Category Archives: Living Shakespeare

Posts about my life.

Cuddlefish

It’s almost time to film my scene. Production begins and ends on Thursday. I’ve finally cast actors, gotten props, and I have a shot list.

As I mentioned before, the scene comes from a longer feature film idea that we were asked to come up with a few weeks ago. Mine is called “Cuddlefish,” about a professional cuddler who falls in love with one of her clients, but she’s asexual, so she doesn’t want the relationship to go beyond cuddling (and kissing) (and romance.) The scene I chose from this idea is when her client confesses that he likes her and wants to be in a relationship with her, and she’s conflicted because she likes him too, but she isn’t sure she can give him what he wants.

Explaining the scene, because it’s out of context, is one of the most important parts of producing it. I need to get the romantic comedy tone across, but I also need there to be an understanding of exactly why the scene plays out as it does, why my professional cuddler is so hesitant when she’s told by the guy she likes that he likes her back. I think that’s been the hardest part of the whole process, making sure that the context and tone are clear and transferring that to film. Hopefully it works.

The second hardest part is actual set design. Over the past two weeks, I’ve struggled with how I’m going to build a bedroom set that looks like it could be the room of a professional cuddler within the confines of the film school. The room I’m booked to shoot in looks a bit like a cross between a basement and an industrial kind of place, and has art supplies in it including one huge blue canvas. The door is also in a really odd place.

To add to the problem, the double bed from the props department I planned to use is already being used on my shooting day, so I’m using a hospital bed (single) and making it look like a bed that a professional cuddler might have in their bedroom. It’s going to involve a lot of pillows and blankets and honestly it won’t look like what I thought about in my head, or anything remotely close to it. But for the purposes of this scene, hopefully it isn’t too distracting. I think a lot of it hinges on performances, so if the bed looks a bit suspicious, well, hopefully clever camera angles can take attention away from that.

The last problem is directing. I’m not a director, and I’ve never really directed in any sort of official capacity before. It’s a lot of decision making and controlling and knowing what you’re talking about, and having written the thing, it’s also an exercise in learning what works on the page and what doesn’t need to be in the film (things like small stage directions, for example.) You’d be surprised at how many things in a script, even a good one, don’t need to be in the film. The past week has involved learning that directors look at scripts differently than writers, so playing the part of a writer-director is weird because, at least for me, I’ve never fully been in one mode or the other. They bleed through to each other.

Other things I’ve had to learn include camera coverage, health & safety (there was a risk assessment), working with actors, film set protocol, and producing practices. Yesterday, when filming someone else’s shoot, I got a crash course in being an assistant director and on using clapper boards. It’s a lot to take in, and there’s definitely a lot of learning while doing. And the set should be relaxed, which is hard when you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re secretly panicking and there’s so many choices.

Somehow, so far, the sets have been pretty relaxed.

I just hope the shoot on Thursday goes smoothly. I hope that the set looks like a bedroom tomorrow when I’m done with it. I hope nothing sudden happens that’ll throw a wrench in the works.

The good thing about being on the screenwriting course is that, if I want, this is the first and last time I’ll have to do any of this film production stuff.

We’ll see how it goes.

 

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Film Production

I’m just going to state this up front: I’m not a director. I’m not a cinematographer. I’m a writer, and I feel comfortable writing and not doing all that other stuff.

I have done the other stuff. I’ve directed, filmed, and edited, but I didn’t really enjoy it. These next two weeks, however, are going to be all of the directing, filming, and editing that I never wanted to do. We’re going into production for our metamorphosis projects, and writing has been put on hold for awhile.

My metamorphosis project, the romantic comedy scene about cuddling, is fairly simple on paper, but even the simplest of scenes can be stressful when actually being realized on camera. In the next week I have to pin down locations, props, and design the set. I have to storyboard the script so that I know where I want the camera without having to waste too much time during the actual shoot. I have to cast actors, something which I know absolutely nothing about.

