Kingston Connections 2013

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Kingston Connections starts in The Rose Theatre Kingston today. An exciting collaboration between the university, Royal Borough of Kingston, The Rose and Creative Youth, we are offering a heady mixture of dance, talks, poetry, theatre, music, writing workshops, science discussions. There’s even the chance to be part of a psychology experiment. Come along and join in!

Highlights today include a talk on genes (10:30am), a poetry reading (12:00pm) and a free workshop on self-publishing (5:30pm).

The full programme (as a PDF) and booking information is available on the Rose Theatre website.

MFA lecturers, tutors and writers in residence to be featured include:

Monday, 24 June 2013, 3:30-5:30pm, Rose Theatre – novelists Adam Baron & James Miller in conversation. Why Do You Write?

Tuesday, 25 June 2013, 12:00-1:00pm, Rose Theatre – poet Jane Yeh reads with Emily Berry.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013, 6:00-7:00pm, Rose Theatre – author Courttia Newland discusses how he has used his own life in his fiction. Life Writing: A Life in Fiction: autobiography and the novel. **Editor’s note: We regret to announce that Courttia’s talk has been cancelled. There are still lots of great events on this week, though, so get thee to Kingston!

Kingston students, alumni and staff can get free or reduced admission to most events!

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Barrie Keeffe

Barrie Keeffe

Barrie Keeffe is a London-born dramatist and screenwriter, best-known for his screenplay for the 1981 film The Long Good Friday, starring Bob Hoskins and Helen Mirren. He began his career as an actor and journalist before turning to writing full-time in 1975. His first television play, Substitute, was produced in 1972 and his first theatre play, Only a Game, the following year. He was writer-in-residence at the Shaw Theatre in 1977, the next year, was resident playwright with the Royal Shakespeare Company, and associate writer with the Theatre Royal Stratford East from 1986 to 1991. His theatre plays have been produced in 25 countries. He has written stage plays, screenplays, radio plays, television scripts and novels.

Barrie’s accolades include The Mystery Writers of America Edgar Allen Poe Award for The Long Good Friday, Paris Critics Prix Revelation for Gotcha and the Giles Cooper Best Radio Plays Award for Heaven Scent. He was appointed a United Nations Ambassador for the 50th anniversary year in 1995 and, in 2010, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters by the University of Warwick.

He has taught at City University London, the Skyros Writers Lab in Greece, the Collaldra Writers’ School and Retreat in Italy, Ruskin College Oxford and is a visiting fellow at Christ’s College, Cambridge. He is currently a Writer-in-Residence at Kingston University where he teaches on both the Creative Writing MA and MFA, and supervises dissertations.

Barrie’s screenplay, The Long Good Friday, was on the MFA Critical Reading list and, on 19 March 2013, he taught a master class on film, stage and novel writing.

 

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Selected Bibliography:

Stage plays:

Only a Game (1973)

Gimme Shelter (1977)

A Mad World My Masters (1977, 1984)

Barbarians (1977)

Sus (1979)

Black Lear (1980)

Better Times (1985)

Not Fade Away (1990)

The Long Good Friday (1997)

Shadows on the Sun (2001)

Still Killing Time (2006)

Television:

Substitute (1972)

Not Quite Cricket (1977)

Champions (1978)

Waterloo Sunset (1979)

King (1984)

Screenplays:

The Long Good Friday (1981)

Sus (2010)

Novels:

Gadabout (1969)

No Excuses (1983)

 

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Barrie Keeffe’s Recommended Reading List:

Into the Woods: A Five Act Journey into Story – John Yorke

Adventures in the Screen Trade – William Goldman

A Whore’s Profession – David Mamet

Five Screenplays: The Servant, The Pumpkin Eater, The Quiller Memorandum, The Go-Between, Accident – Harold Pinter

Crash – Ian Sinclair (The Cronenberg film)

