Lockdown interview: The professional scriptwriter: Gemma Murray

For today’s interview, I chat to Nine Notes founder, scriptwriter, screenwriter and playwright Gemma Murray.

Her work has been performed in showcases/scratch nights at The Pleasance, The Arc (Stockton), TheatreN16, The Exchange (North Shields), and Southwark Playhouse.

She currently runs a theatre support group on WhatsApp and is currently working on a new female-led play which looks at women in comedy and the effects of childhood bullying in later life.

Follow Gemma on Twitter.

Gemma Murray
Gemma Murray

How are you coping during the lockdown?

I am thankfully generally fine and trying to stay busy! It’s such a strange time but I feel very grateful to be safe at home and able to keep writing – I think it’s best to take each day is it comes!

It’s all so mad, but I’m trying to distract myself by drinking a lot of tea and binge watching Escape to the Country – very productive! 

Tell me a bit about your role as a scriptwriter. How did you get into it, and how would you describe it to others?

I am a professional scriptwriter and I work in both playwriting and screenwriting. I have a Post Graduate Diploma in scriptwriting and I own an accessible script reading company for working class writers ‘Nine Notes’ !

I would describe Nine Notes to others as – an affordable script reading service that aims to make script notes accessible for every writer , no matter what their background or income – every writer deserves to be given the same support.

Nine Notes offers a full in-depth script report , advice and support in the scripts development , improvement suggestions , deep analysis , character development, pro tips and advice , connections to contacts , prompts and exercises to beat writers block and ongoing support – all for £9!

I initially got into writing when I was at school – I loved drama and English and so scriptwriting seemed to be a nice combination of the two! I am primarily a writer , but after I completed my Diploma I worked as a script reader for Papatango Prize 2020 , and realised how much I loved reading other writers’ work!

I enjoyed reading for Papatango so much and as a writer myself, I really felt the individual soul that went into every single story I read and I wanted to continue script reading – hence launching ‘Nine Notes’.

I had researched and realised that there was very limited resources for working class writers to gain support and feedback on their work for an accessible price. This is what lead me to want to launch an accessible and inclusive service for those who may not be able to afford ‘big brand’ notes. 

Virtue Reality by Gemma Murray, presented by Black Cat Theatre
Virtue Reality by Gemma Murray, presented by Black Cat Theatre

What has been your favourite project to work on?

My favourite project has to be launching Nine Notes! It has been a huge experience that I have loved so far and it has been wonderful to have such an immediate influx of support! When I was setting the company up , I was so nervous and hopeful that it would be a good idea that could help other people.

Everyone has been wonderful and incredibly enthusiastic about the project and it is so lovely to have had so many people support the launch. I began the company purely as a way to help writers after being one myself and experiencing how difficult it can be to access resources! The company is a huge passion project for me and has definitely been my favourite project so far. 

What has been your greatest achievement?

I would say that the sense of achievement for me comes when I feel really passionately and excited about a project – so Nine Notes has been something that I enjoy so much!

My scriptwriting Diploma was also lovely experience and a bit of a personal achievement to even be accepted onto the course! I dropped out of school when I was 13 and was homeschooled after then. I was accepted onto the course purely on writing credits and sample scripts – I really couldn’t believe it!

I was 18 and the youngest person to ever complete that particular course , and it felt so lucky considering I had never expected to have a chance to go to university. I had been writing for a few years but ever having the chance to go to university seemed so out of reach for someone with my background – I was so grateful and really appreciated the opportunity; definitely a little personal achievement! 

What do you think will happen to the theatre space after this pause in physical production?

It’s such uncertain times but what it has proven, is solidarity. It has shown what an escape entertainment and the arts really are for people.

Hopefully theatres and companies are able to re-emerge from this time and continue to create art – and I think everyone will appreciate and lap up every moment of their work when they do!

Theatre space is a beautiful place and such an escape for people, and I think the physical experience of it will feel even more magical after this time. 

The theatre industry seems saturated with new companies, ideas, performance models, collaborations, and innovation. Is there enough time, space, talent and funding to support the direction of travel or do you think a complete rethink is due?

I think there needs to be a rethink in terms of the lack of opportunities for underrepresented artists and ensuring that new ideas are contributing positively to these issues.

Overall I think that new ideas are fantastic and show how many wonderful artists there are all over the UK – not just in London.

There is always room for art and creativity and these new projects are often the base for great things and should be supported as long as they are moving in the direction of inclusion and fairness with their new work. 

What has been your favourite theatre experience where you haven’t been directly involved?

I adored Misty by Arinze Kene! It was such a powerful piece and a really unique mix of script , spoken word and lyrics that beautifully told a important story.

It was a piece that was so gorgeously written and I very often re-read the play script and always adore it just as much the the first time! 

Looking forward to when this is all over, what’s the next project on your agenda?

My main project is Nine Notes! You can follow us on Twitter , and I will soon be launching the official website! I am also currently writing a full length play focusing on the effect of childhood bullying in later life and women in comedy.

I’m extremely excited about the script and I really hope to tell a story that I feel is very underrepresented. I’m so looking forward to helping other writers alongside my own writing –  these are the biggest projects on my agenda.