My experience as an international student in the UK

Time flies! A year ago I was packing up my stuff and having farewell parties with friends and family because I was going to be away for a year… and now I will be back home in less than a month! What an adventure this year has been! I’m so sad this journey is coming to an end but I’m glad I had the determination to get out of my comfort zone and leave my country. I am more mature now and I value my family more than ever.

Writing in a foreign language

One of the toughest things that I had to deal with while studying in the UK was not the weather or the different kind of food, but the language barrier. Although I’ve been studying English for nearly 20 years (I began to learn it when I was in elementary school) writing scripts in this language was certainly a challenge. For example, writing dialogues is one of the hardest parts, as you don’t know all the colloquial expressions and the slang that native speakers use in their everyday life. Because of this, you can’t say everything you want to say in the exact way you want to say it.

This happened to me while I was writing the full-length script for my major project. The writing process was intense but enjoyable, and it took me the whole year to clarify what I wanted to tell. At first, my story was supposed to be a musical about a woman who suffered from the Cinderella Complex. Then, it turned to a TV series about a 40-something ill woman who gets pregnant just right after divorcing her husband and then, a few weeks before turning in the final treatment, I changed it to the story I’m currently developing.

Regarding the character creation, I identified with my alter ego Stella because she’s as selfish, ambitious, perfectionist and self-centered as I am. Every time I had to find her journey (what she wanted, her inner goal and conscious goal) I felt I was doing self-therapy on myself. It was an interesting introspection exercise that made think about the way I see love and relationships.

Meeting people

Being away and living in another country was very useful for writing because I could visit new places for inspiration (like Cathays Cemetery), as well as people with interesting life stories. For instance, I met a lawyer from Oxford University who decided to pursue a career in filmmaking at the age of 45; a Peruvian single mother that rents flats to students to make a living; a waiter whose dream is becoming a professional rugby player; a music composition student that works in a Waitrose store and as an extra in soap operas to pay his student loans; an aboriginal Australian teenager that came to Cardiff for 18 months as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; a homeless guy from Swansea that once dreamed of being a professional actor; a Portuguese Tesco bodyguard that used to be a cook in his early years… and many more. This is something that you only find in a cosmopolitan city like Cardiff.

Captura de pantalla 2016-08-28 a las 21.49.09

Also, working in an independent production company (It’s My Shout) and in random things that I had never done before (till cashier, extra, bar staff, nightclub photographer), as well as visiting places that I thought I would never have the chance to visit (like Stonehenge and London), and sharing a flat with people from different cultures, religions and backgrounds have certainly enriched my experience and allowed me to learn other ways of thinking, beliefs, different ways to see life, and what’s more important: make friends from different parts of the world!

So… what’s next?

I’m aware finding a job as a screenwriter is quite hard but I’ll stay positive. I do think everyone makes their own luck, so I will send some of my scripts to competitions and I’m thinking of becoming a teacher, as well. Whatever happens, I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life when I get back home. Like they say, “the best is yet to come”.

Diolch Caerdydd for an amazing year.

(This post was also published in the web site of the university: http://international.southwales.ac.uk/profile/alma-ramirez-ma-scriptwriting-mexico-city/en/ )

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Psychological analysis of the female characters in Woody Allen’s “Husbands and Wives”

*Essay for the Script Analysis Module

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“Marriage is the death of hope”,

Woody Allen

This essay will focus on the psychological profile of the female characters of the film Husbands and Wives (1992) written and directed by Woody Allen. It will show a synopsis of the analysed text, a brief description of this director’s work and an application and evaluation of the character’s psychology principles described in Linda Seger’s Creating Unforgettable Characters and John Truby’s Anatomy of Story.

Husbands and Wives is a film about the conflicts between two couples that are going through a midlife crisis. It starts when Gabe (Allen) and Judy’s (Mia Farrow) best friends, Sally (Judy Davis) and Jack (Sydney Pollack), announce their separation. Judy takes this situation very personally because she has been dreaming of doing the same since she has had a crush on her colleague Michael (Liam Leeson) for years. Gabe is in the same boat. He has feelings for a 20 year-old girl named Rain (Juliette Lewis), one of his brightest drama students. Both couples will have to decide whether they want to save their marriage or start a relationship with someone else.

