Reviews and comment from the Demon Crew - creative writers at De Montfort University, Leicester.
Thursday, 29 March 2012
A short film written and directed by Adrian Lester (Mickey from BBC One's Hustle) brought tears to my eyes. A moving tale of a family having to make life-changing decisions, Adrian's new venture into directing went down a storm with all who came to his Thursday night screening.
Described as a perfect "marriage of experience and talent", Adrian, along with the two producers of Of Mary, wife Lolita Chakrabarti (established writer and actress) and Rosa Maggiora (acclaimed Theatre Designer) shared with the audience the highs and lows of working on this piece.
"It's hard to move an audience in twenty minutes." Adrian Lester was as humble as pie in the Q&A session he gave after the screening of what he described as his "first effort at directing." The film Of Mary takes its name from a poem by John Eclair.
As the credits rolled the silent theatre audience rubbed its eyes and drew out tissues. I shan't be describing the plot in this review - it has to be experienced, and requires darkness, peace and concentration. What I shall say is that it's not anything you'll be expecting - it's better.
Adrian Lester, Lolita Chakrabarti and Rosa Maggiora working together as Lesata Productions have this year carved a deep and artistic notch in the tree of British film. They say they plan to go on and make feature lengths - personally, I can't wait.
Tuesday, 6 March 2012
First reading was Alan Halsey. He started off quietly, setting the atmosphere. I enjoyed the poetry but at times I felt quite young -there were definitely more than a few jokes I didn't understand, but I enjoyed it all the same.
Following Halsey came Geraldine Monk. Her writing style was distinctive and fun and so was her reading. She read a few poems from the Lost and Found series she's written and I really enjoyed them. The readings were dramatic and she engaged with the audience.
Overall I really enjoyed my first experience of a poetry evening. In some ways it reminded me of being read to when I was a child, relaxing.
With the economy at fault for many smaller festivals lacking the resources to keep running, a large amount are forced to close down. Paradoxically, the larger festivals such as Glastonbury and Reading/Leeds are booming, with a price rise of roughly 15% each year, yet selling out all the same.
The focus of this talk was Green and environmental issues with regards to outdoor festivals, and whether or not such problems could be putting these events at risk.
Included on the panel of speakers was Ben Challis, a founding member of the Greener Festival Awards. His scheme to recognise the efforts of festivals around Europe towards the goal of increasing efficiency has proved very successful so far, with much improvement by the majority of festivals that have joined in with the campaign. Still, Challis conceded that the uphill battle has only just begun.
He also claimed that the most recent objective has been to work with festival attendees as much as organisers through schemes such as Love Your Tent. A common misconception is that tents left on festival sites at the end of a weekend are recycled or given to charities. The truth is that it is often impossible to do either, especially when the tents in question are damaged.
Chris Johnson of Shambala Festival chose to focus on power and CO2. He claimed that the cost of power is one of the main reasons that smaller festivals are struggling.
A question and answers session brought up more issues of efficiency. One audience member asked whether we can really be efficient at festivals, as they are a time of celebration and having a good time rather than cutting back. Challis answered that whereas there is a minority of festival goers who are almost anti-environmental in their actions, most people at festivals are either conscious of such matters or open to persuasion.
In a debate way too expansive for so short a space of time, the panel could be forgiven for only scratching the surface of the topic, yet their knowledge was more than enough to make for an intriguing hour.
A wide variety of written forms were on display. There weren't just books; prose and poetry appeared on t-shirts, plates, posters and websites. There were something that appealed to pretty much everyone. The audience were allowed to look around the room before, after and during the break in the presentation.
I was amazed at the amount of talent these third year Creative Writing students had, especially since I'm a first year on the same course.
The wide range of mediums students used to showcase their publications was intriguing. They ranged from short story and poetry pamphlets, mix and match playing cards, and whole websites, to mugs as witnesses, poem bags and podcasts as virtual tours from the past. I was always left wondering what the next person to read would present to us.
It was a very enriching experience for me as it really got me thinking of the many possible publication ideas I may wish to use in my final year. I thoroughly enjoyed the occasion and it was a great end to my Cultural eXchanges week.
