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ConnieAnnKirk
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EMMA: Guest Screenwriter Sandy Welch (2/1 - 2/5/10)

Here is our thread for questions for our guest, the screenwriter of the EMMA we are watching on PBS Masterpiece Classic.  You can start leaving questions for Ms. Welch any time!

 

Don't forget to watch Part 2 of EMMA in the U.S. in most markets on Jan. 31 at 9:00 p.m. ET!

~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
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brave_new_world
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Question for Sandy Welch -- compassionate portrayal of orphans onscreen

Hello Ms. Welch,

 

Thank you for your insightful adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma. Although I have read Emma many times, it never occurred to me that it is really a story of four orphans whose lives unfold very differently from one another based on the decisions made for them by their caretakers early in their lives. Your screenplay made me see this in the novel for the first time, and it added for me a new level of depth to the story.

 

What I always have appreciated most about Jane Austen is her emphasis on creating a compassionate portrayal of people as they confront their circumstances. Like Jane Austen's work, I find this same quality in your own writing. I was completely mesmerized by your adaptation of Jane Eyre for the same reason.

 

With this in mind, have you ever thought of writing a screenplay about the orphan, Alexander Hamilton -- the handsome, brilliant, and brave American founding father who was George Washington's "adopted" son, appears on the U.S. ten dollar bill, saved the U.S. economy from bankruptcy, and was killed in a duel by Thomas Jefferson's Vice President?

 

I have often thought (and hoped!) that a compassionate, insightful portrayal of Alexander Hamilton's life would be brought to television or film. Like the award-winning HBO mini-series about the second U.S. President and Alexander Hamilton's contemporary, John Adams, has shown, there is a large and interested audience for this type of subject. Although Alexander Hamilton's face graces the U.S. ten dollar bill, few people really know his operatic personal story -- a life of highest drama. I have often thought that only a Jane Austen or a Charlotte Bronte could dramatize his story with the thoughtfulness and recognition that is so long overdue to him -- to see that even his flaws were a result of his heart-wrenching orphanhood as a young boy in the Caribbean.

 

After seeing your adaptations, I feel you would approach the story of Alexander Hamilton's life with that special quality of sympathy. It is my sincerest hope that you would please consider the idea.

 

There is a wonderful PBS documentary called Alexander Hamilton and two brilliant non-fiction books on his life -- one written by Ron Chernow, the other by Noemie Emery. I have heard many others say that they wish Alexander Hamilton's story would be brought to film: he unified the states with his U.S. Constitution, saved a young country from bankruptcy with his U.S. central bank, was an ardent abolistionist, and his visionary economic ideas were hundreds of years ahead of his time and laid the groundwork for U.S. prosperity. He was the youngest of the founding fathers, became a "son" to the childless George Washington, and was the only founding father to be killed (at the hands of Thomas Jefferson's Vice President ...) It's an epic story of potential fulfilled, hardships overcome, mistakes made, and the ultimate sacrifice for country.

 

I think such a film would be especially a great inspiration to orphaned or abandoned children and children in foster care to see how important their talents and contributions to the world can be. And I have often wondered how Jane Austen would have portrayed Alexander Hamilton, who was also her contemporary, if she knew of his story.

 

Many thanks for your beautiful writing,

 

Brave

 

 

 

 

 

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ConnieAnnKirk
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Re: Question for Sandy Welch -- compassionate portrayal of orphans onscreen

Welcome, Sandy!  Thanks so much for joining us!  I have 2 questions for you to start off:

 

1.) Which do you find more challenging--writing an original script, or an adaptation?

 

2.)  What was the most challenging aspect for you in getting started on adapting EMMA?

 

Thank you!

~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
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Elimy
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Re: EMMA: Guest Screenwriter Sandy Welch (2/1 - 2/5/10)

Hello! As you will have a lot of questions besides mine, I will get right to it! : )

 

What would you recommend to someone interested in screenwriting, particularly period pieces and classic book adaptations?  Well, besides rethinking the idea because the road to any sort of writing is not very easy! 

 

My interest was not kindled yesterday. On my own, I have read published scripts like Emma Thompson's adaption of Sense and Sensibility, tried to learn whatever I could about the basic process a script under goes from books like Sue Birtwistle’s Making of Pride and Prejudice   and have scribbled down a lot of ideas. 

