#296 – Steven Griffin
Steven Griffin is a Canadian filmmaker and theatre creator. He is currently based in Toronto. He has directed numerous projects, including short films that have seen screenings at the Boston Shorts Film Festival, Toronto Arthouse Film Festival and Kingston Canadian Film Festival. His theatre work has been shown at the Toronto Fringe Theatre Festival, Toronto Queer Theatre Festival and soon to be the Hamilton Fringe Festival. His style revolves around the still and the deliberate, based firmly in an art history background and trusting that the decision to not do something within a frame is just as important as the choice to do something.
Steven Griffin, Phil Rickaby
Phil Rickaby 00:01
Welcome to Episode 296 of Stageworthy, I’m your host Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights and more. If you’ve enjoyed this podcast, please consider supporting it. You could do that in a few ways. For example, you can do that by making a donation either one time or continuing to the tip jar. I’ve put a link to that in the show notes, which you can find on the website or on your podcast app. Or you can buy some merch at the new online store, shop.stageworthyproductions.com. In the store you’ll find Stageworthy t shirts, mugs, stickers, as well as merch from some of my other projects, including the much coveted “God chose me to deliver his new commandment and all I got was this stupid t shirt” t shirt from my solo play The Commandment. All your purchases and tip jar donations go towards Stageworthy and help me continue to bring you great conversations in Canadian theatre. And if you can’t donate or buy from the store, please consider rating and reviewing the show. If you listen on Apple podcasts, you can do that right in the podcast app. But if you don’t listen on Apple podcasts, you can still review the show by going to podchaser.com, searching for Stageworthy and rating the podcast there. Thanks for listening and thank you for your support. You can find stage worthy on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @stageworthypod and you can find the website with the archive of all 296 episodes at stageworthypodcast.com and if you want to drop me a line, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @philrickaby and My website is philrickaby.com. My guest this week is Steven Griffin. Steven is the playwright and director of Black Deer in Blizzard, which appears as part of the Hamilton fringe starting July 14. So I wanted to talk to you a little bit about Black Deer in Blizzard, I had the privilege of talking to a couple of your actors just a couple of weeks ago, as I record this a couple weeks ago. And they were talking about the show, we talked about a whole lot of stuff. But I wanted to ask you about about black deer and Blizzard, can you give me the elevator pitch for the show?
Steven Griffin 02:36
Oh, yeah, sure. So I’d say that the elevator pitch for black deer and Blizzard is it’s a show about sort of truth and authenticity within a newsroom sort of driven by, you know, individuals such as, like me and you, it’s kind of what I’d say is is the elevator pitch for because like, in in its earliest form, this script in this script in the story in particular has taken on a lot of different forms, as we’ve, as we’ve been moving through it, but it always kind of started off with this basis of some level of forgery, and authenticity, originally sort of focusing more in the art world, but now it sort of transitioned more over towards the kind of like newsroom and new media and all that kind of stuff. So the main focal point was very much around that idea of you know, the the merit of a forgery, or the merit of false information when it comes down to the feeling or the experience that it’s giving someone who’s ingesting it in a sense, and whether or not the authenticity of whatever it is that they’re experiencing is actually significant. If it’s still giving them the particular I guess emotions that they would want to experience are the kind of fulfilling the ideas that they have in their mind and already or their biases or whatnot. So yeah, we’re kind of it’s the show sort of evolved very much from a sort of more art driven, sort of like high art, mostly like painting oriented world into something that feels a little bit more salient, at least now in terms of sort of being acknowledging that, especially in a local news capacity, as soon as you in a small town capacity, you know, like these sort of, in a lot of cases, I feel like people would sort of view you know, global news stations or, you know, these global news conglomerates as the sort of like, total entities that all kind of have, I guess, like, you know, with this sort of long functioning pipeline, and in a lot of ways, it’s true, but at the same time, it’s still made up of individual people all with their own biases, their own motivations towards things and their own reasons for doing things. So we kind of wanted to really focus in on the AI have, like a local news station that is, you know, very much driven by the people who work there who live in this town. But at the same time, those people themselves have their own wants and their needs and their desires and how, you know, in in a worst case scenario, the sort of significant news that you would be relying on could possibly be manipulated to better serve the people who are giving it to you for, I guess, very human reasons, similar to, you know, the way that you know, other people, not in the news, you know, would desire for, you know, a better job or, you know, moving out of a town or an upgrade in some respects. So, yeah,
Phil Rickaby 05:43
yeah, one of the interesting things about about, you know, you think about, like local news, and how small towns at once I’m ever in a small town had its own little newspaper.
Steven Griffin 05:53
Phil Rickaby 05:54
And that’s happening less and less. And even more, so every small town once had its own radio station. And now sometimes they have a transmitter that picks up stuff from other places, and transmits them, they might do a little bit of a news thing during the day, but it’s not, they don’t have their own programming so much anymore. So the nature of news is, has been changing a lot over the last few years. Have you? Have you given any thought any thought to that in this project?
