Teaching at the Scuola Nazionale di Cinema Torino, Italy, September 16 -21

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

Joanna and I occasionally do some teaching in various colleges in the UK, Europe and the US. Mostly they’re presentations with a screening and maybe a short workshop, but now and then we do bigger project based teaching over a 4-5 day period. The last time we were in Torino was in 2011 when Chiara Magri the Course Director of Scuola Nazionale di Cinema invited us to teach a programme entitled Script to Screen Workshop.

Before Beryl Productions took off as a business, we both did a lot of teaching at various universities in the UK but we got so busy with running the business and trying to make short films that we both dropped out of intensive teaching. However, one of the things we miss about teaching is the thrill of following students’ creative development and seeing them realize the magic of putting their films before an audience and getting a great reception. We think that it’s one of the most stimulating and magical experiences you can get – it’s a fantastic buzz – some would say better than sex or drugs!

We sometimes miss the energy and vitality of being around students over a prolonged period – you get older but the students stay the same age!!

Whenever possible, we try to keep in touch with students and their films at festivals, screenings, and especially at graduation screenings.


Our workshop Aims

The title of the workshop at Torino this time was Script to Screen – ‘As I Grew Up’.  The main aims of the workshop were:

– To promote writing as an initial way of exploring ideas and as a crucial element in the construction of the animated film. We believe that many students frequently underrate their own writing and narration skills and abilities and often don’t appreciate how important it can be in narrative construction.

– To encourage students to continue to exploit drawing as an observational tool, a creative way of designing & thinking and of course as an expressive medium in it’s own right.

– To stress the importance of focused personal research which explores memory, dreams and, above all, actual childhood experience as vital highways into constructing personal narratives and themes in their films

– Over a period of 4 days to develop, from an initial; 750 word written piece  of personal writing, a finished 2-3 minute edited Animatic, entitled ‘As I grew up’ with Voice Over , F/X sound & possibly some minimal animation.


The Workshop

The actual workshop began with a period of focused personal research by the 11 students undertaken in the weeks before the actual workshop took place. The aim was for the students to produce a short written text of about 500 words, supported by visual material – usually drawings. This was crucial to the development and success of the overall project, which lasts 4 days. As an example for the students and with the help of the absolutely brilliant Google Translate I quickly wrote an off the cuff piece based on a childhood experience in English & Italian called the ‘Girl with Bulging Eyes‘ which Joanna semi illustrated. This was also sent to the students in Torino a few weeks before the workshop began.

Sometimes the girl would pass by my house, pulled by a big fierce Alsation dog. “Don’t worry I’ll be guiding you” she said.

People said that fish had eaten her eyes. Later I heard that the Girl with bulging eyes had grown very fat and had started a 'Poodle Parlour'


The workshop  began with screenings and an introductory presentation. We talked about key stages of the animation process, observational research, narrative structure, storyboard construction, and crucially how both of us collaborate on our own films, recognizing each other’s strengths and weaknesses and often improvising.  

Joanna talked at length about storyboarding and character development from written texts and showed drawings and designs from the animatic of our latest film in production – ‘Affairs of the Art’. 

Some character studies for Colin from 'Affairs of the Art'


The importance of the Animatic as an essential development tool was stressed very strongly at this stage.

Bev was ruthless! One day she blew up the level crossing with a Firework but the carpet caught fire and the mouse turned brown but he survived. But later he died of trauma. 


The students began the workshop by reading out their own written texts in Italian to the whole group for comment and analysis. We emphasised very strongly that our workshop is really a process of elimination – a gradual refinement of text/image with an emphasis on economy, overall pace, character development, and ultimately of course, an imaginative and dynamic flow of text and imagery. The students were encouraged to shorten their original texts ruthlessly and to bear in mind that  images would replace and complement much of their original text. They then re – recorded their shortened Voice Overs and added key images which were then used as the rough guidetrack for their completed Animatic. We aimed for a 2 – 3 minute finished piece.

Throughout the whole period of the workshop the students were supported by screenings, short presentations and individual tutorials.


The results of the workshop we thought were outstanding. We were particularly impressed by the range of skills demonstrated by the students –  exceptional drawing and graphic skills, extremely personal and focused writing and great skill in managing to produce completed animatics to a deadline – virtually in 3 days! We were amazed by their dedication and enthusiasm – some even stayed up all night in order to complete their animatics! In particular we admired their good humour and their lack of fear in confronting aspects of their personal histories, which some would find intimidating and difficult.