 

Thank you for reading through my question.  I am sure you get it a lot! And thank you for your writing!  My whole family can hardly pour tea without remembering and laughing over Mr. Venus from Our Mutual Friend!

-Elimy

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Kathleen_Kelly
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Re: EMMA: Guest Screenwriter Sandy Welch (2/1 - 2/5/10)

I really love this new adaptation, but I have a couple of questions.

 

1.)Comparisons tend to be made between different adaptations, was that something you took in to consideration or were worried about when preparing this new EMMA?

 

2.) Why did you choose for Mr. Knightley to serve as the narrator?

 

Kathleen

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Sandy-Welch
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Re: Question for Sandy Welch -- compassionate portrayal of orphans onscreen

Hello Everyone

 

Thank you so  much for inviting me onto this board to discuss Emma..please forgive me if I make a mistake in my replies as it's the first time I have done this..I am really delighted that you've taken the trouble to write in to make your comments and will do my best to reply as quickly as possible..I'll try to do everything in order unless questions overlap..and I will try to remember not to give anything away as I understand that some of you will not yet have seen Episode 4 yet..

 

Hi Brave..thank you so much for your comments ..I am very pleased that you have picked up on the 'orphan' (or 'motherless' in Emma's case) emphasis..I think this is an aspect of the novel and Jane Austen's work in particular that has struck me more over the years as I read and re read her novels..When I first read them as a teenager I remember being rather annoyed that the characters who behave badly , the Wickams and the Willoughbys were forgiven rather too readily ...I was of course also influenced by the then universal description of Austen as a rather censorious ,caustic writer who 'looked down on' people ....but, as you say , as you read the novels again, one appreciates that Austen was indeed a compassionate observer of the world around her..those of a weaker nature may behave badly but there is the implicit assumption that there is a reason for it..

 

There was another reason for emphasising the 'orphan' aspects of the novel..and this is that I thought it really important that both Miss Bates and Mr Woodhouse should be treated a little more seriously than there is often time for in dramatisations, as Emma's reaction to them  is so crucial to understanding her developing character....giving up Jane was a necessity as Miss Bates' fortunes declined and showing her doing that, (rather than someone telling you about it ) was I thought a more effective way of dramatising her shrinking world and her obsession with news from Jane, all of which would be lost on the young Emma. Similarly Mr Woodhouse's clinging to his youngest daughter, his hypochondria  and borderline agoraphobia are not just the nervous ticks of a silly man but develop from a real trauma.

 

I am ashamed to say that I have never heard of Alexander Hamilton..what an interesting character he sounds.! ..I agree with you that there must be a real thirst for historical /true life stories in the United States..I always enjoy both American adaptations of classics and historical reconstructions and the insight they give to characters /incidents from the past. I'll certainly look out for the books you mention on Alexander Hamilton and find a ten dollar note to see what this very colourful character looked like...!

 

Thanks again for your very kind comments..

 

Best Wishes

 

Sandy

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ha_segal
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Re: Question for Sandy Welch -- compassionate portrayal of orphans onscreen

Hello Sandy Welch - I am so thankful for this forum, because I have been searching for your screenplays to no avail. I recently watched "North and South," and am now reading the novel. I had never heard of Gaskell. Your work is absolutely stunning! Will you ever make your scripts available for study? I have been studying screenwriting off and on for several years and have a few scripts started. Being mentored by your scripts would be an amazing gift!

 

I am also enjoying your adaptation of "Emma". Thank you for your faithfulness to your calling. It is truly a blessing to others.

 

Best Wishes, Heidi, writing from Nashville, TN

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ha_segal
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Re: EMMA: Guest Screenwriter Sandy Welch (2/1 - 2/5/10)

Hello again, Ms. Welch - I hope it's okay to ask another question! It's a bit greedy of me...but... ; ) I was wondering how you started your career in screenwriting, and how you approached learning the process. Did you dive in and learn by doing? Are there good books you might suggest for insight? Do have a good maxim for constructing a strong scene? (Oh dear, that's more than one question.)

 

Many thanks! Heidi

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Sandy-Welch
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Re: Question for Sandy Welch -- compassionate portrayal of orphans onscreen

Thanks for the warm welcome, ConnieK  ! It's a real pleasure to be here..

 

Interesting questions..

