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Over the last 4 years, the University Of The West Of Scotland has hosted regular Weds Afternoon collaboration workshops  in our TV studios at UWS Ayr. 

In that time over 400 participants, the majority of them International Students from countries all over the world have participated in the workshops. These student volunteers have collaborated together to record, edit and present the work of the BA(Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting Degree students . 

Full details of the StudioLab process can be found here  

I am pleased to announce that next Wednesdays StudioLab will be the 100th session . We will have a film crew down to record events . Look out for details of how we plan to celebrate our 100th Birthday . 



Contemporary Screen Acting Students in our recent Rail Safety  project 


In schools and colleges all over the country, students interested in the Performing Arts are thinking about what their next step should be.
There have been lots of exciting developments in the performance subject area  at University Of The West Of Scotland in the past year.
We have formed a teaching partnership with the Gaiety Theatre in Ayr.
We have brought BA (Hons)Musical Theatre in-house to our £81 million campus in Ayr.
We have a brand new Technical Theatre Degree delivered through our partnership with the Gaiety .
Most importantly, all our Performance-based degrees are now 3 year Honours with entry levels at second year (Level 8) as well as third year (level 9).
All degrees require an audition, but students can apply to the courses in second year with :

3 Advanced Highers BCC or plus English at Higher level and Maths at Standard Grade 3 or above, National 4 or Intermediate 2.
3 A levels BBC or
An HNC (120 points) or
A B Tec 4 or
Intermediate 2 or
An International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma: 28 points.

All our degrees also have a level 9 entry with an HND or equivalent to our DRAMA UK recognised degrees.

With all this expansion, we want the best students to come to UWS Ayr. Every year , more and more students apply through UCAS, and the standard of work and quality of candidates is increasing.

Two of our students from Edinburgh College, Emily Barr and Jennie Walker have made a short video about life at UWS.
If you have any contacts at your old college or know of any British or Overseas students who might be interested in a 3 year honours degree, please share this post with them so that they can get an idea of what it’s like being a student at UWS Ayr.

Also, here are the links for anyone of your friends or relatives who may be specifically interested in our 3 years honours degrees.

BA(Hons) Musical Theatre
http://www.uws.ac.uk/ba-musical-theatre/

BA(Hons) Performance
http://www.uws.ac.uk/ba-performance/

BA(Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting
http://www.uws.ac.uk/ba-cont-screen-acting/

BA(Hons) Technical Theatre (subject to validation)
http://www.uws.ac.uk/sp…/technical_theatre_(3rd_year_entry)/

Please feel free to share this and spread the word to your old colleges , colleagues or friends. If you think that your old college would like a visit from UWS staff to talk to students, then please let us know too.
Any questions, email stuart.hepburn@uws.ac.uk


Very Important day today at UWSAyr in Scotland as it’s the first day of Auditions for the 2013/14 BA(Hons) Contemporary Screen Acting cohort. Drama UK recognition has meant a record-breaking year for candidate numbers ! Good luck to all applicants http://vimeo.com/m/41604817


Just got this on the hotline from my colleague Dr David Manderson

“Congratulations to Kirsty McConnell, a graduate of last year’s Honours Screenwriting/Film-Making degree, for winning first prize in the London Screenwriters’ ‘Fifty Kisses’ short film script competition for her short script ‘Enough.

You can read her script and the judges’ comments here:

http://www.50kissesfilm.com/50-kisses-the-screenplays/enough-by-kirsty-mcconnell/

Well done Kirsty! A career beckons.”


I have wrtitten previously about the setting up of our UWS collaboration project “Studio Lab”  at our new Television Studios at University Of The West Of Scotland in Ayr . We have now reached Week 3 of the project and it is developing at a breathtaking pace.

Ten  4th year (level 10 )  Contemporary Screen Acting Students have worked on creating  the scenario, characters and script of a live recorded studio production of approximately 30-60 mins in length. Readers will, I hope,  appreciate that this is a substantial piece of work.It   will be recorded  “as live” at UWS Ayr  Studios on December 5th. It will be directed by professional TV Director Michael Hines , who as well as being one of Scotland’s leading directors, also lectures on our Camera Acting Techniques and Screen Drama modules. All the improvisational materials and exercises are being  been recorded , edited and disseminated online to the performance  team by volunteer Film Making & Screenwriting students as part of this crossover collaboration. The volunteer  recording team have put in literally hours of work to ensure that the acting team have the material in an edited form in order to reflect, and then deepen the characterisations which will be eventually reflected in an improvised  shooting script to prepare for the live recording.

