2016 is the anniversary of Shakespeare's death, He was born 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, and subsequently died there in 1616 on April 23rd.
At the academy where I teach film to young students, they had been working on abridged versions of three of the bard's plays, but for a variety of issues they missed their deadline in June to put on the performances. So we are now tackling film versions.
What never fails to amaze me is the difficulty they have in understanding the vast differences between film and stage. Most of the students seem to think that it is just a case of setting up a camera on a tripod and filming what they have come up with. But that's not a film. That's footage of a stage performance.
My friend Andrew describes it well; "a stage performance is to an audience firmly rooted in their seats, in one location. But creating a film liberates us from this constraint". So now we can place the camera anywhere, in the same space, or even in a vastly different space.
We are planning to film in March next year, albeit the 400th anniversary will have passed. The logistics will be challenging too, as they always are with young students. But there is an opportunity to have some of them attempt their first outside location shoot, as up to now we have filmed solely in the school where the academy takes place. Apart from the obvious production challenges this presents, there is also the factor of weather.
So to make life a little easier, we are going to set the films in modern times, allowing them to wrap up warm in modern day clothes. It also allows us to bring a number of scenes into modern times as well, which should prove to be a lot of fun.
The youngest students are making A Midsummer Nights Dream, though a wildly adapted version to suit their age group. The group between 9 and 12 will tackle Romeo & Juliet, referencing the modern day 1996 version, starring Leonardo Di'Caprio. Already the girl who plays Juliet is stressing out, asking me on a weekly basis if she will have to kiss anyone!
Finally the teenagers, in line with their desire to create films dark and miserable, will make MacBeth.
For this film I have chosen an exterior location of 17th century, Lady Stairs Close, in the centre of Edinburgh city, for them to set the exterior scenes.
A good number of years Andrew performed a version of MacBeth around the streets of Edinburgh, and used the Close as one of the locations, which has influenced me for this production, as has the 2015 version starring Michael Fassbender.
We'll have fun with it too in adapting it to modern times. Just one example, is changing the elaborate 16th century banquet to a round of fish and chips.
Hopefully I'll be able to enthuse them enough that they "get" the concept of making a film of Shakespeare, which is going to require them to dramatically change their current stage ideas.
"Fair is foul and fouls is fair", which probably will sum up the Scottish weather on the day!