The past week has been a HUGE test of my patience. We had two days of intense cinematography, where we filmed multiple scenes and took turns on sound, directing, cinematography, and acting. I find film production to be one of the most stressful things in the world, so needless to say, I didn’t enjoy those two days.

This coming week, we learn to work with actors. I’ve never worked with professional actors before, so this will be something very intimidating. The writer part of me is cringing. Actually, every part of me is cringing. It goes against my sit-in-a-room-with-a-laptop-making-fictional-things-happen nature.

Luckily, this is the only time I should have to be so involved in any production at the film school. Everything else is writing. We’re having a play scene that we write produced later in the year, but we’re not in charge of directing that, which is probably a relief.

I was told that some writers catch the directing bug from this exercise. I don’t think I’m one of them. But, directing with a script is better than directing without one, so I might still enjoy the actual filming of my scene more than the practice we’ve been doing for the past few days. And the upside is, none of us really know what we’re doing, so we’re getting a fair amount of help from each other and from people who know how to do all those complicated film things.

There is something a bit reassuring, though, in how badly I want to be writing rather than doing all of this production stuff. I think that’s pretty much a confirmation that I’ve chosen to pursue the right thing.

Besides, I’m too short to be a good cinematographer.

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Screenwriting In the UK

So I said I’d be keeping up with this blog, and I’ve done a really bad job. But it’s been a month since I’ve started my course in England, so I thought it was about time for a post to talk about what I’ve been doing aside from the answer I usually tell everyone, which is writing.

I am writing. For those who missed the last blog post, I’m doing a two year Masters course in Screenwriting at the National Film and Television School in England. After which, I hope to get a job, preferably in the UK because I like it over here more than, say, LA. Not that there’s anything wrong with LA but it’s not particularly my style.

The screenwriting course does involve a lot of writing. There are ten of us, and we spent the first few weeks each generating ideas for a film or TV series. We had four ideas to develop with the following prompts (or guidelines, they weren’t very hard about them): idea based on visuals, idea needing research, fantasy idea, and an idea in a particular genre other than drama. We wrote treatments (proposals, pretty much) for each of these ideas. I ended up with four film ideas whose working titles are: Fishermen (this will change), Underground, Fallen, and Cuddlefish. Take those as you will. The last one is a romantic comedy. The first one I’m thinking about as maybe a play, though the visual part would be great to see on camera. But it’s such a smallish drama that I wonder if it wouldn’t be better on stage. The middle two I haven’t thought much about, but would love to write them.

On the side I’ve gotten involved with games design, collaborating on story for a game. The second year games designers have to develop a full-fledged game (for any platform) as their final project. Some of them want to bring in writers for story/character reasons. This is where I’ve come in. The game I’m working on is very story based, which is great. I like story based games. It’s much different to writing a script, but it’s a lot of fun, and the interactive aspect is fun to think about and play around with.

We’re also working on a project called Metamorphosis, which is to give us writers a perspective on what it takes to bring our scripts to the big screen. We’ve each picked a scene from one of our film ideas and written it, and we’re going to film it two weeks from now. Between then and now we have to finalize the script, cast actors, get location and props, and learn how to use the equipment. This means that we’re making 10 films (since there’s ten of us.) Each writer directs their own scene, and the crew is made up entirely of other writers who aren’t filming that day. So we have two weeks of prep (this week and next) and one week to film, and then a few days to edit. I’m not a huge fan of the production process (I did come here to write, after all) but it should be a lot of fun. Especially since it’s the most developed script I’ve ever filmed.

Adjusting to life outside of school is interesting. I’ve had to get used to not having the usual people to fall back on for support and/or weekend hanging out, to not having things work the same way they do at home, and to not having a good selection of pre-made cookie dough. The Ben & Jerry’s here is also terribly expensive. I haven’t been able to justify getting any yet, but I will. Maybe as a birthday present. Going into London a lot gets expensive so I haven’t done it too much.