Steven Griffin 06:26
Yeah, absolutely. I think that it’s, it’s Yeah, it’s really interesting. There’s sort of a lot of these little news stations as they kind of caught up we’ve we’ve had the opportunity to talk with a lot of sort of smaller local stations, both in Canada and in the US, in doing research for this project. And talking with them as well has been interesting, because especially from like a newspaper, newspaper perspective, obviously, you know, moving over towards digital media, newsprint is sort of going out of fashion, a little bit quicker. But in a lot of cases, at least, this sort of smaller town reporting, like it is very much predicated on the individual reporters being able to sort of go out and get the work that they need. And in a lot of cases, sometimes they’ll go on assignment, but for the most part, they’re kind of the ones out there looking for things. And, you know, a lot of times those sort of bigger stories, people sometimes that just end up kind of stumbling into, and then it’s about sort of how much longevity, you can kind of get out of those stories. So I feel like there’s something very, there’s something very like personally driven about having a lot of your work predicated on what you’re able to find, and what you’re able to sort of create out of like the sort of small town setting that you might be in, which is sort of one of the things that in the basis of the show, you know, we kind of framed it in this, sort of like, West Coast, like failing fishing town, where a lot of the industry is just kind of dried up, and people have moved away and whatnot. So at least for a lot of our characters, it’s harder and harder to really find those super substantive stories that would be able to get eyes looking towards, you know, this small town or looking towards the station in particular, which in a lot of cases is gonna make things difficult to build up any kind of real, or any kind of, like, substantial credibility, without sort of kind of abandoning this smaller town with maybe a little bit less going on and moving to somewhere with a little bit more happening. But obviously, there’s a lot of caveats with that as well, in terms of, you know, whether it’s monetarily or competition wise, or sort of networking wise, and who, you know, in terms of being able to get out of that town that you’re in. So, yeah, we, you know, we had the opportunity to talk with some really great people in the process for this show. So it’s been a really interesting and very fulfilling experience to kind of do a lot of the research and and build it into the show itself.
Phil Rickaby 09:00
Yeah, it’s funny, I grew up in a small town or my teen years, in a relatively small town. And it had a newspaper. So you know, so call it, which, I mean, there was a small town, there wasn’t a whole lot going on. So they would like mostly it was filled with like, special interest stories, but its entire function was advertising. It was like it was had more advertising, then editorial, or stories or anything else. It was entirely made up of advertising. So much so that pretty much everybody on the street I lived on was like, I’m tired of this. It’s just like getting flyers every day. It wasn’t even a daily paper. It was like every couple of days or something or every week. And it was like just like, how many ads can we squeeze into this thing? And so everybody just sort of was giving up on it. Cuz there’s no actual content, except for the advertisements.
Steven Griffin 09:58
Yeah. And I think I think that’s definitely sort of, there’s an aspect of that, like in in the show itself in particular, again, it’s, it’s this sort of like, especially in the context of something that’s maybe a little bit less regulated as like a local news station, because again, like, I don’t know, I’m sure you’ve seen plenty of like news, blooper reels on user, whatever compilations and stuff like that. And the majority of them all come from these small relatively localised news stations, because in a lot of cases, you know, like, not everyone has the the sort of, I guess, like the the wide spanning audience have something like a CNN or CNBC or whatever it might be. So the budgets for the local stations kind of vary depending on the viewership that they get. So in a lot of cases, I feel like at least when it comes to those kinds of bloopers and whatnot, it sort of ends up coming down to, I guess, the oversight of it, and the people sort of on the ground, day to day really running the station as a whole. Yeah, so So yeah, I mean, it, there’s an element of the sort of, there’s an element of like, that idea of, you know, sort of filling this newspaper with advertisements, moreso than the actual news for the sake of kind of keeping it alive, and very much sort of exists, in a sense within the show itself, of just like, kind of having to do what you need to do, and possibly coming to a point where the station itself, even though it is based on having to, you know, explain the news, either locally or globally to this small town, in particular, kind of ends up inherently serving a different purpose based on the people who are actually within it, running it on the day to day and the things that they need to do, because it’s a business like anything else, and these people need to survive, and they need to, you know, keep their livelihoods going. And they all have their sort of own motivations behind what they’re doing, which is obviously going to affect in this case affect how the news is going to be coming out to the general public that they’d be sending it out to, which I feel like in a lot of cases is a lot more substantive in terms of the long term effects that it can do and the will or the long term effects that it can have in the short term effects that it can have then doing something say in, in some other kind of business, right?
Phil Rickaby 12:25
Yeah. Um, now, you mentioned like, you mentioned the evolution of the play and how it dealt a lot of the beginning in the art world from talking with the with, with the actresses before, it was we know, I know that it involves the art world, what’s, what’s your connection to the art world, and what drew you to that as, as sort of like a Genesis for this story.
