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This week Contemporary Screen Acting students at the University of The West of Scotland took part in the launch of a unique new creative Screenwriting project. “Studio Lab” is based in the UWS new 80 million pound Ayr campus where students have access to two full HD state of the art TV Studios.
As part of their final year Research Project, Ba (Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting students are creating an hour long drama which will be recorded live in December at UWS studio 1 .However, what makes this cross-over project unique is that students from other UWS Programmes are being integrated from the beginning into what will be a 12 week process.
Every Wednesday afternoon, Film Making & Screenwriting students will help to develop the narrative, Broadcast Production students will be in charge of the recording and vision mixing it, Commercial Music students will supply the soundtrack and so on. The whole enterprise will come to a climax on Dec 5th when the entire team , directed by “Chewing The Fat and “Still Game” director Michael Hines, will record the drama “live” in the TV Studio.
As leader of the Programme, I am supposedly in creative charge of the whole process but if truth be told it is the students who are leading the way. The first step was taken in our main Studio 1 yesterday when the actors took started their initial improvisation .They are charged with the task of creating three dimensional characters who will eventually go on to improvise a script which will then be rehearsed and acted out in the drama.
While the Screen Acting students took part in a tense “hot seat” improv, Film Makers recorded their every move on two HD cameras. By next week we will have a digitised and edited Quicktime of the process created by the Film Makers , and it will be viewed by all participants . They will then discuss the characterisation , decide what to use and what to drop, and then move on to recording the next stage of the improvisation, and so on. A script will evolve over the first 6 weeks of this process, and by week 11, a fully fledged unique studio drama will have emerged to be recorded in the final week.
Students at the first session described the process as being “an intense experience”……”as soon as I was under the lights, all the stuff I had planned on using disappeared, and I found I was really being the character”.
The whole idea of the “Studio Lab” process is to create an exciting collaborative environment where we mimic the professional Creative Industries where teams of different disciplines get together to create the final product. If the first week is anything to go by, it will reap creative rewards. We don’t know if the final programme will be a comedy, a drama, or a mixture of the two genres, but it will certainly be a unique experience for all concerned.
I have been a bit busy over the weekend putting the last touches to a pitching document for a new crime series based in Stirling. For this most ironic of reasons I wasn’t able to spend much time at Bloody Scotland , Scotland’s (First) Crime Writing Festival. As the strap line says… “40 writers, 20 events, 2 great venues and a weekend to die for. “
However I couldn’t miss an old friend Peter May discussing his novel ”The Black House” as part of the Island Crimes session, which he shared with Shetland based writer Ann Cleeves in the Albert Hall in Stirling.I arrived at the venue with 15 minutes to spare to see that the queue for the session stretched out almost 50 yards into the forecourt, and the first person I saw was writer Janice Hally, a woman who has a lot to answer for . She loaned me a small portable typewriter almost 25 years ago so that I was able to write my first ever screenplay.( It was called “The Macrame Man” and STV put it on youtube if you’re interested. ) For that typewriter I am very grateful, though I doubt the vieiwing public would share that sentiment.
Sometimes these “writers chat’ sessions can be excrutiating. This one was a joy, not just because the subject matter was clearly defined by the organisers (Crime Novels on Islands), but because the two writers spoke with comittment and energy about their of their completely contrasting styles of creating the work.I should also add that the chair of the session had actually READ both books, asked excellent questions, and obviously shared the rapt audiences passion for the subject matter.
I’m always intrigued by writers speaking about their technique. Ann Cleeves confessed that she starts with an idea, (of course) but when she sits down to write page one, she doesn’t know what is going to happen next. After completing her research , “which usually consisted of sitting chatting in a Shetland kitchen” she leaps in and starts writing. She cited the famous quote Raymond Chandler who said if you are stuck for a plot point, have the door burst open revealing a man with a handgun. This “surprise yourself ” methodology is favoured by the likes of Ian Rankin, who once confessed (I paraphrase this from memory ) to killing of a major protagonist in Chapter 3, and wasn’t quite sure what direction the narrative would then take.
Peter May, on the other hand, applies a completely opposing methodology. Prefacing his comments with ” I come from a TV background”, May revealed that he writes a detailed 20,000 word outline of his novel. He knows what happens, when and why, before he writes a single word of the actual novel itself. I learned from the discussion that this sort of planning is mirrored by writers such as A.S. Byatt . We were presented with the astonishing fact that she planned so meticulously, she could decide, on a particular day , whether to write Chapter 12, Chapter 3 or Chapter 6.