Rebecca Skinner, Emmi Häkkä, Marius Pocevičius and Lizzie Kane in UWS Ayr Studios

As the project progresses closer towards  shooting, Broadcast Production students will become more involved, so that by the time we record, I expect a team of about 20 strong production team to be part of the behind the scenes efforts to capture the live recording of this experimental drama. Thus around 30 UWS Creative Industries students will have had the chance to take part in an authentic  hands on experience which we hope will arm them for the challenges of the Professional Creative Industries.

We have now reached week 3 of the project. So far students have worked on Object, Situation and Interactive  improvisations. This has produced approximately 3 hours of edited material. The first part of each session is taken up by watching, discussing and reflecting upon last weeks material. All the edited material has been previously posted on a closed Facebook Group where all the participating students, both voluntary and assessed, take part in creative online discussions through the week.Screen Acting  students are tasked with creating three dimensional authentic characters with a backstory, personna, and  psychological underpinning which will propel them into the creation of a fully integrated live drama.

Having now gathered a wealth of material, students are  engaged in the process of “locating” the precinct within which the final production will be based. Will it be an airport? An institution? A city street? A Spaceship? Inside John Malkovich’s head? The decision of what, where and how the precinct will be will evolve over  the next two weeks, so that by week 6, students have a firm grasp of the creative parameters of the project. By weeks 7 and 8, the  now located script will be further improvised, developed and honed. At this point, UWS Screenwriting students will distill all the material into a developing script, so that by the time we get to the Technical Rehearsal in Week 10 on Nov 28th, we will have an agreed shooting script  which fully reflects the creative input of all participants. We are then planning a final screening in our Campus HD 7:1 Movie Theatre in Week 12.

Next trimester, all the Contemporary Screen Acting students are tasked with writing a 4-6,000 word Ethnographic survey of the lived experience of the entire process.  This part of the process is has been devised and delivered by my colleague Dr John Quinn at UWS.

The combination  of the two processes, Recorded Artefact and Ethnographic Survey will combine in a 40 Credit Module to complete the Contemporary Screen Acting Research Project. We plan to have all student work submitted in a digital form and be deliverable online in the first ever truly paperless  I will update progress with the StudioLab project as it develops.

Katie Power,Catherine Lockhart,Stuart McGowan,Anna Kennedy & Claudie Baker Park improvise. Photos by William Aldridge


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.


Clive Rumbold of ABC and the UWS Production Team

I’ve blogged before about the South Of Scotland Business Solutions Knowledge Transfer projects which the School Of Creative and Cultural Industries at the University Of The West Of Scotland  has been developing over the past few months.

We have come to the end of the cycle and all the production, editing , paperwork and reflections have been completed and finalised.

In the end, the whole process has been a challenging and exciting experience  for the Contemporary Screen Acting students and staff who took part, but the end result has made it all worthwhile.

Last year’s  level 9 students students successfully produced their  assessed assignments on time  and  achieved a  100% pass rate, and the feedback from them on their learning experience was outstandingly good.  The project has thus proved an outstanding success as a work based learning module  for the students.

Students reported that “ this has been a fantastic module for actually meeting with a client. This made it far more difficult than an ordinary module but far more rewarding “

“I was really proud of the work we did for ABC. I have never been involved in such an exciting module . It was totally different from just doing an imaginary project”

Feedback from the clients has also been overwhelmingly positive. Clive Rumbold of ABC Recruitment commented ”   The finished video  is a league away from our  original film in terms of professional creativity, presentation and filming styles.  In all we now have a professional, commercial film which delivers the messages significantly better and is already proving itself in a very short time.”

Wilma Finlay , from Cream O’ Galloway added  ” The project provided us  with a suite of high quality promotional film clips that we have used on our website and in social media to promote the fun that a wide variety of age groups can have at Cream o’ Galloway.”

Personally the most rewarding aspect of the whole process for me was the team who produced an HD quality video based on research into the life challenges of troubled  youngsters. For this  project, students Andrew O’Donnell, Amy Elftathi, Eileen Frater, James Todd and Anne-Marie O’Connor deserve special praise, along with DOP John Caldwell , who between them produced a fine piece of work.

Thanks also  must go to Eva Milroy and the staff of South Of Scotland Business Solutions for their energy and enthusiasm, and also a very special mention  from me to my colleague Joan Scott of the UWS Business School  in Dumfries who was a constant support in this whole process. Finally, none of this could have been accomplished without the filming and editing skills of UWS MA students Louise Muir and Marta Adamowicz and that wizard of Adobe Premiere Eileen Frater.