Finally, students screened their animatics in front of an audience of their peers, which was stimulating and lively. We think that the students themselves were very proud of their achievements in such a short time, as we were.

In the future we would love to see some of the projects taken further and completed, perhaps as their final graduation films as a few did after our last workshop in Torino. 

We thought that they were a brilliant group of talented students who gave their all to our project – we hope that they feel that they learnt something valuable from the experience which will help them in their own future development.


Here are the students involved in the workshop with examples of their artwork and their writing taken from their Animatics.


Chiara Tessera. Still from ‘Pelitudine’ ‘Hirsuitism’

I’ve always had fixations but, since others see my hair, hair is my only real obsession. At first I never noticed I had hairs, so I forced myself to look for them. The more I searched for them, the more real they became and the more they seemed to multiply – long, brown hair and bushy

Ho sempre avuto la mie fissazioni., ma, da quando gli altri li vedono, la mia  unica ossesione sono i peli.All’inizio non sapevo neanche di averli, son dovuta andarli a cerare, e piu li  piu cercavo diventavano reali e piu li vedevo piu aumentavano a dismisura – Lunghi, marroni e foltissimi peli.



Lorenzo Presta.  Still from ‘Soccerphobia’

There was a time that I was convinced that if I thought too much about soccer my brain would turn into a ball which would get bigger and bigger until my head would explode. I decided to incarnate into the ball everything that kept me from being a child, like the others and even though, in retrospect, I realize that it was the kind of experience that even after many years left me with deep scars. I am actually the first documented case of Soccerphobia.

C’è stato un tempo in cui ero convinto che se avessi pensato troppo di calcio, il mio cervello sarebbe trasformato in una palla che diventa sempre più grande fino a quando la mia testa sarebbe esplosa. Ho deciso di incarnarsi in palla tutto ciò che mi impediva di essere un bambino come gli altri e anche se a posteriori mi rendo conto che era il tipo di esperienza che, anche dopo tanti anni mi ha lasciato cicatrici profonde. Lo sono in realtà il primo caso documentato di Soccerphobia.


Rocco Venazi.  Still from ‘Smaller than a chicken’ ‘Più piccolo di un pollo’ 

When I was born I was small – not only small but smaller than a chicken, and that’s why in the beginning I had a customised house. My parents house was too big to hold a guy smaller than a chicken, then one day I decided to grow – but not too much. Tall people have lots of problems like  always banging their heads everywhere. I knew this and I knew that once you grow you can never be small again, you remain high and you have to  be  careful with doors, shelves, corners, so it’s a living hell. The fact is I always grew up sparingly, I always grew up only when I really needed to…

 Quando sono nato ero piccolo, non solo piccola, ma più piccolo di un pollo, e per questo all’inizio avevo una casa su misura. La mia casa dei genitori era troppo grande per contenere un ragazzo più piccolo di un pollo, poi un giorno ho deciso di crescere – ma la gente non troppo much. Le persone alte hanno un sacco di problemi, come sempre sbattere la testa dappertutto. Sapevo che questo e sapevo che una volta che si cresce non si può mai essere di nuovo piccolo, è rimanere alto e si deve stare attenti con le porte, mensole, angoli, quindi è un inferno. Il fatto è che ho sempre cresciuto con parsimonia, ho sempre cresciuto solo quando ho davvero bisogno di …


Margherita Clemente. Still from ‘Como ho creatomia sorella’ ‘Creating my  sister’

I was about four years old but I still remember vividly the bitter disappointment I felt. The baby had such beautiful eyes – and wonderful delicate features, with angel hair – and a PENIS??? How could this baby have betrayed all my expectations  – it was almost as if I’d asked for him explicitly.Now, how could I play Barbie dolls with him and make him fly? How could I have tea parties or act out characters, or plait hair with braids and ribbons??

 Avevo circa quattro anni ma lo ricordo benissimo l’enorme delusione. Aveva degli occhi bellissimi, lineamenti delicati, capelli d’angelo e…..un pene!?! Come si permetteva di tradire così le mie aspettative, come se non glielo avessi esplicitamente chiesto! Ora con chi avrei giocato ad appendere le barbie e farle volare? O a preparare finte tazze da the da offrire a finti personaggi?o chi chi avrei potuto fare lunghe trecce? Non sapevo che farmene di un altro fratello, come risolvere il problema? Semplice: ignorandolo!


