Brunel Creative Writing reaches new heights

Creative Writing at Brunel University has risen to 2nd in London in the 2021 Complete University Guide.

Brunel Creative Writing also ranks 13th out of 53 Universities across the whole of the UK, with an impressive 89% overall satisfaction rating from students.

If you’d like to join our growing community of Creative Writers and study on one of our BA, MA, or postgraduate programmes, get in touch with us here.

Kypsel, a new way to share art

Interview with Brunel student and founder of Kypsel, Luca Mouzannar

Brunel Writer – Tell us about Kypsel. What is it and how does it work?

Luca Mouzannar – Kypsel is a platform that directly connects writers with their fans and enables them to take part in the artist’s growth. On Kypsel, writers can freely publish and sell their work with the advantage of keeping full control over their work. We allow artists to publish their work with a few clicks without interfering in the artistic and creative integrity of the product. Once a book, web comic, music track or short story is published any buyer can resell the work to their friends on their own social networks. In return, the fans get a referral commission for every converted sale.

BW – How did you come up with the idea for creating this platform? Did it come from your own experience of trying to publish/sell creative work or did you simply see a gap in the market?

LM – A little bit both actually. One of the co-founders tried to publish work through traditional publishers and faced several issues – mainly low royalties, no flexibility in claiming these and a lot of changes to the creative product. At the same time, being surrounded by artists who do good work, I could clearly see a gap in the market, especially in the era of social media where it is so simple to publish a post but very hard to publish and sell creative work. When we think that Harry Potter was rejected by many publishers before finally seeing the light, it puts a lot into perspective!

BW – Has your experience of studying creative writing at Brunel played a part in the building of Kypsel as you continuously interact with young creatives?

LM – Of course! I have met so many talented people who have so much to express and I can see how difficult it is to get our work out there. Fans should be able to decide what is good work without any buffer. I’ve seen so many artists and creative talents fall into jobs they hate because they aren’t able to monetise their craft. Before we know it, a side job becomes a main job and writing becomes a hobby instead of a craft we can live off.

BW – Why should creatives choose to publish with Kypsel? How does it benefit them over other more known online platforms such as Amazon, Google Play, Spotify, etc.?

LM – The first big advantage is that Kypsel is free to use and offers higher royalties than any other platform. Remuneration is a lot fairer and the creative product itself remains untouched. Kypsel is more of a self-publishing tool than a publisher. It is extremely easy to start and work can be published with a few clicks. It is also a non-exclusive platform which allows creatives to use all the means at their best disposal to get their work out there and see for themselves what works best.

LM – We also believe the referral engine is unique to Kypsel and will incentivise fans to buy, refer and sell the work instead of downloading it for free. It is a great way to fight piracy and we believe it will amplify the authors’ success and give them access to audiences they might not have reached when using other platforms. We like to refer to this video to illustrate a lot of the issues with the bigger platforms.

BW – Do you see self-publishing as the future of publishing art or are renowned publishing companies and music corporations still the way to go?

LM – We sincerely believe self-publishing is the future of publishing because renowned publishers and music corporations take most of the profits and leave very little for the artists who put in the work. Fans are also the ones who promote the art they enjoy, so the role of those companies is becoming more and more obsolete, especially in the era of algorithms and social media. Another issue is speed. People, especially the younger generation, enjoy content more than the form it comes in and want it faster than ever. We also tend to trust people more than big entities so Kypsel exists to cut the middleman who slows down the process and doesn’t split profits fairly.

BW – Finally, where is Kypsel headed? What can we expect from this platform in the future?

LM – We are hoping it will grow exponentially and allow young artists to express themselves so we can keep reading the stories we love and listening to music we enjoy. We want to connect artists with their fans and expand our offer to include any virtual goods such as short movies and apps. Our vision is simply to free content from the boxes that it is usually put into because of industry standards that don’t match the current realities of web and social media and we believe this can go very far.

BW – Thank you Luca!

You can visit Kypsel here and start sharing your work today!

The Grim Reaping of Harvey Grieves – from Brunel coursework to a short film

by Alice Lassey

The initial idea for what became The Grim Reaping of Harvey Grieves arrived in 2015. It was the start of my first screenwriting module at Brunel, and I had to come up with an original idea for a ten-page short screenplay. Our tutor, Max Kinnings, had been very fair, giving us a week to produce just a title and logline to share with the class. Being completely unable to think of a dramatic idea I could do justice to in only ten pages, I decided on a comedy about an old man running away from the Grim Reaper. Quirky, right? Original? Fun? I certainly hoped my peers would think so because the only thing rivalling my fear of sharing my work is the eternal need for validation.

