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

The Brunel Writer Prize 2019

The Brunel Writer Prize is awarded to the student(s) who achieves the highest graded 600 word article submission for the Creative Industries module on Brunel University’s Creative Writing programme. This year’s prize is shared between two students: Renée Dacres and Russell Christie. Renée’s article discusses diversity in the publishing industry and a new publishing venture that aims to address diverse representation in children’s books. Russell’s article focuses on autobiographical writing and in particular, perceptions related to working class fiction and autobiography.

Congratulations to Renée and Russell.


THE KNIGHTS OF CONUNDRUM:

Is the publishing industry really changing?

by Renée Dacres

Knights-Of-logo-01-787x175So, you want to be able to sniff a freshly printed book hot off the press? Maybe even a book you’ve had a hand in publishing?

As Creative Writing students, it’s often assumed that many of us have a love of books (but don’t worry, I won’t tell Will Self if you don’t). To that end, it’s also assumed that many of us want to get involved with the publishing industry.

As a Brunelian, you are part of a very diverse community and some of us may be guilty of taking that for granted at times. University is enough of a bubble in its own right, without taking into consideration what and who comprise our environment.

The Equality Act 2010 prompted the start of Brunel’s Student Success Project following their five-year plan for 2015-2020. The scheme looks specifically at why there are gaps in the attainment of 2:1 and first class degrees for BAME students. Whether there is actionable proof of improvements is unknown because of the lack of available data.

The progress of racial diversity within the publishing industry is also questionable. There is certainly a push to encourage more BAME candidates to apply for entry roles, what with initiatives like Hachette’s Fresh Chapters eight-week internship programme or HarperCollins’ BAME Traineeship . If you ask me, it seems likes these schemes amount to noise and not much else. After all, research by The Publishers’ Association from 2018 shows that the percentage of BAME respondents to the Diversity and Inclusion survey fell from 13% to 11.6% compared to 2017. The 1.4% fall suggests that these schemes aren’t doing enough to encourage BAME candidates to apply for roles.

Let’s compare these figures to those of us studying at Brunel.

In 2014, there were 14335 students at Brunel. Of those students studying at Brunel who are UK-domicile (i.e. home students) almost 38.8% of the total student population was classified as BAME, not accounting for those who did not wish to disclose their ethnicity. That is around 5590 students. If the publishing industry was to use the student body at Brunel, they would have to increase the number of BAME employees by 27.2%.

That’s over a quarter of the entire workforce!

However, with the birth of Knights Of, it seems that there is actionable proof that the publishing industry is trying to change. Knights Of is a publishing house dedicated to increasing diverse representation in children’s books.

Their shake-up of the submission process is also worth logging in your writer brain. Authors are free to pitch their novel ideas through a “Live Chat” function with one of the team and if they like your idea enough, they’ll ask you to send over a synopsis. This seems a lot less scary than submitting to an agent or publisher the way we normally would, don’t you think? I think this level of approachability is very important; not only when it comes to encouraging BAME authors to submit their novels, but also when it comes to making job applications. The publishing industry is notoriously aloof, so it seems that a shift in tone is necessary if the PA truly wish to achieve their goals of improving ethnic diversity.

The Publishers’ Association suggests that 15% of employees should be Black, Asian and minority ethnic. This is despite the fact that the 2011 census data suggests that 24% of the population in England and Wales would be considered BAME.

Alternatively, the publishing industry should be aiming for a workforce which is representative of the country’s demographics. Hence, they should aim for closer to Brunel’s representative 38.8% BAME demographic. After all, even if that target is not met, it’s still a significant improvement on current conditions.

Maybe if more of us felt like we were represented by the books being published and the people who publish them, we wouldn’t be so worried about offending Professor Self? Because we’d all love books.

IMG_7016 2

Renée Dacres is a writer of stories, screenplays and personal essays hailing from the grey area that is the Essex/ London fringe. Which one is it? Nobody knows. She has hopes of writing a novel in the future, with interests in both publishing and television development. If you have penchant for ramblings, you can find plenty on her blog.

 

 

 


FACTION FICTIONS

by Russell Christie

DcHk_K_W0AE-9UD

Unfortunately, the Spread-the-Word, life-writing competition email didn’t tell me why my submission had not made the longlist for this year’s prize, just that it hadn’t. Leaving me to my own speculations as to why my story had not made the cut. Was my life-writing too fictionalised for their category? Memoir may be the new novel, but is novel the new memoir? What is the relationship between autobiography and fiction and how does the autobiographical fiction I had submitted differ from what is categorised as life-writing? And: is memoir what it used to be?

