I have been so busy with Wise Words that I have forgotten to mention the very amazing Electric Lantern Festival taking place on the other side of Kent, in Tunbridge Wells. A favourite part of the project for me has been listening to the Auditory, where writers read aloud stories based in particular areas of the town.
It’s all the brainwave of writer-producer-director, Samuel Marlow so I’m delighted to welcome him to the Kent Writers series, and do encourage you to visit the Trinity Arts Centre in Tunbridge Wells to visit the exhibition of local artists, illustrators and creators. It will be on until Sunday, 16th September.
So Sam, finish my sentences…
When you were small, you wanted to … be a cartoonist. I always had a fascination with moving images, but shows like “The Real Ghostbusters” made me think, “I want to do that!” One of the first ever making-of documentaries I saw was about the Ghostbusters and how the cartoon was made, including the technical process. I also remember loving The Reluctant Dragon, which had an extended sequence of someone touring the Disney Studio. At that age, the difference between cartoonist and animator wasn’t really formed in my little head. I quickly decided it wasn’t for me when I realised how industrial the process was.
The one thing you can never resist is … a new idea. I have a terrible habit of getting distracted by a shiny new idea when I’ve got plenty to be working on. If I had a daemon like the ones in Philip Pullman’s (with whom I share a birthday) His Dark Materials trilogy, it would probably be a magpie. Part of this is a fear of losing the idea. I have often made the comparison between an new idea and the formation of stars – while the idea is a slowly spinning cloud of hydrogen there is the risk it just diffuses out into the universe. But if you spin it faster and gravity takes over you get that ignition as nuclear fusion kicks in the idea will then burn on its own quite happily until I can come back to it. It needs the energy to reach that flash-point, though.
You may not say it aloud but… I don’t really like reading prose any more. I’m so used to looking at, reading and writing screenplays and scripts in general that I find prose overwritten and full of “useless” information. I only say this because the aim of screenwriting is to end up with the fewest amount of words possible so it can be handed over to other people. When I started with them (about 10 years ago, I guess) I couldn’t imagine how anyone could make sense of such a sparse document. Now I find myself skipping through prose thinking, “Well that’s the production designer’s job. Don’t give physical descriptions of the characters unless there is a narrative reason for it.” I’m trying to get back into prose, though, before you all lynch me!
The last time you went ‘WOOP’ with excitement was … actually this morning. I’ve been trying to record a short for three years, on and off, but one of the locations has been especially difficult to get to agree. It was approved over the phone this morning, so I hung up and gave a maniacal cackle – probably as close to a “woop” as I would get. More often than that, though, is any time I get that clunk of a narrative problem being solved. That often gets a little w00t!
Your five favourite words are …. Tmesis – putting a word into the middle of another for the purpose of exclamation, for example fan-bloody-tastic. Also the only word in English that starts with a T and an M, I’m told…
Cathartic – in part I just like the sound of it, but I think catharsis is, ultimately, what all fiction (and by extension, I suppose, art) is eventually about.
Lyrical – again, I like the sound of the word. I also like watching lyrical films, where there is clearly an underlying design that is not apparent. It is that inexplicable sensation of, what I guess some people might call, divine inspiration.
Apotheosis – while we’re on the subject of the divine, the etymology of apotheosis means “raised up to god”. In his Hero of a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell uses this term to describe the antepenultimate step of the hero, where he (or she) transcends his own reality. I clearly have a thing for Greek words…
Approved – just because.
And some additional thoughts: My dad is currently retraining in psychotherapy. For the last two years we’ve been swapping notes – him on psychology and the therapeutic process, me on narrative. What we’ve realised is that the overlap is not only present but largely absolute. In the last couple of months I have come to the conclusion that all well-told stories are having a therapeutic, dare I even say cathartic, effect on the audience.
A favourite writing place in Kent: I’m happy writing in most places, though there is a big difference between “ideas” writing and “text” writing for me. When I’m forming ideas and moving them around, I like to have people around, but not bother me. Pubs and cafés are good for this, as are parks and just walking around. When I’m actually writing the thing for real I tend to shut myself away and not answer the phone or e-mails. It’s a bit antisocial but does allow some impressive feats of speed – a 115-page screenplay in four days is my record, and that’s only because my fingers got tired!
A book about Kent or by a Kent writer you would recommend: Kent Cinemas Revisited by Martin Tapsell. It’s not a great work of literature, but there are some lovely examples of Art Deco theatres in there. I consider them my temples. I also love the illuminated towers outside cinemas (including, at one point, our own poor derelict theatre in Tunbridge Wells). In fact I like them so much I named my production company after them – Tower of Light.
Thanks, Sam! Good luck with the festival, and here’s a thank you for coming on here…
I’d deliver it personally but it’s a bit heavy to carry up the High Street!