2011/12 Intake of Contemporary Screen Acting Students at UWS with social media guru @jennifermjones

I am now planning next years projects for the new intake of third year students which I hope will take this innovative knowledge transfer model to a higher level. We will be  employing  embedded Workplace Learning Students from the Filmmaking and Screenwriting Programmes at UWS, combined with the Project managing skills of industry professionals such as “Chewing the Fat” Director Michael Hines , and award winning Screenwriter and Actor Martin McCardie. Watch this space for details.

If you think you might be interested in studying Contemporary Screen Acting at the University Of The West of Scotland, visit our site here.  . Remember you  can follow me on twitter @stuart_hepburn where I tweet on all things creative at the UWS and further afield.


Last week was the first recording run  through of the TV Studios at the University Of The West Of Scotland‘s new 80 million pound campus in Ayr. Camera Acting students from the Contemporary Screen Acting Programme were recording the first ever series of screen dialogues at the new campus. Students re-enact duologue scenes from movies such “Juno”, “Bridesmaids” and  “Let The Right One In” in order to gain experience of working in a multi-camera studio set up. The above photo shows 4th year honours student  Alana Murray working on the production of her multi-media Creative Project with her cast.

Along with the finest radio and music studios in Scotland, UWS Ayr now boasts two  state of the art HD studios with Green Screen Technology,  Autocue, and top of the range sound and editing facilities. There is space for large scale productions such as dramas, orchestral performances and musical theatre, as well as room for up to 30 students to view the process from the gallery.

The feedback from the students has been very positive. Debbie Lochran commented ” This is fantastic. I’ve never seen a set up like this before anywhere else. You get the idea that you could create any programme you wanted”

Rachel Kennedy preps her Gaelic Children's programme

Zoe Silver said ” I feel like a real professional. The first job I had to do was to be a camera operator in headphone contact with the control room and it went really well”.

Jess Munro commented “I’ve never acted in a studio before, but within minutes I had forgotten about the cameras and lights and was able to concentrate on my performance”.

As we roll out the use of the studio for the fourth year honours students and  post graduates, the amazing potential of this resource is going to be unleashed. Students will be able to create , record and distribute HD broadcast quality programmes , be they filmed dramas,  documentaries or  light entertainment shows.

It’s a genuinely exciting time for all involved.The first slate of programmes recording in the next few weeks  include a Gaelic Children’s show, a modern digitised re-enactment of Tam O’Shanter, an experimental multi-media theatre piece and a  Scottish take on the “Creep Show ” horror format.

I hope to post footage of the work as it is created, and release them through the UWS  Skillset Media Academy 

Television Presenting Workshop



The description of the  location of a scene and the way in which the movement of the camera is described on paper  is one of the most vital parts of a screenplay. Yet for all it’s importance,  it  seems to be one the poor relations of the practical screenwriting world. Why this should be I don’t know.  Description is the first part of a script a reader sees, and if a script, especially a spec script, is a selling document, then the way that you invite your reader into the world of your drama through describing the scenes is a vital part of that marketing process. If   you get the description and the scene setting    wrong, you risk writing a boring script that won’t get past the reject pile on the first readers desk.

Remember.

A script which doesn’t get produced is a dead document. It’s not like a poem or a short story or even a novel. It’s a partly finished plan of a film which never got made; a telephone message never listened to; a technical drawing  for a fabulous palace no maharajah  ever built. It’s the saddest loneliest piece of  work  in the creative world. I should know. I have lots of them lurking in boxes and shelves all round my study.

But, wait. It gets worse than this,  because  if you never manage to get a script actually made, you will never become a better screenwriter. Trust me on this. Only by seeing your mistakes up on screen , by watching them  through clenched fingers , do you ever really ever learn not to make them again. To become a better screenwriter, getting the script produced isn’t the most important thing, it’s the only thing.

So if you want to at least get past that fearsome    threshold guardian, the first  reader, then you have to engage them immediately , and the way to do that is through  your description. Make  them want to  turn the pages right to  the end  by writing taut spare muscular description which draws them in to your story. I can’t write it for you, but here are a few thoughts which might lead you in the right direction.

But before we start,   what exactly   IS description?

For me, I  think of description quite simply   as “what the camera sees”. No more , no less. I constantly see scripts written by inexperienced writers which spend line after line describing incidents, details and action which will never actually feature in the finished film.  I don’t like laws and rules of writing normally. Any good writer breaks rules, that is what they are for. But there is one rule which I think you should always adhere to. I call it……

No see? No write!