Allen’s recurring themes usually have to do with May-December relationships and conflicts between couples, but the personality he gives to his female actresses vary from film to film and the most remarkable are the ones who struggle, fall apart and rarely conform to simplistic stereotypes (Itzkoff, 2013). Moreover, Allen stands out from the crowd for telling stories about women within an industry that mostly creates male leading role movies:

Hollywood has a tendency to treat female protagonists as second-class citizens […] According to a 2015 study by Dr. Martha Lauzen at the Centre for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University; only 12% of film protagonists were female in 2014. More depressing is that only 29% of major characters and 30% of speaking characters in the top 100 films were women or girls (Hogan, 2016)

Nonetheless, when he began his career, his main characters were males (Take the Money and Run, Bananas, Sleeper) and it was not until Annie Hall (1977) and his relationship with Diane Keaton, when he decided to replace himself through female characters to give voice to his humour, neuroses, fears, traumas and to his vision about the world (Shone, 2015). Since then, his female alter egos and his references to psychoanalysis became constant elements in his filmography.

Linda Seger: how to create compelling characters?

Seger defines the character’s psychology in four chapters of her book, “Researching the Character”, “Defining the Character: Consistencies and Paradoxes”, “Creating the Backstory” and “Understanding Character Psychology”, which we will use for the purposes of this analysis.

This author (1990, p. 5) states that research is essential when we only have a general idea of the characters we want to write about. It is necessary to investigate their cultural influences and ethnic backgrounds such as religion, education, occupation, when and where they were born and what they do for a living because these traits shape the character’s attitudes and values, as they are a product of their environment.

In Husbands and Wives, the four main characters are middle-aged white people who live in Manhattan, New York in the early 90’s. All of them are high educated and come from an upper middle class background. During that time, many women did not believe in marriage in spite of living in a very conservative country like the United States. The number of divorces per 1,000 married women rose from 9 in 1960 up to 21 in 1990, for instance (Online The Statistics Portal, 2016).

The character’s consistencies are the qualities we would expect from them. Consistency is very important since a person reveals who he is and what he thinks through his constant actions. Nevertheless, if our characters are too consistent, they might become boring and predictable. Therefore, Seger (1990, p. 32) suggests adding some paradoxes to their profiles.

We understand a ‘paradox’ as “details that are not readily apparent, but that we find particularly compelling, that draw us toward certain people”. For instance, Sally seems to be a strong woman that has control over her feelings. However, she has a burst of jealousy when she finds out that Jack is seeing another woman after only three weeks of separation. On the other hand, the most paradoxical character in Husbands and Wives is Judy. She starts being an empathetic friend to Sally and a loving wife to Gabe, and she ends up dating the guy she had introduced to Sally and divorcing her husband.

Along with the paradox, we should add attitudes, emotions (which are the same as temperament) and values to our character. The three women of Husbands and Wives have an attitude, or point of view, regarding marriage and relationships. These details help to define who they are. For instance, Judy has a sad temperament because she tends to feel hopeless, undervalued and depressed. She believes that a happy marriage has to have children involved whereas Gabe does not think a child is necessary to improve their relationship.

Sally, on the other hand, is not as submissive as Judy. She is bad tempered, demanding, over analytical and hates living in a man’s world where matured and single women are left out. The best line that describes her personality could be: “Fucking men! Woman gets to be over a certain age, it becomes a different ball game! Don’t defend your sex; it’s true! You’re great ‘til you start to show your age, then they want a newer model” (Husbands and Wives, 1992).

Backstory is necessary because as Seger (1990, pp. 55, 58) states, the audience needs to understand what drives the character by knowing his background, since life transitions are motivated by certain situations in the past. This principle has psychological bases, as Sigmund Freud discovered the influence that past events have upon our present lives because they shape our actions, our attitudes and even our fears (Seger, 1990, p. 65).

Since Husbands and Wives has a mock documentary style, the characters talk towards the camera to give backstory, as if they were being interviewed. Sometimes they give this kind of details through a dialogue, as well. For example, when Gabe tells Jack that he is committing a mistake by choosing Sam (Lysette Anthony) over Sally, Jack tells him his sexual life with Sally was a mess, as she started being cold in bed. Also, he was tired of being criticized and corrected all the time. That is why he chose a laid-back and easy-going woman who has nothing to do with Sally’s personality and high standards.

To understand the character’s psychology, Seger (1990, p. 82) makes use of the personality types described by David Williamson, an Australian writer with a master’s degree in psychology. He divides the person’s personality into extroverted, where people can be maniac; paranoid or psychopath/sociopath; and introverted, where people can develop depressive, schizophrenic and anxiety neurotic behaviour.

Judy is the depressive one, as she has feelings of worthlessness and inferiority because of her insecurities. Sally has a paranoid personality since she tends to be aggressive, rude and arrogant. She is certainly not afraid to speak up her mind but this behaviour gave her trouble when she was married, as Jack states she was a very difficult person to live with.

