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An interview with Maria Walker (pictured), chief executive of Twickenham Studios, by Richard Bevan
With famous film studios such as Bray having fallen into the hands of developers it has been a shot in the arm for the British film industry to see Twickenham Film Studios saved from a fate as an office block or housing estate. As well as investment to bring the 99-year-old site into the 21st Century, plans also include changing the name to Twickenham Studios to show that it’s not just film production facilities the studio will offer.
The revitalisation of the studio – home to such famous films as Tom Jones, Zulu, The Italian Job, several Hammer horrors and more recently My Week With Marilyn and The Iron Lady – will see an updating of facilities to make it one of the most dynamic production centres in London.
Its new owners, led by businessman and ‘film fanatic’ Sunny Vohra, have promised to take the studio (established in 1913) back to its glory days. Sunny himself has become managing director of Twickenham Studios Ltd (TSL).
Maria Walker, the studio’s new chief executive, led the campaign to save the complex. She has a long association with the studio tucked away in St Margaret’s. She first started there 28 years ago as a runner on Wild Geese 2.
What’s so special about Twickenham Studios?
Maria Walker: Having worked at nearly all the major studios I think Twickenham is very special because it’s in the community. Shepperton and Pinewood are large and quite soulless places to work in the middle of nowhere. Twickenham is in the heart of a community.
Shops, pubs and cafes right outside the door, it’s quite buzzy.
Yes. With a train station across the road it’s close to London. I also think because it’s smaller it has a friendlier ‘family’ atmosphere. Also its post-production is a centre of excellence.
This is the unique Sound Centre built in the 1980s that has a ‘Tardis’ feel to it – small on the outside and gigantic on the inside?
The dubbing studios have to be big to replicate the atmosphere of cinemas. It’s got a history of big films been mixed in its huge two dubbing rooms; films like Elizabeth The Golden Age, Sahara, Burke & Hare, Senna and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – and for that reason has attracted big names, such as Stephen Spielberg.
Sarah Kennedy from the charity S.A.F.E. on the impact of a project developed with Coronation Street writer Damon Rochefort
(Photo: Coronation Street Actor Sue Cleaver performers with S.A.F.E. Actor Ali Mlatso on stage in Mombasa)
Writers and actors know that the power of drama can move people in ways that other forms of communication can’t: it makes people feel joyous or despondent; hopeful or despairing; it informs and entertains. But it is not often that the power of great acting and writing can be put to use in saving lives.
This Friday, 17 August, the first of two one-hour documentaries on ITV1 shows how that is possible. In Corrie Goes to Kenya, four Coronation Street actors work with S.A.F.E. in Kenya – a UK charity and Kenyan NGO that uses performing arts to educate, inspire and deliver social change. The programme follows their work using street theatre to challenge the stigma, misinformation and ignorance surrounding HIV/AIDS and the episodes will follow the team as they create and perform a series of soap-like plays in Coast Province.
Corrie Goes to Kenya was conceived by Coronation Street writer Damon Rochefort after he became involved with S.A.F.E. in 2010. After seeing a screening of S.A.F.E.’s feature film Ndoto Za Elibidi, he travelled to Kenya to use his talents as a writer to help the team create a new HIV play. The experience was a profound one and Damon realised that, often, comedy is the most powerful tool in a writer’s box - and that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.
Reflecting on his time in Mombasa, Damon said: 'Lecturing solemnly to people about some pretty grim issues is one thing, but if you can create rounded characters and have them come into conflict in funny, unexpected ways, audiences will laugh and remember the messages that you bury within the plots. Through comedy, it’s possible to debunk some of the crazier myths that surround HIV, shining a light on them and encouraging the audiences to realize how daft these myths are'. The success of the visit and the play he had helped to create made him realise he wanted to take the Coronation Street team back to Mombasa with him to continue this work.
Corrie Goes to Kenya will demonstrate the close bonds that were formed between the Kenyan and UK teams and the powerful theatrical results. But also, and perhaps more importantly, the programmes will demonstrate the ability of the UK arts sector, including writers and actors, to raise awareness about complex international development issues in imaginative and unexpected ways.
