Catherine Watling - Director (Neon Moon) and performer (Ruby Truelove)
Blog by Samantha Adamson - Black Cravat
(Photographer, Documenter and Creative Professional)
DAY 1. Residency at Cambridge Junction - J3
Doing – being smug Mexicans
Making – Ben is making his sticker mustache into eyebrows
Eating – Mexican food
Drinking – Corona
Feeling – like winners
It started with a name and a concept that seemed both wonderfully simple and bafflingly complicated.
The Electric Rodeo Circus.
“Together we will create a unique circus-inspired vaudevillian Theatre show that incorporates responsive projection and sound.
The Electric Rodeo Circus will be unique to any other touring show. It will be a fusion of complex but accessible AV technology, international caliber circus and cabaret acts and sumptuous vintage aesthetics”
That is how Catherine sold this to me.
So without the first clue on how you would go about doing any of this, what complex AV technology was or how and when any of this would actually happen, I said, “Alright Catherine! I’m in!”
I work with Catherine at her Neon Moon Club Events.
I was well aware that if Catherine had an idea she wanted to make happen, one way or another, at some point or another, there was a very good chance that it would probably happen.
Sure enough, about a year and a half later here seven of us are out to dinner.
We are fully embracing the complimentary costumes that come with a night out at Chiquitos.
It’s been over two years of collaborating with The Neon Moon club and I have come to terms with the fact that when around with this crowd, politely declining the offer of a good sombrero and stick on mustache just isn’t a thing.
I think we are all still a little shocked that we got here.
You don’t often find money to fund a creative idea.
Generally, you have to find your own way of funding the making of it. After that you just cling to the hope that you find somebody who loves it and wants to give you money for it.
But what happens if your whole idea to create something relies on an opportunity to experiment with equipment and space that you just do not have? And what if you don’t even really know if this idea will work unless you can try it out?
We spend some time pondering and discussing this over burritos and Coronas.
We admire each others obligatory sombrero selfies and decide on our social network hash tag handle.
Tonight we are a group of very smug Arts Council funded artists embracing our Mexican alter-egos; secure in the knowledge that we have unlocked the door to a creative playground and have a little bag of gold to see us through.
DAY 2. Residency at Cambridge Junction - J3
Making – The most incredible show in the world
Eating - Brownies, crisps and bananas
Drinking – sub standard coffee without enough milk
Feeling - inspired
I light some incense. I drink tea from a pretty little pot. I listen to the same well loved acoustic playlist I have listened to for years
It can be a nice time for me!
But if I want to experiment with something bigger than the capabilities of my camera, MacBook and coffee table I need to find the money to fund it.
That can be impossible.
Like most, I don’t have a ‘chase your arty dreams’ fund.
But making Art in these circumstances is a very different process indeed.
Things escalate very quickly.
The floor is scattered with paper scrawled with ideas, sharpie pens, rough sketch drawings of costumes, props and background scenes.
We have played with a little projector and tested the effectiveness of projected imagery on various surfaces and materials.
We have made lists of equipment and props we may need, of people who may be able to help us.
We have played with sound and light and even had a crack at some small scale responsive video effects.
Our ideas have gone from grand to gargantuan in a mere few hours.
Every “how could we make THIS happen?” question has been answered by someone. Every perceived problem has seen someone suggest a solution.
Together we have come up with the basis for a show that goes way beyond anything I even knew we would be capable of doing.
This kind of working with people, creating real ideas with people is new to me. It's exciting.
I feel like this is what I have been missing in my little process.
With the tune of “things are better when we are together” In my head I am ready to make my way home.
I have a large reading list to get through and a Pinterest board to update.
Doing- experimenting with projectors and AV-technology
Making – first run through of the acts
Eating – brownies, rice cakes and grapes
Drinking – crap coffee
Feeling – chuffed to be a Go-Pro owner.
It’s a lot like Christmas.
I walk in the door and get this thrown (in a very delicate cause its really expensive kind of way) into my hands.
Meet “Black Cam one”
Thank you Arts Council!
I’ll be using this little beauty to both document what we are doing and create visual footage for the show and social media.
If I can figure out how to switch it on…
I am a bit excited and very very scared I will break it. I decide to pack that little gem in its protective case, go against my natural compulsion to just ‘figure it out’ and start with the instruction manual.
One of my personal goals on this project is to begin experimenting with moving images.
I love still images but I am curious to see what else I can do with pictures.
I often find myself being very impressed by quirky animation and creative GIF’s.
This morning Matt is conducting a lesson in an introduction to Adobe After Effects software for us all.
Adobe After Effects is an editing program designed for making animation.
I have never used it before.
So I am all over this.
