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!

We Wrote a Book During a Pandemic

by Chloe Perrin

In May 2020, Britain went indoors and stayed there. Out of this sudden extreme burrowing came a flood of tweets and Insta posts documenting the myriad of activities the country was using to keep itself occupied while the world outside shut down.

Some people learned to knit. Others took up yoga.

We, the Horror, Sci Fi and Fantasy module class of 2020, wrote a book.

(Look! our book is the #1 hot new release on Amazon!)

Robots, Rogues and Revenants is an example of what happens when a group of writers are told to use their imaginations during possibly the most anxiety inducing period of their lives. And when you read the anthology of short stories for yourself, you’ll get to experience first-hand the kind of book a global catastrophe makes.

While it’s nice to have something soft and comforting during a time of such ridiculous uncertainty, some of us decided instead to really lean into the catharsis of creating something even scarier than the situation we were already in. I’m not exaggerating when I say this book contains a deliciously wide variety of nightmares, from the relentless pestering cries of the undead to the best canned meat you’ll find this side of London.

And I’m warning you now. There is gore. Lots and lots of gore.

You won’t be safe from it in the non-horror genres either – even our high fantasy authors decided to splatter a sizeable amount of blood on their pages, mixing magic with deaths so bloody they would make George R.R. Martin squirm.

But don’t worry about it too much. If gut squeezing, bone snapping horror isn’t quite what you’re into at the moment, we can respect that. When locked inside for months on end escapism is the name of the game, which is why entire pantheons of gods live in this book. Feeling terrified by the present day? Go back centuries to a time where deities and fairies mixed with mortals. Or maybe you’re simply missing the present we had only a few months ago, and just one more party will do – no problem. The amazingly cosplay-able rave witches of London have got your back.

And there’s the future, of course, where you’ll be provided with a service that allows you ownership of a late loved one’s memories – and in that vein I should really warn you that one or two stories will definitely have you wiping away a tear. Sadness is a catharsis too, and who doesn’t need a good cry while the outside world upends itself?

There is something wonderfully unique about Robots, Rogues and Revenants, not just in what it is but when. This book is a time capsule of a group’s imaginations during a global pandemic. Real life will always influence the stories we produce, making each story in this anthology probably the strangest insight into the strangest time a lot of us have ever or will ever live through.

Which is exactly why you should pick it up right now and read it.

(All proceeds to NHS combined charities)

Chloe Perrin is a North Walian writer living in West London. Her writing has been featured in previous anthologies such as Hillingdon Literary Festival’s We Are Here and Brunel University’s Letters to my Younger Self, and her one act play The Ghost We Live With was produced by Studio Brunel in 2019. She hopes to continue creating funny, strange, and oddly depressing pieces until someone finally stops her.

Screen Love

by Benjamin Parameswaran 

Picture 1

Lines across space will find,
New means to spend some time,
If only for some peace of mind,
It uncorks a realm not quite sublime.

Heads of this hydra may bite one another,
Trying to express to others,
That they themselves are lovers.

Growing fonder, watch out for it
A pedestal, on which they now stand,
A looking-glass for the wistful hearted,
Always shatter-proof upon reflection.

These trees grown together need firm earth,
For wires without roots prevent disclosure,
There is no rain or sun inside this house,
Life travelling on with an electric hum.

Hold on, effort is without limits,
This garden is vast and you were born in it.

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When I was a small boy, my mother used to set me writing tasks. Sometimes I wrote about my day, other times I came up with fantasies taken from whatever I could find. She wanted me to read, read, read. But being half-stubborn mule, more concerned with games, I failed at this task. Now at the age of 25, I read at the pace of a snail and have found a love in writing that I once denied myself.

Let’s Have a Think About Toothpaste

by Chloe Perrin

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Let’s have a think about toothpaste.

Why toothpaste, you ask? Well, you exhausted every game and TV series in lockdown week one, you’re sick of social media because all your friends keep trying to make you do exercise and you’ve had enough of allowing the news to encase you in a shell of unending dread.

