Refreshing filmmaking by Writing Squad’s Project H

Looking For H screened at Humber Mouth. Picture: Jerome Whittingham @Photomoments

Introduced by Writing Squad Director Steve Dearden, Project H is a branch of the programme, set up with the the aim of creating, the next generation of writers in the North. By targeting the 16 – 21 age group Writing Squad becomes an essential stepping stone from school or college, into the professional world. Writing Squad has an impressive track record, from the 179 writers they have supported 33 are now making their living from writing.

Writing Squad is completely artist-led and projects like Looking for H  – screened today – take place over one weekend. Devising, workshopping, storyboarding, writing on the Saturday, then Sunday shoots and editing, before the finished film is uploaded on to Vimeo that same evening.

In 2014 Lydia Marchant formerly of Hull Truck Writing Group, joined Writing Squad and took over leadership of the Hull branch. Project H had a collection of poems and prose written by the young writers, published by Wrecking Ball Press for Humber Mouth 2015. For the 2017 commission Project H decided to explore filmmaking. Working with Riley Bramley-Dymond – copywriter editor for an educational publisher – the group has produced a series of interwoven short films, each with its own style and story, all filmed during Hull Pride this year.

It was good to see all the colour and rainbow flags again, the excited and joyful faces; the intervention away from the celebrations with the strange chap on the bench was bewildering, yet somehow familiar. The poem by Jodie Langford, contained the repeated ‘softly and sweetly’ filmed against a backdrop of grey Humber, evoked feelings of isolation and loss.  The internal monologue with the walker thinking about the ‘yellow dress’ and the tyrant ‘Holly Scott’ was engaging, the camera movement helped to get inside her head, as she strode down familiar streets.

The filming was refreshing: use of instant messenger text boxes – a device often used today in popular soaps – rather than relying on dialogue. Stills and social media tropes are used as cut aways, to illustrate the story and hammer points home.  It conveyed the notion that wherever you are, whatever you are seeing on the screen, there can be a completely different narrative, playing out on your phone. An idea worth pursuing.

A previous example of Writing Squad filmmaking was shown to the Hull audience, a short film called Character from 2015 set in and around the Winter Garden, Sheffield.  A playful idea of an artist storyboarding a film, while simultaneously outside – in real life – her character on the page is mirroring the sketches, passing by the places as she draws them… until she stops and leaves the room. Leaving our character without instruction. There’s nothing there in the next box, what does he do now? Good idea, playing with the notion of control, the ending however is a little unclear.

I was fortunate to speak with Lydia and Jodie after both had watched Looking for H for the first time.

‘I’m really proud after seeing the film, I enjoy working with such a supportive community.’ Jodie Langford

‘Project H is like a writing factory it provides young writers with vital first-step opportunities: I’m really proud of them.’ Lydia Marchant