Steven Griffin 12:50
I’m a, I’m a massive art history nerd. It was kind of it was funny, when I was in university, I, I mainly studied film with a history minor, but I took some art history classes as well, because I kind of I don’t know, I just had sort of an initial kind of curiosity about it. Because I’d always been a fan of going to art galleries and museums and whatnot, when I was a kid, and I just like fell in love with it entirely. And I feel like it kind of from that capacity, sort of like, learning that I liked art history very much came from the basis of learning that I liked film as well, because film to me very much functions as an amalgamation of a lot of other different art forms, including art history. So now, art history is something that I sort of study equally as intensely as the sort of other artistic mediums purely for the sake of it being able to be something that I can kind of add to my lexicon when it comes to doing film or theatre, in terms of reference points in terms of composition in terms of colour in terms of inspiration, but it sort of started there, and then the initial, the initial sort of idea for the show, was very, very different. And was sort of predicated initially on this idea of, of a sort of Francisco Goya esque character who had recently died and was leaving his I guess, all of his materials or whatnot to these three different women in his life. And the whole show sort of focused around the well being read out in terms of who was getting what and the conflicts that sort of arise over that. And I think that the nature of it from a I guess from a more like painting or like I guess yeah, from a more like painterly standpoint, very much came from the idea of whether or not the genuine article in a like painterly context really has a lot of money. If you know that it’s the genuine article or not. And one of the things that sort of helped evolve from what the initial pitch was into something like this was Orson Welles is documentary F for fake, which is really fantastic movie kind of following. This one art forger who lives in a bheatha, who is like, I guess, like the Primo Picasso forger. And his sort of kind of interesting takes on the art world and how it is that it seems as though in a lot of cases, the only real way we know, at least from like a very sort of high society art perspective that something has merit is when people within that industry say it has merit. And if you can kind of get past them in terms of whether your work is genuine or fake, then whatever they sort of decide on, so if you like kind of have your fake painting, but then the art critics don’t really see anything wrong with it, and they call it the genuine article, then they tell everybody else, that it’s a genuine article. And then when they look at it, the general public just assumes that it is the genuine article and whatever experience they take from that, is there the experience they have with what they think is the genuine piece of art. But you know, it to be told that that piece is fake, it kind of comes down to whether or not that actually matters in the grand scheme of things, if it gave you the experience that it gave you, or saying that it’s fake or real negates that emotional experience that emotional response that you had. So that’s kind of the basis of where the show started in terms of what is the effect of the truth and knowing what the truth is, and sort of being directly lied to. And the experience of, I guess, like the perceived truth that you have, and then learning the appropriate truth, and whether or not that sort of changes the feelings you had initially. And that question kind of evolves from the question evolved out of a sort of more painterly artistic capacity into something a little bit more personal, and again, a little bit more relevant and a little bit more substantive in terms of the damage that could be done with it moving into, like a newsroom capacity, compared to, I guess, like a gallery capacity.
Phil Rickaby 17:28
As a as somebody who is who’s, you know, you sort of have described yourself as sort of like, you know, having this love of film being a film guy studying film. Was this always going to be a play? Or was it one time when you first started conceiving of it? Was it possibly going to be a film?
Steven Griffin 17:43
Personally, I kind of like to keep my my film and theatre work relatively separate. I’m trying to one of the great like, it’s sort of weird to say, I’m one of the great things about this show, given the sort of state of the world that we live in. But I’m one of the I guess, one of the opportunities that we were able to take advantage of with this show given Coronavirus was the fact that we had to adapt the show into something that was less traditionally theatre. And in a lot of cases, I like to sort of keep my theatre work on my phone work relatively separate, I sort of like to explore different topics, I like to explore different tones, I tend to be, I tend to lean a little bit more comedic in some of my theatre work more so than my film work. But this was a really interesting opportunity because it was something where I couldn’t we couldn’t really get around, not merging the film’s aspects with the theatre aspects. So this show in this show originally was always planned to be a theatre show. But in terms of how we’ve had to adapt it into a sort of more digital platform, it’s been really fun being able to experiment and try to find that balance between something that is both quintessentially film and quintessentially theatre, because I think, for me, the most important part of this was not wanting to just turn this into a film and shoot and how I wouldn’t traditionally as a film, I still wanted to maintain the integrity of it being a theatre show. But it was about finding ways in which I could take advantage of the digital medium that we’d be shooting it in, while still maintaining its integrity as a theatre show. And it was a really great time and I think we struck a really, really strong balance with the show as sort of as it exists right now.
Phil Rickaby 19:37
Can you tell me a bit about walking that line because there is one of the problems with with with this. The you know, having being sort of stuck doing digital theatre, which is on a screen is is is the fact that we’re all struggling with walking that line between film and theatre and how you keep something that’s meant to theatre still feeling like theatre? When it’s on a screen? And you? How do you what, tell me about that line? And how to keep from from going too far over the line into film? And how to keep keep it as theatre?
