O R I A N E M E S S I N A
What do you do?
I am a comedy writer, and sometimes performer. I spend most of my time running around between gymnastics, swimming, and ballet – and squeezing in some writing (by the way it’s my small child who does those activities). Its a juggling act.
I write with my comedy partner Fay Rusling. We are both horrible spellers. We have written on shows like Smack The Pony, Green Wing and Me And Mrs Jones. We have also done four series of our own radio series Bearded Ladies, and written on kids’ shows like My Parents Are Aliens and Horrible Histories. We have also sold two pilot scripts out in the States to Fox, which was an amazing experience. We know far too much about each other.
I started out as an actor. A friend James Lance was in the pilot for Smack The Pony and he suggested Fay and I send material in, so we did. I suppose I fell into writing. I love it. I now can’t imagine doing anything else, but when I started I had about 101 temp jobs via Brook Street which helped keep me afloat before writing was profitable.
How do I get as good as you?
The main thing to overcome is fear of showing people your work. It’s so important. Just get it out there and try not to be defensive about it. Allow others to hate it and learn from that. I have no idea which is the right or wrong way to go about becoming a writer, it just sort of happened for me. That’s not to say I’m not ambitious, because I am – I want to be successful and write on shows that I love, and enjoy the creative process.
When things you work on don’t work out for whatever reason you have to find a real strength to carry on and get up and start again. Everyone has experienced shows or sketches that have failed, and you learn a lot from those, not just the ones that work. The thing is to not compromise too much, as long as you like and laugh at what you’ve done.
What are the different considerations between writing long-form narrative sitcom and a more discordant medium such as sketch shows?
Both need to be as funny as you can make them. Sketches need to have a high hit-level. Long form you can allow the character to take the joke slower – but not too slow.
Does working with Fay enable you to double your output, or do you find it takes twice as long due to tedious debates about every subtle nuance and detail?
Ha! Now we basically divide scenes (odd and even) and write them. Then swap. Then go over and over and over as much as we dare. We don’t double our output, but we have to have lots on the go to financially support ourselves. We each have projects we might initiate, and it will depend on commissioners, etc., on what goes forward.
Many thanks to Oriane for her time and wise words. Follow her on Twitter @orianemessina.