Happy Wednesday everyone! Last week, I had the chance to catch up with Jay MacGregor and Vicky MacRae who we worked with for WIP1 back in September for Tales of the Witch. With last Thursday being six months since WIP1, it was lovely to get to catch up with them and see what they have been up to since.
It’s been almost six months since we worked on Tales of the Witch together, could you give us a little overview of what you have been up to so far?
Jay has been applying for various student-led projects based in the Central Belt. She’s happy with the level of feedback given on each audition and it has been a great opportunity to network with other emerging artists based in Scotland. You may remember a previous blogpost where we plugged Jays YouTube channel, where she posts lots of her creative ideas. She talked briefly about the challenges and rewards of building your brand and community on an online platform. If you haven’t checked it out already, we highly recommend that you do.
Vicky now has her own website to document her recent work, so you can keep up to date with what she’s been up to. She is also working alongside Laura (Vivid Roots Co-Founder and Director) on creative learning workshops around Highland schools hosted by Dogstar. Vicky has experience already working with the Junior Florians, but comments that this experience has boosted her confidence in leading a workshop. From this, she has also landed a role working with the youth theatre at Eden Court.
What are your personal goals?
Vicky would love to be working in theatre full time, defining this as a salaried or regularly paid role, alongside her freelance work. She highlights workshops and stage management as her main points of interest in the future.
Jay focuses on acting and the creative aspects of the industry, citing her YouTube channel as the source that keeps her creativity. She would like to branch out her channel into more theatre performance elements, performing monologues online. Jay also lives with fibromyalgia and would like a job that would be accommodating to that. I asked Jay if she felt comfortable speaking a little more about what she, as a performer, would like to see in the industry to be more accommodating to people with disabilities.
She named three areas where there needs to be some responsibility taken: the performer, the director/production team and representation. The performer has the responsibility to be upfront and honest about their capabilities from day one and keep communicating if these capabilities change. This allows for the director to adapt rehearsals to suit the performer if they are struggling physically in the performance space. However, responsibility also falls on the director to listen to their performers needs. This may mean changing the rehearsal plan to allow your performer to recover, respect their boundaries and when those boundaries change as well as keeping that open communication going throughout so the performer feels comfortable voicing if/when they are struggling to the director. She also touched on that she would like to see more disabled roles in theatre, especially ones played by disabled actors. Representation is important, and Jay would like to see more disabled artists being seen onstage and considered for parts.
What fuels you as an artist?
Vicky finds with workshops that seeing her pupils get excited over a new idea is what drives her. She loves watching them get really immersed in the work they produce and loves identifying areas where they can really shine. She also adds that she loves writing, specifically writing for herself and not for any particular goal or deadline. She finds it very freeing and it gives her time to explore the piece in whichever way she wants to in the moment.
We’ve already touched on Jay’s YouTube channel, which keeps her creativity engaged regularly. For acting, Jay likes reading and watching plays and movies that really inspire her. It drives her to try new things and go for new projects.
Both also elaborate that it doesn’t matter if what you write/record right now isn’t great. As long as you are engaging yourself creatively, you are developing your practice and doing something you love. You can always come back to an idea if it may be useful later, but it’s better to have it written now.
How are you navigating your way through the industry?
Vicky admits to struggling with rejection from many of the things she has applied for, but still keeps an eye on things such as Creative Scotland opportunities page and various facebook groups. She also knows that something good will come and nothing you are doing currently is a waste of time. She talks about the challenges of not feeling dejected when it doesn’t work out and reflects that each experience is an opportunity to grow and hone your skills. You also mentions briefly that you have to be specific in what you’re looking for. Apply to jobs that play to your strengths.
Jay points out that if you don’t try, you’ll never know. So take risks, try everything, send emails and see what comes back. Jay feels like she’s still at the start of trying to navigate the industry, so she’s focused on gaining the experience and evidence of what she can do (student films, which leads to footage for showreels, etc).
If you had a limitless budget to do whatever you wanted creatively, what would you do?
Jay agrees in the disparity between the Highlands and the Central Belt. She also feels that there’s less general support in the Highlands, which manifests as there being less respect for it as a viable career. She thinks there should be more belief and faith in what can be achieved in the Highlands (in terms of the creative industries) because there is a wealth of talent, it just needs the support.
Vicky would rent out the Royal Court in London, hire all of her major theatre inspirations (due to being excited over the prospect, we could only name Simon Stephens for definite), to create one of her many wonderful ideas that she’s had for a long time. She would spend as long as she liked on the rehearsal and development stage to make it perfect and then let people see if for free.
Jay would do a National Theatre-esque (think Danny Boyle’s Frankenstein with Benedict Cumberbatch) all-female production of Shawshank Redemption, where she would like to play Andy. It’s one of her favourite movies but she’s always thought it’d be interesting to put it on stage and genderbend the characters. (Interviewers note: I am inclined to agree).
What is it like being an emerging artist in the Highlands?
Vicky says it’s hard because the pool of opportunities is much smaller and it doesn’t feel like there’s the same wealth of opportunity to get the foot in the door, so to speak. Especially compared to further down south. However, it is also excellent as it means that everyone up here knows each other. This leads to being recommended for opportunities you didn’t think possible if you prove yourself reliable enough. It doesn’t feel like a feasible full time career.
We came up with a concept of a freelance artist ‘phonebook’, where any artist in the Highlands could sign up and connect with each other, or companies or small projects and find/make work that way. This was a quick brainstorm idea to combat the lack of short-term contracts that there seem to be a plethora of in the Central Belt that allow people to jump from project to project seamlessly. We could also use a company like the Traverse or the Tron, a professional company that makes work and give opportunities to emerging artists in the area.
Keep up to date with Jay and Vicky to see what exciting things they come up to next! And thank you to both for speaking with me, always a pleasure!