Steven Griffin 20:15
Mm hmm. Yeah, I, to be honest, I have, I feel very fortunate to sort of come from a decently strong film background, at least in the context of this show. Because I know that in terms of in terms of when we were going over, like, how would we adapt this into a digital format, I didn’t really have any, I didn’t feel like I really had any roadblocks in terms of feeling like I didn’t know which direction to go, I kind of had an idea as to like how I would do the show and how we would shoot the show in a digital format. The second it kind of came up as an option, I think, because of that background that I had. And I have a lot of sympathy and a lot of empathy for a lot of other theatre makers who maybe don’t have that background trying to adapt, given the environment that you found ourselves in. And kind of trying to find this, again, trying to find that middle ground, especially in like a zoom theatre capacity of how exactly do you take advantage of that. There’s actually this grape, I have some friends in a production company, that’s Kingston base called 6am Productions that did a really amazing job creating murder mysteries on zoom, where they effectively use the breakout rooms as like different rooms of the location that they were in. And they would have people sort of cycle through with an individual actor in each of the rooms and kind of very clue esque. And that was something that I saw that I thought was really fantastic. Because it was it was truly like taking advantage of the medium of zoom, to best create as kind of close to somewhat of a theatre experience as possible, instead of just kind of doing sort of like a live reading that I know that a lot of people have done. And I kind of took some inspiration from that. But at least for me, it was in a lot of ways, it was something where I knew that from a digital capacity, I didn’t really want to do anything on zoom, because I knew that I had the ability and the training to be able to very comfortably kind of slip into a I guess a more like film, traditionally film theatre show kind of style. So when we went about sort of threading that line, at least for me, one of the things that I really enjoy about theatre is this sort of inherent artifice of theatre, it’s the fact that in a lot of cases, you know, you’re you’re very present of the fact that you’re in this space, you’re very present of the fact that, you know, we’ve got these lighting, or lighting cues, and you know, everything’s up on a grid, and we’ve got entrances and exits and whatnot, where I feel like in a lot of cases, film is very much in a lot of cases is very much really focused on trying to sell you a very sort of realistic kind of in the moment. story that’s very present and very much like creating a world and I know theatre does that in the same way. But I still feel like in a lot of ways, there’s just again, the presence of being in a space in general, I feel like just creates a sense of inherent artifice of understanding that you’re watching a show. And I think it’s, again, it’s one of my favourite aspects of theatre. Because you can kind of sort of see a lot of that stuff working. And then there’s the moments when you sort of don’t see it working were like really kind of clicks for you. And that was kind of the line that we were trying to tread there where it was sort of like, how do we allow the artifice of theatre to come through, but in a way that still feels quintessentially sort of a part of the show. So what we ended up doing was, instead of going with traditional theatre space, which was the original plan, we actually ended up finding a really great sort of small rehearsal space instead, that has these great vaulted ceilings with wood beams and, and kind of like roughed up walls that felt very fitting for the sort of rundown local news station that we wanted. And we spent a lot of time sort of building out our fixtures and whatnot in there. And what we kind of ended up settling on is this idea that each scene was going to take place in the space in its entirety. And we would effectively be shooting things in long single takes that would then sort of cut on turnarounds so we’d like move to a wall or a curtain or hyper focusing on certain objects and and spin around and then we’d be on to the next scene in the set would be different and we’d sort of merged those cuts in a very light kind of Birdman Revenant sort of way. So that’s kind of what we landed on. And one of the considering that that itself is inherently considering that in itself is inherently very film. In a sense, one of the things that I really wanted to do was really allow the space to have a character, both in universe context as well as sort of an out of universe context. And we did the same with a lot of the fixtures that we had. So we had like a variety of fixtures sort of in the ceiling and as well as kind of planted on the ground or whatnot. But it was something where, when we were moving through, I never wanted to really feel worried about having to like work around fixtures or work around shadows or anything like that. And at least for me, it was something that I found really fun to work with, because it’s incredibly complimentary in a lot of context. And especially now since we’ve, we’ve shot it at this point. So going through the editing process, the sort of presence of these fixtures kind of lends itself to a an in universe capacity of fixtures that would be in a studio, like inherently be in a studio, the wiring, the cabling, all that kind of stuff, the the sort of like the way it’s kind of all sort of scattered across the space in this like messy sort of in universe studio capacity. But at the same time, it also is it is that present artifice that I really wanted to bring in. And then from a film standpoint, it also gives me these this beautiful, these really like beautiful, present practical lights that are giving us from a camera capacity, like really nice flares, a lot of really nice backlight. So we sort of wanted to embrace the space that we had embrace the, the gear that we had, and kind of really aim for that line of allowing that sort of theatrical artifice in to function in both sort of in universe and out of universe context.
Phil Rickaby 26:26
Yeah, I think one of the things that I find interesting is, is the way that we all perceive the way that we have the way that we perceive theatre. Um, I always think about theatre. And you’re right, there’s an artifice to it because we all understand that we are in this room. And we’re not going for necessarily realism because realism doesn’t necessarily work. When I have to project to the back row. There’s also this mat, this wonderful sense of, of suspension of disbelief that an audience in a theatre brings, that they don’t bring to a film. In a film, if I say, and now we’re, we’re in space. And we don’t actually have effects that make it seem like we’re in space, the audience goes, Well, that’s really cheap and shitty, but on in a theatre, if I say no, I’m in space. The audience goes, Okay, or I suppose All right, and they just go with it. And I always find that sort of like this, this wonderful thing about theatre is that the audience just, if you tell them, this is where we are, this is what we’re doing. This is who we are. People just go with it.