The session went on for an hour but I could have listened longer to Cleeves and May, these two successful writers who employ completely differing techniques. It occurred to me afterwards that though their actual writing process is so different, what bonds them is their attention to original research…talking to the people who really know, who have really experienced the type of story they are trying to tell, and having the germ of an idea buried at the centre of the narrative. Both methods obviously work for both writers, and point to the truism that it’s not how you do it, it’s the end result that matters.
S0…Island Crimes. A fascinating and revealing session from only two of 40 writers who have contributed to “Bloody Scotland”, Scotlands (First) Crime Writing Festival. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to attend more of the sessions, but I was pleased to have been a very small part of what must surely be the beginning of a new annual Festival in one of Scotland’s greatest venues, Stirling. Well done to all involved, and here’s to “Bloody Scotland 2013″
We are very pleased to say that we’ve had a huge response to our Meet the Actor events taking place next month at the Citizens Theatre, Glasgow, and at The Royal Lyceum in Edinburgh. Places are filling up fast so if you have not yet booked – now is the time to do so!
Please see the flyer below and if you need any more info please get in touch.
Scottish Drama Training Network
0141 270 8349
Visit our website: http://sdtn.org
MEET THE ACTOR flyer
Best Director - Colin Ross Smith for ‘The Lost Purse’
Best Editor - Ray Paterson for ‘Run with the Wolves’
Best Sound - Scott McKay for ‘Your Number’s Up’, ‘Cloud Nine’ & ‘The Waster’
Best Script edit & development - Cheryl Belcourt for ‘Your Number’s Up’, ‘Cloud Nine’ & ‘The Waster’
Best Original Music/Composer - Frank McDonald for ‘The Lost Purse’ (collected by Producer Colin Ross Smith)
Best narrative in a music video - Ray Paterson for ‘Run with the Wolves’
Best Cinematography/DOP - Basharat Khan of Bash Art Creative/’See you in my dreams’
Best Production Design - Basharat Khan of Bash Art Creative/’See you in my dreams’
Best After effects - Colin Chaloner for ‘Cloud Nine’ (collected by Producer Andy Cassels Moniton Pictures)
Best Male Actor - Declan Michael Laird for ‘The Lost Purse’
Best Female Actor - Shona Denovan for ‘The Consultant’
BEST FILM & Cash Prize - ‘The Lost Purse’ by Colin Ross Smith (cash prize being used for festival entries!)
Audience Award Best Film - ‘The Lost Purse’ Always great when the Judges AND the audience agree!!!Special Achievements: Jason Weidner for innovation with ‘The things we do’, Mark Loftus for assist after effects ‘Cloud Nine’ and ‘The Waster’ and, Sarah Michael for Costume for ‘Cloud Nine’ and ‘The Waster.’
As all all those students who took part in our Screen Hack days in the TV Studio at UWS Ayr last Trimester, they were a great success. This year we have decided to expand the remit…and rechristen the whole concept…so Good Bye Studio Hack Day…..and welcome to THE STUDIO LAB.
The STUDIO LAB will be an 11 week collaborative project open to ALL UWS SCCI students from second year onwards and will take place at 1.30 pm every Wednesday Afternoon of Trimester 1 in UWS AYR TV Studios.
Students can drop in and get the chance to take part in a unique collaborative project where 4th Year Contemporary Screen Acting Students will improvise, structure, and create a one hour assessed studio-based drama which we will shoot as live on Weds Dec 5th . We will require Sound, Vision, Music , Design , Digital Artists and a whole range of production staff to take part in this innovative and exciting creative process.
If you are interested, either turn up at 1.30 pm on Wednesday 26th of September for Day 1 of rehearsals, or email me for more details. [email protected] You don’t have to commit to the entire 10 week process, but we do need to know we can depend on a group of student collaborators over the whole timescale.
We have a fantastic piece of theatre happening here at Eastwood Park Theatre and are now in a position to offer a new student discount with tickets for only£5. It would be greatly appreciated if you could please circulate this information.
BOOK NOW – www.eastwoodparktheatre.co.uk/boxoffice
Meet Sparky, a bright but volatile 15 year old boy, who is written off at school as a disruptive influence and a lost cause, but when he falls in love with a strange girl called Siouxsie he discovers a new found super power.
Featuring a striking mix of multi-media, movement and text, this visually arresting and fast paced production explores the ugly flipside to positive thinking – the terrifying idea that our darkest fantasies could come true.
Saturday 15 September, 7.30pm
Approx running time 60mins
For more on ThickSkin, visit www.thickskintheatre.co.uk and for full details of the Made in Scotland programme visit www.madeinscotlandshowcase.com. Clips from previous performances at www.youtube.com/thickskintheatre.
EAST RENFREWSHIRE COUNCIL – MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR EAST RENFREWSHIRE
Book your tickets online here