Although these personality types can help us to define our character’s psychology, we should use them wisely, as people do not have the same behaviour all the time. It depends on the situation. For instance, some introverted people talk a lot with their friends and seem to be very sociable and confident when they are around them. However, when they are in large groups of people they do not know, they barely speak and are shy.

John Truby: Desires and Needs

According to this author, a great story has a minimum of seven steps in its growth from beginning to end that our character has to experience. These seven steps are weakness, desire, opponent, plan, battle, self-revelation and new equilibrium (Truby, 2008, pp. 39-51). We will focus on the first three.

Weakness is the fatal flaw that blocks the character from achieving his goal. Need is what the hero must overcome in order to have a better life. Together, they are what makes our hero change at the end and they are what makes the audience care and empathize with our hero (Truby, 2008, pp. 40, 45).

Judy’s weakness is low self-esteem, as she believes a woman of her age has no hope to find love again. Therefore, she needs to have more self-confidence. Sally’s weakness is loneliness. She says she is fine by being single again but she is an emotional dependent person, and Rain’s weakness is lack of protection, since she is constantly looking for an older man. She needs to realise she cannot always depend on others to feel loved.

Desire or the goal outside the character is what the hero wants in the story, not what he wants in life (Truby, 2008, p. 43). Judy wants a family and supportive man because she desires to have more children whereas Sally wants a healthy relationship because she is afraid of ending up like her parents: married but unhappy. At the end, Judy achieves her goal by marring Michael, a man who is willing to start a family. Sally achieves her goal too because she and Jack are back together and this time they will put more effort on their marriage to make it work.

Truby (2008, pp. 46, 90) states that to find a good opponent, we should start with our hero’s specific goal because an opponent is whoever wants to keep him from getting it. Also, his values should come into conflict with the hero. In Husbands and Wives, Judy’s opponent is Gabe because he does not want to change his ways and beliefs to make a happier marriage, according to her expectations.

This author (2008, p. 57) mentions we should think of all our characters as if they were part of a web, which each helps to define the others because all characters connect and define each other in three major ways: function, archetype and opponent. We will focus on character web by archetypes, which are fundamental psychological patterns and roles that people may play in society. Truby gives a list of some of the most common archetypes we can find in a story, which are: King, Queen, Wise Old Man, Warrior, Magician, Trickster, Clown, Lover and Rebel.

Truby states that we should always make the archetype specific and individual to our character (2008, p. 67). However, I agree with Vogler when he says in The Writer’s Journey that every character can have more than one archetype and that this one can change throughout the story. If we take this in mind, Judy starts being the Queen, as she provides care and empathy to her friend Sally, and transforms to the Trickster when she shows her real intentions of why she introduced them.

Like Seger, Truby (2008, p. 81) gives some steps to create a good hero. One of them is ‘character change’ which involves a challenging and changing of basic beliefs, leading to new moral action by the hero: “your hero’s development depends on what beliefs he starts with, how he challenges them, and how they have changed by the end of the story […] Every story is a journey of learning that your hero takes.”

When Sally goes on a date with Michael, she tells him she does believe she is able to be without a man. However, when she and Jack get back together, Sally admits to be the kind of people who are not born to be single. Despite this, she has learned that marriage is not about passion and romance but about companionship and it is also a buffer against loneliness.

Rain does not change but helps Gabe to change his ideas about relationships. He admits he loves crazy and wild women, as he likes the idea of the impossible and romantic love. However, he decides to stop seeing her because he knows their relationship will end in catastrophe. Also, this situation makes him realise how much he loved Judy because he feels regretful for having lost her and for being so resistant to change.

Conclusion

Even though both authors have different approaches to character’s psychology, they agree with Syd Field (2005, p. 55) that “action is character” and that we can know a lot about a person by how he reacts and behaves. However, I do not completely agree with Seger’s principles to create conflict. For example,  transformation do not create conflict, necessarily. Transformation or change is the result of the hero’s journey, like Truby explained.

Both authors give useful examples of building the psychology of our characters. Truby does it through the character’s needs, desires, weaknesses and opponents; and Seger, through personality types, backstory and consistency. Nonetheless, the two authors tend to be very repetitive by saying the same principles in different chapters but with other words or by adding more information, which could be confusing at some point.

Evidence suggests that Truby borrowed some principles from other authors like Christopher Vogler because his seven key steps are similar to the hero’s journey, and he uses archetypes as another possible way to define characters’ psychology. In my opinion, Vogler is slightly better at explaining how archetypes work because Truby only gives a general insight of them.