 

I'm not sure which I find more difficult, adaptations or original work...I think it depends on each project..each presents their own difficulties..I have been lucky enough to be asked to dramatise books which rate amongst my long time personal favourites ..many of them have been ninteenth century novels which means that they have lots of characters and a strong story line..this makes life much easier..also the fact that I love the book obviously helps me get going..I found Turn of the Screw the most difficult classic as it is a much more amorphous and elusive storyline and there are few characters. I think I always try to reach the emotional heart of the book, particularly the connection between characters so the fact that in Turn of the Screw  the heroine's motivation is necessarily complex and ambiguous meant I was on slightly unfamiliar ground..however, I did very much enjoy the ghosts!

 

... and I'm realising I'm veering off topic so I will get onto original work.! .here a lot depends on the commisioning of the project..if it is an entirely original story then you probably will have had to provide a  strong narrative synopsis in order to get the commission through so when you come to write it , it's pretty much there and there's not a blank page staring at you..and it is very satisfying to to be able to think up new ideas as you go along, without anyone saying,'That's not in the book...'  (although it will not stop them saying, 'that might be a bit expensive...') ...for me there are a few variations on the 'original work'  front at the moment..for example I am working on a script which is an original storyline but which is based on true stories..here I have changed the characters names totally, but the original source material is constantly providing sustenance if I get stuck for a storyline...on another project I am re telling an actual incident with the real names of the people involved..this obviously means the story already has it's arc..but there are many considerations in the telling of it, particularly around the moral duty to the 'characters', though they are all long dead.

 

Onto Emma..I have not dramatised an Austen novel before but I knew the most difficult technical challenge would be 'changing' the storyline in any way..the book are so tightly plotted and the characterisation so perfect that it would not be sensible to tinker with their order in any major way...however, there was a strong need to establish some sort of history/relationship between Emma and Knightley so that the audience is aware of their strong ,long term ties. Establishing Knightley as a member of the family,someone who has always been around was important. Also  Emma and Knightley's  lively and relaxed interchange of dialogue , as the relationship is obviously the heart of the novel. The other major strand was the one I discuss in the answer above which was to establish the 'orphans'  story. I thought of introducing these as flashbacks within the storytelling but they not only held up the pacing of the drama but would have been a bit unsatisfying in themselves, given that they would not have been particularly revealing...so in the end I decided to put the 'orphans' and Knightley at the very front of the story so that we could establish this texture in sequence...

 

I'd like to say it was then plain sailing...but of course , nothing dimmed my absolute joy at working on the book and trying to bring such a wonderful story to life...

 

Sorry I don't think I'm going to be very succinct..I do apologise if I wander off-topic..

 

Best Wishes

Sandy

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Sandy-Welch
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Re: EMMA: Guest Screenwriter Sandy Welch (2/1 - 2/5/10)

Hello Elimy and Heidi

Your two posts sort of combine so I will answer both together.

 

I was going to ask you, Elimy if you had considered going to film school/ or any kind of media/film course?..I will tell you my story, as Heidi asks....at university in London I began volunteering on British Film Institute films..I then worked in the cutting rooms while I continued to study for my degree .I do consider editing the best learning environment I could have had..you were mentioning learning how to build a scene, for example.....this was a long time ago when we still 'cut and joined' film with sellotape, everything is now digitalised but the principles still remain the same...after film school I worked in Soho ( at that time film industry land ) for a year and then went to the National Film School as a writer..towards the end of my course I started to write for the BBC on Grange Hill and since then have worked on a mixture of adaptations, original work for television and film scripts..this is the reason I ask about the course..because it does give you the chance to build up a portfolio of intended work and it gives you an opportunity to meet other dramatists /filmakers and talk to established screenwriters..nowadays there are many media courses, some of them shorter commitments..

 

In terms of classics or adaptations, I'm not sure there is a different course for just those..if there is a particular title you are interested in , you could look into getting the rights for this work..this can be a costly business and any option you might secure usually has a time limit which will eventually run out ..and you then have to renew..I think the legal time limit for rights runs out after 100 years now, so if the book was published more than one hundred years ago you are free to do as you wish.....of course these tend to be the more popular titles..obviously, I won't pretend that it is an easy road...but  there are more adaptations being made and they will be enduringly popular even if it goes out of fashion to say so..so I wish you very good luck with your future plans..

 

Best Wishes

Sandy

 

And thanks for mentioning the wonderful Tim Spall as Mr Venus, he's one of my favourite actors..Our Mutual Friend was a very happy production we all remain very proud of..