Overall, I’m enjoying this, and I’m really happy that I’ve got this opportunity. I feel more creative than I have in a long time, more creatively supported than I ever have, and like I’ve learned more about the film/TV/theatre industry and writing in the past month than I did in my three years at my university. And that is just fantastic. I’m really excited about all the writing we’re going to do, all the different areas we’ll get to explore, and how much we’ll learn about everything.

And, fingers crossed, when I’m done they won’t kick me out of the country.

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2014

Hello all!

I know it’s been a while since I’ve properly posted. I’ve been really busy with a new internship at a theater, working in the film and booking departments. It’s a great internship, but it also involves a two hour each way commute to the city and back, which takes up a good chunk of the day. I’m pretty much out of the house from 6:45am to 8:15pm. It’s been a good experience, learning how to be a real working person, but this next year is going to change quite a bit.

I’ve been accepted into the Screenwriting Masters program at NFTS, the National Film and Television School in England. I applied back in the spring and never expected to get in, but I did, and I’ve gone on orientation to meet my fellow screenwriters and people from other programs in the school. Everyone is really awesome and nice and passionate, and it looks like it’ll be a good environment to be creative in. And I’ve always wanted to write for film, television, or theater in the UK. It’s been the pipiest of my pipe dreams. But it’s not so far fetched anymore.

The program starts at the end of January. Whether or not I’ll get there in time is another matter-I’m having issues with the visa application that I really need resolved this week before things start to get really hairy.

That aside, I’m exciting. Especially given that this time last year, I didn’t have any prospects for after I graduated. That’s changed, and I couldn’t be happier.

A lot of my posts from now on are probably going to revolve around the screenwriting program, so if screenwriting, film, or theater is something that interests you, then you’ll really like what’s going on! There’ll probably be a few other posts about the state of packing and being in England and saying sorry for not posting in awhile because time gets away from me.

I can’t wait to start. I have a small notebook full of stuff I learned during the orientation, which was already a lot (and a good chunk which I’ve been told to forget until graduation). And then there’s a list of ideas I could use for future stories. I’m pretty sure I’ll be using most if not all of them, considering we did a lot of idea generating and developing during the orientation. And, I get to write a dissertation, since it is a graduate program. I’m thinking about writing about performing Shakespeare. I love Shakespeare, and I find the various ways his plays can be performed an interesting subject.

2013 was a good year, especially compared to 2012 (the year I’d rather forget.) So I’m ready for 2014. A few more things need to fall into place, but in general things are looking good. Which is all I can really ask for when starting off another year.

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Blogkeeping and Exciting News

Hey all! This post is primarily to do a little bit of housekeeping around the blog, pretty much to set up for this summer. Why? Because this summer is going to be much more exciting than last summer. I’m going on a month-long trip to Europe!

But first a bit of exciting news: I’m now a contributing writer at The Artifice, an online magazine about entertainment. It’s not paid, but it does get my writing out there and it’s something to do while I look for a paying job. I’ve only written two articles so far (on Shakespeare and Hannibal), but I’ve got more planned. My articles are here: http://the-artifice.com/author/cristinabarletta/

Second, at some point in the near future this is going to become a travel blog. Posts will be categorized under “Traveling Shakespeare.” (You’ll notice I redid the categories so different types of posts are easier to find.) I’m leaving July 4th, but there might be some prep posts before then, and hopefully I’ll be able to cross-post photographs to my photography blog from the trip. I got a new camera which is better than my point-and-shoot from years past but not as heavy or expensive as my DSLR, which is too bulky to drag along, much as I want to.