An event at Brunel – an examination of autobiografiction in light of The Burnett Archive of working class autobiographies – offered to further stoke my grief-fuelled speculations, or ameliorate them with free wine!

Working class investment in writing autobiographically based fictions has historically been modulated by conscious political positioning of the texts by the genre’s major exponents, apparently. Autobiography fictionalized enables distance and circumspection in using the material of a life. It is a different mode of exposition from the promised authentic intimacies of memoir: it takes place in a fiction form. Significant scenes are often transposed onto other incarnations and protagonists in a distancing that mediates against easy nostalgia. Stripped of the requirement for a psychological accounting of self, this fictionalising ‘shows’ the basic facts. The distinction between fiction and memory in this context is one of genre markers based on style and perspective rather than documentary truth. Fiction is showing, memoir is telling, life-writing is telling by showing.

I reflected that the frequent designation of working class fiction as inherently autobiographical, characterizes working class people as inescapably marked by their situation in a way that middle class writers supposedly transcend. Working class fiction gets categorised as autobiographical because it is suffused with a coal dust which does not appear in the milieu of a middle class oblivious to its own saturated marking with clean crockery and Evelyn Waugh conversations. The middle class, of course, are equally marked by the biographical limitations of the bourgeois imagination. Aren’t they, Alan Hollinghurst?

Denying autobiographical pertinence to your writing – even to speculative fiction – is to pretend that the imagination is undetermined and un-situated: a standard bourgeois conceit and ideological ploy. Fiction no more exists than freedom. Everything I write displays my historic circumstances. I cannot help but express the autobiographical configurations of my life, channelling the people who have influenced me, the travel I have been privileged to, the language that gives birth to this tongue and no other. How would I write outside of this? There is no universal writing, or even any universal to know, apart from this binding we are all subject to: this thrown-ness into our own narrow and total worlds, which we then only transcend through sharing as a limitation, as a specific embodiment, as ourselves.

And where is the proof that would differentiate fact from fiction? Even if you video your whole life, what would you be evidencing in the editing: psychological structure, political reality, one story among others? It’s a naïve understanding of truth that easily marks fiction from documentary. As in the contemporary shift from nostalgically reflective, purple prosaic memoir to the stripped back, New Journalist, first person prose of life-writing, it is the form that distinguishes genres rather than the events these forms are built around.

It is the tenor, the intimacy, the pose, the hands-up, the hidden-ness, the sentences, the perspective that distinguishes fiction from life-writing and memoir. These are genre markers. Fiction has a fiction form, irrespective of its factuality. Self assertion, ownership and marketing is part of the form of contemporary autobiografiction. And what you remember, told as fiction, is not memoir. Except perhaps for Thomas Wolfe’s Of Time And The River and, ahem, my submission to the life-writing prize. Is there more wine?

edf

Russell Christie is a novelist and procrastinator who’s lived in several countries, often undercover and in various states of legitimacy. He enjoys throwing in curve balls from left field, especially dialectical materialism (still!) and Buddhist ontology. He came to Brunel (like everywhere) to escape the forces of the state but ended up quite liking it (like everywhere). His first novel, The Queer Diary of Mordred Vienna was published in 2015.

Calling All Poets!

Untitled design (99)

Bear with a Sore Head is now recruiting a select number of people to write, perform and record a one minute poem about what childhood reading meant to you. If chosen, your video will be published on our social media, and used to advertise our website, plus it’s an excellent CV booster! For more details please get in contact via email: bearwithasorehead.dyslexia@gmail.com or over the Bear with a Sore Head social media pages: BWASH Facebook BWASH Twitter

We’re very excited to see the kind of work that only talented writers like YOU can create.
(Topics can include: how reading shaped you, what books meant to you, what effect reading had on your childhood etc).

Alternative Comedy Now Conference

AlternativeNowConference

2nd-3rd May 2019, University of Kent, UK

Organised by the Popular & Comic Performance Research Centre (PCP) and the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR)

On 19 May 1979, the Comedy Store opened in Soho, London and precipitated the alternative comedy movement, which would revolutionise the style, subject matter and politics of British stand-up. The current UK comedy industry, from the smallest DIY comedy club to the arena tour, can arguably trace its origins back to the alternative comedy movement of the 1980s.