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JL_Garner
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Re: Question for Sandy Welch -- compassionate portrayal of orphans onscreen

 


Sandy-Welch wrote:

There was another reason for emphasising the 'orphan' aspects of the novel..and this is that I thought it really important that both Miss Bates and Mr Woodhouse should be treated a little more seriously than there is often time for in dramatisations, as Emma's reaction to them  is so crucial to understanding her developing character....giving up Jane was a necessity as Miss Bates' fortunes declined and showing her doing that, (rather than someone telling you about it ) was I thought a more effective way of dramatising her shrinking world and her obsession with news from Jane, all of which would be lost on the young Emma. Similarly Mr Woodhouse's clinging to his youngest daughter, his hypochondria  and borderline agoraphobia are not just the nervous ticks of a silly man but develop from a real trauma.


 

I just wanted to say that this was something that really stuck out for me -- the toned-down, far more serious treatment of Miss Bates. While Sophie Thompson certainly was a scene-stealer in the 1996 film version, the way you've translated Miss Bates in your screenplay (and from there, the way Tamsin Greig plays her) makes her a far more sympathetic character, and will make Mr. Knightley's remonstrance of Emma all the more meaningful. I can't wait for next Sunday to see how the picnic on Box Hill turns out!

 

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brave_new_world
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Re: Question for Sandy Welch -- compassionate portrayal of orphans onscreen

Hello Ms. Welch,

 

Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply.

 

I am very glad that you talked about the importance of treating Miss Bates and Mr. Woodhouse more seriously. Prior to seeing your adaptation, I did not fully understand the reasons behind their behaviors. It was so easy to dismiss them as silly secondary characters. Your screenplay revealed not only the plight of the orphaned, the motherless, and the abandoned in Emma, but also the real pain that adults experience with the loss of a loved one and how this is manifested in their misunderstood behaviors. 

 

I was particularly moved to learn that Miss Bates' mother stops talking after she is persuaded to let Jane go, while Miss Bates deals with the same loss by filling the silence with her non-stop chatter. This adds a whole new level of depth and sympathy for these adult characters...and a true level of brilliance on your part because, as an audience member, I find myself realizing that I have been just as guilty as Emma for passing judgment too quickly! I had been clueless about these characters all along. As your script unfolds, I feel a mirror being held up to the audience, forcing us to grow in sensitivity and compassion, much the way that Emma does in the story. Your screenplay, for me, is like the subtle voice of Mr. Knightly correcting my misperceptions in favor of a more compassionate truth. Well done!

 

Very best wishes,

 

Brave

 

 

 

 

 

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millernumber1
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Re: Question for Sandy Welch

[ Edited ]
Thanks so much for participating in such a great program! I love this Emma, and think Romola is an inspired piece of casting (have thought she would make a wonderful Emma when I first saw her three years ago - and she has!) 1) Are there any “deleted” scene that were either in the script by not filmed or were filmed but cut out for time or other reasons? 2) I loved all the moments of Emma and Mr. Knightley holding hands, from their reconciliation over baby Emma to telling Mr. Woodhouse of their engagement. Were those scripted, or director's and actors' choices? 3) As someone who has only seen the sea from an airplane, I was thrilled to see how you brought out the theme of Emma going honeymooning at the seaside – from the first mention when little Emma is under the table and Mr. Woodhouse says it's not good for children to know about the sea, to Emma's use of the seaside to try and defuse the argument between John Knightley and her father (directly from the book!), and the final journey to the seaside (again, from the book). What made you bring that out as such a strong theme, as I particularly loved it, but it hasn't really been stressed before in criticism or adaptation? 4) You've commented in other places on how Emma is really Mr. Knightley's equal in this production, something I enjoy as I dislike much of the criticism which says she needs to be “humiliated” - are there any particular critics you read that influenced your decision to write her that way? Any moments you think especially showcase her intelligence, goodness, and strength? 5) The dance between Emma and Mr. Knightley is my very favorite moment in the whole series – was it scripted with directions to the actors, or was it mostly decided by director, actors, and choreographer? 6) As a prominent adapter of classic literature, do you ever have conversations with other prominent adapters, such as Andrew Davies (who did a similar Q&A a year or two ago for Little Dorrit)?
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basson_mommy12
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Re: Question for Sandy Welch -- compassionate portrayal of orphans onscreen

 


JL_Garner wrote:

 


Sandy-Welch wrote:

There was another reason for emphasising the 'orphan' aspects of the novel..and this is that I thought it really important that both Miss Bates and Mr Woodhouse should be treated a little more seriously than there is often time for in dramatisations, as Emma's reaction to them  is so crucial to understanding her developing character....giving up Jane was a necessity as Miss Bates' fortunes declined and showing her doing that, (rather than someone telling you about it ) was I thought a more effective way of dramatising her shrinking world and her obsession with news from Jane, all of which would be lost on the young Emma. Similarly Mr Woodhouse's clinging to his youngest daughter, his hypochondria  and borderline agoraphobia are not just the nervous ticks of a silly man but develop from a real trauma.