I’m also excited about the trip because it’s pretty much a return to the origins of this blog. The blog was originally on blogspot (for some reason) and chronicled my study abroad in London two years ago, studying Shakespeare. Hence, timetravelingshakespeare. You can read the posts about my time abroad here: http://timetravelingshakespeare.blogspot.com/2011_06_01_archive.html and here: http://timetravelingshakespeare.blogspot.com/2011_07_01_archive.html

But now I’m setting off on my own, free from college and, at least for part of the trip, from family. I’ll start off with my family in Spain, but then I’ll go off on my own to a few choice places: Switzerland, Berlin, Dublin, Edinburgh, and London. And then it’s back to New York to finish out the summer doing I-don’t-know-what.

So, there are travel posts coming. I hope you enjoy them as much as I (hope to) enjoy the trip! I’m very, very excited.

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Now That I’m Home

After a fourteen hour car ride through several states and even more traffic jams, I’ve had a lot of time to think about what I’m going to miss about UNC, my home for the past three years. Literally, I haven’t been home more than a handful of times since I’ve gone to school, and now I’m home for an indeterminate amount of time until I can find something like a job, or an internship, or a calling. Anyway, my list of things I’ll miss about college has grown a lot. After all, small-town Chapel Hill is even larger than my small-town in New York. And yeah, we have New York City, but we don’t have Cookout and that’s a shame. So, the list:

1. The People. I’ve met a lot of awesome people at Chapel Hill. My roommate freshman year became my roommate (and apartment mate) for my full time there, and she’s awesome. And there are other awesome friends I’ve met who are extremely smart and good people and share my love of things British (and some things not.) I could talk to anyone about anything-film, television, Tom Hiddleston, cats. Even the people at work were friendly. Speaking of which…

2. My jobs. I had two, one at Carolina Performing Arts as an Assistant House Manager (there are lots of good stories here) and one as an Office Assistant for UNC’s Housing. Both jobs had the main requirement of me being super friendly. The CPA job also had me buying a lot of swanky clothing, and I got to work a show where President Obama and Jimmy Fallon were the performers. Not a lot of college students get to do that. (And look up Carolina Performing Arts-they put on some awesome shows.) Plus, both of my jobs had awesome co-workers that I got along with. They made working pleasant, which is saying a lot. After all, it’s work.

3. The food. Okay, I live an hour from NYC, but even NYC hasn’t got the southern food that I’ve come to crave. Cookout is a prime example-a drive-thru place found only in North Carolina that serves milkshakes worth dying for and really good fast food (burgers, fries, hush puppies, ect) for pretty cheap. If you’re in North Carolina, you need to go. Also, Mellow Mushroom is some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, and I don’t have any Mellow Mushrooms up here. There were also various Chapel Hill staples-Sugarland for amazing cupcakes, desserts, and gelato; Krispy Kreme because some Evil Person took all of ours away up north; a bunch of burger joints; Time Out, which has excellent chicken and biscuits; and the Waffle Shoppe, which is pretty self-explanatory and also awesome. They have an M&M waffle. I bet you’re jealous now. So am I. There’s also some food trucks including a dumpling truck, a baguette truck, and a crepe truck. I console myself by reminding myself that there’s THE Wafels & Dinges truck in NYC. But still.

4. The cheapness of everything. Food costs less. Gas costs less. A ticket to the movies costs less, and I went to see a lot of movies. Now here I’ll have to pay several dollars more. This is actually a tragedy. I love films. I’ll also miss the Varsity Theatre, which would show newer films a few months after release for, like, $3, as well as classics. And our student union showed newer films for free. Leaving was bad news for my film enjoyment.

5. The proximity of everything. At most the state fair (and Raleigh) was half an hour away. We had two Targets (and an awesome mall) within 15 minutes, several specialty supermarkets, an uber-hipster town with all your hipster needs just down the road (Carrboro), and connections to That School Down the Road just in case you got tired of everything being so bright and friendly at UNC. If you couldn’t walk, you could take a bus, and if you had a car you wouldn’t have to go far to find anything. Where I live at home, everything is far away. Okay, we have a movie theater fifteen minutes away, and a tiny mall, but everything else is at least half an hour. Chilis is the hangout of choice for young people because we don’t have much else to choose from. Things close early. You have to drive everywhere. There are no sidewalks and barely any public transport. I feel trapped.

