Writing for Cinema

An assembly of cheerful one-time students gathered on Saturday afternoon to listen to the expert advice and funny tales of Julian Fellowes and Anthony Minghella. The packed auditorium listened eagerly to the duo’s professional experiences, and the class rapidly turned into a relaxed and friendly conversation between professional and amateur screenwriters.

Julian Fellowes and Anthony Minghella also showed clips of their own films (The English Patient, Gosford Park) to highlight specific tricks of the trade, or illustrate certain difficulties. It was particularly interesting to hear about Julian’s experience as a sole writer, having to collaborate, and often compromise, with a film director whose vision of the film is necessarily different to his own. On the contrary, Anthony, who is both writer and director of his films, is more independent and free to realise “the film in his head”. Another interesting subject of debate was broached with the question of whether a film script is a “starting point” for a film, or a piece of literature in itself, which should be respected and transcribed into the film as such.

However, both writers promoted spontaneity, and encouraged members of the audience to find their own style and rhythm of writing, rather than copy someone else’s. Julian also emphasised the importance of self-trust, and of accepting recognition when it comes.

Julian Fellowes is an actor, writer and director. He is well known for his portrayal of the incorrigible Lord Kilwillie in the BBC’s Monarch of the Glen and his movie script writing debut was Gosford Park, directed by Robert Altman, which won many prizes including the Oscar for best original screenplay. His new version of Vanity Fair with Reese Witherspoon will be released in early 2004 and he makes his debut as a novelist with Snobs to be published next Spring.


Anthony Minghella is a playwright and Oscar-winning director and screenwriter. Among his many screenwriting and directorial credits are the supernatural romance Truly, Madly, Deeply, The English Patient (Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director), The Talented Mr Ripley (nominated for Best Screenplay Adaptation) and the hotly Oscar-tipped Cold Mountain, out now starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law.

 Jonathan Myerson, who chaired the event, is a journalist, novelist and oscar-nominated screenwriter. He also has taught on Arvon writing courses. Jonathan Myerson wrote the animated Canterbury Tales, which was nominated for Best Achievement in Animated Short Films.

English PEN would like to sincerely thank Julian Fellowes, Anthony Minghella and Jonathan Myerson for their time and commitment.  

 Report by Isabelle Guitard


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Originally posted with the url: www.englishpen.org/events/reportsonrecentevents/creativewritingmasterclasses20/writingforcinema/

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