Marco Manzoni.  Still from ‘Amen’

Something strange was moving in the shadows. I heard a terrifying voice shhhhhhhhh and so, scared out of my wits I let loose an arrow into the air, much too high. It found it’s mark though! Momentarily I caught a fleeting glance of a silver haired giant figure with a very familiar face just before I saw my grandfather, shocked by the fatal blow, collapsing over the fence with my big orange arrow sticking to his backside, the dull thud of his fall stifling his curses. At that moment I had a vision and I knew instantly that nothing could now save me from her, she the blessed Madonna who had been calmly observing me from behind the fence and had been momentarily distracted by my grandfather’s collapse. In an instant it all became clear – by killing my grandfather, from whom I was descended according to the family tree – I could not now exist. The simple fact was I had condemned myself to death and she was coming to get me!

Qualcosa di strano si muoveva nell’ombra, all’udire una voce mostruosa   shhhhhhhhh colto da totale terrore scoccai una freccia nell’aria, colpendo in pieno il bersaglio! Feci appena in tempo a scorgere  una chioma argentea acompagnata da un’espressione molto familiare [orco] prima che mio nonno, sorpresa dal colpo mortale, precipitasse al di la della siepe in cui si era seminfilato, con la grossa freccia arancione appiccicata al deretano, soffocando tutte le imprecazione possibili in un tonfo sordo. ebbi un’apparizione. E in quel momento capii che nulla me avrebbe salvato da lei, lei che oltre la siepe, scostata per una frazione di secondo dal nonno in caduta libera, mi osservava felice e beata, lei la Madonna! In una lampo tutto fu chiaro: uccidendo mio nonnoio, che derivavo da lui, – come del fresto spiegava tanto bene l’anbero genealogico di famiglia- non potevo esistere. Il fatto era semplice , mi ero condannato amorte e.



Tudor Moldovan.   Still from ‘Pranks that backfire’ ‘Lo scherzo gli si è ritorto contro’

When morning finally arrived and, reluctantly, we came out of our shelter,  we soon realized that our shoes were scattered about all over the place while one of my shoes was completely missing. I was faced with the humiliating task of searching for it while wearing two bags on my bare foot after having just seen death staring me in the face.

Quando mattina finalmente è arrivato e, a malincuore, siamo venuti fuori dal nostro rifugio, ci siamo subito resi conto che le nostre scarpe erano sparsi in tutto il luogo, mentre una delle mie scarpe era completamente mancante. Mi sono ritrovato con il compito umiliante di ricerca di essa, mentre indossa due borse sul mio piede nudo dopo aver appena visto la morte in faccia.


Maria Cesaro. Still from ‘Never boring’ ‘Non Gufare’

He came because his owners could no longer keep him. He came to my house in an old cage with rusty blue bars and he looked frightened. I decided that he would never be locked in a cage again. As far as possible he would be free to fly wherever he wanted….

È arrivato perché i suoi padroni non potevano più tenerlo.  Giunse in casa mia in  una gabbietta con le sbarre blu, vecchia e un po’ arrugginita e si guardava spaurito. Decisi che quasi mai l’avrei chiuso in gabbia. Nei limiti del possibile sarebbe stato libero di volare dove voleva.



Alice Buscaldi.  Still from ‘A Dog’s Life’   ‘Mondo canni’

My life has always been intimately linked to the presence of animals. I was born next to Maira our Alsation dog – we grew up together. Maira shared a kennel with a rabbit, Kabir, which Maira brought up as her own. Unfortunately animal life is shorter than that of humans and after some time Maira became ill and died. Shortly after, the rabbit died too. My parents were so traumatized by the loss they decided that for while we should not have the company of  any more animals…

 La mia vita è sempre stata legata alla presenza di animali, da quando sono nata accanto avevo Maira,siamo cresciute insieme e ha condiviso la cuccia con un coniglietto, Kabir, che ha allevato come fosse stato il suo. Purtroppo la vita degli animali e piu breve di quella umana e dopo qualche tempo un malessere porto via Maira e rimase il piccolo Kabir che dopo poco ci lascio.I miei   genitori ne rimasero scossi e decisero che pe run po’ di tempo non avremmo avuto la compagnia di altri animali…