Will Buckingham’s warm welcome and the audience’s rapturous applause throughout gave the event an amazing vibe. The range of work displayed by the Third Year CREW students was awesome and inspiring. We were actively encouraged to read, look, touch, feel and talk so that the whole experience was fun and informative.
Creations ranged from traditionally printed pamphlets, to more unusual writing forms: a deck of playing cards, in which each card contained a 52-word story, a fun Poetry Generator with 10,000 possible poetic combinations and a series of posters that packed a powerful message. Nimble-fingered students created poetry on bags and clothing. Stories adorned plates, napkins and even mugs. Podcasts, websites, ebooks and an EP of original songs were offered by the more technologically and musically intelligent students. A wide range of media were employed to great effect and it was obvious from the high quality of writing, that it had been crafted with much love, enthusiasm and passion, which is a credit to both the Creative Writing staff and their students.
The Demon Crew Launch is a chance for DMU's own third year students to exhibit and read their own work, which today was full of inspiring ideas.
Will Buckingham (Senior Creative Writing Lecturer at DMU) introduced each writer in turn and they had two minutes to introduce their piece and offer some background if they wished.
Pieces ranged from poetry on plates, clothing, bags, a deck of cards, to already successful e-books, and from crime fiction to music websites.
Although the whole the Launch lasted two hours my concentration and enthusiasm never faltered as the creativity of all of the pieces and the humility of their creators kept me listening.
Monday, 5 March 2012
Since the first Harry Potter film (The Philosopher’s Stone) came out in 2001, families everywhere have been to see every installment up until the final one (The Deathy Hallows Part 2), a decade after they began.
On Wednesday James Russell's lecture on Harry Potter was a sold out. He's a comical and enthusiastic speaker. He set out to show how and why the Harry Potter films have changed over the years, as well as their development from early ideas to the cinema.
The crowd was treated to a few clips and images from the early and latter films to show the distinct differences between them. Russell, openly not a fan of the early films as he felt they were 'an advert for not having children', explained how he preferred the later ones as they become increasingly darker - an effect achieved by a 'silverscreen' colour scheme and art-film like visual suggestion.
James Russell went on to give details about the mechanics of the film process, and how they came into being, starting with production manager David Heyman's acquisition to the final finished cut. As well as this, we were shown that the freedom given to the four directors was largely responsible for changes in the films.
As the crowd left their seats, many will, I’m certain, watch the films with new awareness thanks to the insights of James Russell.
Including me, I should say, as I am a devoted Harry Potter fan. In contrast to the talker, James Russell, at least according to his own statement. And I'm not going to discuss to what extent buying the books the day they are released qualifies you as being a fan...
Nevertheless, it was interesting to get some information about the film industry behind the wizarding world. I didn't know how less influence WarnerBros actually took in this massive project. They provided loads of money, but then stepped back and trusted the producer David Heyman with the creative control.
Unfortunately, the details about the four different directors of Harry Potter were nothing new to me – I belong to those freaks, who even know each of them by name. For normal people, it must have been enjoyable to get to know how the directors' personal styles shaped the films.
However, the talk was strongly coloured by Russell's often controversial point of view. It's rather bold to claim that the books are more preliminary versions, while the films present the finished drafts.
And by the way, Mr. Russell, the "K" in Rowling's artist's name doesn't stand "for nothing", it's the initial of her grandmother's first name "Kathleen".
Katharina Maria Kalinowski
Next point, Harry Potter. I have to admit that I am a Potter nerd. I'm in love with the franchise. Granted, the books needed more editing and the acting was rather under-developed here and there; but the world Rowling made and the characters and the lessons they taught us... I'm a sucker for it all. So, Potter was another thing this talk had going for it.
I did learn a lot about the films I never knew before. I never realised that there were four different directors, although it seems pretty obvious now. I didn't realise that it wasn't purely Warner Bros that had exclusive rights to it - that actually it was through a smaller company owned by Heyman. These little facts were interesting for me, as any Potter info tends to be. Hey, I'm biased.