Regarding Opponents, I could argue that Seger is a little bit limited on this point. She (1990, p. 138) states that the protagonist usually stands for the good and the villain opposes the good: “they steal, kill, betray, wound, and work against the good”. However, the hero and the opponent cannot be totally good or bad; they have flaws like any other person. I agree with Truby’s definition of the opponent as the person who blocks the protagonist’s desires or competes with him for the same goal and, in some cases, the opponent is nicer than the protagonist or even it is the hero’s lover or friend, as we saw in the analysis.

I often use the observation method described by Seger because I love to observe other people’s conflicts and existential problems and apply them to my characters. Usually I get inspiration through the people I meet. For instance, I am writing a story about a 30 year-old woman who finds it difficult to have a full personal life due to her insecurities. I know women that are in that situation and I used to be like that. As Woody Allen, I like to express my fears and deepest traumas through my stories. I find this therapeutic and it has even helped me to solve my own problems.

For the purposes of my major project screenplay, I will put in practice the research step provided by Seger, as my story is placed in the future in the United States. I will have to look at how large corporations work, what kind of technological advances might be on the market and how women and society could be in 60 years, as values and mindsets change through time. This will help me to create a credible story world.

Also,  I will work on my character unconscious goal (need) and on her opponent to give her a moral decision or dilemma, and as I do not want to tell another story about a woman pursuing a man, I will use the Luminas Award Criteria and approach other topics related to the theme of my film such as the merchandising of company in a world where men and women can actually buy affection through humanized machines.

 

Referencing List

Hogan, B. (2016) 5 Tips On How to Write an Awesome Female Protagonist. Available at: https://screencraft.org/2016/02/09/5-tips-on-how-to-write-an-awesome-female-protagonist/#.VszMJXZquts.twitter (Accessed: February 25th, 2016)

Husbands and Wives (1992). Directed by Woody Allen [DVD]. United States. TriStar Productions.

Itzkoff, D. (2013) Annie and Her Sisters. Available at http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/21/movies/woody-allens-distinctive-female-characters.html?_r=0 (Accessed: February 27th, 2016)

Field, S. (2005) Screenplay. The Foundations of Screenwriting. New York: Bantam Dell

Seger, L. (1990). Creating Unforgettable Characters. New York: Holt Papers

Shone, T. (2015) Woody Allen and the women in his work. Available at:

http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/sep/03/woody-allen-inner-woman-irrational-man (Accessed: February 24th, 2016)

Online The Statistics Portal (2016). Available at http://www.statista.com/statistics/325210/us-divorce-rate-among-women/ (Accessed: February 28th, 2016)

Truby, J. (2007). Anatomy of Story. New York: Faber and Faber, Inc.

Private accommodation vs Student halls in Cardiff

*Everything is based on my personal experience.

PRIVATE ACCOMMODATION

  • Pros: It’s cheaper, your flatmates are like your family because you share food, organise gatherings over the weekends and go out together A LOT. Also, you don’t pay an extra fee for doing your laundry and your landlord is like your father (whenever there’s a problem, he comes to your rescue).
  • Cons: sometimes the Internet is very slow, you share the toilet and the shower – which is really small – and you live far from the city centre.

STUDENT HOUSING

  • Pros: The facilities are amazing and it’s pretty safe. They have security cameras EVERYWHERE and there’s always a guard on reception; they also organise parties and gatherings but these are more impersonal since they invite all their residents. However, you’re allowed to throw social meetings at your flat if you want. Also, the toilet and shower are not shared because you have your own, and if there’s a problem with the fridge, the bathroom or whatever, they have a maintenance guy that literally can fix anything. Likewise, you live near downtown which is AWESOME because you just have to walk a few steps to go to the cinema or to Queen Street, the main avenue of this Welsh city.
  • Cons: it’s TOO expensive; you pay an extra fee for doing your laundry and they charge you more money over the summer per week.

In conclusion, both are excellent places to live. Although I’ve been living in a private accommodation for just a month, I’m loving it much more than where I used to live because I feel like I’m being part of a family.  Moreover, there’s a theatre and a cheap supermarket just around the corner, so I don’t need to go to downtown to do my shopping anymore 🙂

I hope this was helpful!

Good luck everyone on finding a place to stay for this coming academic year!

