gave feedback on my own writing work.
Harry: The best bit was getting to work with Lily, the director I was matched with. We worked together closely, and she really understood the character and what I was trying to explore through him and the piece in general. We worked in a really collaborative way and were able to even get some in person rehearsal time together which had a huge positive impact on the shoot and the final film itself. Making MONSTER with Lily as a delight and I couldn’t be happier to have made a new friend.
Melody: I loved having the opportunity to meet new creatives who were working on their characters at the same time, and working with a team who was just as excited about my character as I am. It just gave me so much encouragement and positivity, as we all know the writing process can be quite lonely. It was super helpful to gain feedback and to just have people that believe in you and your ideas. The biggest highlights though was having Prano Bailey-Bond as my mentor (like, wow!!) and meeting my now creative collaborative partner in crime and good pal Lea Judge, who directed my piece.
What did you find challenging?
Lily: Working with such a small budget meant we only had a day to film what we wanted - a very short day because we were outdoors in the dead of winter! So the shoot day was absolute chaos, we were axing shots left right and centre. Thankfully I had the incredible Esther Vardy as DOP and she also hooked us up with a top tier colourist who worked some magic on the shots where we had lost some light.
Harry: Coming from writing for theatre it was a challenge moving into writing for screen but mostly in finding the brevity in the writing and allowing the action to work over the dialogue. It felt like trying to switch my brain into another mode that just took a bit of time. However, I think the most challenging aspect was trying to establish and retain my own voice in the writing… especially when getting notes. All the feedback I received was valuable but when dealing with notes from multiple people I sometimes found it hard to process it all and still allow my own voice to be present in the writing. I really had to be confident in what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to say it while taking on board the advice and guidance from those more experienced than me.
Melody: We had a few tight deadlines and last minute changes to my script which were tricky, but I definitely learned a lot during that process.
What have you and your character been up to since the lab?
Harry: The biggest thing after Scratch Me, was that I was accepted as a writer onto the first cohort for Flex run by Screen Yorkshire. Through-out Flex I worked with a producer and director to develop MONSTER into a full series with season arc, treatment, pitch and pilot script that we are now searching for development deals for. I’ve also been working on other theatre projects, securing some funding from the Arts Council as well as applying for other TV writing opportunities. I’ve had the chance to speak to some amazing production companies as well as commissioners from C4, BBC and beyond. Scratch Me has really accelerated my career, provided me opportunities to meet people I would have never had the chance to otherwise and boosted my confidence in myself as a screenwriter. I couldn’t recommend it highly enough.
Melody: Me and Lea have been fleshing out the character's world a bit more, and I'm very happy to keep developing Rik to get him to a stage where I'd be happy to write a pilot script for my TV Show idea. Until then I'm always on the lookout for more development opportunities, and maybe different ways I could explore the character. I'm currently self publishing my own comic books and zines, so maybe Rik might pop up in a comic or cartoon!
Lily Levin, Harry May-Bedell and Melody Sproates took part in the Scratch Me 2020 character development lab delivered by Film Hub North’s BFI NETWORK team in partnership with Screen Yorkshire and SIGN (Screen Industries Growth Network).
Image credit: (1) Lily Levin, Harry May-Bedell and Melody Sproates. L-R. (2) Scratch Me 2020 short film, MONSTER - written by Harry May-Bedell, directed by Lily Levin (3) Scratch Me 2020 short film, PORK SCRATCHINGS - written by Melody Sproates, directed by Lea Judge.