However, the warning at the start by Russell should have made me realise straight away that I would disagree with some of his views. He does not like the books as much as the films. Blasphemy in the house of Potterheads.
But I listened, I was fair and I gave the talk a chance.
The first two films were most definitely more products than films. That I agreed with. However, that just supported the books which were also over-edited and really just exposition for the rest of the series itself. Russell made sarcastic comments at the wonder and joy and random magic of the first film, which made me laugh but really they were the point. Harry was new to this world of magic and he was young; the cinematography and Hollywood style enhance Harry's own wonder and joy at this new fantastical world as any magic at that age must be wonderful. It worked well for these films.
The books themselves became less edited, with longer descriptions and expositions (that I quite honestly skipped over - I'm a bad fan) So it makes sense for the films to reflect that. The characters are growing up, becoming adults, so obviously the films would do the same in style to reflect the content. Yes, the changing directors cause the change but the books also contribute hugely to these changes. Making the first book a dark art film would have been an idiotic move just as much as making the final book into a happy Hollywood. You cannot disregard the material being used when it effected the films so greatly.
So, I am sorry, James. You had good points, but the books' influence can't really be ignored in the case of Mr Potter.
Social enterprise is a business where by, surplus value does not benefit one or a small group of individuals, such as in private enterprise. In social enterprise a community of the people involved in the business, all have say - like a direct democracy - on the business running, and all profits are split among those involved in the business and to developing the business even further without a single individual becoming a millionaire.
Thursday, 1 March 2012
The talk focused on more general issues to begin with, such as the relationship between the artist and the listener. This introduced the aforementioned idea of ‘poietic leakage’ - basically what the artist envisioned in the piece of music in comparison to the listener’s interpretation. This led to a discussion on the upcoming website – OREMA (the Online Repository for Electroacoustic Music Analysis), which plans to act as a Wikipedia of sorts for people who wish to upload their analyses of electronica compositions.
The most inspirational part of the discussion followed as several speakers presented their own analyses of a variety of electronic compositions. Though I felt the idea of using so many demonstrations did begin to drag, what stood out was the diversity of genres covered. Hugh Le Caine’s “Dripsody” came from as far back as 1955, was explored - a piece created simply from tape reels and a recording of a drop of water! Alongside this was IDM music in Monolake’s “Internal Clock”, and noise music in Merzbow’s “Meattrapezoid” (which, when blasted across the room, shocked just about everyone).
Overall, the event created the impression that electronic music is beginning to be observed as a whole. There’s a sense of unity, respect and pride in the subject that would not have even been there even as little as twenty years ago, and a desire to build on that. Above all, I strongly recommend keeping an eye on OREMA for anyone who’s interested in exploring electroacoustic music as a whole, inclusive category.
Over the hour, Professor Evans detailed Hitler's plans for the world, including the transformation of Berlin into the "World Capital", and the complete domination of Europe and the East. He explained that it was all too evident that Germany's aims were overreaching; the very fact that its plans were limitless ensured that they would never be fulfilled. At the same time this one country was facing insurmountable odds from the combined forces of the British Empire, America and Russia. This led to a fascinating dissection of how it was near impossible for the Germans to have won.
The talk was intelligent, concise and - speaking as someone who doesn'tt know a great deal about the details of this particular aspect of the War- utterly absorbing.
Richard Evans, author of the Third Reich trilogy, begins his talk on World War II in front of a completely packed-out lecture hall. Right from the off, the room is silent with everyone entirely attentive, laughing at every joke and paying attention to every word. We look too, as the lecture accompanied by pictures from the period.
Evans splits the loss into different reasons including the economy. Germany found it impossible to keep up with the production of the British Empire, the USSR and the USA.
As well as this, Evans claims that the aims of Germany were so large they could never be achieved. Hitler was said never to be rational and this came across throughout the talk. As Richard finished there was a large round of applause from the interested crowd.
I'd been looking forward to Richard Evans' talk and I appreciated his raconteur style. It reminded me why I loved history back in my A-Level days.