Shoot the Poet!
I had an interesting couple of days at Swansea University this week. I had been invited down to attend an interview / reading event with the shortlisted authors in this year’s International Dylan Thomas Prize. Never one to overlook the chance to make a trip more complicated than it needs to be, I arranged to go down the day before and meet one of the tutors from the Creative Writing MA course and visit the transcription centre the afternoon after the interviews.
The Prodigal Son
Launched in 2006, the annual Swansea University International Dylan Thomas Prize is one of the most prestigious awards for young writers, aimed at encouraging raw creative talent worldwide. It celebrates and nurtures international literary excellence.
The £30,000 Prize is awarded to the best published or produced literary work in the English language, written by an author aged 39 or under.
(from The Dylan Thomas Prize website)
I love that the DTP categorise ‘young’ as up to 39 years of age (the age of Dylan Thomas when he died in New York City on 9 November 1953) ... which sadly puts me into the No Poets Land — older than young but younger than senior! Nonetheless I'm alive and writing so I'll be grateful for small mercies ;) Somewhere I have a photo of me sitting at a table outside the White Horse Tavern, my head buried in a book, but I can't share that with you here because it dates from my sighted days, when I didn't include any info in the filename so it's just one of a thousand other jpg images I can't identify. £30,000 prize: one heck of a lot of shots of whisky! ;) The 2018 shortlist is:
- Kayo Chingonyi, Kumukanda (Vintage - Chatto & Windus)
- Carmen Maria Machado, Her Body and Other Parties (Serpent’s Tail / Graywolf Press)
- Gwendoline Riley, First Love (Granta)
- Sally Rooney, Conversations With Friends (Faber & Faber)
- Emily Ruskovich, Idaho (Vintage - Chatto & Windus)
- Gabriel Tallent, My Absolute Darling (4th Estate / Riverhead Books)
Carmen, Gwendoline and Gabriel were able to be interviewed in person; Kayo and Emily recorded their interviews and answered a couple of questions which were played back for the audience to hear; Sally was afflicted by a bug but her editor from Faber and Faber stepped up and spoke about what it was like to edit the book.
I had to return home that afternoon but I watched the Dylan Thomas Prize's twitter feed and saw that the winner, announced at the Dylan Thomas Centre that night, was Kayo Chingonyi for his poetry collection Kumukanda, the other 5 books all being novels. Based solely on their interviews, my vote would have gone to Emily Ruskovich for her book, Idaho, ‘A stunning debut novel about love and forgiveness, about the violence of memory and the equal violence of its loss’ (from an annotation on the Bookshare website).
Oh, what have I done?
Why have I done it?
I've committed a crime
Broken the law
For twenty-five dollars
And pieces of silver
I held up and robbed
A hard liquor store
(from the lyrics to Wednesday Morning 3 AM by Simon and Garfunkel, via Genius Lyrics)
my advice, stick to trying to win the Dylan Thomas Prize rather than robbing hard liquor stores ... as Dylan knows, you'll live longer ;)
No, I wasn't up at 3am on Wednesday morning but I was on the train to Swansea a few minutes shy of midday. I very much fancy taking the screenwriting module as part of my Creative Writing MA course but wanted to meet the tutor, Nicko Vaughan, and learn how the coursework is structured. I've had an interest in screen writing since July 2017, as related in my post Big Screen Poetry, when the creative writing group I attend on a Friday morning looked at advice on pacing a script, from screen writer Syd Field.
I was concerned because the Creative Writing section in the 2017/18 MA handbook says this about the screenwriting module: This course offers an introduction to the art of screenwriting, combining lectures on construction of story and industry expectations with practical workshops focused on weekly group feedback. Through watching and analysing particular films ... hmmmm, indeed! When I watch a film I always try and find a descriptive audio version, a narrator telling me what is going on when it is not deducible from the spoken dialogue. That is easy to find for major motion pictures but would likely be difficult to find for smaller indie studios. I might know there was a man with a gun because I'd heard the man shout and fire the gun, but I probably wouldn't be aware that a child was hiding under the kitchen table with a look of terror on his face ... you get the picture. Thankfully the tutor reassured me that she will not have us watching films ... she intends to teach us to be a movie script writer, not a movie reviewer! This cheered me up a lot!
When we talked about the recommended reading for the course, Raymond G. Frensham - Teach Yourself Screenwriting, and Blake Snyder - Save The Cat, The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need, I was delighted to say that I already had both of those electronically and am already in the middle of reading the one about cats! When the tutor also mentioned Syd Field I piped up that I had most of his books electronically too ... and then what do they say about fools rushing in? I said I liked to download movie scripts from ye olde internet ...
... and was corrected that the majority of scripts available on the internet are transcripts of the final movie, they are not the way we will be writing scripts on the MA course! As a screen writer there is a difference between the script that gets written to be submitted to movie studios, actors and directors, and the version that eventually turns into a film!
The main difference between usage in the terms "screenplay" and "script" is the function of the document.
The script the actors use during filming is primarily dialogue with minimal stage direction. This is similar to the 'spec scripts' given to agents and producers to generate interest in the work. The primary focus here is on telling the story, the word and actions that convey the message. What sound effects or lighting effects that are important to the actor's performance are noted. But, anything not directly impacting the performance are generally left out.
The screenplay is the extra layer with everything that was left out of the script. It may very well be the 'shooting script' in most cases, which is less of an actor's tool and more of a director's tool. The screenplay includes those aspects of filming that are outside the actor's purview, things like camera angles and cut or fade instructions, effects that the audience will see but have no effect on the actor's performance while on set.
(a response to the question what are the differences between a script and a screen play)
Just like Icarus my wax melted and I fell back down to the ground! But it did make me realise how different scriptwriting is from poetry or novel writing ... it'll be the director, the camera and lighting crews that decide all of the factors that relate to how the production looks, the screenwriter is responsible for the story and the dialogue and that's pretty much it! In poetry we are normally trying to pack as much into as few words as we can, in novels we are trying to pack as much as we can into as many words as we can, but in screenwriting I'll need to say as much as I can in as few words as I can ... time is money and all that! I guess that's already something I'm doing in my poetry, cutting out unnecessary adverbs, reducing adjectives and generally making things less abstract so, fingers crossed, I can manage doing poetry, long form fiction and screenwriting all in the same semester :)
Spot the Poet
I was sitting on a sofa in the Taliesin Arts Centre on Swansea University Singleton campus and somebody came up and said, “Hello, Giles.” That sort of thing doesn't happen to me often, certainly not on a university campus where I was last a student 24 years ago! Back in March I sat in on a Long Form Fiction 2 module workshop given by tutor Jon Gower, and it was the very same man who had recognised me and sat down to chat and, eventually, guided me into the auditorium . to listen to the Dylan Thomas interviews. He mentioned that he'd seen my photo in connection with the Abergavenny Writing Festival. I think that is something I've always done — attending things. That is my best guiding advice ... don't just go to events you're performing at, attend other events too ... faces do get noticed and me travelling to Swansea to support the Dylan Thomas Prize and its shortlisted authors is as important as me being photographed as a performer on the last night of Abergavenny Writing Festival. I would share the Abergavenny Writing Festival photo with you here but, as with any photo, I cannot tell which one I'm in ... you'll just have to take my word for it, I was there ;)
#Poetry #Screenwriting #DylanThomasPrize #CreativeWriting #SwanseaUniversity