 

I just wanted to say that this was something that really stuck out for me -- the toned-down, far more serious treatment of Miss Bates. While Sophie Thompson certainly was a scene-stealer in the 1996 film version, the way you've translated Miss Bates in your screenplay (and from there, the way Tamsin Greig plays her) makes her a far more sympathetic character, and will make Mr. Knightley's remonstrance of Emma all the more meaningful. I can't wait for next Sunday to see how the picnic on Box Hill turns out!

 


 

See, now I have to disagree.  I thought Miss Bates, though more serious, is much more likely to injure and therefore would be less universally accepted as somewhat silly and harmless.  I think it will take some of the sting away for me when she is insulted at Box Hill.  I guess we'll have to wait and see.  :smileyhappy:

 

"The Answer to the Great Question of ... Life, the Universe and Everything ... (is) 42." -- Douglas Adams' "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy"

Ruth W.
Grand Rapids, MI
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MissJoMay
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Re: Question for Sandy Welch -- compassionate portrayal of orphans onscreen

I think that Miss Bates is written much more as a character than a carcicature in this adaptation; we see more depths and facets of her character than we did in, say, the 1996 version.  I especially appreciate that we have seen moments throughout the film where Miss Bates understands more than she is given credit for (I'm specifically thinking of Jane brushing her off when Miss Bates asks about her supposed letter from Ireland).  I agree that it will make the whole Box Hill incident much more uncomfortable for us as the audience and make Knightley's comments to Emma that much more necessary and justified.

 

Something else that I have appreciated about how Miss Bates was written and acted was the fact that we can see many connections between Miss Bates and Emma.  They are in the same social circle, and Miss Bates (much like Jane Fairfax) could greatly benefit from Emma's true friendship rather than the pittance of friendship Emma offers because of social convention.  Yes, Emma is younger than Miss Bates, but if Emma had learned and grown a bit sooner, a warm friendship might have grown that could have helped curb some of Miss Bates' more destructive social mannerisms (i.e. the non-stop chatter).

Jo
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Sandy-Welch
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Re: EMMA: Guest Screenwriter Sandy Welch (2/1 - 2/5/10)

Hello Kathleen

 

Thanks for your comments and questions..

 

I don't tend to worry too much about previous adaptations, I have usually seen and liked them all-I think there are good things in all of them and often it is after seeing an inspiring dramatisation that I have read some of my favourite novels in the first place.... Very often you are not trying to tell the story in the same format..it's been a long time since Emma was in a long form serial (1970's) and that version, of course, was very much longer. A novel like Emma is bound to have been dramatised a few times.....Quite recently, I was told an interesting anecdote by an actor who was in a classic production of a very well known play..the cast were bemoaning the fact that they were retreading a play staged many times before and the director cautioned them : 'Remember that in the audience there will be someone who is seeing this play for the first time, and someone who will be seeing it for the last time..'  I found this a very memorable thought and in a way I think it a good sentiment to have in your head..so that you are not thinking, 'how can I do things differently?' but that you remember that your duty to the novel and the audience is to tell the story as well as you possibly can. I have also learnt  (care of the internet and post office ) that there is absolutely no way you can  second guess what people are going to like or dislike about your work and certainly no way you can please all of the people all of the time !

 

There were a few reasons for chosing Knightley as narrator..I have touched on it in the answer about trying to establish up front that he was a family member and that Emma had known him as a friend all her life. This is different from all the other Austen heroines who have met their suitors in adulthood. Their relationship has the ease of brother and sister. Also , sometimes in Austen adaptations there is a disparity in the roles of heroine and hero as the story is generally told from her point of view so I also wanted to signal that this hero would share more time on screen and therefore he is on the first page of the screenplay..In addition, a narrator was needed to signal that this 'prequel' was just that and would have a dynamic of it's own so as not to confuse the audience..we wanted to give it a kind of fairy tale quality as Mrs Churchill taking Frank and changing his name is a bit like that..and also to fix in the audience's mind the reason why Frank was called something different from his father (Mr Weston)  something I found confusing when I was younger. For me, it was important that this prequel should have the same tone as the opening paragraph of the book which ends with stating that Emma was a fortunate child who had lived until this moment with nothing to trouble ' or vex her..'

