Essay Film and Narrative Techniques: Screenwriting Non-fiction
First Symposium of the BAFTSS ‘Essay Film’ Research Group
University of York, UK, 18 and 19 November 2017
Organised by BAFTSS and The Interdisciplinary Centre for Narrative Studies, University of York

Troubling dialogues: fitting words into place
Joint paper with Stuart Moore
This paper examines the screenwriting processes developed during the creation of a collaborative essay film. The strategy emerges through its authors’ shared production experience, allowing the intertwining of their subjectivities with political and social histories. Using their practice research project, Father-land, as a case study, the authors critically reflect on their evolving dialogic methodology developed through collaboration.

On receiving the 2016 Plymouth-Nicosia Artist Residency Award for Father-land, we spent a month as guests of Nicosia Municipal Arts Centre (NiMAC), in the Republic of Cyprus. Our base in the old Turkish Quarter of Old Nicosia was close to the Green Line, the demilitarised buffer zone patrolled by the United Nations Peacekeeping Force, which separates the Turkish-occupied Northern half of the island from the Greek Cypriot South.

Living and filming near the Green Line became a quiet reflection on the uneasy stasis of an unresolved conflict which tore the island in two over forty years ago. Our families played small parts in the island’s past and the challenge for us seemed to be situating our film’s narrative in the buffer zone between a sensitive and contested history and a placeless personal reflection.

We posit a screenwriting process in which our words can be written when back in England, relying on memory and reviewing the footage, but that need to be spoken and recorded on location back in Cyprus - both to infuse the recordings of Father-land with appropriate ambience and to inflect the words with the integrity of being and speaking ‘in place’.