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‘Let us look at the writer’: a talk on Literary Bio-Pics by Ellen Cheshire
Wednesday 1 May 2019 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
‘Let us look at the writer. What do you see – only a person who sits with a pen in his hand in front of piece of paper? That tells us little or nothing?’ Virginia Woolf, The Leaning Tower (1940)
There is nothing more dull than filming someone writing. Yet, there have been some great fiction films that have focused on the writing process including Shakespeare in Love (1998), Barton Fink (1991) and Adaptation (2002). Although fictitious, all based their lead writers on real people: playwrights William Shakespeare and Clifford Odets in Shakespeare in Love and Barton Fink, 1991) and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman in Adaptation. When it comes to filming the lives of real writers, there has been a tendency to downplay the actual act of writing, and focus instead on their private lives. Either drawing parallels between what they write about and their lives, or how events serve as inspiration for their emotional inner life and its transfer to the written page.
In this illustrated talk Ellen Cheshire will explore a range of films that bring to the screen, the lives of writers, drawing on the research she did for her book Bio-Pics: a life in pictures (Wallflower Press, 2014) and In the Scene: Jane Campion (Aurora Metro, 2018), as Campion’s breakout film was An Angel at My Table about New Zealand writer Janet Frame, and her last feature film was Bright Star about John Keats and Fanny Brawne.