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1975

For BBC London historical series Churchill's People produced by Gerald Savory:

Two episodes: Pritân (set in pre-Roman Britain) and The Coming of the Cross (dramatizes the Synod of Whitby 664 AD, and the division of the British Church into Catholic and Celtic).

 

1975
For BBC London, Christmas Eve ghost-story slot: adaptation of M R James' The Ash Tree.

 

1980
For BBC Bristol: producer and director Colin Rose:
The Living Grave.

Based on documentary transcripts: the hypnotist Joe Keaton 'regresses' Pauline, a Merseyside nurse, back beyond her birth to an earlier life - she starts to speak as Kitty, a maidservant on 18th century Dartmoor, who is made pregnant and hangs herself. To this day, on Kitty's unconsecrated grave at a lonely forkroads, flowers are still left by an unknown hand.

I intercut the hypnosis scenes with glimpses of the life and death of Kitty herself as 'her' voice was describing them - but with the camera as Kitty's point of view, and so never seeing her, and using the locations as they are now. This was to avoid the inertia of mere illustration, creating instead a simultaneity of the two time-frames, and a sense of Kitty's experience still present in the landscape today.

I cannot explain what it is that Joe Keaton does, nor what it is that happens when under his hypnosis Pauline speaks as Kitty. This I know: in Kitty's voice, the Merseyside nurse mentions features in the landscape that no longer exist, and uses dialect words and name-forms current in Kitty's time and not used since.

Lesley Dunlop, Ian Hogg.

 

 


 


1983
For BBC London: producer Kenith Trodd:
Across the Water.

An Ulster Protestant man, living in Warwickshire with his English wife, is bringing up as his own the daughter she has had by another man, an Irish Republican of whom he knows nothing and does not wish to know. He has turned his back on Ulster's sectarianism, but the current conflict haunts him and makes him feel a traitor for not being involved. When the little girl is kidnapped, he goes to Ulster to trace her. It is a journey that takes him back to his own roots, and into dark places of his heart, compelling him to face up to the question, what sort of Irishman he is.

As with Penda, issues of landscape and belonging - but here they are more savagely problematized. It's shorter (45 minutes) and fiercer, distilling the England-Ulster-Ireland triangle into a pattern of individual loss and pain.

Liam Neeson. Directed by Paul Seed.

Without my knowledge, and against my express wish, a music-track was added – a synthesized pseudo-Celtic warbling, utterly wrong for the piece.

 

1988 (unproduced)
For BBC TV Glasgow: 
Fiend, My Brother, adaptation of James Hogg's novel Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

A remarkable 18th century novel, in which a Scottish Calvinist clergyman's son is seduced by a demonic angel into believing he is chosen by God to murder those around him whom God does not love. It has prophetic fascist undertones, and a strong subconscious homoerotic compulsion. I was commissioned to adapt it with a view to casting Sting as the seducing angel; he would have been perfect. In First Draft Screenplay. In spite of two attempts by BBC to take it up, it did not proceed.

 

1990
For BBC Schools: producer Anne Rogan:
3-episode adaptation of The Ancient Mariner.

Electronic and studio treatment of Coleridge's narrative, intercut with parallel episodes from the poet's life - his visionary beginnings, his collapse into drug addiction, his dejection at the loss of his genius, his strange sojourn in the 'star chamber' in Malta, and his last years as a prisoner under cure in Dr Gillman's house in Highgate.

By the time I had worked this to First Draft, there had been changes of budget and constraints of policy. BBC had to reduce my hallucinatory ambitions to a radically simplified and much more earthly thing, much of it not mine.


1991
For Thames TV:
adaptation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Done for a company looking to renew their franchise, and hoping to win Brownie points with a culturally respectable project. (They didn't.) It began as a film, and I wrote it as such: then the usual Dutch auction went into play, and the budget began to come down and down. We ended in studio, with (I think) three days on location. The director did the best he could, with such shrinking resources; it is not his fault that the result is somewhat reductive in effect.

One difficulty that the original material presents, from a dramaturgical point of view, is that after its thunderbolt of an opening scene, the Giant's appearance at the Christmas feast, we immediately have a timelapse of a year: after a passage of four seasons, we resume in mid-winter again, with the hero's journey. On screen, this is rhythmically lame. My solution ws to begin with the hero already setting out on his journey, with nothing explained, and counterpointing it with flashbacks to the Christmas feast, so that by the time we have reached the Giant's challenge then, we have also arrived at his castle now.

One thing I learned from this exercise is what a sophisticated piece of narrative art that ancient poem is.

Jason Durr, Malcolm Storry. Directed by John Michael Phillips.

 


1993
(Unproduced:) For company The Greek Connection, producers Spiros Mercouri and Michael Kustow:
Byzantium

A dramatized history of Constantinople and her Empire, from her foundation in 325 AD by Constantine the Great, to her fall to the Turks in 1453.

On the eve of the Turks' final assault on the city, Byzantium's last emperor keeps vigil over what remains of her. He thinks back over the great history and inheritance it is now his destiny to lose. Framed within harrowing scenes of the city's capture and fall, the history is a flashback panorama of her great days and achievements - a world that at first may seem remote from us, but that gradually becomes startlingly recognizable as the foundation of the modern Europe, Balkans, Russia and Middle East that we have to live with now.

It is a particular disappointment to me, as a Greek scholar, that this project never went ahead; but I value it for what it taught me about how narrow and Rome-centred our Western view of European history is.

In detailed Treatment form, with electronic artwork and rostrum artwork specified, and specimen scenes.