As always with a new venture I was both looking forward to and slightly apprehensive about the first session of my screen writing workshops at Sheffield Live on Thursday. Will anyone turn up? If they did would they be able to get into the building (something I have wrestled with myself several times)? Would I forget everything I had ever known!? As people began to arrive the process of meeting and greeting, checking each other out, forming opinions through clues, age, gender, dress, body language, all of us waiting to be surprised, to learn more- to be curious is already the opening to a rich narrative. I relax. It’s going to be fine, there is so much potential, just through noticing who walks into a room, asking what might happen, and what story they have to tell. I am looking forward to the next chapter.
On Monday I was invited into Sheffield Live for a ten minute interview with Kevin Resley on the Communities Live programme.
Thanks to Kevin’s skill and enthusiasm I soon felt at ease with him and we had a lively interchange about all things script related. I’ve attached a link to the podcast below, my interview starts 30 minutes in.
It is particularly useful for anyone who wants to know more about my particular approach to screenwriting and considering attending a workshop or working with me on a face to face level.
In January last year I took a long intended trip to visit a friend and fellow filmmaker in Western Australia. On my way back I stopped off in Malaysia and was met at the airport in the dead of night by my good friend Martin Chong and his wife Moon. Although we had kept in touch via facebook I had not seen him since he had graduated from the Northern Media School in 2004. Below is his account of our time together.
“Which sequence can be removed?” She asked.
It was year 2004, the first class I attended in Sheffield Hallam University, Jan Worth taught script writing for the MA course of Digital Media and Film Production.
Expecting to learn story development constructively, her destructive question caught me off guard after a short film showing: The English Sheep, not on pasture but flocking in to a flat, a girl wearing Maoist uniform, The Far Eastern face with hidden uncertainty; all images flashed back and forth, we were no more audiences, but started to take scenes in and out of context, as we did a year later in editing suite, as years and years later in film and media industry.
It was a great experience for 1st day class: Scenes been removed, not only the story survives; it becomes better.
Time slips, in 2013 Jan attended a screening of her film, and also conducted a script-writing workshop in a university in Australia.
I met her again at a former British colony, a humid peninsula, and a highway knitted city where high-rise buildings randomly sprouted.
We escaped to the old town, the conversation varied from Korean new wave Cinema to PhD proposal. The joy of reunion complemented by Nyonya food, Japanese rice wine. Inevitably, it fell back to storytelling like a boomerang.
“Can the story be removed?” I asked.
It was an unintended question; I can’t remember how we reached there.
“Yes, but the characters stay.” Jan said.
Jan started to describe the characters around us; the different colour faces from east to west.
For storytelling, I always believe less is more; save the best and remove the irrelevant. When the backbone is removed, elements keep adding in like pieces of jigsaw out of law.
Or that might be the disillusion of the combination of Singaporean lager, Chinese tea, American cigarette and chewing gum; under the punishing heat and neon lights, resonated with Korean Pop Music and street cries, promoting exotic replica goods shipped in from China. It is Chinatown.
Jan, we have to talk about storytelling.
- MA of Digital Media and Film Production, Sheffield Hallam University, U.K,
- Director Timemute Films.
- Senior Lecturer of The Design School, Taylors University, Malaysia
Below is an article about the epic progress of John Watts script ‘The Last Emperor’. I began working with John two years ago. As is common with first drafts John knew exactly what was happening with all of his many characters but needed to check that this was true for a first time reader. We agreed that there were too many characters to keep track of and that the dramatic structure needed work.
John went on to produce many more drafts and then, using his own special effects equipment, he and his colleagues created quite a spectacular trailer. The trailer was so successful he gained US backing and has just returned from negotiations in LA. I have just received his new script and am looking forward to seeing how working within the demands of Hollywood has changed it. Will keep you posted.
John Watts’s trailer for The Lost Emperor – currently seeking investment.
Read John’s testimonial about working together here.
What a pleasure it’s been to have worked – as script consultant – with BAFTA-winning Emmerdale writer Karin Young on her play ‘The Awkward Squad’. This was my first time working with a theatre script and it turned out to be quite a learning experience. I am very used to the importance of prose description in film scripts and was at a loss with the overwhelming amount of dialogue in the first draft script. “But who are these people and what about the visual” was my cry.
Fundamentally many of the basic tenants applied to both forms of story telling. Did the writing on the page reflect what Karen was trying to express? Were the characters and scenarios credible and engaging? Was the structure coherent?
The experience was extremely intense spread over 18 months. The first step was sorting out the structure, again too many characters, too confusing to keep track of with unclear roles. This is a passionate play that speaks about the history of three generations of working class women in the North East.
Finding a way to express the heartfelt politics of the piece without simply expressing the views of the writer through the mouths of their characters meant creating living, breathing, sometimes complex and flawed characters. Karen is a talented comedy writer and this shone through the whole piece. I sometimes played the role of serious backstop, together it seemed to work.
The play opened at Customs House South Shields to a packed audience and later transferred to the Arts Theatre in the West End. It is such a big moment to see a piece of work gain a life of its own in performance. The all female cast and crew brought the play to life with witty and credible performances from all four main players Libby Davidson, Charlie Hardwick, Barbra Marten and Lisa McGrills.
It was fascinating to see how the director Fiona McPherson had staged the play, scenes that I had been unsure of suddenly worked extremely well giving me plenty to think about on future projects. In particular the role of the director in theatre and what a lot they can bring to a well written script.
The play has been published by Aurora Metro Books. More information about the play here.