Though the insistence on having us share severely unpolished ideas with the class took me some time to recover from, that second year screenwriting module was one of the most enjoyable and – perhaps more importantly – most useful of the course, and for one reason in particular. Far more than any other, this module stressed the importance of developing an idea and editing your story before even starting the first draft, ensuring that major issues are resolved before they become deeply embedded in a full-fledged script. It’s something that has helped me a lot in my writing post-graduation, and something I wish I had kept in mind while writing my major project in third year – but the less said about that, the better.

So, I wrote the script, I wrote an essay about the script (why, Brunel?), I handed it in and… I got a B+. Not bad. I guess it was actually kinda funny. After that, the script just sat in a drawer (well, on a USB, this is the 21st century) for a few years, I graduated, didn’t write a thing for a shamefully looooong time, until…

2018. I’m back home with my parents in the North, I have no job, no social life, and no local production company wants to exploit my unpaid labour in exchange for ‘experience’ (believe me, I tried hard to persuade them). In my attempts to find creative opportunities that may help me scrounge something resembling a career, I sign up to a script surgery being run as part of the Independent Directions (INDIs) festival in Leeds. The only problem is since I have barely written a thing since graduating, I have no new scripts to submit, only that old thing gathering virtual dust in the digital drawer. My assigned reader was writer and actor Gaynor Faye, and her feedback (along with the fresh eyes that come after not looking at something for years) gave me a new perspective on the script and a new desire to work on it.

So I did. And then… back in the drawer. It didn’t come out again until this year when I submitted it for feedback at the recently-formed Northern Screenwriters Table, an online writer’s group that meets bi-weekly to feedback on members’ scripts. The response was very positive, and even before the meeting went ahead, I received an enquiry from one member asking if I had spoken to a director or producer about having it made.

Up until this point, I had always considered production for this script to be a non-starter. All the advice on making short films says to keep it simple, with one location and a limited cast. They don’t say ‘how about a chase across town involving a hospital, a bus, and an ambulance?’ I had no experience in making short films, and this script seemed too complicated, too expensive to make. This changed when Simon came on board because now the project had a producer with experience compiling budgets and who knew how to go about sourcing the necessary funding. Of course, the process of making the film cannot go ahead until that funding is secured, and at this stage, nothing is certain. We have applied (and continue to apply) to a number of industry sources, and are asking individuals to invest in the project through Kickstarter, where we are offering a selection of perks (such as exclusive merchandise and behind-the-scenes access) to backers.

The journey from that class in 2015 to here has been a long one, and with any luck, it will end up longer still, seeing the project through production, post-production, and the festival circuit. Most of it until this point though, has been spent with the script sitting untouched on my computer, so I suppose the moral of the story is (and this is something I am still reluctant to learn myself) – your work goes nowhere if you never show it to anyone. And if you do… perhaps you’ll find someone as passionate about it as you are.

If you’d like to find out more about The Grim Reaping of Harvey Grieves, or perhaps even invest (and getting your hands on some exclusive perks), the Kickstarter page can be found here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/simonbg/the-grim-reaping-of-harvey-grieves

Tomorrow’s launch of the Kickstarter campaign will be accompanied by a livestreamed launch event on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7klydtYaQI&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR3zBWr8HX0t3Nki28KjYaAHD9JmvrltavwM3sdlOo1vYPlOY_Wg9AYB4xk) and Facebook Live.

You can follow the project on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) at @harveygrieves.

Alice Lassey graduated in 2017 with a first-class honours degree in Theatre and Creative Writing. An aspiring filmmaker, she currently writes on film at her blog Extended Cut (www.extendedcut.co.uk) alongside developing script and prose fiction projects. She can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @alicelassey.

The Brunel Writer Prize 2020

Every year, The Brunel Writer Prize is awarded to the student whose article submission for the Creative Industries module on Brunel University’s Creative Writing Programme is the highest graded. This year’s winner is Perri Wickham. Perri’s article shows how she used the various skills acquired through the Creative Writing course in an exciting industry environment.


HOW MY SHORT FILM ‘LONDON MADE ME’ FEATURED ALONGSIDE RAPMAN’S ‘BLUE STORY’ SCREENING

by Perri Wickham

During an unproductive day of tapping through Instagram stories, I came across the LDN Filmmakers application.  The week-long course was organised by the Mayor of London and Digital Cinema Media to help applicants write, direct, and produce a short film.  I immediately swiped up, excited to put my screenwriting skills to use outside of my Creative Writing degree, to finally get behind the cameras, and to connect with aspiring filmmakers.