 

Review: The Lady in the Van

The-Lady-In-The-Van-Review

In this movie, screenwriter Alan Bennett adapted a particular moment in his life to the screen which had nothing to do with his career directly, but with an old moody poor woman named MARGARET ‘Mary’ Shepherd who he met in the seventies. Mary, played wonderfully by Maggie Smith (a character that contrasts with the Countess of Grantham, the role she played in Downton Abbey), was a homeless person that lived in a yellow van and moved in and moved out from house to house (where she parked it) every three or fours days, depending on her mood and needs.

In the opening scene we see her running away from the police because, apparently, she has killed someone with her car. Later on we find out she isn’t a murderer but she had the misfortune of being in the wrong place and in the wrong time. Because of this incident, she’s on the run and wants to live ‘incognito’ but she’s too sick and old to live on her own without the help of her neighbours. That’s when Bennett, unwillingly, becomes her ally and eventually, her friend.

Something I liked in the film was presenting Bennett as a double character: as the writer that experiences life and as the writer that only writes, watches everyone from the distance and thinks out loud. It is like having a never-ending conversation with your non-existent twin. This resource works pretty well because it is more visual than the typical voice over.

Although the story doesn’t give us a direct critique about homeless people, it invites us to change our perspectives about them. Not every homeless person ends up like that because of a dysfunctional family or drugs addiction. Some of them had a wonderful and promising life but because of a bad decision or a disgraceful incident, their lives changed for the bad like happened to Miss Shepherd, who was an educated woman and a very talented pianist.

I would have added more scenes of Bennett’s relationship with his mother to understand his motivation of using her in his work. He clearly says he has something with old ladies but why is that? Did she traumatize him when he was a child? Was he closer to her than with his dad? Did she influence him in some way? The story of Lady in the Van is fascinating but I wish I could have seen why Bennett was keen on writing about old ladies.

After dealing and living with Miss Shepherd for 15 years, Bennett realises that some of the best stories happen when you get out of your comfort zone and try something new. He didn’t want to be friends with a homeless woman because he didn’t imagine that relationship would help him to become a more empathetic and kinder person and to conceive new ideas to write about. That is to say that every experience or person you meet in life could be the start of a great story as well as the start of an unforgettable friendship. You never know.

Trailer

Quiero estudiar en UK ¿cómo le hago?

A continuación, 10 recomendaciones basadas en mi experiencia para quienes desean venir a Reino Unido a estudiar una maestría:

  1. Lo primero que deben investigar y tener bien claro es qué quieren estudiar. Puede que al final de su indagación se den cuenta que su especialidad estaría mejor en EUA, Canadá, Japón, Argentina o, incluso ¡en México! Antes de hacer el gasto y el papeleo investiguen bien. No por irse al extranjero vayan a elegir cualquier programa de maestría, pues luego la pasarán mal y su dinero no será bien invertido. En México hay muchísimas ferias de universidades a donde pueden acudir a pedir informes. Otra opción es contactar agencias como LoveUK o Study Across The Pond.
  2. Después de saber lo que quieren hacer, el siguiente paso es buscar escuelas. Aquí hago un pequeño señalamiento, pues mucha gente quiere irse a las escuelas con mayor ranking y prestigio y está bien, pero no son muy económicas (la mayoría) y piden demasiados requisitos para entrar. Si tienen el poder adquisitivo para pagarlas, adelante, apliquen. Si no, la verdad mejor busquen una alternativa. Puede que la beca CONACyT les ayude con los gastos, pero Reino Unido es un país MUY caro y su experiencia estudiantil siempre se va a ver limitada si no tienen ni para ir al cine.
  3. No solamente deben pensar en la escuela, sino también en la ciudad donde vivirán. Londres, como sabrán, es de las ciudades más caras que hay pero Cardiff o Bristol no, por ejemplo. Es importante tomar en cuenta la ciudad donde residirán porque así sabrán cuánto dinero van a necesitar por semana para vivir decentemente. Algunas personas primero deciden la ciudad donde quieren vivir y después la escuela. Eso también les puede funcionar.
  4. Con respecto a las exigencias para entrar a las escuelas, empiecen a hacer sus trámites con uno o dos años de anticipación para que tengan el tiempo suficiente de preparar los ensayos, exámenes, entrevistas, o lo que las universidades les pidan, para no ser rechazados. Apliquen desde diciembre o de enero a marzo para tener su carta de aceptación lista por mayo o junio y así tener tiempo suficiente para hacer su trámite de la visa en julio. De esta manera, no tendrán el tiempo encima. Las cartas de aceptación y la visa tardan en llegar, tómenlo en cuenta.
  5. Ligado a lo anterior, existen instituciones en México que les pueden echar la mano con los exámenes IELTS, por ejemplo. Sin ganas de hacer publicidad, British School, The Anglo e International House son buenas opciones para tomar cursos de preparación. Si su nivel de inglés es intermedio o bajo, la verdad van a tener que estudiarle duro un año entero para poder alcanzar nivel avanzado. El examen lo pueden presentar en The British Council o en International House. Es válido por dos años.
  6. Casi todas las universidades piden traducciones de documentos, como el título profesional y el plan de estudios de la universidad donde estudiaron su licenciatura; así como su acta de nacimiento y otros papeles personales oficiales. Para esos trámites, deberán contratar a un perito traductor. Los costos varían de persona a persona, pero para que se den una idea, el año pasado me salió en $406 pesos traducir mi acta de nacimiento.
  7. Como sabrán, en Reino Unido piden visa de estudiante a quienes no están dentro de la Unión Europea. Es un rollo y es un trámite cansado y tardado, así que lo ideal es pedir asesoría en una agencia. Ellos les ayudarán a tener todos sus papeles en orden y a reducir el rechazo de la embajada en casi un 80% Igual, sin afán de hacer publicidad, yo recurrí a LoveUK y mi visa fue aceptada en el primer intento.
  8. En cuestión de alojamientos, lo más económico es hospedarse en un private accommodation. En promedio cuesta 300 libras al mes con bills incluídos. La segunda opción es una residencia de estudiantes. Aquí es más caro (112 libras a la semana), pero la ventaja es que es muy seguro y las instalaciones son de 10. Sopésenlo.
  9. La visa de estudiante les permite trabajar hasta 20 horas a la semana, así que si quieren hacerse de un dinerito extra no duden en buscar un trabajo de tiempo parcial. En promedio pagan 5 libras por hora.
  10. Finalmente, para comprar su boleto de avión les recomiendo acudir a la International Organization for Migration. Les harán un descuento si demuestran que son estudiantes visados.