So, what’s left? Toothpaste, that’s what.

I promise you, the ordinary household toothpaste can be your greatest friend during these trying times of fear and isolation.

Still not convinced? Not a problem! Here’s a list of ten incredible things you can do with your very own tube of toothpaste during the lockdown:

  1. A classic – you can clean your teeth with it! Who needs dentists, eh? Besides, it’s not like you’re going to see one of those anytime soon!
  2. Slather your body in it! If it’s good enough to fix your teeth, it might be good enough to fix you.
  3. Wash it all off your body! It really stings and now you can’t stop crying.
  4. Throw your toothpaste at spiders! The spiders won’t like it. But they also won’t stop you.
  5. Talk to the toothpaste. Ask it how long it’s been since you’ve both seen another human being. Keep asking. Don’t be put off by its silence, ask louder! Demand answers from the toothpaste!
  6. Use the toothpaste to create a protective circle around yourself because the spiders have started to revolt.
  7. Become romantically involved with your toothpaste – briefly, and because you’ve forgotten what normal is.
  8. Show the toothpaste pictures of your favourite dim sum places online and pretend you’re not eating there because you’re too tired and not because the government said no.
  9. Dump the toothpaste because it forgot your birthday.
  10. And this is really important – don’t wonder why you’re doing any of this. You have toothpaste, why would you need anything as distracting as healthy introspection? You know deep in your heart that you can’t risk focusing on anything else right now. Even though your skin hurts, even though everything’s sticky and you’re covered in spiders – even though you’re still crying, and you’re scared and lonely and you miss your family, it doesn’t matter.

If you can focus on your toothpaste, everything will turn out fine.

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Chloe Perrin is a second year Creative Writing student from North Wales. She sees a therapist, and so should you.

So You’re in the Middle of a Global Pandemic: An Abridged Guide to Surviving the Boredom of Lockdown

by Kasey Smith

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I find there is nothing greater about living under glorious capitalism than the never ending list of pointless tasks it spawns, which pile up in the back of your mind and fill you with so much anxious stress that you are forced to constantly self-motivate to make sure you don’t slip down a rung on the towering ladder of meritocracy. So, now that we find ourselves in a time without structure, like a tacked-on poem in a portfolio submitted five minutes before a deadline, it is important to seek out things to do. Because God forbid you stopped working, even in the midst of a global crisis.

1. Structure

Keeping a routine to your day is important, so here’s a list of things I like to do to ensure I make the most of this period of isolation: enforce a regular sleep schedule; eat three meals a day and stay hydrated; scream out of my window, ‘next, please’ and ‘would you like a bag?’ so as to not lose the authority in my customer service voice; exercise; meditate to keep the existential dread at bay; rearrange my room and then walk around it as if it isn’t the same room I’ve been in every day for the past… how long has it even been? What day is it? Who am I? Will we ever be let out? I miss Brexit.

2. Creative Output

Hahahaha you have no excuse now! All those novel ideas, poetry concepts, short story inspirations have all been waiting patiently to finally meet the page, and what better time than in a period of impending societal collapse? Think of the witty commentary you can make on the Boris government. Of the flourishing nature outside that reminds us everyday that we were, in fact, the fucking problem. Of how America seems to be eating itself alive. And how, no matter the amount of students that are on campus, the smell of weed still drifts in through my open window to remind me that someone is having a far more relaxed afternoon than I am. So, sit down at your desk (or equivalent) and start writing. After all, great art is born from interesting times, or so they say. Who says, you ask? They. Them, over there.

3. Self Care and Mental Health

I consider myself to be very lucky when it comes to the support network that I have. That’s why, if, like me, you are unfortunate enough to have to deal with a mental health issue, I just want to remind you to take care of yourself. Even if it is just doing one thing a day that makes the burden a little bit lighter. I understand how difficult it can be to force yourself out of bed in the morning after a night of staring at the ceiling, or to force yourself to eat when you feel so nauseous you could vomit, or to reach out to friends or family for help or even to just be sociable. I can’t say I know how you feel exactly, but I’ve been in very similar situations and I’m sorry. At the bottom of this post are some links that you may find useful.