If  the camera  won’t see it, then the  writer shouldn’t  write it. End of.

Pause for effect as your forehead furrows.

“Me no Leika !“ , I hear you cry.  “ I am not a camera, I am a writer. I want to drink in and communicate  the richness and depth of the humanity I see unfolding in front of me in all these wonderful  locations I have researched populated with unforgettable characters I have created acting out original pulsating stories. I cannot be constrained by the arbitary needs  of a mere  optical instrument!”

Oh yes you can.

You are writing a plan for a film, and films are a technical exercise in creativity,  so your task as a screenwriter is to  describe and create only what the camera, and hence your audience,  will see. Think of your script like an architect’s plan. If you need to design the cellar because  under the house because that’s where we meet the bogey man , then put it in the screenplay.But  if you are not going there, don’t .  From the first scene to the last, you are describing  what the director will shoot within the camera’s frame, because  that is what the viewer is going to see, and that is what you will describe in your screenplay. That is why the frame is first dimension of screen description, so lets talk about it.

1. Frame

We are organic creatures . We tend to think in tones, themes, loose images, deep metaphors. How do you write about a thing as prosaic as a right angled, rectangular frame? Quite simply this, if you have decided to write a script,( and believe me, it’s not the most obvious  thing to do in the world), then you have to think of telling the story within the frame.  Here’s how you do it…..

Don’t be embarrassed at this bit. Go to your location,(or one like it ) and  stand where you would like the initial point of view to be from , then  take your  thumb and forefinger of one hand at right angles  and with the thumb and forefinger of the other hand, make a rectangle at arms length,  and select the  frame. You now have a wonderful steadycam at your fingertips. Your job as the screenwriter is to describe what the camera will see, as it moves and follows the action of your screenplay within that frame. But it’s not as simple as that, because not everything in the frame is of equal importance. This brings us to the second dimension of description, the rank.

2. Rank

It’s not vital that you literally  know how to compose a shot. Don’t get too hung up on zooms and pans and close ups .That’s the director and DOP’s job .  What IS  important is that you  rank what the camera will see  in order of importance. In  other words if the crucial  content of a scene is that fact that there is a dead body lying in the middle of it, then don’t spend too much time describing the curtains. You  are the writer, and you have to decide  what’s important in  the  scene, and then describe it. The director will shoot it the way she wants to , but at least you made the initial decision about what is important in the scene.

But as well as the frame, and  the rank, there is a third dimension in description. Yes, you guessed it. Time.

3. Time

You may not hear it, but from the moment your screenplay opens, a clock is ticking. A timeline starts  as you remorselessly tell your story in the present tense as it happens. (and yes, flashbacks are told in the present tense too!). A painting can hang in a gallery for a hundred years, frozen until the watcher looks at it, a poem sits snugly in its book waiting to be opened and read, as fresh as a daisy, but a screenplay is not frozen like that. It is a dynamic document, where each line is a second or two of very expensive screentime, and you have to be constantly aware of the constraints of this.

With that screen clock ticking remorselessly,  eating up your reader’s(and hopefully your audience’s)  patience, you must  master the third dimension of Screenwriting  description  as efficiently and quickly as you can.

So to sum up  Screenwriting Description. Describe what the camera will see, in the order that it is important, and at the time that the narrative demands.


Stuart Hepburn with Julian Colton, Tom Murray, Carol Norris and some of the workshop delegates

I had a wonderful creative afternoon in Hawick on  the 30th of October  with my colleagues at the Eildon Tree  New Writing Festival. The festival, organised around the Borders New Writing Magazine,  is  a celebration of the past  11 years of new writing in the Scottish Borders. The three hour practical TV Writing Workshop I held included creating ideas, narrative structure, script formatting and how to get your script marketed in these straitened times.

The workshop was attended by amongst others, a documentary film maker embarking on his first fictional drama, a poet looking to create a short film, an actress developing her career options, three 21 year olds making a sketch show, as well as a couple of novelists and short story writers for good measure.

As usual with these events, I learned more from them than they did from me.

There is a vibrant creative writing community in Hawick and it’s surrounds, and it was a privilege to be asked to share their hospitality in the environs of the wonderful Mill Tower building. I am indebted to Tom Murray, Julian Colton and Carol Norris of the Eildon Tree for their invitation, and to the attendees for their energy and creativity.

There is an interview with me by Tom Murray in the latest copy of “The Eildon Tree”. Page 10. 

Stuart Hepburn and Creative Workshoppers in Hawick

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