Steven Griffin 27:31
Hmm. Yeah, absolutely. And yeah, and I think that, again, I think that suspension of disbelief, and just kind of like, it’s sort of that it’s that initial acknowledgement, when you sort of step in, and then allowing yourself to be like, okay, acknowledged, now, let’s really, like fall into it and kind of, sort of enjoy the ride that this show wants to take us on. And I think that is, that’s inherently a kind of element that we rely on in this as well, because sort of leaning into this idea of, of it inherently being a theatre show, and, you know, sort of having a lot of these elements, very practically placed within the space, it’s almost like this tug of war of kind of being pulled, pulled in and pulled out and pulled in and pulled out but sort of after, like our sort of first scene of setting everything out, and kind of getting an idea of the the soundscapes in this space, and the lights that we’re using, and whatnot, I feel like it’ll be relatively easy for people to kind of forget the fact that they are, you know, looking at all of these, you know, inherently like, just sort of placed lights that are specifically meant to be lighting the show itself and just kind of fall into this idea that, you know, this is a sort of beatab Studio, right? This is this kind of like rundown space where these lights would be present. And even though they are, you know, feeding the space that we need to shoot in with light, you know, they’re still sort of just kind of present and can kind of be forgotten about or be moved past or whatnot. So, yeah, again, it was, it was a really fun experience to be able to kind of find that line.
Phil Rickaby 29:04
Now, one of the things that I love to talk to people about is their theory, artistic origin stories, their, their theatre origin story, like what draws somebody to this particular form. So for you, we’ve talked a little bit about film and it sounds like these things may dovetail but what’s your What? What initially, what was your first exposure to theatre? What made you want to to do things with theatre?
Steven Griffin 29:30
Hmm, yeah, um, yeah, that’s interesting. I, I think, I mean, like to be like, in all transparency, I do consider myself very relatively new to theatre. This is realistically only the second show that I’ve directed and written in a theatrical capacity, which is, again, very exciting, but I I know that I sort of have a lot to a lot of growing and a lot of work to do in terms of experimenting and I think finding my own voice and Theatre in particular. But I, I would say that like from, from baseline capacity again, I was always very interested in film. And I didn’t really know that I wanted to sort of be a writer and director of film until about first year university. And then once that sort of went off, I kind of it kind of steamrolled into other things. And
Phil Rickaby 30:18
I do have to stop you, I have to stop you for one second, because I’m always fascinated by those things that the D Ray people – derail people and send them into the arts. So you didn’t know you were going to be a theatre? a filmmaker into film? So when were you planning to do in university? And how did you get derailed?
Oh, God, I think I was, I think I was gonna probably end up being like a history teacher or history, or whatnot. I always had like, a, I don’t know, as a kid, I wanted to be like a palaeontologist. And I always had a very big interest in, in ancient histories, in particular. So I always focus really heavy in those subjects, in particular, and I had some friends who did some sort of film stuff in high school, and I would like help them with it. But it was never something I really took seriously. And film for me through most of my high school years was just a hobby, I just watched a lot of them, I did a lot of research on them, and whatnot. And then I kind of had a friend in my first year, basically just come over to me early in our first semester and say, Hey, I’m in this film class, like, it’s super fun, you should take it. And I was like, Okay, and then I took the class. And then we’re in the second semester, when I took the second half of the class, we had a, because I was very fortunate to go on an exchange in my first year university to the UK. So we had a, we had a sort of little like film class challenge over the course of one of our sort of field study trips, where he basically said to like, you know, get into groups make a five minute film that includes like this object, this line in this place. And I just kind of decided to do it on a whim, because I thought it would be a lot of fun. And then we ended up sort of winning that kind of small little class competition and won a pizza and some drinks and stuff like that, which was a lot of fun. And that was kind of the thing that sort of spurred me on to wanting to, I guess, study, film and take film in a more serious direction, like from an actual kind of, like, practical production standpoint, versus just like a, I guess, a research and study standpoint. So yeah, so that’s kind of how I ended up getting into that. And then I feel like film for me was always very part and parcel with Theatre in terms of learning how to be a proper director, and I was lucky enough to have a lot of friends in the theatre department in Waterloo in particular. So we kind of sort of bonded over that when I sort of found film and they kind of found theatre and went to see a lot of like, their theatre shows. And, and then my girlfriend at the time, was in that programme, and was one of the actors in a lot of those shows as well. And she kind of like gave me a little bit of a push towards, like, maybe doing it because, you know, she really like she was kind of farther on the other end, where she very much was very, very theatre oriented, but not really very film oriented. So she kind of gave me a bit of a nudge into being like, Oh, you know, like, it’s realistically, it’s kind of the same thing. And I was kind of already sort of deciding that I wanted to try it out. So I kind of just applied to the 2018 Toronto fringe lottery on a whim and just happened to get it. And then I kind of just came to the conclusion, because, you know, most of the time when I apply for things, I don’t expect to actually get any. And then it, it popped up. And I was like, Yeah, okay, and I just sort of, I just just kind of decided to go for it. And
Phil Rickaby 33:42
did you have a project at the time, or were you’re like, Oh, shit, now I got to come up with something
I had, well, actually, funnily enough, like I had some experience writing, I had some experience writing plays, most of them were actually for a housemates of minds theatre class, where I would, I kind of wrote his assignments for him as practice for me. And then he would give me his props feedback on my stuff, his name on it. So it was helpful for a time. But I had, I had like that, I had maybe a couple of drafts of a show, sort of geared up, but like nowhere near 100% ready, but I’ve never been a very patient person. So I kind of just decided to apply for it anyways, and continue to work on the show. So by the time I agreed to do it, he was in a confident enough place where I felt like, okay, I maybe need like another month or two of work on this, and I think we’d be really solid. Sure. And then yeah, and again, my, my girlfriend at the time gave me an introduction to a friend of hers who had directing experience, and we sort of came together and co directed the piece and she she taught me a massive amount. So I’m very, very thankful to her for that. And, and then yeah, and then we ended up doing the show in fringe and it went really well and kind of spurred me on to Want to continue to do the theatre as well as film for the sake of, I guess, stretching and flexing different muscles, and maybe kind of trying to find a way in which I can coalesce both both specific, I guess, like both specific muscle groups, from film and from theatre and kind of merge them together into, I guess, one like, collective like, directing body? I don’t know, this metaphor is kind of falling apart on me a little bit here, I apologize
Phil Rickaby 35:30
Metaphors do that all the time. It’s fine. Um, so, you know, you start doing doing you know, you did you did the French or how was that as as a first fringe experience? How would you? How would you say that that fringe was for you? Because it can be pretty, I mean, doing your first fringe can be pretty stressful and frightening.