Harold Pinter: Life and Work – Michael Billington

John Osborne: A Patriot for Us – John Heilpern

Arthur Miller: A Life – Marin Gottfried

Double Act: A Life of Tom Stoppard – Ira Nadel

Samuel Beckett: A Biography – Deirdre Bair

O’Neil: A Life with Monte Cristo – Arthur and Barbara Gelb

The Script Selling Game – Kathie Fong Yoneda

In the Frame: My Life in Words and Pictures – Helen Mirren

Being an Actor – Simon Callow

What’s My Motive? – Michael Simpkins

The End of the Affair – Graham Greene (novel)

The End of the Affair – Neil Jordan (film)

Christopher Priest – 23 April 7:30pm

Christopher Priest flyerJoin the Facebook event here.

Read more about Christopher Priest in his writer profile.

Adaptation

Dorin Rufer is in her second year of her Creative Writing MFA. She is an avid reader, writer, movie-goer and tea drinker. She is part of a podcast/blog adaptationpodcast.com about film adaptations and the original formats they are based on. She is also starting up her own blog: dogaru20.wordpress.com. Check her and her Chai Latte addiction out

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Ever feel that the films adapted of your favourite stories are just someone playing a joke on you? As if someone read the back summary of a book and then wrote their script based on that, rather than reading the book? We have all been there, but why does it happen? Someone put their heart down on the page and then some screen writer, director, producer, or something took that and tore it apart?

Let’s look into what goes into an adaptation? First, we all have to remember that words can always do more than pictures. There is a beautiful subtlety in well-done film, but it is still impossible to get all the detail one has put in their story onto the screen. Especially in the cases of budget and how wild the effects would need to be. The difference between a novel and screenplay is vast. Screenplays are written for the visual and auditory, driven by dialogue. Inner thoughts are always troublesome for an adaptation considering that voice-overs are hard to do well. As in Playwriting, a Screenplay page is a minute of screen time, where a novel, depending on the genre and age group, can be anywhere from 40,000 to, well, they can get really long. All the literary prose and background and descriptions have to be condensed and even sometimes watered down.

But what about the story itself? Because of these differences, most of the novel will be cut out. However, many people, including myself, say that the adaptation can be considered a success if the movie still gives the same general feeling, idea, theme, etc. The things one should consider if they are trying to adapt their book is as follows: 1) The pivotal scenes, 2) The seven or so most important characters, 3) The dialogue that fuels the plot.

However, with that said there are still questions that bother me about adaptations: why do they feel the need to change characters names? Whether it is the full or just the surname? I figure it is an attempt to try to separate the film from the original piece, especially when the film diverges from the original story, but is it necessary? Does it bother anyone else?

My biggest issue with it all is that in many cases I can see how a film could capitalise or enhance the story that people already know. In many cases, when an author overwrites slightly or puts things in that are repetitive or unnecessary, a film can pare that down into the best parts of the story. It isn’t easy, but it can be done.

The greatest aspect of stories as well as its greatest downfall is the investment its readers feel. We can’t help but feel attached to a really well written piece of work, and when someone messes with it, we feel hurt by those who didn’t do the work justice. Sometimes, we just have trouble separating ourselves while watching the film, but after all the work people put into the adaptation we do need to try to give them some credit; we don’t have to completely like the adaptation. Your opinion is your opinion and you are going to have it whether they like it or not, but we can take them all with a grain of salt.  (Except perhaps for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Seth Grahame-Smith, did you hate your own novel so much that you had to turn it into that action movie schlock? Be proud of your book, it is good!)

Most of the time it may be a case of “the book was better”! But at the same time, if you look back at the long catalogue of films, you may be surprised at how some of your favourite movies were originally books. Did you know that the film Pitch Perfect (2012) was based on a book?

Here is a website listing the 50 best book to movie adaptations… do you agree?

These are what are considered the worst adaptations.

And a fun one for those who hope to have a story of yours adapted in the future: Authors who have hated movie versions of their books.

Barrie Keeffe Masterclass

Barrie Keeffe, celebrated screenwriter and playwright, will be discussing his work in the film industry for a special masterclass open to all Kingston MA and MFA students.