6. Access to EVERYTHING. Yeah, we had three main libraries. Printing was part of tuition. We got access to all the academic online sites, to lots of films and television shows, and other media. We got access to cameras and tripods and editing software of all kinds that anyone would die for. And there were tons of computers for our use in the libraries just in case your laptop broke (mine deleted its hard drive four times.) And now the printer at my house doesn’t work. So much for that. We do have faster internet, though. That’s a plus.

7. The amount of people my age. Yeah, it’s college. There were lots of people my age with similar interests. The potential for making friends was endless. In my home town there are friends, but not much chance for meeting new people. The people I don’t know are made up of a) people I never want to see again, b) older people/parents, c) middle schoolers/high schoolers and just no, or d) people my age who…okay just people my age. A lot of the people my age in my town and surrounding areas are just not my kind of people. People in NC were friendlier. Nerdier. Had more of a moral center, maybe even. Maybe not. But we all had more in common. It seems like My People either congregated in NC or in cities. I’m not sure how to interpret that.

8. Things to do. I mean, there’s really not a lot here. Chapel Hill was full of places to go, things to try, a campus to explore (and we did explore it quite literally.) We had two cities nearby. Here it’s hard. I’ll try to explore NYC as much as possible. I don’t even have classes to go to. I’ve gone from having a full course load and two jobs to…nothing. I don’t even know how to handle Free Time. What even is that?

9. School Spirit. I don’t know if you know about the Tar Heel spirit but at UNC it’s pretty awesome, and all over the place. Carolina blue everywhere. Dook sucks. I feel like I was born a Tar Heel even if I didn’t know about UNC before senior year of high school, so they’re doing their job right. I don’t know many schools with that kind of sense of community and pride. UNC probably even outshines Harvard in that department. We have a better basketball team so that makes sense.

10. The beauty. Campus is beautiful. Chapel Hill is beautiful. Let me drop some photo knowledge on you (and they’re my photos, so you get to see campus like I see it!):

This is the famous Old Well and it's pretty awesome.

This is the famous Old Well and it’s pretty awesome.

Campus during Holi Moli. We are awesome enough to do that kinda thing.

Campus during Holi Moli. We are awesome enough to do that kinda thing.

Our campus has a lot of flowers so it's beautiful during the spring. And all other seasons. But especially spring.

Our campus has a lot of flowers so it’s beautiful during the spring. And all other seasons. But especially spring.

We also have a lot of bikers so here's one. Even the bikers look good.

We also have a lot of bikers so here’s one. Even the bikers look good.

(Okay I don’t miss the bikers so much they are scary to be around on foot or in a car.)

The point is, I’m going to miss UNC more than I’ve ever missed any place in my life except maybe London (but that’s another story.) UNC was my home for three years, the best three of my life so far. They went too fast, and I haven’t really had time to process that I’m actually gone for good. The graduation gown hasn’t even been hung up yet. I also haven’t unpacked.

I think it’s going to be a long summer of getting used to the idea of never going back.

But this isn’t a sad post! There are better things to come. (Right? Right?????)

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The Most College Things

Aside from all the work that goes into being a college student, people who go to college also do something called being a college student. Which is more than work. It’s a lifestyle that goes beyond school. As I leave college, I’m looking back. Here are some of the most collegy things I’ve done, which will hopefully give you an idea of what it means to be a college student if you aren’t one already:

Attended a rally. In the olden days of my parents people attended rallies for a cause. Like to end war or something. I attended the Colbert/Jon Stewart Rally to Restore Sanity/Rally to Incite Fear (or something like that) on the mall of Washington D.C. It was several hours of standing in the cool autumn weather, watching people climb up on trees and other people dressed up as zombies, all in the name of humor and fun, and it was the best thing. I don’t think it actually accomplished anything, but it was pretty fun anyway.