Lastly -but certainly not least,  Jonny has a really great voice ! ..which expressed the confidence and humour of his character -and we hoped the tone of the whole production -even with the early 'guide track' so any doubts we had about a narrator were banished..

 

Best Wishes

Sandy

 

 

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ConnieAnnKirk
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Re: Question for Sandy Welch -- compassionate portrayal of orphans onscreen

[ Edited ]

Sandy-Welch wrote:

Thanks for the warm welcome, ConnieK  ! It's a real pleasure to be here..

 

Interesting questions..

 

I'm not sure which I find more difficult, adaptations or original work...I think it depends on each project..each presents their own difficulties..I have been lucky enough to be asked to dramatise books which rate amongst my long time personal favourites ..many of them have been ninteenth century novels which means that they have lots of characters and a strong story line..this makes life much easier..also the fact that I love the book obviously helps me get going..I found Turn of the Screw the most difficult classic as it is a much more amorphous and elusive storyline and there are few characters. I think I always try to reach the emotional heart of the book, particularly the connection between characters so the fact that in Turn of the Screw  the heroine's motivation is necessarily complex and ambiguous meant I was on slightly unfamiliar ground..however, I did very much enjoy the ghosts!

 

... and I'm realising I'm veering off topic so I will get onto original work.! .here a lot depends on the commisioning of the project..if it is an entirely original story then you probably will have had to provide a  strong narrative synopsis in order to get the commission through so when you come to write it , it's pretty much there and there's not a blank page staring at you..and it is very satisfying to to be able to think up new ideas as you go along, without anyone saying,'That's not in the book...'  (although it will not stop them saying, 'that might be a bit expensive...') ...for me there are a few variations on the 'original work'  front at the moment..for example I am working on a script which is an original storyline but which is based on true stories..here I have changed the characters names totally, but the original source material is constantly providing sustenance if I get stuck for a storyline...on another project I am re telling an actual incident with the real names of the people involved..this obviously means the story already has it's arc..but there are many considerations in the telling of it, particularly around the moral duty to the 'characters', though they are all long dead.

 

Onto Emma..I have not dramatised an Austen novel before but I knew the most difficult technical challenge would be 'changing' the storyline in any way..the book are so tightly plotted and the characterisation so perfect that it would not be sensible to tinker with their order in any major way...however, there was a strong need to establish some sort of history/relationship between Emma and Knightley so that the audience is aware of their strong ,long term ties. Establishing Knightley as a member of the family,someone who has always been around was important. Also  Emma and Knightley's  lively and relaxed interchange of dialogue , as the relationship is obviously the heart of the novel. The other major strand was the one I discuss in the answer above which was to establish the 'orphans'  story. I thought of introducing these as flashbacks within the storytelling but they not only held up the pacing of the drama but would have been a bit unsatisfying in themselves, given that they would not have been particularly revealing...so in the end I decided to put the 'orphans' and Knightley at the very front of the story so that we could establish this texture in sequence...

 

I'd like to say it was then plain sailing...but of course , nothing dimmed my absolute joy at working on the book and trying to bring such a wonderful story to life...

 

Sorry I don't think I'm going to be very succinct..I do apologise if I wander off-topic..

 

Best Wishes

Sandy


 

Thanks, Sandy!  On the contrary to your apology--I think everyone is thoroughly enjoying reading your responses!  You are a writer, after all--that's what I said to myself as I was reading--ha!  Thank you for your perspective on adaptations vs. original screenplays, and then relating them to your experience with EMMA.

 

Just a note that might be helpful this week--When you go to reply to any one of us, you will see the word "Quote" at the top right of the reply window.  If you click on that, you'll see the message you're replying to paste into your window.  Then you can write your reply below it.  This is the way we keep track of conversations, so we know what we're each replying to and can follow along easily.  I've done it in this reply as an example.

 

Hope this helps--I can already see this is going to be a great week!  Are you writing to us from the UK?  That might help us coordinate our times each day, if we know if you're in the States or "over there."  Ha.