Organised by the Popular & Comic Performance Research Centre (PCP) at the University of Kent and the Centre for Comedy Studies Research (CCSR) at Brunel University London, Alternative Comedy Now will be an international interdisciplinary conference taking stock of this crucial cultural movement, forty years on from its inception. In addition to academic papers, the conference will feature involvement from some of the key figures in alternative comedy, a festival of alternative comedy performance, and an exhibition of early alternative comedy material from the British Stand-Up Comedy Archive.

We invite proposals for papers exploring such issues as: precursors and influences; the Comedy Store; the Comic Strip; Alternative Cabaret; the effects of alternative comedy on material and/or performance style; the politics of alternative comedy; the comedy club; individual alternative comedians; the cabaret elements e.g. ranting/dub poets, street performers, etc.; the American alternative comedy scene e.g. UnCabaret, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, etc.; alternative comedy in the provinces; alternative comedy on TV; the legacy of alternative comedy; etc.

We would also welcome non-standard presentations (e.g. performance papers, workshops, etc.).

Please send a 300-word proposal and a short 100-word bionote to Oliver Double (o.j.double@kent.ac.uk) and Sharon Lockyer (Sharon.Lockyer@brunel.ac.uk) by 28th September 2018.

The Brunel Writer Prize 2018

The Brunel Writer Prize is awarded to the student who achieves the highest graded non-fiction article submission for the Creative Industries module on Brunel University’s Creative Writing programme. The piece of non-fiction should be ‘fresh, original, compelling and well balanced’. This year’s prize is shared between two students: Adam Johnson and Fleur Rollet-Manus. Adam’s piece tells of the video game, Overwatch, and its online community’s refusal to embrace the progressive vision of its creator. Fleur’s article debunks the Hollywood myth of the magazine industry via her personal experience of securing a position with Suitcase Magazine.

Overwatch

Overwatch: The game that brought the world together (And tore it apart)

Hello, I am a video game nerd. It’s okay, I am comfortable in my albeit pasty skin. Every video game nerd has a weapon of choice, a game they hold in high esteem above all others, and mine is Overwatch. This game was first conceived when Blizzard executive Geoff Kaplan dared to ask the question, ‘what would happen if first person shooter Call of Duty and Disney Pixar Studios went on a blind date, and that date went really well, and it led to a wholesome marriage and inevitably, a beautiful video game birth child?’ Well Geoff, Overwatch happens, and it’s pretty good.

This is an online video game: players are split into two teams of six and battle against one another for an objective, like King of the Hill, for example. It boasts beautiful landscapes, set in a utopian future, and has a roster of twenty-seven characters for players to choose from. There’s an equal number of male and female characters and not all the females are sexualised (this is a rarity in the video game world, so good job Geoff, I guess) but, above all else, what makes this game so special is its diversity. It celebrates so many cultures. For example, there’s this guy from Brazil who’s a successful DJ, he’s called Lucio. Then there’s Diva, a South Korean professional gamer, and there’s Angela, a medic from Switzerland, and she’s going out with a cyborg Japanese ninja called Genji but they can’t meet and have to send forbidden love letters because he’s training in the Tibetan mountains with a robotic monk who is a badass. See? It sounds awesome. It’s wonderfully progressive, there are so many indiscriminate characters and they are all working together for a common cause. So, according to Overwatch the future couldn’t be brighter. According to Overwatch race relations surpass even Martin Luther King’s wildest dreams.

But there is a problem and it’s a big one. To reiterate, Overwatch is an online game. This means that real people are playing the game. Real people are asked to work together, as a team, with people they’ve never met before. Now, it’s all well and good that the characters in the video game are so tolerant of one another, but real people…that’s a whole other story.

Foolish Geoff Kaplan. Much like Dr. King before him, Geoff too, had a dream. This dream was simple. He sought to unite pasty nerds across the globe in a first-person team-based experience. They would greet random strangers online with open arms and together, they would achieve ultimate victory, much like the beloved characters they play as. Overwatch would set a shining example of what the world could be, if discrimination was but a bitter memory. This was Geoff Kaplan’s extraordinary dream.

But Geoff, oh foolish, delusional Geoff. Human beings are terrible, mate. I believe it was Edelman that once said:

‘Man is evil. By nature, man is a beast.’

Of course, Marek Edelman was talking about Warsaw, but I think the point more accurately describes the Overwatch online community. They are just awful. Since playing Overwatch, I have experienced racism a total of fifty-two times and I am white. My sexuality is constantly inferred. I am encouraged to kill myself on a regular basis. The list goes on. I won’t bore you with the details. But it’s bitter irony that a game that celebrates tolerance and diversity couldn’t have a more toxic community.

