Location! Location! Location!

So far I have mapped out the entire story of The Raven On The Jetty in 50 key scenes and have started writing the detailed screenplay. There are few things I enjoy more about the process of writing the screenplay than visiting potential locations. That, and when I have cast the people to play the parts, brings the whole process of writing alive. Also, it helps me visualise details. Indeed, often, complete new ideas and approaches emerge from walking around a potential location.

Last weekend, we visited Carol and Simon who live near Penrith. Their interest and commitment to helping us with the project was very heart-warming. They proved absolutely critical in helping us identify some potential locations, as their local knowledge led us to places that no outsider would know about. In particular, they led us to a remote derelict farmhouse, not far from where they live, which was hidden from sight from any road. I can imagine that Thomas’ father has, since the acrimonious divorce from his mother, abandoned all desire to live in an urban environment and has, like a wounded animal, sought refuge in isolation. He has bought an old ramshackle farmhouse in the remotest spot he could find with a view to eventually doing it up. The only problem is, other developments in his life (which we learn about in the film) have meant that he has been rather distracted and has not got very far. Thomas therefore comes to stay in a rather shambolic environment that may well be a reflection of his father’s mind.

An isolated derelict farmhouse in Cumbria's Lake District

The isolated farmhouse is surrounded by ramshackle outhouses.

The drive to the farmhouse was long and bleak and as I approached I kept thinking to myself: “this looks right, this looks good”. As we approached the farm, we had a stroke of good fortune. The gentleman, D, who owned the farm happened to be there. D was incredibly welcoming and I told him straight away why we were there. It turns out that his now deceased father lived in the house until 2 years ago and that he, D, was born and grew up there. But ever since the foot and mouth epidemic that so affected the farmers in the region, D has had to diversify into other business. He is currently a builder, but they still use the land for rearing sheep. He has plans for doing the house up for his daughter.

He was so welcoming, he immediately gave us a tour of the inside of the house and the grounds. I was overwhelmed by his openness and warmth and I can only hope that this continues and that we will be able to use this place before he starts renovating and building.

A view of the farm yard from inside the isolated farmhouse

A room in the isolated derelict farmhouse.

In fact, I like this location so much I might well go for it. Cross our fingers that we can build a good relationship with D and that timings work out.

The following day, we went to look at jetties and wooded areas. I had seen some stock photographs of jetties I liked on Derwent Water, so we went straight there. We took a little cruise boat around the lake, hopping from jetty to jetty and did some walking around the lake. Amazing place. Dramatically beautiful. The smartly beautiful stock shots I had seen were in fact a faithful rendition of the place. Here again, we found some options that I think, permissions allowing, we could well use.

A jetty on Derwent Water in the Lake District.

An isolated tree by a jetty in Derwent Water in the Lake District.

I had thought that the forest scenes in the film may need to be filmed somewhere else, somehow having to match up the forest and the jetty. However, several of the jetties were adjacent to signifiant wooded areas that may well provide the right forest locations. Though I am mainly interested in deciduous woods, we looked at pine woods, too.

A pine forest near isolated derelict farmhouse.

There is something very dark and foreboding about pine forests and, indeed, in the larger forests the darkness and the uniformity of the trees make it perfectly possible to get completely lost. Some of the woods around the jetties provided some expansive deciduous options, which may be more likely. (Or perhaps both.)

Deciduous woods by Derwent Water in the Lake District.

With some of these locations starting to take shape, the process of writing the detail of the screenplay is greatly enhanced. As I mentioned, I have mapped out all the key scenes, but I have started writing the detailed scene actions and dialogue. These particular locations are important, as Thomas’ encounter with the natural world and rural life is an significant feature of the story.

As I start to work on the story in more detail, I am able to continually refine the synopsis. Here is the latest version:

On his 9th birthday, Thomas travels with his mother to visit his estranged father who, since an acrimonious divorce, has abandoned urban living in favour of an isolated rural life in the English Lake District. The bitter separation of his parents is not something Thomas understands, nor does he understand his own dysfunctional behaviour as a silent cry for help. As a digital native city boy, Thomas’ encounter with the natural world, and his gradual understanding of the pivotal connection he provides for his, ultimately, lonely parents, leads to realisation and discovery. There are things his parents don’t know about each other that only he can reveal. Perhaps, he has the power and the means to change everything… Told predominantly from a young boy’s perspective, this is an intimate story about attachment and separation, love and longing, and the sanctity of family bonds.

Back soon again…