Angela Conigliaro. Still from ‘The Stalker’

He was so beautiful, so wonderful, so … FANTASTIC.  Look at its beautiful eyelashes, his hair, his smell … so amazing.  All I could see was his face. – I saw it everywhere – in every object, every facet, every corner… I tracked him everywhere  – there was nothing I wouldn’t do in order to catch sight of him. Finally, in desperation one day, I decided to really meet him. It would be my big day…

Lui era bellissimo. Meraviglioso….  FANTASTICO. Guardate le sue meravigliose ciglia, i suoi capelli, il suo profumo…così strabiliante.-. Ho visto la sua faccia ovunque – in ogni oggetto, ogni aspetto, ogni angolo . Lo pedino ogni giorno.  Faccio di tutto per stargli vicino . Un giorno finalmente decido di incontrarlo. Un Vero incontro…


Martina Scarpelli.  Still from ‘Uovo’ ‘Egg’

The ancients believed that food pleasure came through touch and not by taste, because pleasure is derived through the contact of the food with the throat’s walls.  Often I confuse pleasure and pain, I do.  I remember the feeling of disgust in perceiving the egg sliding down my throat. An infinite throat.  I saw it inside me, tossing and turning, swelling, growing. I could see my belly assuming the shape of an egg.  I might explode. It stung. I couldn’t think of anything else.  This thing was reproducing itself inside me – a parasite….

Gli antichi credevano che il piacere cibo è venuto con il tatto e non per il gusto, perché il piacere deriva dal contatto del cibo con pareti di gola. Spesso mi confondo piacere e il dolore, lo faccio. Ricordo la sensazione di disgusto nel percepire l’uovo scivolare giù per la gola. Una gola infinita.  L’ho visto dentro di me, girarsi e rigirarsi. gonfiore, aumento. Ho potuto vedere la mia pancia avente la forma di un uovo. Potrei esplodere. Si punse.  Non riuscivo a pensare ad altro.  Questa cosa è stata riprodursi dentro di me – un parassita.


Marai Garzo.  Still from ‘Awe of God’ ‘Ti mordi dio’ 

Over the years I have developed a very special relationship with “the faith”, – a kind of awe, mixed with severe anxiety and real terror! My childhood was full of habitual religious events.  I have confessed, been baptized, taken communion and been confirmed. I went to Mass every Sunday yet all I can remember from my visits was that if I closed my right eye the altar was on the left, and if I closed my left eye, the altar was on the right.

Nel corso degli anni ho sviluppato un rapporto del tutto particolare con la “fede”, una sorta di timore reverenziale misto a forte perplessità e vero e proprio terrore. Le mie frequentazioni religiose sono state assidue perlopiù nel corso della mia infanzia. Sono battezzata, confessata, ho fatto la comunione, preso la cresima e fino ai tredici anni sono andata a messa ogni domenica, anche se l’unica cosa che ricordo di quel periodo è che se chiudevo l’occhio destro l’altare era a sinistra, e se chiudevo l’occhio sinistro, l’altare era a destra.



We managed to actually see more of the city of Torino this time…….

– Wow what an interesting and lively place especially on Friday and Saturday nights in the Piazza della Vittoria. We’ve never seen so many stylish young people out enjoying themselves in one of the biggest open squares in Europe. It’s a bit of a contrast – the Cardiff nightlife which is virtually a Bacchanalian orgy of drunkenness, semi nudity and loss of dignity and Torino a city of a million people which has as much energy and enjoyment without the loss of control.

We managed to make the Torino Saturday market – the biggest in Europe where we bough a pair of Levis for €5 and in the evening we caught a live TV concert by the RAI Orchestra which inaugurated the Prix Italia week – some great music and performances of works by Tadini, Stravinski, Ravel and Tchaikovsky and a virtuoso performance by an impossibly glamorous Italian violinist called Anna Tifu.

It was a perfect denouement to a really enjoyable and constructive time at the Scuola Nazionale and we thank Chiara Magri for inviting us and for her hospitality and to the wonderful students for being so responsive, enthusiastic and creative.



Arrivederci Torino!