 

Thanks again for being here with us this week--it's a treat!

 

~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
Author
ConnieAnnKirk
Posts: 5,472
Registered: ‎06-14-2007
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Re: Helpful Tip

Here's a tip for our members--

 

Your enthusiasm for our guest this week is very much appreciated, and I love reading all of your questions.  It has struck me that some of us are asking more than 1-2 questions per post, and this might be a lot for our guest to answer at one time.

 

Maybe we could consider keeping our questions to 1-2 per post?  That way we will try (at least) to keep from overwhelming her when she comes to the board?  Sandy is "here all week," as they say--so you are certainly free and encouraged to keep asking her questions while she is with us--I just thought it might be a little daunting to see several all in one post with several other posts yet to read.

 

Thanks a bunch for your cooperation!

 

Isn't this fun???  :smileywink:

~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
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ha_segal
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎02-01-2010
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Re: EMMA: Guest Screenwriter Sandy Welch (2/1 - 2/5/10)

 


Sandy-Welch wrote:

Hello Elimy and Heidi

Your two posts sort of combine so I will answer both together.

 

I was going to ask you, Elimy if you had considered going to film school/ or any kind of media/film course?..I will tell you my story, as Heidi asks....at university in London I began volunteering on British Film Institute films..I then worked in the cutting rooms while I continued to study for my degree .I do consider editing the best learning environment I could have had..you were mentioning learning how to build a scene, for example.....this was a long time ago when we still 'cut and joined' film with sellotape, everything is now digitalised but the principles still remain the same...after film school I worked in Soho ( at that time film industry land ) for a year and then went to the National Film School as a writer..towards the end of my course I started to write for the BBC on Grange Hill and since then have worked on a mixture of adaptations, original work for television and film scripts..this is the reason I ask about the course..because it does give you the chance to build up a portfolio of intended work and it gives you an opportunity to meet other dramatists /filmakers and talk to established screenwriters..nowadays there are many media courses, some of them shorter commitments..

 

In terms of classics or adaptations, I'm not sure there is a different course for just those..if there is a particular title you are interested in , you could look into getting the rights for this work..this can be a costly business and any option you might secure usually has a time limit which will eventually run out ..and you then have to renew..I think the legal time limit for rights runs out after 100 years now, so if the book was published more than one hundred years ago you are free to do as you wish.....of course these tend to be the more popular titles..obviously, I won't pretend that it is an easy road...but  there are more adaptations being made and they will be enduringly popular even if it goes out of fashion to say so..so I wish you very good luck with your future plans..

 

Best Wishes

Sandy

 

And thanks for mentioning the wonderful Tim Spall as Mr Venus, he's one of my favourite actors..Our Mutual Friend was a very happy production we all remain very proud of..


Hello again Sandy Welch -

 

 

 

It's so kind of you to take time for answering questions. Hearing your story is incredibly helpful and inspiring. I can't thank you enough! I had shelved screenwriting pursuits for graphic design, thinking it would be a more stable way to earn my crust. Now I'm in my 30's and ready to go after screenwriting with a "broad axe" (metaphor stolen from writer Annie Dillard). I'm discovering that the visual discipline of design has been a great boon.

I agree with "Brave"… There is a strong compassion in your writing that draws me. There is a scene in "North and South" makes me melt with laughter every time I watch it. It is the first visit that Mrs. Thornton and Fanny make to the Hales - the awkward tea. An awesome display of human empathy. The way you explore the role reversal of Margaret as "parent to her parents" is also heartwarming and heartbreaking at once. And, of course, who does not swoon at the last scene?

In EMMA, I appreciate how you contrasted Emma's earlier matchmaking exploits with the irony of Emma's own confusion over what love is. "How should one look, if one was supposed to be in love in return?" "How does it feel to be in love?"

And the Eltons' plastic relationship compared to the honest, organic, and authentic relationship between Emma and Knightly - so satisfying to watch in your version!

Thanks again - I just had to release my joy of your writing! I'm sure  you are inundated with comments like these… I could ask MANY more questions but will restrain myself. (Especially your thoughts regarding EM Forster's distinction of Jane Austen as an artist and Charles Dickens as a craftsperson. According to Forster, Dickens developed caricatures rather than more complex "breathing" characters that could live on…in Jane Austen's novels. It seems like comparing apples and oranges. Sorry, I think I am Miss Bates!)