The application process was straightforward.  I had to write down my personal information and in 250 words, explain why I wanted to participate.  I felt this was a fantastic opportunity for me to get equipped with new skills as I had never made a film before, and to put my vivid imagination into action.  A week later, I received a notification to say that I was successful.

Industry members from Chocolate Films Production led the training at Genesis Cinema.  During the introductory session, they gave us a brief to base our plot on London.  They told us that each of our films would feature alongside the screening of Rapman’s new movie ‘Blue Story’ at Genesis, which turned the pressure up a notch.  ‘Blue Story’ is an adaptation of Rapman’s 2014 YouTube series of the same name that explores gang rivalries in London. 

I teamed up with six participants, and we were allocated a mentor for support.  We brainstormed ideas about what London meant to us, and how we could capture our message cinematically through the plot as well as visuals.

Initially, there was a miscommunication on our first idea, as everyone had slightly different visions, which was confusing.  Thanks to our mentor, we managed to narrow it down enough to pitch to the other groups and their mentors.  Receiving feedback was essential as it helped us to clarify our concept and make it appropriate for younger viewers, as our film was going to be screened in schools. 

My group and I decided to tell the story of a protagonist, who on her way home, reflects on London’s vibrant culture and how it shaped her into a successful adult, using flashbacks of her past.  It only made sense to add an inspirational spoken word poem to talk the audience through her journey.  Since I am a poet, I volunteered to write and perform the voice over.

After receiving training on how to use film equipment, we solidified our storyboard, then set out to film in Stepney Greene.  The first day turned out to be experimental, and we decided to extend our filming location to Stratford as it had more landmarks that would benefit the visuals.  We spent the next two days knuckling-down, ensuring that we had enough footage to make a high-quality final draft. 

The final day of the course was crucial, as we had to complete a rough draft of our edits and create a shot list for Chocolate Films, who would polish it.  We had a guest visit from Amani Simpson, the creator of his autobiographical short film ‘Amani’, and one of the main actors, Ellis Witter.  It was inspiring to see a director who had no experience, establish connections, and gain enough funding to compose a successful short film with over one million views.

On the 24th November, I attended my first red carpet premiere in Hollywood.  Okay, it was at the Genesis Cinema.  Watching my first short film on the big screen was a powerful experience, as I was able to witness how a project, I made in under a week could transform into a dynamic yet professional piece. 

LDN Filmmakers taught me that if you strongly believe in your vision, it is possible to execute it with the right equipment, no matter the time constraints.  Now that I’ve gained confidence as a filmmaker, I am determined to make my mark in the film industry, and that starts now.

You can find Perri’s short film “London Made Me” on LDN Filmakers.

Perri Wickham is a flourishing Creative Writing Graduate looking to make her mark in the Entertainment Industry.  Hailing from Southeast London, where the trains run slower, Perri currently freelances as a blogger for Fledglink, a journalist/comms assistant for Brits + Pieces, and writes poems as well as scripts in her spare time.  If she goes MIA it means she’s working on a special project.  Her material is very audacious!

Surviving The Horror That is Final Year Dissertation – by Amena Begum

‘What do you mean, I have to write a DISSERTATION?’

‘Well, I’m afraid that’s the only way you’ll be able to get your degree’, said the professor with a grin.

Dissertation…that’s a pretty big word and a rather terrifying concept, but as someone who’s gradually approaching the end of this experience, I can share some of the things I did to make it slightly more manageable. These tips and tricks certainly won’t make writing a dissertation a piece of cake, nor will it take away the stress, but it can certainly make life that tiny bit easier amidst the hundreds of other things that you’ll be required to do in final year.

You’ve got your topic, but you just don’t know where to begin. Completing a ‘disso’ can be a daunting task, since for many students this is the first time that they’ll have produced something on such a large scale. But fear not, I got you.

Firstly, plan, plan, plan! For something as big as this, it’s crucial to plan out your reading and chapter outlines early on. Start off by reading around your topic to get a general flavour of what you’re actually trying to nail down. Find books and articles which will enable you to see the bigger picture, and then slowly home in on the finer, crisper details specific to your chapters and research arguments. Shout out to Brunel Library, JStor, Academic Search Complete and many more for having my back! Make sure you have enough knowledge on your primary reading, so that way the extra secondary material will become much easier to apply. That’s the initial ‘gathering your materials’ phase tackled, now you’re probably thinking, ‛how do I go about starting?’ This is always a difficult question when it comes to a complex piece of work, but if you have planned sufficiently it should not be too taxing.

