Saturday 7 January 2012

The Hollywood Sitcom Trials

Thanks to the BBC website, here's a blast from the past, remembering the first Hollywood Sitcom Trials.

Bristol's Sitcom Trials Cross the Pond to Hollywood

By guest contributor Theresa Roche

It all began in Bristol for "The Sitcom Trials" a forum for writers and actors who wanted to test new drama scripts in front of a voting audience.

Created and presented by Kev F Sutherland the "Trials" grew from strength to strength with the best scripts being taken to a central London venue for further whittling down to select the winning scripts which were then made into a comedy show.

Not only has this proved a cracking opportunity for Bristol actors and playwrights but Kev has now taken the concept to Hollywood.

At the London show, a lady called Carmen Lynne from Los Angeles was sitting in the audience. She also happened to have a theatre built into her home in California.

She loved the show and thought that the concept would work in America where it hasn't been tried yet and so she invited Kev to come to Los Angeles to work with professional actors in staging a "Hollywood Sitcom Trials".

So Kev flew to Hollywood at the end of March. It was to prove a very different experience from directing in Britain. Hollywood, as the ultimate magnet for actors, naturally boasts some dauntingly impressive CVs and Kev was staggered by the high calibre of the actors.

Tinseltown dreams

Hollywood is also, of course, the city of broken dreams and, as Kev got to talk to the actors, he realised that in his own words:"There were about the same number of actors there as there are in Britain who had had to play 'Santa' last Christmas for a job".

So how did American humour accommodate itself to British scriptwriting? Kev found that, surprisingly, it was not the difference in humour itself which proved challenging but rather the deceptive similarity of "English" and "American English".

He took with him only the top winning scripts which had provoked hilarity on stage and screen in Britain. Even so, certain phrases such as "job lot" were incomprehensible to the Americans who would call it "ship load" instead. "We had to do some translation," Kev explained.

American interpretation of characterisation was also very different from the Bristol actors' interpretation. Kev found that it still worked as comedy and the comic timing for laughs from the audience worked the same way it had in Bristol.

The dedication and enthusiasm of the American actors leads Kev to comment: "I had more satisfaction in the space of a week than I have had for ages."

The final show was a great success. Sitting in the audience who should there be but yes, you've guessed it, in true fairy tale tradition, a Hollywood television producer who expressed an interest in televising "The Sitcom Trials" in America. Negotiatons for this project are currently taking place with Kev.

last updated: 22/04/05

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