Corrie Goes to Kenya is a Shiver and ITV Studios production. The first episode will be aired at 9pm on ITV1 on Friday 17 August 2012.
Read Damon Rochefort's original article about his work with S.A.F.E.
More about S.A.F.E. http://www.safekenya.org
Visit the Guild stand at the Fringe Fair on 13 and 14 August
This year the Guild will be present at the Fringe Fair which takes place at Fringe Central at the University’s Appleton Tower, 11 Crichton Street Edinburgh EH8 9LE. Some of the confirmed exhibitors are Equity, Spotlight, Independent Theatre Council and the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. It is based on the concept of a career fair giving opportunities to approach a range of funders, arts councils, training providers and agencies.
The event is free and non-ticketed. So take the opportunity to come along get info advice network and even better It would be most appreciated if anyone who is available to come along and help set up, and/or clear up or help man the table.
The Fair is held On Monday 13th August from 10.00 am to 13.00 and Tuesday 14th August 16.00 to 19.00.
Major free development project for theatre writers launches Writers' Guild charitable foundation
The deadline for applications to this project has now passed
We have contacted our chosen group of writers for this project so, if you've not been successful this time, we would like to thank you all for your submissions. With over 130 applications, the response was impressive indeed - proving to us what a huge demand there is for workshops like this and the potential of the Guild's partnership with RADA. Therefore we trust that you will not be discouraged as, undoubtedly, there will be other opportunities in the future. We will be announcing the names of the successful writers very soon on the Guild website, once their acceptance and arrangements have been consolidated. We will also be mailing everyone personally to thank you for your participation.
Emerging and established playwrights (whether Writers' Guild members or not) have a rare chance to come together to explore their work in an inspiring new development weekend, FREE to the chosen writers with expenses paid. Plays of Innocence and Experience is a major new project for the Guild, run in partnership with the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. This scheme is open to all writers, at different stage of their careers, to work on an unperformed play with actors, directors and dramaturgs of the highest calibre.
Funded by the Writers Foundation (UK) - which has been set up by the Guild to expand their work in promoting writing through education, training, competitions, awards and in other ways - the first event of this partnership will be a weekend in October focused on developing plays of great promise through a process of readings, selective workshops and constructive criticism.
Each writer will work with a company of actors provided by RADA from their alumni and postgraduate students, in close collaboration with a professional director and/or dramaturg. There is also potential that this partnership would enable the most distinguished plays to emerge from the weekend to progress further, possibly to more refined development and public showcasing.
To apply, candidates should:
- Submit three hard copies plus an electronic copy of a draft of an unpublished, unperformed dramatic piece. This needs to be either the first act of a full-length play or a one-act play or a dramatic piece of equivalent performance length. The text should include a cast list, essential production notes and, if it is part of a longer script, a resume/ scenario of the whole piece.
- Include a letter of application, of no more than 700 words, setting out your reasons for wanting to develop this piece, its potential as a drama and your aspirations for it. And in what way this experience would be valuable in terms of your personal development as a writer. This letter should also include all your contact details plus a stamped, addressed envelope if you wish your scripts to be returned.
- Include a brief biography of your experience and career to date.
The weekend will take place at the RADA Studios (previously The Drill Hall) in London, from 6pm on Friday 19 October to 6pm on Sunday 21 October 2012. The workshops will be FREE to the chosen writers, who will also receive travel expenses and (if necessary) an overnight allowance. However, owing to the considerable task of selection, it will not be possible to offer a critique or respond to those candidates who have not been selected.
A new publication from the Federation of Entertainment Unions (of which the Writers' Guild is a member) was launched at Westminster today, arguing against the repeated cuts made to BBC funding and calling for an alternative approach.
BBC Cuts: there is an alternative (pdf) sets out the economic and cultural value of the BBC and offers a way forward for the Corporation that would safeguard jobs and programming.