Si tienen más dudas, don’t be shy y pregunten 😀 Yo encantada porque más mexicanos vayamos a otros continentes a realizar nuestros sueños ¿y por qué no? También a pasear y conocer otros lugares.

13 curiosidades de Wales (after living here for 6 months)

El blog de Alan x el mundo me inspiró a hacer una lista de los aspectos que me han causado cultural shock al vivir en Cardiff, Reino Unido. Aquí una lista de las 15 cosas que me han parecido raras, nuevas y hasta graciosas. Tómenlo en cuenta si desean venir a estudiar acá:

  1. Su saludo no es como el que nos enseñan en la escuela (Hello, how are you?) sino “Hiya, are you okay?” y si eres su amigo, “Hiya, are you okay mate?” o “Hi, love”. También dicen mucho “fair enough” que traducido sería “Ah ya” (como cuando alguien te cuenta algo y tú muestras que entendiste).
  2. Son MUY puntuales. Para ellos llegar 10 minutos tarde es una grosería.
  3. Los cajeros ATM están en la calle ¡sin vigilancia!
  4. Uno de los platillos tradicionales es el Welsh cake.
  5. La tecnología es parte de la vida cotidiana. En algunos bancos no hay ventanillas. Todas las transacciones se realizan a través de cajeros ATM. En casi todos los establecimientos aceptan tarjeta y el regalo perfecto para cualquier persona de aquí es un voucher de Amazon. Everybody loves Amazon.
  6. La gente es muy polite.
  7. Rara vez hay puentes vacacionales.
  8. Lo más parecido a los tacos al pastor son los kebabs.
  9. Caminar bajo la lluvia sin paraguas es de lo más normal. Como llueve mucho y el viento es tan fuerte que los rompe, es comprensible que prefieran mojarse a tener que comprar paraguas a cada rato.
  10. En algunos lugares, comprar carne para asar es muy caro. Aprovechen que en México no lo es y hagan muchas parrilladas.
  11. Es bastante usual ver gente tatuada. Aquí encontrarán muchos tatoo studios.
  12.  En las fiestas, primero se reúnen en la casa del host para tomar (pre-drinks) y después se van al club (o como decimos nosotros, al antro). Las cervezas más comunes son Heineken, Brains, Guinness y Foster’s.
  13. U.K. es el país ideal para visitar castillos. ¡Por donde vivo hay tres!

Si quieren ver fotos de Cardiff y de algunas otras ciudades de Reino Unido, visiten mi página de Flickr.

 

Tara!

 

Typing your heart out. The challenges of being a screenwriter

“Your ideas are your currency”.