Steven Griffin 35:52
Yeah, I mean, like, I, I loved it, like to be completely honest, I’m a, I’m a, I’m a huge fan of the the fringe format. I’ve always been someone who really loves the kind of intense independent spirit of things, especially in film and in theatre and the kind of the sort of make it work mentality. And I really, I really enjoy the work, I really like kind of getting in the dirt and and, and kind of getting your hands dirty and busy with all of the little things that you need to do to kind of cobble the shows together and kind of pulling together a nice, strong, small little team and making it happen. So at least in terms of a first fringe like we we had a it was a two person show, we had, I think, yeah, two person show, we had a four person including myself, like crew that we had more or less and, and it was, and it was, it was just a really, really, it was really great experience, it was stressful, and it was hectic. But by the time, we ended up kind of landing on doing the show, I was just very, I don’t know, it was it was it’s a really nice experience, because it’s something where, and I feel like a lot of people would feel this way in terms of theatre, but it’s, it’s, it’s very momentary, in a lot of senses where like, the show goes up, and it happens, and then it’s over. And that’s kind of it. And, at least for me as, like, as a filmmaker, it’s something where I, for so much of the for so much of my projects, it’s sort of like from conceptual idea, all the way to sort of the final edits and festival submissions and that kind of stuff. So it can be like a lot more long winded of a process. And by the time you get to the point where the the actual short is finished, or let’s say hypothetically, like the short at this point is done, then it starts to you know, get sent out to festivals or whatnot, and you’re still waiting, like, you know, months and months to sort of hear back from these things and finding out if it’s gonna get screened. So in a lot of cases, it feels like the project has a lot longer of a life. But it was really nice, being able to just sort of have this condensed set of time to really like buckle down and focus in on the work and get really granular with a lot of things and sort of have that stress and have that have that anxiety around it. But then by the time the show shows up, it’s just kind of out of your hands. And I sort of went and I sat in theatre. And for the first for the first show, I just sweat, like a like a maniac, I was just like, super nervous, I want to make sure everything went well. I was just like, absolutely like coded by the end of the show. Because it’s just like, it’s, it’s, it’s incredibly it’s incredibly stressful for me, but it’s kind of and I’ve gotten better at handling that now, but at least in that context was really stressful. By the time the show was done, I just sort of really breathed out and was really proud of everything that the team had put together and, and the actors did on stage. And, again, we gotta at least for the first, the first show, in particular, we got a really great response from the crowd. And yeah, I don’t know, it was really, it was a really great experience. And again, I really like that kind of that sort of really personal, very interconnected, very, like independent spirit of pulling things together. And like a fringe capacity. And, and, at least in this particular, at least with this show, in particular, obviously COVID added a substantial amount of other stresses and and problems that we kind of had to overcome. So I would say that we were probably dealing with less healthy amounts of stress this time around would probably be like an understatement of that. But at the same time, like that same spirit is there. And I was really, really happy to kind of encounter that a second time with this show.
Phil Rickaby 39:25
You know, thinking about about you know, the first time that an audience sees a show there is not a show that I have created in the last 10 or more years where the first performance was not an exercise in I need to get to the first laugh or the first reaction so that I know that everything is okay because I don’t know this is good anymore.
Steven Griffin 39:49
Oh, absolutely. Yeah, absolutely. I was funny I had it because I like I was the predominant writer on that first fringe show and are my co director Megan landers, who, again is fantastic. I was talking to her about, you know, we’d been rehearsing this show for ages, and we’ve been going over and blah, blah, blah. And then we went to the first show, and I had specifically sort of written the show to be like, kind of funnier at the at the first half, and then sort of teeter off as we got into more serious territory as it went on. But, you know, we’ve been rehearsing the show for months at this point, she’s read the script about a million times and, and we went to the first show, and we got a lot of like, really solid laughs, which again, was like a big relief for me. But I, we stepped outside of the theatre afterwards. And she came over to me and she was like, I had no idea that the show was so funny. He’s like, Megan, we’ve been working on this show for months. And you tell me this now?