I know I run the risk of sounding very cliché but fuck it, I believe that everyday you prove that negative voice inside your head wrong, it gets quieter. And honestly, that little bastard has done nothing for you so far. So just do your best, even if that means doing something small every so often.

It’s a strange time to be alive, especially when you consider that in ten to fifteen years time a reluctant seventeen year old is going to write a really half-assed history essay on everything happening right now. But, at least this lockdown gives us all a chance to work on the stories we will tell future generations. You want to know what Grandpa did during the great lockdown of 2020? Well, come and sit on my lap and I will tell you about the time I stared at a wall for two whole months and forgot what we called the days of the week.

Mental Health Helplines

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Kasey Smith is a first year creative writing student at Brunel University London, who hopes to go on to write novels, poetry, and plays and maybe have some of them published.

Nest: A Covid-19 Easter Mini-Saga

by Emma Filtness

Screenshot 2020-04-16 at 17.13.31

Friday

I sit on the green velvet couch in my third floor flat staring out of the closed door to my Juliet balcony, sweltering in the sky-blue heat, and I’ve got no idea why they call it a balcony when it’s just a door that opens onto fresh air mediated by a grey metal railing overlooking the faded tarmac of a car park and the ugly Tetris-piled red brick of the building next door and I think surely Juliet must’ve had better than this as I clutch a navy can of fly and wasp killer, knuckles white, lid off and in a perpetual “position of readiness,” to quote my secondary school PE teacher, Ms Rugg (I wonder what became of her) during enforced netball training thinking they didn’t teach me this, they didn’t prepare me for this, there wasn’t a class on how to deal with wasps building a nest above the door to an invisible balcony during a pandemic and I’ve been googling all morning, clicking on hit after hit of perfect nightmare material – stalker-lens close-ups of antennae and all those legs and stripes and stingers that can be used again and again unlike bees, I wish they were bees, and pictures of round grey nests that look like paper mâché creations from a hell-dimension, and home-remedies offering wisdom like spray surfaces with peppermint oil or a mixture of clove oil and lemongrass and I haven’t even got a spray-bottle let alone the peppermint oil, only lavender and frankincense for my oil burner but there’s no scientific evidence so I panic-order two kinds of wasp killer with Prime with a dose of extremely short-lived vegetarian guilt and after check-out it tells me they won’t be here for another week as apparently they’re not “essential” and the property management team are not answering their phones as it’s not only a pandemic but a fucking bank holiday and no amount of Easter eggs will ever make this okay.

Saturday

I binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning in an attempt to distract myself from the hive. I somehow managed to forget just how amazing Sandra Oh’s hair is, and the rest of her, to be honest, and think I finally need to watch Killing Eve soon. I’d be under the duvet ideally, but it’s too hot what with the door and window closed and the evil little shits keep nosing at the window. When I turn off the lights to sleep, I see tiny flitting shadows everywhere, but I know they are not in my room – they are inside my head. I dream of wasps, obviously.

Sunday

My partner bought me a chocolate egg, a posh one from M&S, but I managed to drop it somewhere between the bag-for-life and the kitchen worktop, and it feels like the perfect metaphor for life this Spring. I eat most of my stoved-in egg anyway and feel sick afterwards.

Monday

Brian from Rentokil called. He’s coming over tomorrow. I eat the last of my egg and a whole bag of Colin the Caterpillars. I’m on Season Two already (which is impressive, even for me).

Tuesday

Brian from Rentokil arrived a whole hour early and I could’ve kissed him, social distancing be damned (relax, I didn’t).

Screenshot 2020-04-16 at 17.13.49

meDr Emma Filtness is a poet and lecturer in Creative Writing at Brunel University London, currently zine-making and binge-watching her way through the apocalypse. Follow her on Twitter @Em_Filtness and find her poetry project exploring nature and the dark feminine @cultofflora on Instagram.

