Category: Education

StoryLab Cuba 2018

Erik Knudsen recently returned from a successful trip to the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba, where, during the last 2 weeks in November 2018, he ran a StoryLab workshop titled like his new book, Finding The Personal Voice In Filmmaking.

Workshop participants Ricky, Pamela, Julia, Ana Clara and Patrick.

For two weeks, he explored with the workshop participants themes around creativity, ideation and story and narrative structure. Workshop participants emerged with complete first draft screenplays for short films, which were critiqued before fine-tuning.

Amazing and strong stories emerged and we hope that Ana Clara, Ricky, Julia, Pamela and Patrick go on to make these films and share them with us.

There was also plenty of opportunities to relax.

StoryLab Cuba 2017 Workshop

Unfortunately, the StoryLab Cuba Workshop for 2017 has had to be cancelled. Erik Knudsen is hoping to run the workshop again in November 2018.

The StoryLab Cuba 2016 Workshop was a special workshop. During the Workshop period, Fidel Castro died and the country was in mourning. This was an experience for all the participants and added a special aspect to the experience of being in Cuba developing personal stories.

StoryLab Cuba 2016 Workshop Participants

StoryLab Cuba 2016 Workshop

StoryLab Cuba 2016 Class Session

StoryLab Cuba 2016 Workshop Participants at Castro's Wake

StoryLab Cuba 2016 Workshop Participants at Castro’s Wake

Erik Knudsen in Havana

Castro's Wake in Havana

Castro’s Wake In Havana

Erik Knudsen To Join University of Central Lancashire

Media Factory at University of Central Lancashire

I’m very pleased to announce that on the 1st July 2016, I will be joining the School of Film, Media and Performance in the College of Culture and Creative Industries at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, United Kingdom, as a Professor of Media Practice. This is an exciting new opportunity for me to be part of shaping an ambitious aspiration within the College to grow and develop creative practice research and I look forward to playing a leading role in these developments. I will be working closely with the Dean, Dr Andrew Ireland, the Director of Research for the College, Professor Paul Egglestone, and the Head of the School of Film, Media and Performance, John Holloway, and will be based in The Media Factory, which houses and impressive range of programmes in the creative and cultural industries. I will be joining a large team of colleagues working across a range of creative practices covering film, media, screenwriting, animation, performance, fine art, journalism and more. I am also looking forward to rooting my own practice within a developing practice focused research culture and working in an institution based in the North West of England, home to some of the most vibrant creative communities in the UK.

Working in the Media Department in Bournemouth University as a Professor of Visual and Digital Culture has been a wonderful experience and I have met some very friendly, supportive and dedicated people, academics and creative practitioners. I shall be sorry to say goodbye to colleagues, but I know that I will continue to have close links with many of the colleagues I have had the privilege of working with in the Faculty of Media and Communications.

Erik Knudsen.

Story Lab Cuba 2016

We’re very pleased to announce that the Story Lab Cuba 2016 have recently been announced. Erik Knudsen will be delivering the Story Lab Cuba 2016 workshops at Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television in San Antonio de los Baños near Havana between the 21 November and the 2 December 2016. You can book your workshop or find out more here.

A tree of life

A view from La Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television, Cuba.

Erik Knudsen starts at Bournemouth University

I’m very pleased to be starting today as Professor of Visual and Digital Culture at Bournemouth University’s Media School. I have long had an interest in the activities and developments taking place in the Media School at Bournemouth University and when the opportunity arose to join the team there, I took it. For me, this is one of the leading media schools in the UK.

Still from Bournemouth University web site

Bournemouth University Logo

As Professor of Visual and Digital Culture, I will be joining a lively and ambitious research community at Bournemouth with a view to leading and contributing to the development of practice led research within the media practice areas, contributing to the supervision of research students, contributing to the development of film production programmes and undertaking my own research projects. I am bringing with me 3 PhD student and an AHRC funded research network project entitled: StoryLab International Film Development Research Network. More on that later. Bournemouth University is going to provide me with a fertile context in which to develop a number of exciting projects and I look very much forward to meeting, and engaging with, my new colleagues.

I will remain committed to the North West of England, too, as I will continue to live near Manchester. As my role is very national and international, long distance commuting is going to contribute to an exciting new way of thinking and engaging.

Story Lab Cuba 2014

I’ve just returned from delivering my Story Lab Cuba 2014 workshop at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Television in Cuba and am very pleased with how it went. I had a wonderful group of participants, all experienced in film or related fields such as journalism, with an age range from 25 years old to 58 years old. Participants came from Spain, UK, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants on an evening out.

We spent two weeks exploring creativity and story. The first week was predominantly exploring creativity, story and narrative through a series of exercises, discussions and screenings, while the second week was predominantly driven by each individual developing a screenplay supported by individual tutorials. We finished with everyone reading their completed screenplays to class and critiquing them.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Setting.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Setting.

EICTV is based just outside San Antonio de los Baños, which is a 40 minute drive from Havana. The surroundings are beautiful and peaceful and this provided a perfect backdrop and context for creative work.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants

Isabel (my interpreter), Natalia, Ángela and Reinel.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants.

Gato and Brayan.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants.

Fernanda, Michael and Jordi.

I promised participants that at the end of the workshop they would emerge with screenplays for short films that they would be very pleased with. And they were not disappointed. Because of the way I like to develop ideas with people, I know that what emerges is going to be something that, first of all, they are surprised they had in them and, secondly, that will have such a strong connection to them and their creative aspirations, that they will feel very close to the work, proud of it and connected to it. Getting the seed right and understanding approaches to story and narrative makes it possible to have first draft screenplays that are very close to being ready to go into pre-production.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants.


Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants.


I was amazed at the quality of work these participants came up with. Stories that mattered; stories that came from the heart; stories that powerfully dealt with a range of profound themes. Diverse stories that reflected the character of each individual. Unusually, in every single case, I felt these stories to be very good and deserving of production. In fact, I know that most participants are going away to look at realising these works and I look forward to this happening.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants.

Gato, Eliana and Ángela.

Story Lab Cuba 2014 Participants.

Leandro and Augustin.

It was an immensely enjoyable workshop. Hard work keeping tabs of the work of 12 people in such a concentrated periods of time, but well worth it. The stories emerging from the participants truly inspired me in my own work. In fact, I got so impatient that I decided to try out my new iPhone 6 Plus to make a little on the spur of the moment documentary. Through my good friend, Oriel Rodriguez, I was introduced to a young man, Alejandro, who, like so may other young people, are so frustrated with life in Cuba. Unlike every single one of his friends that I met, he has no plans to leave Cuba. When I asked about how he dealt with these issues, he started telling me about how he hangs out with his friends in a particular square every evening and they talk about their frustrations with Cuba deep into the night. They have no money, no opportunities, no entertainment and no incentives to invest in fighting to change Cuba. The psyche of the youth is so broken, the only option is to find a way to leave. So I decided to make a little documentary about it and spend an evening shooting and doing some interviews. This could actually be the beginnings of a bigger feature film and because of this initial shooting, my mind is abuzz with ideas circulating around a kernel around this theme. More to come on this in due course.

Oriel Rodriguez in San Antonio de los Baños.

Oriel Rodriguez in San Antonio de los Baños.


Alejandro, the lead subject of my little iPhone documentary.

Some evenings, I had the good fortune of being able to attend Ruth Goldberg’s class on Alfred Hitchcock. She is an inspirational teacher, and like a previous series of classes I attended some years ago about Robert Bresson, I felt truly inspired by re-looking at one of the all time masters, Alfred Hitchcock. Not only the films, but the discussions that Ruth expertly guided were very interesting and enlightening.

Ruth Goldberg.

Ruth Goldberg.

I believe that I will be doing another Story Lab workshop in Cuba in 2015 and look very much forward to that.

Workshop participants:

Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants


Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants


Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants


Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants


Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants


Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants


Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants


Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants


Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants


Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants


Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants


Story Lab Cuba 2014 participants


Multimedia University Malaysia Visit

Today is my last day in Malaysia before heading back to the UK. Yesterday I spent nearly 7 hours walking the streets of Kuala Lumpur taking photographs and ended the day in one of the oldest restaurant bars in KL – the Coliseum – where I had a nice cold beer. KL is hot. The Coliseum dates back to 1921 and it still has the feel of a colonial haunt.

The Coliseum Restaurant Bar in Kuala Lumpur

Coming to Malaysia not only enabled me to run a 2 week workshop on the Cinematic Arts programme at Multimedia University, coordinated by my PhD graduate, Nico Meissner, but I was able to find time to take quite a few photographs mainly in KL and to start work on a new film project. I am in the early stages of developing a new film project and the hardest part is getting the crude skeleton down, which I have now done. Being away from all the normal routines of one’s daily life can help to provide the focus required for this kind of creative work and I am now very excited about my new idea as it starts to take actual shape. More on this in due course.

Students on the Cinematic Arts programme at MMU Malaysia

Working with undergraduate students is a rare thing for me and it was great working with a number of the Cinematic Arts students at MMU Malaysia (those who chose editing). Having taught students all over the world, I am continually reminded of how students across cultures and contexts are usually concerned with similar themes and are struggling with similar issues and problems. Lack of confidence is often a common issue and perhaps a little more so in Malaysia. The education system here is very focused on exams and reinforces in students the notion that some things are correct and others incorrect. A lot of my effort was therefore focused on supporting the students in making their own decisions independent of expectations and based on their feelings and impulses and encouraging them to develop courage to take risks. Add to this, a socio political angle in which Malaysia in a sense is obsessed with development – that is, effectively copying what and how things are done in the west – and we have a cocktail of ingredients that students have to overcome to tell their stories the way they want to tell them. One good example of this – which we dealt with in my workshop – is the reinforcing of the idea that the classical narrative is the only way to tell a story. There are other ways of telling cinematic stories and in fact these other ways may indeed at times be more appropriate for the kind of stories that these students want to tell about their lives in Malaysia. The Hollywood model that so dominates our screens and the literature on storytelling and screenwriting is a model that many in developing countries try to replicate without at least questioning its relevance to their own traditions, priorities and sensibilities.

My workshop was on editing. It’s hard to separate out editing, writing and directing in terms of relationship to story (they are essentially three different stages in a process of the same thing) and we explored the relationship of story and narrative to feelings, looked at different narrative structures and approaches and then explored the modes and forms of editing. In the two weeks, the students did four practical exercises. There was a strong connection to screenwriting in particular.

This generation of students are the first on the Cinematic Arts programme at MMU Malaysia and the university is investing heavily in expanding Cinema education. New facilities are being built close to Pinewood Studios in the south of the country, close to Singapore, and the programme is going to move to these new facilities and evolve into a separate school. Work is being done on developing a new vision and strategy for the school and there is no doubt that in terms of film education, this is one of the main institutions in Malaysia. This ties in with efforts to develop a strong indigenous filmmaking culture in Malaysia. I am a Visiting Professor with them until the end of 2015 and look forward to continuing to make my small contribution to this ambitious development.