Phil Rickaby 40:42
Here’s the thing. Because you spend so you know, you start the show for a long period of time. And the very beginning, all the jokes are landing, you’re like, Oh, yeah, this is this is funny. Yeah, after a while, those can’t possibly be funny anymore. Right? So you can forget, she probably remember that those show that they’re the jokes worked, but you physically forget the laughter. You basically forget what it sound what it feels like, until you get an audience that hasn’t read or watched it a million times. And that’s part of the process. That’s why for me every time it’s been a thing, I’m always like, I need to get to that first life. I get that first off, I know we’re gonna be okay. I know this show is okay. Always for the first time that I perform in front of an audience. Mm hmm.
Steven Griffin 41:27
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think it’s just like, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s the same with it’s the same with a lot of my film work as well. We’re like, I made tween 2019. I made like this kind of like small little, kind of like, sort of Cold Case inspired thriller sort of thing. And it’s like a small, like, 10 minute little thing that pretty much just builds up to this very, like, ominous, a very, like, sort of visually suggestive, kind of moment. And, for me, I was like, looking at over went on, I was like, Okay, I think this works. I think, you know, I think this works. I think this lands really well. Like it’s it’s kind of slow paced, but I feel like the build is really proper, but I was really nervous because we had a screening coming up. And I didn’t really know how people were gonna react to it, because it is kind of it’s it is without a doubt, a bummer. And, and kind of that not a super feel good movie button, we got to the point where that sort of moment came up, and it landed, and then I kind of heard everybody go quiet. And then I heard one woman like, see through her teeth, like a kind of play. And I just like, I just I wanted to just sort of like stand up and cheer in the theatre just like Yes,
Phil Rickaby 42:37
Steven Griffin 42:38
Yes. Like, because it just like and again, it’s, it’s, it’s that sort of thing. I think that’s I think that’s really like, one of the best moments of sort of like my, I guess, like my film career, my theatre career is really being able to kind of like put all this work in and then sort of have it land in the way that you want it to. And especially in a theatre context, where, you know, you’re hearing it so many times over and over and over again. So yeah, I completely understand why she wouldn’t think that it would be funny, but I, I just thought it was hilarious. Just because there was like, I was like, you know, that, like, you know, you’ve read the script over about a million times you gave me like a bunch. And I was like, you really had no idea. Like, what do you think of me?
Phil Rickaby 43:19
You know, it’s funny about those those moments of when, you know, the audience’s are silent? Or when there’s a reaction because, you know, we think about those those moments when the audience laughs Oh, yeah, that’s great. But there are moments when silence can be just as just as revenue unless it’s a comedy, in which case, it’s not so good. But yeah, audience where that it’s not funny is not the same kind of silence as an audience. It’s super engaged. Because an audience that is, is is not with it, and doesn’t think it’s funny. They shift a lot. Yeah. And they move around a lot. They don’t, you know, I’ve watched audiences and some shows that haven’t been so good. They look anywhere above the stage, you look at the rigging, they look at their watch, they try you know, all of these things, that those are giveaways that the audience is not engaged. But when an audience is dead, silent and dead still. You know, you’ve got them.
Steven Griffin 44:12
Oh, absolutely. Yeah. I mean, like we was it there was there was I just had it. Yeah. Oh, sorry. That was it. Sorry. So one of the other reasons that I love having a focus on having a focus on painting in particular, in terms of a lot of the reference points that I go to, is I’m, I’m inherently someone who really likes to shoot in a kind of minimal way. And I really love the way that as a medium sort of painting, kind of like hold you hostage in a lot of sense in a lot of senses when I was in. I went on a family vacation to Amsterdam, about two years ago now, and I didn’t get the chance to or we didn’t get a tonne of time in the in the main Rights Museum, but when did go, I got I got a little bit of a chance to go see Rembrandt’s Knights watch. And I remember like I, I was a big fan of knights watch, but I’d never seen an in person and I didn’t realise how big it was. And then I went and I, I stood in front of it. And it was truly like one of it was truly like a moment, like a sublime kind of moment where I just sort of stood in like all and just kind of stood and like really leaned in and just stared at it for like a good amount of time. And it’s that way that painting in particular sort of forces you to just sort of sit and look at it. And even though it’s not really doing anything, it’s not super active, you’re still going over every little detail in a lot of cases really like looking at the pigments really looking at the brushstrokes really getting into it and sort of processing your feelings. And it’s something where I’ve always been someone in a lot of my film work to put a lot of weight on small gesture. Because if you can kind of keep relatively still or static or at least distant from your subjects in the films, then the smallest movement feels like the biggest jump. And I think that that’s something that has the ability to really hijack an audience’s perception and really hijack their, their, their eyes, in a film to really like allow the anticipation of movement from stillness to pull people in to really wait for something to happen, whether or not something does end up happening or not. Which is something that in that same the same film that I had mentioned, where the woman’s seethed was kind of it was sort of an exercise in that same vein where a lot of it was very, it was very stale. It was very measured, it was kind of very quiet with just sort of like a slightly naturalistic kind of like nighttime soundscape. And we were getting a lot of those same kind of things of just people like really kind of leaning in, and staying quiet because they were anticipating some kind of movement or action. And, you know, like the slightest movement of like, one of our actors arms, you know, felt gigantic in the space of really just sort of locking down into something Tableau esque, that really like kind of pulls an audience’s attention to it. Right? Yeah, yeah.