Tuesday, 19th March
2-4pm
Knights Park, Tower Block Room 502

Looking for something to do on Valentine’s Day? Check out Love Slam

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Notes on Manhattan

Workshop last week with screenwriter and director Mark Norfolk, so it’s movies from me today. I feel I should pick a movie by my favourite director, Woody Allen. Manhattan is one of his best, but I’ve picked it largely because it’s got plenty of useful youtube clips available.

Here are some scribbles:

  • How to end a film brilliantly – The idea could have been swamped by clichés, but this scene of Allen trying to stop his ex-girlfriend from leaving is elevated by the pitch-perfect acting into something revelatory – Allen’s charming hesitancy, that combination of courage and shyness; the dove-tailing of Mariel Hemingway’s words with the sound-track; most especially the last, silent moments of Allen’s changing expressions… This is truly one of cinema’s most romantic films. Here’s that final scene:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x57-vdn908w&feature=related

  • It’s a cynic’s film, actually…. that final line: “You have to have a little faith in people” – isn’t it completely at odds with the story? The trigger for Diane Keaton chasing Woody Allen in the film is largely that her lover has spurned her. Allen only changes course to stop Hemingway leaving because Keaton has gone. Allen is all about the destinies of relationships being changed by tiny decisions, that could have gone either way, as if at the flick of a coin.
  • No, it’s a romantic’s film. The sweeping, swooning, lush Gershwin soundtrack. The moody black and white visuals.
  • Ok, a compromise. Perhaps the love affair is with the town, the architecture itself.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHkLSi7oEuw&feature=related

  • Empty rooms – So many conversations happen off-screen, especially inside apartments, with characters moving from room to room and through hallways, past the view of stationary cameras. The device is a Woody Allen staple, used in virtually every movie from Annie Hall onwards.

In a similar style, there’s also a neat moment on a pier, Allen’s friends reading from his ex-wife’s book (Meryl Streep, sensational in an early role). As Streep’s words tear Allen’s reputation apart, the camera briefly looks out over wooden posts marking out territory in the empty, ramshackle harbour. I love the loneliness of the moment. (below, 40 seconds in)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ohw8jqyLPpU

  • Great bit of character writing – Mariel Hemingway as Allen’s 17-year old girlfriend – is she not in fact the most mature character on screen? The most patient, the most open, the least often dragged into petty or grand emotional deceptions?
  • Uncomfortable bit of character writing – Manhattan (1979) is the first of many movies where Allen writes his character into a plot where he is dating a young girl. This would be creepy enough, as he gets older and older. But then off-screen in 1997 he marries Soon-Yi Previn, the adopted daughter of his long term partner Mia Farrow. The girl was 35 years his junior at the time. (Farrow had left Allen after finding nude photos taken by Allen of Soon-Yi as an 18-year old). Does real-life biography spoil this aspect of his movies in hindsight – or, after it’s been gossiped about in such depth, are we even bothered now?
  • Favourite visuals(1) the conversation between Allen and Keaton that takes place in silhouette in the planetarium. (below, poor quality, and not the whole clip – best I could find)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p52N81eX6To

  • (favourite comedy fragment – at the start of that last clip, with Allen and Keaton running in from the rain, the scrap of newspaper he is holding over his head to protect himself becomes farcically small, Allen still clinging).
  • Favourite visuals(2) the confrontation between Allen and his best friend Yale (Keaton’s ex) that takes place in a classroom, a skeleton standing next to Allen. Allen isn’t a director who is always thinking about imagery – he often emphasises dialogue, plot, character (at least when his career as an auteur gets going he does). But Manhattan (like his other black and white movies such as Broadway Danny Rose and Stardust Memories) is oriented towards the visuals.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IeqbRbAyC4M&NR=1&feature=endscreen

  • Comedy moment #2: “my doctor told me it was the wrong kind”. Allen’s momentary pause afterwards is priceless.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQPu0KLJu1I&feature=related