Living in the Age of Coronavirus

by Marie-Teresa Hanna

As I write this from my bedroom, the sun is shining through the window, the birds are singing and I can hear a neighbour exercising to Andra Day’s song, ‘Rise Up’. My next-door neighbours are entertaining their toddler, and she is giggling at their duck noises while the neighbour across is washing dishes in her kitchen. Separated by windows, walls, and doors, we are all aware of each other and although our lives are different, we are collectively trying to get through this pandemic, each with our individual stories, worries and emotions.

As for many of us, this is the first time I have witnessed global fear and collective grief, not only for the uncertainty of the future, but most importantly, for the lives lost within the NHS, communities, family members and friends. With close friends working in pharmacies and Intensive Care Units, a vulnerable and high-risk parent, and elderly family members, I find myself taking precautions that seemed unimaginable before. In between essential bi-weekly hospital visits and once a week shopping trips, I am haunted by the fear in people’s eyes, floored by older members of the community who are unable to get groceries delivered, and the rising mortality rates where human lives are turned into numbers on the news. In contrast, staying safe at home and smelling of pure alcohol and disinfectant wipes is a small compromise.

Although I limit watching the news and social media, the impact of the Coronavirus is constantly on my mind and I have to remind myself that productivity is not the be-all and end-all. Some days I get on with university work, attend Zoom meditation and yoga classes, read, write a few lines of poetry or exercise. Most of the time, I watch Netflix, funny animal videos on YouTube, or end up daydreaming, aware that my mind is processing this current climate and forcing anything would be counterproductive. As I connect remotely with friends and call members of my book club, I hear stories of struggle, change and resilience. Talking to these members brings intergenerational connectedness centred around individuals who tell me their narratives of surviving wars, migration and several losses. Or my father, who recalls stories of waiting in six-hour queues for essentials such as bread and petrol, while growing up in Sudan. In these moments I am reminded that we are hardwired for survival.

In the future, this will be our story to tell. For now, all we can do is connect with each other, give ourselves time to feel, grieve, and remember, because like the sun that sets, we too will rise.

dav

Marie-Teresa Hanna is a British Egyptian-Sudanese writer, interested in BAME, Middle Eastern and North African women’s fiction. She is currently completing an MA in Creative Writing at Brunel University London. In her spare time, she runs a monthly hospice book club and always enjoys listening to podcasts, and long river walks while contemplating life. If you would like to follow her thoughts and ramblings, find her on Twitter @MarieTeresaHan3.

 

Calling all budding designers: Book Cover Design Competition #Horror #SciFi #Fantasy

Brunel University London’s English & Creative Writing department is producing its second Horror, Science-fiction & Fantasy anthology entitled:

‘WIZARDS, WEREWOLVES & WEIRD ENGINES’

The anthology features a range of English & Creative Writing students’ short stories and non-fiction writing and launches in Autumn 2018.

The competition for the cover design is open to all Brunel University London Undergraduate students and as well as seeing your design used on all copies of the book (in paperback & ebook) you can win 5 paperback copies of the book. Plus if you’re an aspiring graphic designer it’s a great addition to your CV.

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Last year’s anthology ‘Faeries, Fiends & Flying Saucers‘ made the Top 3 S/F new releases on Amazon.

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And we presented ‘Game of Thrones’ author George RR Martin with his very own copy!

The anthology includes three distinct genres –

Horror
Science fiction
Fantasy

– as the title ‘WIZARDS, WEREWOLVES & WEIRD ENGINES’ suggests. So let your imagination run wild!

The design needs to be:

  • High-resolution, 300 dpi .tif/.jpg format OR vector eps format.
  • Size: A5 (148x210mm) plus a spine on the left (17x210mm).
  • Please keep back-up copies of your working files so if you win they can be easily edited.

Entries must be submitted by:
Monday 18th June
by 5pm

to Mr Frazer Lee via email (frazer.lee@brunel.ac.uk) with the subject header:
‘WIZARDS, WEREWOLVES & WEIRD ENGINES’

Good luck & happy designing!