Gaining a foothold in a new career can be difficult for any graduate but for those wanting a big break in the world of art and entertainment this can be a particularly daunting challenge.
This is the position Lucie Barât found herself in upon completing her BA, trying to find her way in an industry where big names attract even bigger price-tags while the average artist struggles in anonymity.
Unfulfilled working part-time as a teacher, while writing a novel and auditioning for acting work in her spare time, Lucie decided to take matters into her own hands.
I met up with Lucie, now studying towards an MA in Creative Writing at Kingston, for a pint and a chat about the problems she faced.
Her innovative solution was to set up Little Episodes, so what exactly is it?
“Little Episodes is an arts production company and independent publisher run by artists, actors, writers, musicians, rather than marketing people or money-men, and that’s what makes it different. We publish anthologies, we put on art exhibitions, poetry readings, gigs and plays,” Lucie tells me.
“The three of us who started it were sick of making headway in industries but then having absolutely no control over where you go. I was forever up for McDonald’s commercials or mainstream television or films that I didn’t want to do.”
This DIY approach to a future career is gaining popularity with graduates from a broad range of subjects, in part no doubt a response to the economic climate.
It is also a way of circumventing more traditional routes that either no longer exist or have become so overcrowded that competing can seem an almost impossible challenge.
As Lucie says, “You can either sit around waiting for that opportunity or you can decide that nobody needs to tell you that you can create, you can just do it, and you can just take it straight to an audience who are more than happy to receive what you’re doing and not be dictated to.”
The problem lies, Lucie says, with “huge marketing bodies and mass corporations who can pick people with a modicum of or no talent at all and brand them.
“Little Episodes is about artists who aren’t interested in being a human brand, they’re interested in doing and improving on what they do by collaborating with others and sharing and taking it to an audience and hopefully building up a career,” she adds.
The Little Episodes website enables aspiring artists to bypass such daunting intermediaries and reject this purely commercial approach.
The freedom Little Episodes affords has allowed them to publish material on subject matters that some publishers may prefer to shy away from.
Their three part series of anthologies entitled ‘Expression of Depression’ aim to de-stigmatise mental health issues and their forthcoming release is a collection of queer literature entitled ‘Queer Episodes’.
Little Episodes also publishes works by individual artists, and one such artist is Fran Lock, who met Lucie on Kingston’s Creative Writing course.
Speaking to Fran you immediately sense her reticence in discussing her poetry: “I’m never quite sure how to answer questions about it as it’s something so personal and I don’t want to go off on an Angela’s Ashes kind of monologue”, says Fran.
Why this should be so seems in part down to her experiences trying to get work published.
“I’ve been submitting since I was 15 and nobody has wanted to fucking hear me, no one has been in the slightest bit interested at all in what I have to say,” Fran tells me, adding “Finding Little Episodes, being in contact with Lucie and going to readings, I realised that people do want to listen to me.”
When asked about her biggest bug-bear in the industry, Fran’s response is unequivocal: “Agents, fucking agents!”
Both Fran and Lucie reject the suggestion that you need representation to establish yourself in the creative world, preferring a more immediate interaction with their respective audiences.
“I’m not interested in that”, says Fran, “I’m interested in writing and people reading what I write and making a judgment about me based on that.”
Fran says of her poetry: “Writing to me is about communication and being able to express that which ordinarily you couldn’t say, because ordinary speech denies that pure communication you get with people through poetry and art.”
Like the ‘Expressions of Depression’ anthology, Fran’s work also deals with the ‘darker’ side of human emotions and the immediate assumption might be that poetry about depression would be a hard sell.
Fran herself acknowledges this, saying: “If you’re being a miserable bastard, there is this received wisdom that nobody wants to hear, like a bore is a person that when you ask them how they are tells you. But actually people do want to listen and people relate to that.”
Little Episodes success seems to support this conclusion, growing in popularity as a medium for aspiring artists to express themselves, drawing attention from established names like Sadie Frost and Lucie’s brother Carl, he of Libertine’s fame, has also been involved in Little Episodes projects.
The popularity of the Little Episodes anthologies and events with their audience also demonstrates a clear appetite on the part of the public for the kind of material they produce.
Fran’s latest poetry collection, Flatrock, is being launched at an event held by Little Episodes in London on May 25.