Phil Rickaby 47:22
Um, just as we start to draw to a close, one of the things that I’ve been asking everybody about for the last year and five months, is about is about joy. Because I feel like we’ve all had moments of great joy during this time. But we’ve also had moments of, of misery of doom scrolling of fear of all of these different things. So I like to sort of end on a note of joy. So I’m curious if you could share with me something that’s been giving you joy recently.
Hmm. That’s good. Um, I don’t know. I mean, I’m, I feel like joy is such a specific word. And I’m trying to kind of really like nail down something that is very expressive of joy in particular. I don’t know. I mean, like, it’s, like the dealing with Coronavirus, has been very up and down for me, as I imagine it is, for a lot of people, when we sort of initially were put into lockdown. I tried to really take advantage of it as best as I could, because knowing that sort of everybody was kind of stuck at home, I really just tried to jump into getting into like as, as best habits as I wanted to as like, you know, kind of having the ability to slow down, I wanted to develop some habits. And and I wanted to take advantage of the time that we had to be able to get into those those habits into like a disciplined capacity. So you know, I was waking up early, I was working on a grant cert scripts or whatever it might be, and was doing really well for about three or so months. And then I was lucky enough to be able to start going back to work and, and getting more work again. But then there was a point in time. Until relatively recently, it was about a month ago, a month or so ago, where are we kind of back out of work for about two months. And I was like really just in a really, really like really awful place. Trying to kind of deal with having gone back to work, and then all of a sudden, not really having that anymore, and the kind of very stop starting nature of everything. And there’s just a lot of stress that’s kind of piling on. And I don’t know, one of the things that I’ve always relied on in cases to kind of keep me Steady is some level of a routine. But in those two months in particular, I found a lot of my release kind of coming from reading and running. Which is something that like I feel like maybe a decade ago if you said that I’d say that I probably wouldn’t believe you But it was Yeah, it was I’ve, I’ve been, I’ve tried to sort of be an active runner for a good part of my, I guess a good part of my adolescence in my adulthood now. But it’s just something where I’ve, I’ve, I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve done it so much, and it feels so part of my routine that it just very much, to me feels like that ability to kind of stop thinking for a little bit and just kind of go out and just kind of, I don’t know, I guess like hurt myself, as I’m probably the kind of it’s, there’s something about running that’s inherently kind of socially, you know, like a runner’s high capacity, kind of like very trancelike in a sense, where you just kind of zone out, and you’re just kind of clocking whatever’s ahead of you. And you’re just kind of going And that, to me was incredibly helpful as a way to kind of get out of my head, as we were sort of going through this. And then I sort of started every morning trying to at least read something. And I usually oscillate back and forth between books that are a little bit more, I guess, like craft oriented, and then just sort of like more fun books. So why just finished Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, which is really fantastic. And I really enjoyed it. And again, it’s it’s sort of like those small sort of solaces. In that two months that I had, where I just kind of, you know, I’d wake up and I’d get my coffee, and I do a bit of reading for about 30 minutes to an hour before I started any proper work. And just that kind of calmness in the morning and being able to sort of set my day off in the right pace. And then by the time I get to about lunch, you know, I’d be stressed out again, and spiralling and whatnot. So then that’s when I’d kind of break and go for my run. And I’d sort of refined that peace and that solace in just being able to kind of relax and zoned out again, and then I cycle back for like, the second half of my day. And then yeah, and then just kind of allow myself a bit of freedom in the evening. So yeah, I’d say that in an interesting way. My, like my running in my reading habits that I had developed over quite a while have kind of come into a new space, given that two months that I had, in particular, and given Coronavirus in particular as well. Yeah.
Phil Rickaby 52:22
So just in closing, could you tell me and give us a sense of like, when will we be able to find black deer in Blizzard?
Steven Griffin 52:31
Oh, okay. So you will be able to find black deer, or black deer and oh my goodness, black deer in Blizzard There we go. As a part of the digital Hamilton fringe, which is going to be running in mid July Tickets are available now you can go to the Hamilton fringes website and check it out there. And the links will be attached to all of our social media accounts, which are all black deer and Blizzard focus as well. And yes, we’ll we should have it up on Hamilton’s digital fringe come mid July, it should be running for about a week and a half. And again, one of the best things about the digital fringe capacity is the fact that there’s no sort of theatre seat limits. And there’s no, I guess, location or travel limits, because you just purchase the show online and view it at any given point in time that you have it from anywhere you want, as long as you got a computer screen. So, you know, we encourage everybody to, you know, take the opportunity to see the show and take advantage of that digital format.
Phil Rickaby 53:35
That’s great. Well, Steven, thank you so much. This has been great.
Steven Griffin 53:38
Well, yeah, thank you. I really appreciate you having me on and chatting. Yeah, thank you very much.