  • Favourite relationship insight – Allen and Keaton, completely at odds with each other at first meeting when their partners are in tow. They’re so destined to get together. And so destined to fail afterwards.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8FpnM0NlXk&feature=related

  • Life-affirming moment – Allen recites into a dictaphone his list of reasons why life is worth living, ending with his ex-girlfriend, and then realises how much he wants to get her back. (first two minutes of link below)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIugrczLUl0

  • Copy / Paste moment – running along the streets to go back to Tracy at the end of the movie. Reminds me of Billy Crystal doing the same in When Harry Met Sally. They’re both naff runners as well. At least Allen doesn’t try to be heroic – stopping with a stitch and looking around awkwardly for a taxi (same link, 3 minutes in. This link also has the full dialogue for the end scene of the movie, 5 minutes in)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIugrczLUl0

  • How to start a film brilliantly – We hear Allen drafting the opening of his book several times – first too corny, then too preachy, then too angry… A sly way to ask us: how much of our identity is self-narrated myth, and how much do we try to perfect our fictions? How much of our self-image is shaped by where we choose to live? Should we be living as cynics or romantics?

How much faith should we have in another person?

Here it is, complete with fireworks and Rhapsody in Blue:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0o6QKpNK9Cc

– Mike Loveday

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

 

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

 

Translating a book to movie presents its own unique challenges to story. There are problems concerning how to be faithful to the characters and plot. But the medium itself has its own unique challenges. Just as a single word can change the meaning within a sentence—and through that the meaning of a paragraph, a chapter, a character, the story—the way that a movie scene is edited can affect the same things.

 

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is about a mole hunt within the highest levels of the British intelligence. The original novel is by John le Carré, and the recent movie adaptation is directed by Thomas Alfredson. The climax of both novel and movie is when Smiley, the awkward middle-aged retired intelligence officer, discovers just exactly who the mole is. The climax of the movie is relatively faithful to the same scene in the novel, except in one very important way.

 

In the novel, we have both Smiley’s point of view, and the point of view of Smiley’s assistant Guillam. Smiley discovers who the mole is when he hears the mole’s voice through a planted microphone, and Guillam makes the discovery a few seconds later when they both enter the room the mole is in. We are given Smiley’s disbelief, his “angry doubt,” his resentment, how he is “deceived in love and impotent in hate” at this mole’s betrayal of him both as a man and as a spy. Guillam’s feelings are simpler, but still given to us: Guillam had looked up to the mole as a role model, only to discover that he had been responsible for the deaths of people under Guillam’s command.

 

The movie stays with this general sequence of events—Smiley hears the voice, Guillam makes the discovery when he enters the room. But in the movie, it is not clear whose voice we are hearing, nor are we shown Smiley’s reaction to it. Instead, we are given the discovery solely from Guillam’s point of view in a slow-motion camera pan showing a stunned Guillam, a very calm Smiley already present in the room and, finally, the mole himself. The emotions are no longer there, the physical action of entering the room is absent, and we lose the point of view of Smiley entirely.

 

The feeling we are left with is one of being unsatisfied. Such a crucial moment in the story has been reduced to merely being glossed over. The buildup is left unfulfilled. While the time devoted to the reveal is proportionately more in the movie compared to a few quick pages in the novel, it is the novel that has the emotional punch.

 

I have few complaints about the movie otherwise: the acting is superb, especially Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hardy, and Mark Strong, and Gary Oldman certainly gets a nod as Smiley. It also stays relatively faithful to the overall storyline, though some arbitrary changes are made that only take up more screen time than necessary. But if there is a cinematic rival to le Carré’s novel, it is not this movie but the BBC’s 1979 adaptation with Sir Alec Guinness as Smiley.

 

One word of warning: if you plan to see the movie, don’t watch the miniseries first. While Gary Oldman is wonderful, there’s no comparison to Alec Guinness’s awkward, aging, yet brilliant Smiley.