Many people, including some of my friends, prefer to write their introduction last because it allows them to piece all the threads together and outline what exactly they’re going to cover throughout the project. If the idea of writing a long introduction puts you on edge, then don’t worry, you can always come back to it later. It’s natural to feel most comfortable about writing your chapters on your chosen areas, since that’s what you’ll have spent the most time reading up on. In that case, start writing about your first chosen issue, combining all the relevant juicy secondary material that you’ve read. Continue to do this for each of your chapters, ensuring that there are links between the sections where applicable.

Next, let’s talk about making effective use of your supervisor. Now for some people, they just like to be left to their own devices and prefer not to be overshadowed. But personally, I would highly recommend keeping in regular contact with your dissertation supervisor. They are literally a godsend at a time like this! They’re the ones who have extensive knowledge in the area that you’ll be examining. As for me, I like to meet with my supervisor each time I complete a section as a good progress checker, and to gain feedback on how to sharpen my work even further. Often, we are subjective to our own work and are reluctant to find room for improvement since we’ve had our eyes glued to it for such a prolonged period of time. Use your supervisor’s help and expertise – that’s what they’re there for!

Finally, I want to address some general study habits that can make writing a dissertation simpler. Create a study group where you and your friends can work on the disso on a weekly basis. It’s unrealistic to say, ‘I’m gonna write a thousand words each day’, that ain’t gonna happen, so don’t be one of those people. It’s important to work on it over time so that it remains fresh and concise. Instead, plan out small chunks to work on at least twice a week in your study groups, bearing in mind that it won’t be possible to work on it daily, since you’ll have other assignments and commitments too. For a disso, study groups are a fantastic way of collaborating and providing each other with support. Dissertations can be exhausting both physically and mentally, so working alongside the right people can help put your mind and work at ease. You’re all in the same position and can help each other with constructive peer reviewing.

Those are my tips on how to survive the demon that will inevitably take over your life, aka disso. Hopefully they’ll be of good use and help you on your path to success. So, what are you waiting for? Get typing away on that keyboard!

 

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Amena is a third year English Literature student who can speak English, Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu. Despite the stereotype associated to Shakespeare as being the epitome of literature, he is actually her least favourite literary figure. Her aspiration is to one day become a university lecturer.

The Importance of Building an Online Presence as a Writer – by Amena Begum

Gone are the days when an author would publish their work and that was that. No engagement with their readership, public appearances or glossy interviews explaining the rationale behind their produced masterpiece. That, of course, was then. The stone ages, the ancient time, call it what you will. Now, we have progressed into a modern age in which a writer’s interaction with his or her audience and the public eye is of utmost significance. Think about it. How many times a day do you scroll through social media feeds aimlessly, networking with others, and most notably updating your own social media portals for them to see? The very same principle applies to writers. They too have to make a conscious effort to create and maintain their online profiles in order to attract readership and gain public demand.

Each writer’s virtual world acts as a mechanism to depict what they are like as an individual and what their works entail and carry. When crafting your online presence, you are not just showcasing yourself as a person, but rather, you are meticulously constructing your brand. This shows your active connection with your audience and displays your key values and ideologies, which helps gain the trust and loyalty of fans. Once that has been established, your community of fans/readers can wait for your upcoming works. This reflects anticipation and shows that they are keen to commemorate and enjoy what you have written. It is vital to note that your online presence must be in action prior to your first publication so that the appropriate recognition can be built, therefore creating a greater fan following.

Above all, the craftsmanship of a successful online presence feeds into the digital world’s dynamic of strategic marketing. It is all about promotion and advertising in a nifty way to make your mark. These days, with it being so easy to track down a writer’s profile as they are only one click away from a quick Google search, it is imperative to have a lively and impactful online presence. Having sound knowledge on how to present yourself as a writer in the fast-paced online world puts your work in good stead of attaining optimum success and enables your writing career to flourish. Internet-based mediums are a fresh and candid way to gain loyalty from your desired readership and it gives them a glimpse into your world of producing publications. The ease and accessibility that it has in today’s modernity makes individuals more willing to engross themselves into the writer’s world, and keeps them wanting more. What’s not to love about that? So, online presence making is a real game-changer for any budding writer or artist. For the upcoming writers out there, now is the time to start making a name for yourselves.

 

Amena is a third year English Literature student who can speak English, Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu. Despite the stereotype associated to Shakespeare as being the epitome of literature, he is actually her least favourite literary figure. Her aspiration is to one day become a university lecturer.