Poor unfortunate Mr Kaplan. All he wanted was for people to make friends. But a horde of angry nerds across the globe that make up the Overwatch community, have taken Geoff Kaplan’s beautiful dream in their sweaty hands and smashed it into a million tiny pieces.

Way to go humanity.

You suck.

Adam Johnson PicAdam Johnson is a writer, actor and shameless gamer. Hailing from Kent, his proudest achievement is co-writing the musical Super Hero which had a mini pop-up tour around the country with the National Youth Music Theatre. He is soon to perform at the Camden Fringe, and finally, he is better than 51% of all players on Overwatch (he insisted we include this).

 


 

miranda-devil-wears-prada

The Devil No Longer Wears Prada

It’s about time we debunked the myth that the magazine industry is full of angry, designer-clad, triple-shot-half-soy-half-milk-from-mars-extra-hot coffee wielding Miranda Priestly clones. Whilst lifestyle journalism does bring with it the same glitz and glamour displayed in the hit movie and best-selling novel that thinly veils the life behind the glossy pages of Vogue, the stereotypes that suggest the industry is full of girls that survive solely off diet coke and lettuce leaves under a fearful, but perfectly-groomed dictator are both inaccurate and damaging.

Last year through the power of social media, I landed an interview at SUITCASE Magazine, the publication I’d been fangirling over ever since I’d been (unfairly) sacked from playing Farmer Fleur on an Australia banana farm – truly a story for another day. After much to-ing and fro-ing (the then Deputy Editor had commitments in Palm Springs, Havana, Nice) a date and the location was set. I arrived at the swanky, marble-topped bar of Soho House’s member-only Dean Street Townhouse early, by an hour. Unsurprisingly, I had yet to be in a financial position to shell out for a House membership therefore was denied entry and asked to leave until the Deputy Editor (who naturally was a member) arrived. Was this the first sign that I wasn’t elite enough to be writing for the cool kids? Was my tube-creased Zara shirt evidence that I wouldn’t cut it against the clean lines of Valentino’s latest capsule collection? Apparently not, I started the next day.

Having religiously poured over the pastel, perfectly symmetrical, witty pages of every published edition, I expected the SUITCASE offices to be filled with clean, minimalist lines and equally intimidating staff writers. The kind that you long to ask where their boots are from, but already know they’ll reply ‘they’re vintage, duh’. For the second time in as many days my stereotypes were being torn at the seams. Instead, I was met with a sea of articulate, bright and funny individuals who were keen to welcome any new talent – intern status or not.

I’d brushed up on my tea-making skills the night before and had practiced my telephone manner, only to quickly find this to be a waste of time. Making tea and screening phone calls were at the bottom of the agenda and instead within the first hour I was set numerous writing and research tasks. As the weeks went on and my writing went from strength to strength having mastered the SUITCASE voice, my portfolio grew and the contacts I was building within the industry would soon provide me the stepping-stones in which to launch a freelance career. A far cry from juggling multiple Starbucks cups that the film predicted.

The Devil Wears Prada Fashion Editor Nigel sarcastically retorts ‘Yes, because that’s really what this whole multibillion-dollar industry is all about, isn’t it? Inner beauty.’ Well, in fact at SUITCASE it is. Celebrating life through the culture of travel lies at the crux of the publication ensuring that the women, and men, featured have a desire to initiate change through their creative skill set. Perhaps this is why independent publications such as SUITCASE provide invaluable industry experience to hard-working and driven individuals who are eager to absorb the publication’s unique ethos.

One thing that The Devil Wears Prada does correctly reiterate is that a million girls would kill for this job. Yet it brings into question whether it’s just the lure of jet-setting and frequent Heathrow Terminal 5 departures that pulls them in? Remembering the reason why we pursue a creative career has to remain at the forefront of our motivation, as without this we will turn into a bickering clack of airheads and lose the strong, empowering voice that the industry can, and does, possess.

In the words of Miranda Priestley – that’s all.

fleurolletmanus-profileFleur Rollet-Manus can often be found racking up air miles, sitting on an oversize suitcase wrestling with an already strained zip or clutching an extra large coffee while penning her latest travel disaster. She’s currently the Contributing Editor for SUITCASE Magazine and has just landed her first junior editor role at Food and Travel.

Live Event: Three Contemporary Poets

Next week three of Britain’s most innovative poets will be at Brunel giving readings. This free event will be hosted on March 10th in Lecture Room 267 at 3pm and is open to all students!

Check out the flyer below for information on all the poets attending and Tweet us @Brunelwriter with any questions.

See you there!

Poetry flyer