Kind regards, heidi

PS As ConnieK mentions, it's very enjoyable to read your responses to everyone....

Contributor
Sandy-Welch
Posts: 17
Registered: ‎12-09-2009
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Re: Question for Sandy Welch -- compassionate portrayal of orphans onscreen


ConnieK wrote:

Sandy-Welch wrote:

Thanks for the warm welcome, ConnieK  ! It's a real pleasure to be here..

 

Interesting questions..

 

I'm not sure which I find more difficult, adaptations or original work...I think it depends on each project..each presents their own difficulties..I have been lucky enough to be asked to dramatise books which rate amongst my long time personal favourites ..many of them have been ninteenth century novels which means that they have lots of characters and a strong story line..this makes life much easier..also the fact that I love the book obviously helps me get going..I found Turn of the Screw the most difficult classic as it is a much more amorphous and elusive storyline and there are few characters. I think I always try to reach the emotional heart of the book, particularly the connection between characters so the fact that in Turn of the Screw  the heroine's motivation is necessarily complex and ambiguous meant I was on slightly unfamiliar ground..however, I did very much enjoy the ghosts!

 

... and I'm realising I'm veering off topic so I will get onto original work.! .here a lot depends on the commisioning of the project..if it is an entirely original story then you probably will have had to provide a  strong narrative synopsis in order to get the commission through so when you come to write it , it's pretty much there and there's not a blank page staring at you..and it is very satisfying to to be able to think up new ideas as you go along, without anyone saying,'That's not in the book...'  (although it will not stop them saying, 'that might be a bit expensive...') ...for me there are a few variations on the 'original work'  front at the moment..for example I am working on a script which is an original storyline but which is based on true stories..here I have changed the characters names totally, but the original source material is constantly providing sustenance if I get stuck for a storyline...on another project I am re telling an actual incident with the real names of the people involved..this obviously means the story already has it's arc..but there are many considerations in the telling of it, particularly around the moral duty to the 'characters', though they are all long dead.

 

Onto Emma..I have not dramatised an Austen novel before but I knew the most difficult technical challenge would be 'changing' the storyline in any way..the book are so tightly plotted and the characterisation so perfect that it would not be sensible to tinker with their order in any major way...however, there was a strong need to establish some sort of history/relationship between Emma and Knightley so that the audience is aware of their strong ,long term ties. Establishing Knightley as a member of the family,someone who has always been around was important. Also  Emma and Knightley's  lively and relaxed interchange of dialogue , as the relationship is obviously the heart of the novel. The other major strand was the one I discuss in the answer above which was to establish the 'orphans'  story. I thought of introducing these as flashbacks within the storytelling but they not only held up the pacing of the drama but would have been a bit unsatisfying in themselves, given that they would not have been particularly revealing...so in the end I decided to put the 'orphans' and Knightley at the very front of the story so that we could establish this texture in sequence...

 

I'd like to say it was then plain sailing...but of course , nothing dimmed my absolute joy at working on the book and trying to bring such a wonderful story to life...

 

Sorry I don't think I'm going to be very succinct..I do apologise if I wander off-topic..

 

Best Wishes

Sandy


 

Thanks, Sandy!  On the contrary to your apology--I think everyone is thoroughly enjoying reading your responses!  You are a writer, after all--that's what I said to myself as I was reading--ha!  Thank you for your perspective on adaptations vs. original screenplays, and then relating them to your experience with EMMA.

 

Just a note that might be helpful this week--When you go to reply to any one of us, you will see the word "Quote" at the top right of the reply window.  If you click on that, you'll see the message you're replying to paste into your window.  Then you can write your reply below it.  This is the way we keep track of conversations, so we know what we're each replying to and can follow along easily.  I've done it in this reply as an example.

 

Hope this helps--I can already see this is going to be a great week!  Are you writing to us from the UK?  That might help us coordinate our times each day, if we know if you're in the States or "over there."  Ha.

 

Thanks again for being here with us this week--it's a treat!

 


 

Aha..thanks for the tip , ConnieK ..I know on some boards you have to use a more complicated way to get up the quote that would be beyond me..... I was also worrying the answers would all get jumbled up, which is why some of you were shouted out in bold..

 

I am in sunny London which means I guess you're all about 5-8 hours behind me.. apologies if I seem to be taking a long time to get to your message.. I promise I'll get round to everyone ...

 

Best Wishes

Sandy