David Koepp, screenwriter and director.

 

(I wrote this report for my Creative and Cultural Entrepreneurship Module)

This report makes a reflection of the challenges that contemporary screenwriters face today and mentions some of the opportunities they have to start a writing career, as well as the skills they need to succeed in their creative sector.

Being a screenwriter in the 21st century

Today, many screenwriters are moving to the Internet and other mediums, as digital filmmaking and scripting techniques represent a new area of development because the kinds of stories told are impacted on by the creative possibilities and financial economies of scale of digital techniques, including the inter-relationships between forms of screen media (movies, games, subscriber and mobile television). This way, screenwriters are being reinvented as content creators (Maras, 2009, p. 184)

Regarding this, professor Ian Staples (2015) – lecturer of Scriptwriting at the University of South Wales – said during an interview that in order to become visible writers, we should try to look for opportunities on the Internet by writing digital content for advertising or as transmedia storytellers or transmedia producers. The Producers Guild of America coined this term by referring to “a person(s) responsible for a significant portion of a project’s long-term planning, development, production, and/or maintenance of narrative continuity across multiple platforms, and creation of original storylines for new platforms (Macaulay, 2010)”.

Transmedia can spread its narrative world through web sites, apps, television, cinema, books, comics, web series, online video games, stand alone video games, social media, forums, alternate reality games and flashmobs. Some examples of transmedia storytelling include parodies, memes, alternative endings, false previews and openings, mashups and adaptations (Producers Guild, 2016).

On the other hand, Joe Rendón (2015) – Mexican filmmaker, producer and screenwriter – considers theatre as the easiest way to have job opportunities these days because it is more approachable than film and television. For instance, he released his play Puros Cuentos (Pure Lies) last year through the microteatro format, which is a dramatic representation of a short play of less than 15 minutes. It is like a short film, but on stage.

Another characteristic of this format is it gives absolute freedom of approach and vision. It is also ephemeral because the plays are performed for a short period of time and although they are short plays, they must contain the characteristics of a traditional play. They are neither performances nor improvisations because they require a script and pre-production. Rendón (2015) thinks microteatro is a good way to start a writing career since writers do not need a big budget to get their plays produced.

MICROTEATRO-ME

Cosme (2015)  affirms that the opportunity to become a writer in Mexico is within the television industry, as this country produces and exports its own “telenovelas” (romantic serial dramas) to more than 180 countries in the world. Moreover, he says television is a medium where writers may receive steady revenues, as they are paid per episode.

Wyn Mason (2016) – freelance TV and film director and course leader for MA Scriptwriting at USW – thinks writers need to have their own projects, such as scripts for film, TV, theatre and radio; ones that they have conceived of and developed themselves, as this is their chance of developing their own individual voice. Also, he considers it is useful to work for others, to look out for schemes, internships and work experience. This could be a way of getting work writing for soap operas where they can earn money and develop their crafts.

Regardless of where a writer decides to start a career, there are many qualities that they need to have today in order to succeed. Among the four people interviewed, three of them (Mason, Staples and Rendón) agreed that determination (believe in yourself, have a thick skin); hard work and perseverance are necessary abilities that every aspiring screenwriter must develop. Likewise, professor Mason suggests not being overly self-critical because too much self-criticism can stifle a writer completely. Also, the aspiring writer needs to be driven by a need to say something, rather than just being in love with the idea of being a writer.

Professor Staples (2015) adds ‘luck’ to the qualities that a writer should have today: “Being in the right place and in the right time; meet producers, give them your script, make them like you. Do social networking, do not be arrogant, and make your own luck. Everybody’s looking for content.” Furthermore, Cosme considers that knowing other languages enlarges the possibilities of all the aspiring Mexican writers to study and find job opportunities abroad, especially in Hollywood.

Cosme (2015) affirms that networking is the clue to succeed in the screenwriting world to get good references by a well-known writer or producer in order to have an opportunity and be noticed. Professor Mason also agrees writers should do networking, not only with other writers but also with actors, directors and producers. Staples concluded by saying: “This life is not about what you know, but who you know.”

Michael Hauge (1988, p. 263) – best-selling author and story consultant – also highlights the importance of making contacts by going to parties, attending film seminars, volunteering to work on someone’s film and by telling everyone you are a screenwriter. This author says it is relevant to watch as many movies as reading scripts; be informed about the movie business and to join a writer’s group in order to make sources of contacts, get information, feedback and moral support.