How I Made my Debut Short Film ‘Black Fish’ for the BBC – by Simi Abe

A still from Black Fish, written and directed by Brunel Creative Writing graduate, Simi Abe.

On September 16th 2019, I was fortunate enough to have my short film ‘Black Fish’ added to BBC iPlayer and shared across the BBC Arts social media pages. It all came about because I applied to the BBC New Creatives development scheme. And I only came across the scheme by chance while scrolling through Facebook. 

The Application 

When I saw the post on Facebook about BBC New Creatives, I was most interested in the fact it was open to both emerging filmmakers and those without prior experience.  I fell into the latter category; I’d only decided I wanted to direct films the year before, just after completing a degree in Creative Writing. So coming across this opportunity to have a short film funded by the BBC and Arts Council England, that could be shared on one of the BBC platforms, seemed like a great learning experience. And fortunately, I had a script for a short film that fit the brief: under 5 minutes. 

Although it looked like the perfect opportunity for me at the time, I almost didn’t apply. I was worried that my script was too ambitious (it was) and that I wasn’t up for the task of directing it. Thankfully, I went out on a limb and sent in my application. 

To apply, I had to send my application to one of the five media organisations assigned to different parts of the country. They functioned as support to the New Creatives, our production partners and they bridged the gap between us and the BBC. These media organisations cover: London, South East, South West, Midlands and the North. Living in the East, I sent my application to Screen South.

The Interview 

I knew the process of making the film would have to be completed within three months, yet I was still surprised to get a response to my application so quickly and was asked to come in for an interview in five days. Naturally, I was nervous; I had little interview experience and this one was conducted by three people. Fortunately, it went well and three days later I heard that I had been a successful applicant. 

The Training 

Three training days were held over two consecutive weekends led by the team from Screen South. The training was held in London and we had talks and exercises about the script: how to approach the story, how to edit it, storyboarding, distribution, working with a crew and the logistics of the scheme. It was a useful three days in which I also got to meet the other New Creatives and heard them talk about the stories they were hoping to tell. We all had varying backgrounds and levels of experience and although I was one of two people that had never made a film, most of us hadn’t been a part of a development scheme. Knowing I wasn’t alone in that sense was encouraging.

Pre-Production to Post

I applied for the scheme in March, the training days took place in April and the films needed to be completed by June. It was a tight deadline and quick turnover but it was necessary to keep momentum. So the Monday after the last training day, I shouldn’t have been surprised (and yet I was) that work would begin at full steam. 

Screen South had set me up with two producers and they had planned for a two-week pre-production period and the filming would be done in one day. Naturally, there was a lot to work out in such a short space of time – the script had to be edited to accommodate the budget and time we had (edited six times, to be exact), the storyboard, the shot list, wardrobe, actors, props, location, etc… all had to be sorted and signed off by Screen South in time for the shoot. 

Filming was a little hectic because we had a number of tight deadlines and time restrictions. The script, although short, had a fair amount of action and would have been more conveniently shot across two days. Yes, it was a stressful day and I went into it a little nervous because I didn’t know what to expect. I was on my feet all day except for the brief minutes I spent having lunch, but in spite of this, I enjoyed the experience of being on location and seeing something I had written slowly come together. It was a long but valuable day for my development as a filmmaker. I learnt a lot from my shortcomings and mistakes, all of which will be informative going forward. Not only that, but it also served as a lesson in trusting my ideas and being sure about how to communicate them.

Post-production began at the start of May and ended at the end of June. It was surprisingly the longest part of the process. It took twelve versions of the edit and many revisions of the score. It was enjoyable working with the editor and composer to rework the film and share ideas. I felt confident in my choices even when they had to be revised after receiving notes from the executive producers at Screen South. It took a lot of back and forth to get the film ready for the colour grade and sound mix at the Post House. At times it didn’t seem like it would come together but eventually, it did and it was a huge relief seeing the film completed.

Post Post-Production

When the film was sent to the BBC at the end of June, I didn’t anticipate that I’d hear from Screen South in September congratulating me that my film had been selected as one of the first to be on BBC iPlayer. And better than that, it was the first to be shared on social media. It has had 46,000 views across Facebook and Twitter to date, which I didn’t anticipate. It’s been humbling and encouraging having seen the response of friends, family and strangers online. It’s motivated me to keep pushing towards my goal of being a filmmaker which feels all the more possible now.

My short film, Black Fish is available to watch online now and you can find out more about the BBC New Creatives here.

Simi Abe