 

–Alexandra Little

 

A (sort of) love story … a (sort of) literature …

 

A (sort of) love story … a (sort of) literature …

 

Ok, so I wanted to talk a little about Andrew Haigh’s film Weekend. Whilst this is not intended to be a review of the film, as such, I feel a need to talk about it before I reach my point.

Whilst I sat and watched this film in a cinema in Covent Garden I was sure that the vast majority of the audience were of the LGBT community, which was of no shock to me. However, what did…perhaps shock is the wrong word… but what did take me unexpectedly were the universal themes at work in the film and its characters, regardless of the main relationship being that between two men.

The film centres around two guys, Glen and Russell, excellently portrayed by Chris New and Tom Cullen in an unassumingly honest and gentle way. To call it a romance would probably not sit well, nor be the intention of the writer/director, but it is a (sort of) love story nonetheless. The two meet in a bar one night and what both anticipate to become a one night stand evolves over the course of one weekend into something unexpected – a moment of ecstasy one night transverses into questions of love, windows of opportunity and relationships.

Waking up the next morning, still half naked and in the sheets from the night before, the awkwardness of the situation is soon extrapolated by Glen shoving a Dictaphone into Russell’s face and informing him he is part of an ‘art project’. He then asks Glen numerous questions about the previous evening and records his responses, saying he will become part of the art if he “makes the grade”.

The morning after transcends into an afternoon, then another evening, and melds into a whole weekend of conversation, introverted self discovery and sexual exploration. Whilst neither of the two seems to know what they want from the other, a bond nonetheless forms, which is complicated by the fact that Glen is leaving the next day to join an art course in America, where he will be staying indefinitely to pursue his career and ‘art’.

“…when you first sleep with someone you don’t know, you’re like the blank canvas, and it gives you an opportunity to project onto that canvas who you want to be”

We also discover over conversations between the two that Russell has a list of all the guys he has slept with over the years, coupled with a paragraph of writing detailing their ‘coming out’ story. A subject which fascinates him due to the fact that he was a foster child who never had true ‘parents’ and so never experienced ‘coming out’ to his family. In missing this gay rite-of-passage in his life, he seems to be collecting the experiences of everyone else he meets in compounding his own homosexual identity.

Whilst the film is a liberal, artsy conversational piece, it is quite unassuming and not in-your-face as might be expected, nor does it feel forced or claustrophobic, but holds a great and touching realism, with some beautiful shots that would make excellent still photos. Without then giving away the end of the film for those who haven’t seen it, it then turns to the question of whether the two leave their relationship as Glen leaves for America or whether they want to dive into the depths of love out of lust. What could be a typical run through the rain to stop the other from leaving, is actually a much more realistic and touching depiction of fighting over your head and your heart, believing in opportunity, fate, and the desire for love.

It is Glen’s art project and Russell’s list that have stayed with me from the film in terms of myself as a writer. Since I saw the film a few weeks ago, it has inspired me to look at some of the writing and other things I have done in my life that I have not before considered to be ‘literature’ or ‘art’; not least because I myself have a list or log very similar to Russell’s of the people I have slept with. Whilst my list does not chronicle the ‘coming out’ stories of its inhabitants, it does provide snapshots of me, my life and my sexual identity. I have written many poems and short stories and even used my experiences as catalysts for longer prose pieces, but it wasn’t until watching this film and feeling the beauty of both Glen’s Art and Russell’s list that I looked at my log from a new perspective. I actually came home that night and read my log with new eyes, and for the first time it was not just a list, not just a chronicle of parts of my life, but I actually saw it as ‘literature’, as ‘Art’… even though perhaps not something I will ever want to share publically, but still…

It is a question that always has me pondering, and has always had thinkers wondering over the centuries, but what is it that makes something suddenly become ‘literature’ or ‘art’?

Here is the trailer, and if you haven’t seen the film, I would strongly recommend it, and not just to the LGBT community…

 

  • Rich Mallender =]

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RUU_WzRBHX4

 

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