Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Jane Austen on Film

For my last assignment of the BFI Film Journalism course I chose to write about Jane Austen on film. I'd read there was to be an ITV series of newly-commissioned works in the Autumn. They'll be adaptations of the the lesser-known novels: Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park and Persuasion. The picture alongside shows fanciable Ciaran Hinds as Captain Wentworth, hero of the last mentioned. I wouldn't fancy being at sea in one of those eighteenth century galleons, though - Anne Elliot's choice when she marries him.

As usual I enjoyed the research and did a ridiculous amount, much more than a 600 word piece required. The best bit was watching just about the only version available of 'Northanger Abbey', made in 1957, in a private viewing room in the BFI. I paid £8.50 for the privilege and thought only afterwards that maybe I could have watched it at Goldsmiths for free. They have a good collection of tapes and DVDs and it's just the sort of thing they would have on their shelves. Never mind. After all, it all helps to swell the coffers of a very worthwhile institution.

It was funny, too, to read the letters in the Radio Times, one complaining about the ladies being shown entering the spa pool at Bath, albeit fully clothed, and another from an elderly woman saying that the screening time, 10.30pm, was past her bedtime. What a boon the video recorder turned out to be.

I'm so relieved the courses are over. I learned a lot in a short time but never again do I want to face with all those deadlines . The Film Journalism had the most content and I certainly learned about feature writing as distinct from the review writing I'd done before, but I enjoyed the Goldsmiths classes. The main thing I learned there was that journalists are extremely badly paid in a very insecure profession. One student told me the excitements of meeting celebrities and the sheer variety made up for it.

Now I'm free to get back to writing what I like and I've made a start on revising some short stories with the idea of entering them in competitions and sending them to magazines. Oh dear, yesterday' s impulse buy of The Lady was a disappointment. I was attracted by a front cover which said 'Short Story Competition: £1,000 Prize.' The judges looked promising, one Alexander McCall Smith who writes the funny detective stories set in Botswana and the other Adele Geras whom I don't know but she read languages at Oxford and has written some prize-winning stuff herself. There was only one story in the magazine, and what a letdown that was. It was a tale about a widow who turns down an invitation to spend Christmas in Portugal with a lively old school friend because her pregnant daughter goes into early labour and her grandson gets chicken pox. I'm hardly a model mother myself, but really!

Roy and I are off to my home town in the north tomorrow and then on to Scotland on a coach trip with my sister and her husband. By coincidence we are going to be staying at what was once a leading spa resort, called Strathpeffer.

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