As someone who taught herself how to use Adobe Photoshop over an estimated 12,775 hours of internet tutorials and trial and error, I am well aware of the benefits of having a software expert’s brain to pick in person!
As well as the Go-Pro we have an abundance of super cool stuff to play with today.
Sound and music effects
Part of the beauty of this project is although we may think this might work, we need to test if this stuff will actually work, in a practical sense in front of an audience.
For me this is terribly exciting. I’ve got a room of interesting people in beautiful costumes to photograph and to top it off we are also adding projected images into the scene and I have NEVER DONE ANYTHING LIKE THIS BEFORE.
I have no idea how it will look, I have no idea what images I will leave with.
I do know that just by being here with the access to this equipment I have a rare chance to create something a little different.
I look up to see that Ben and Alex have projected giant video clips of their heads onto the wall.
I am home after two days of creative boot camp.
It’s all been a blur of ..well .. everything!
Have you ever just wanted to make something and find yourself stumbling?
If you have an active interest in any area of Art (and I’ll just go ahead and assume you might since you are here!) then you know that the WANT to make something beautiful can be quite frustrating.
What is even more frustrating is when you have an AMAZING idea but can't do anything about it because you don't have a.. 20ft tall human heart projected onto a wall, for example!
Well, this residency … it’s been like the total opposite feeling to that feeling.
There have literally been too many possibilities to keep up with.
Right now it feels like if we can think it, we can make it happen.
Could we see what Hula Hoop light trails look like in front of a giant human heart? - "no problem"
We need a beautiful woman dangling from the ceiling - "Sure!"
A sound track of creepy unsettling whispers in the background would be perfect here - "i'll just knock one up for you"
The only thing we have been lacking in is time.
Here are some images i have made from this absolute dream of a day!
Doing – Chillin at the Blue-shed
Making – Plans for Theatre domination
Eating – Oaties and Olives!
Drinking – Pretty decent coffee
Smells like - Stage lights (it's a bit like the smell of electric)
Feeling – Focused on the A-game.
Welcome to Blueshed
Blue-Shed Studios in Soham is an awesome little studio space with a wealth of stage and lighting management knowledge and steady supply of confectionary goods and decent coffee.
We even have a pair of comfy sofas here. I had a ridiculously late night/early start today so am overly appreciative of the home comforts.
We have access to mirrored rehearsal space, sound recording equipment and the wonderful brain of Nigel, our long suffering sound and lighting technician in this project and Catherine's Neon Moon events .
We are spending this time planning and rehearsing the acts in a little more depth.
Both Catherine and Daisy have made some decisions on music and costumes for their acts.
Hearing the tracks they have chosen literally make me squeal with excitement because they are (in my opinion) absolutely perfect!
Everyone has been busy on their own time and even more exciting ideas for the show have surfaced.
We have a talk about venues and festivals we want to approach to perform in and my heart does a little flutter because I haven't even been lucky enough to see inside some of these places never mind help create a headlining show to perform in them.
Halloween is a busy time in this industry.
We all have a a lot of work on this month and we know when we next meet we will be showcasing our work so far to a representative of our sponsor.
Making – As much as we possibly can as quickly as we possibly can
Eating – No time to eat!
Drinking – Coffee (obvs)
Feeling – A little panicked
The countdown to showcase
The whole room we were in last time has been completely transformed into a small scale theatre production area! We even have Ariel support on the ceiling for Daisy.
Tomorrow evening Mr Daniel Pitt will be viewing what we have made so far.
This is a little nerve racking.
Daniel Pitt is a bit important.
We get straight on it.
We are all working on footage for the acts today.
All of the acts are completely intertwined with visual effects so in order for us to give any kind of rough showing to anyone - we need to make some visual effects!
Des and Ben are recording footage and sound for both Des's opening song and Ben's act.
Me and Daisy spend most of the day filming her hoop routine whilst Matt creates animated trail effects from it. Catherine has had her head in finale cut pro creating film footage for projections and i have barely seen her.
I don't have to tell you how exciting this is - just look at their little faces!
Making – A showcase for 5pm
Eating – Biscuits mostly
Drinking – can after can of carbonated drinks
Feeling – like we are dancing in a sand-timer
We are all feeling pretty good this morning. We all continued working at home last night and everyone has arrived having made even more progress and with fresh ideas.
Like yesterday we are all still manically getting finishing touches onto our footage. We decide on a run through for the show and all bow to the GENIUS introduction song that has blossomed from Desmond's amazing mind over night.
We plan, we rehearse, we devise, we panic, we don't eat very much, or breathe much and we rehearse again.
I took some shots of the showcase in action.
It was rugged and it was raw.
no-one is asking for their grant money back..
It was a success!!!