Robert MacKee – Fullbright scholar and coach of 60 Academy Award Winners – says that the difference between a ‘good writer’ and a ‘great writer’ is;

Time to move to an understanding of life that gave them material worth experiencing, so when they mastered the technique they had something to say […] So it takes talent, perseverance, living as deeply as you can and letting life experience accumulate to where you have some sense of irony and how things really work […] you have to be ruthless with yourself (The Craft of Screenwriting, 2015).

MacKee emphasizes that some writers never become successful because either they do not have the talent to write or they have low standards: “They look at the worst of movies that get made and they say, Well, that’s a bad film, but it got made. And I can write that, or better even. And they do not measure themselves against the finest (The Craft of Screenwriting, 2015).”

Wyn Mason (2016) believes another problem aspiring writers face when trying to enter the industry is they send their work off too early and to the wrong places. Writers should research the field thoroughly, so they send their work to people or companies who would potentially be interested. He suggests not wasting everyone’s time by sending our work to the wrong people. It is better to study the market place first and know how it operates.

Conclusions

If screenwriting is so hard, undervalued and underpaid, why people are still doing it? The four people interviewed said they decided to become screenwriters because they love to tell stories but, specifically, Rendón (2015) mentioned he had to learn the art of storytelling when he studied filmmaking, as he wanted to direct and produce his own stories. Learning that skill helped him to adapt other people’s work, as well. Also, he took acting lessons to understand his actor’s feelings and needs. Last year, he was the head writer of the web series Tenemos que hablar (We have to talk, 2015) and directed the play Huevos, Jefe (F*ck you, boss, 2015).

Wyn Mason (2016), on the other hand, chose to dedicate his life to writing because in writing he feels as if he can have his say and present his understanding of the world to others. Likewise, he finds creating something from nothing to be hugely satisfying. To simply imagine and then seeing the fictional world and characters coming to life by being performed is absolutely thrilling for him. “It’s the best job in the world!”, he said.

Regarding revenues, Ian Staples (2015) says one of the reasons why screenwriters are being less paid than before is that today directors and producers invest millions of dollars in a film or TV series and do not want to take risks in hiring someone they do not know or someone who has not got any experience. Therefore, another challenge screenwriters face is changing other people’s perceptions. Winning a screenplay contest or getting a short film or a play produced could be a way. “I was an actor when I started, but I have always wanted to write, and I always did write. People thought of me as an actor until I produced my first show […] Then, when I went to the meetings, people were like Oh, so you write now. That kind of changed the way they thought of me, really (Staples, 2015)”.

The evidence suggests that becoming a recognized screenwriter takes years of hard work and practice because developing a great story takes time and it requires skill, commitment, perseverance and also flexibility and humility when taking feedback and advice from others. Moreover, aspiring screenwriters should consider working for other people before becoming freelancers or script consultants in order to learn from others and to do networking. At the same time, they should create a portfolio with samples of their work (short scripts, spec scripts, short stories, blogs, work produced on stage or screen) to use as a calling card when meeting potential employers or clients.

In summary, aspiring screenwriters should be open to all possibilities. For example, radio, theatre, digital content and advertising could be good places to start a writing career, as TV and film are not the only mediums where they can be employed. Also, they must show skill, determination, self-confidence, endurance and a high frustration tolerance because it takes a lot of time to achieve recognition and mastery in this field.

Who said it was going to be easy, anyway?

 

Reference List

Cosme, R. (2015). Online Interview with Alma Ramírez, 5 November. (Translated from Spanish)

Hauge, M. (1988) Writing screenplays that sell. Elm Tree Books-London

Macaulay, S. (2010) PGA: Transmedia producers have arrived (Online). Available at http://filmmakermagazine.com/6673-pga-transmedia-producers-have-arrived/#.VpHy7cDJyfU (Accessed: January 10th, 2016)

Maras, Steven (2009). Screenwriting. History, Theory and Practice. Wallflower Press

Mason, W. (2016). Online Interview with Alma Ramírez, 8 January

Producers Guild (2016). Credit Guidelines for New Media. Available at http://www.producersguild.org/?page=coc_nm (Accessed: January 11th, 2016)

Rendón, J. (2015) Online Interview with Alma Ramírez, 1 December. (Translated from Spanish)

Staples, I. (2015). Online Interview with Alma Ramírez, 11 December

The Craft of Screenwriting (2015). Storytelling Master Robert MacKee Discusses Story, Writing Philosophy and Screenwriting. Available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/screencraft/storytelling-master-rober_b_8350460.html?utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=postplanner&utm_source=twitter.com (Accessed: January 10th, 2016)