• Ryan J Harvey, Director/Producer/Writer

Mama’s Special Spaghetti - Cast Announcement and Crew Call!

If you haven’t seen Michael’s film, Off Your Head, it’s doing really well. It landed into the International Quarantine Film Festival and the Lockdown Film Festival, and has had a wonderful response from you guys. Very happy, very proud, and now it's time for me to grab the mic and invite you guys to help me make something of my own. (Skip to Crew Call for the juicy information)

During this time in lockdown, I’ve been lucky to have the time to work on a few scripts I’ve been meaning to write for ages, and others coming straight up from the situations we’re in now.

One script I’ve written recently as from the heart as I can is a lovely family comedy entitled Mama’s Special Spaghetti.

A mother teaching her son how to cook the family recipe via video call gets trapped in the garage and her sons must help guide her out to finish the dish.

It's quick, busy, silly, but touches on the themes of lossed loved ones, reflection, and spending time with the people who matter to you most while you can.

It’s very much based on the relationships with my family and our lives, whilst focusing on the conflict between loneliness and helplessness which has been felt in this pandemic, with the additional connectivity we may have now because we’ve got to put the extra effort in to communicate with our families. - I dunno, it’s one I’m passionate about, and very much a gift to my family and hopefully to yours.

This script was written for BBC InterConnected, and did not get through but with nearly 7000 entrants and some amazing sounding winners, it’s no wonder it didn’t get much further.

The BBC did release this feedback for all entrants which I advise any aspiring writer to take a look at. But whilst I feel it was a tight story, with some great characters and dialogue, and a nice emotional monologue slammed in there, the story is about a mother and her children, and while I gave names to all the children, in my submitted draft I left the mother as “Mum”.

I had sent the script round friends to read and had received great feedback, but not one commented on this simple flaw and I guess, having written it from my perspective, it made sense to leave that as “Mum”. Certainly made for quick and easy writing. But the feedback given was that it leaves quite a 2-D character. Initially, I was hurt being judged purely on a name not the story, action or dialogue. Then before sending it through to the actor I wanted to play the mother, wanting to put aside my reaction and heed the advice given, I used find and replace and changed the name to Janet.

And I saw the story through her eyes.

An inevitable part of the filmmaking process, I love playing around with each character’s story and perspective that it's the road I would’ve gone down. But doing this made it SO much easier to see everything. Her life opened up before my eyes. In many ways it mirrored that moment in adulthood when you realise that your parents aren’t just your parents, they’re people too with their own lives, fears and emotions. Realisations like this in just the process, not even the writing or final result, is what makes filmmaking such an unbelievably fun vocation to follow.

But name your characters folks, they have a right to their own identity damn it.

A few weeks on and I’m actually really happy to share that the family are already cast! It’s a wonderfully talented group to which I feel lucky to be working with. Playing the mother, Janet, is the wonderful Sarah Varnam, Principle of PQA Northampton. We’ve worked together for years as part of the Pauline Quirke Academy, a great weekend drama academy for children aged 6 to 18, and she has looked after me in so many ways she’s almost like a second mother to me anyway. Whilst working together we always wanted to collaborate and now we have our chance!

Playing the older brother Martin is another brilliant drama educator and performer, Nic Harvey. Nic actually runs Nottingham’s TV Workshop which specialises in training young actors for the stage and screen, and has pumped out great alumni like Vicky McClure, Joe Dempsey and Jack O'Connell. Just to remind you, there isn’t any real relation between me and Nic that we know of.

Out of the TV Workshop Nic has actually introduced me to Alec Boaden, one of his students who after sending through an amazing audition tape I knew he’d be perfect for the younger brother Craig. I knew I wanted to work with either Nic or Sarah’s students for the last role but I had no idea Nic would help me cast it so quickly!

I’ve also squeezed myself on the bill as Liam, the hapless son learning to cook, and together we make a happy family.

Anyway, let's get down to business.

Crew Call:

I’m moving this into some sort of lockdown production, and I am sending an open invitation for other people to join the family and have some fun with us too.

This is, however, a complete passion project and a bit of fun whilst we’re still waiting for the new normal to arrive. I have no money, just love and adoration for your help.

In short, these are unpaid roles.

Although this project will be done adhoc and through video calls and mobile phones, I am looking for a few people to help give a more professional polish by using some smart filmmaking techniques when appropriate, I am on the lookout for:

Production Designer/Art Director

There is a particular moment in the script in which certain props are needed, and I could use some help bringing them together and making them. I also love collaborating on the costume and set design so it’s fun to work with what restrictions we have.

Desired skills: Photoshop necessary. Prop making is a bonus.

To apply please read through the initial slides and send a cover letter with your CV to contact@thempeskykids.co.uk with the subject line Spaghetti Production.

Editor/ Colourist

I’m using phone footage but I always like to play with things as much as I can. I’ve got some ideas on how to make sure this is a unique take on the video call premise in terms of how we display that information and make sure performances are tight. I would love to work with someone with comical timing willing to bring their own ideas to the table too!

To apply please read through the initial slides and send a cover letter with your CV to contact@thempeskykids.co.uk with the subject line Spaghetti Edit


Music is really important to me and I have a pretty good idea of some of the instruments and themes I want to play with when it comes to bringing music into this film. This is a 10 minute short but singular notes can be used to highlight comical moments, and I want a few motifs set up for the big impact towards the end.

To apply please read through the initial slides and send a cover letter with your CV to contact@thempeskykids.co.uk with the subject line Spaghetti Music

Cover letters do not need to be super professional. I want to hear what you think from the first few pages and what you’ve read on this blog, what makes you passionate and what you can bring to this story.

You can download the script extract here.

Considering how white and male the cast is (this is my story based on my very male family), I want to heavily invite women, people from BAME backgrounds and within the LGBT community to apply for these roles.

These are not a role for people I’ve worked with before (sorry I love you all), but a good reason to branch out and work with some new faces so please apply if you’ve not worked with us or are changing position.

Alright, cool well, I look forward to hearing from anyone who is interested.

Thanks for reading and I am really excited to share this film with everyone when it’s done.

Here’s some tasty links for you if you missed them in the text:

BBC Feedback - https://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/writersroom/entries/6fe9aed9-06c4-44a3-8a67-c9e09cc7c700

Pauline Quirke Academy - https://www.pqacademy.com/

TV Workshop - https://www.thetelevisionworkshop.co.uk/

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