It was a great rally.

It was a great rally.

Sleep in an airport. There’s nothing quite like wanting to save money, and there’s no easier way to save money than to make the airport your hotel. Unfortunately, there’s a reason why people avoid airports as places to sleep, because airports are uncomfortable and cold and inevitably you won’t get any sleep. But in the spirit of adventure it’s probably something you should try at least once. And in the spirit of having not that much money it’s probably something you’ll end up considering multiple times if you’re anything like me.

-Going all out for Halloween. I don’t know about your university, but at mine we have a Halloween tradition. It’s called going on our main street (Franklin) in awesome Halloween costumes and just walking to observe. And it’s fun. People go all out. People are impressive with their creativity. The first year I kind of dropped the ball on a costume due to the aforementioned Stewart/Colbert Rally, which took place over Halloween weekend, but the next two years involved more effort. I went as River Song from Doctor Who, complete with a sonic screwdriver, and this past year I went as Loki from the Avengers. There was no candy, but at least we looked awesome.

-Playing Humans vs Zombies. Sometimes I feel like college students want nothing more than to enjoy the things they did when they were kids, and who can blame us? We’re closer to adulthood than ever, so college is the perfect time to have fun. Humans vs Zombies is basically a week long expression of that desire. And, hey, who doesn’t want to shoot people with nerf guns? It’s rewarding.

-Take the overnight bus to save money. When I studied in England over the summer I wanted to take a trip to Scotland, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of money. In order to spend two days in Edinburgh I took an overnight bus there and back. Sleeping on buses is only marginally better than sleeping in airports. Especially when someone puts their head, uninvited, on your shoulder. And especially when you have to wait for two hours in the middle of the night at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere for a transfer. But so worth it.

-Exploring campus in the dead of night. One of my favorite weekends at UNC involved going into the science buildings at night, using the lecture hall for movies, and telling ghost stories in the graveyard. And climbing trees at night for some reason. It was spring, it was nice, and inside just seemed uninteresting. Also, we ran into the poor graduate students who live in the science buildings 24/7. They seemed to miss when they were us.

-Going on a backpacking trip. This was probably the worst idea anyone has ever had: to go on a backpacking trip near Asheville in the North Carolina mountains…without a map. We stayed one night in the woods after walking for three hours. When we woke up it was raining, which was probably a good thing, because it meant we went to stay in a hotel in Asheville to dry out and have good food instead of puttering around in the woods and freezing to death.

-Fitting twenty people in a dorm room. It wasn’t my dorm room.We were also watching movies on a tiny television. These haven’t been acceptable hang-out conditions since.

-Fitting 8 people in a 4 person hotel room. All in the name of saving money. Some of us got really well acquainted with the floor and a few others of us got acquainted with each other. Also for some reason we brought a gaming system with us.

-Having a trivia night at a bar. Because what college students need is more knowledge outside of class. Really obscure knowledge mixed with alcohol and cheese fries. Trivia’s actually really fun when done at the right bar. Linda’s, I salute you.

-Having an all-nighter for no reason. I never did an all-nighter because I needed that amount of time to work. I’ve never been particularly slow about doing school work, and I actually have pretty good time management skills. But it’s an experience. So I basically sat around with other friends in a study room a few times not really doing anything while they didn’t really do anything while trying to work. I’ve since gotten a better sleeping schedule. And I’m more discerning about which “experiences” are actually necessary.

-Having intellectual discussions at 3am. They’re much more mind-blowing. Everyone talks more. It feels like something life changing. Then you wake up the next morning and wonder why you stayed up so late, but you really don’t regret it.

I’m going to miss college, and the experiences it gave me. But there are probably quite a few things on this list that I’ll never do again.

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