Russ Litten looks ahead to working with “the sharpest and most inventive minds in the city” in our project exploring Hull’s maritime identity

This weekend sees the start of an exciting new project which will have Nova work with Hull’s brightest young artists, writers and film-makers to explore the city’s identity.

Along with a selection of Hull’s leading creatives, Nova will deliver a digital skills programme working toward the completion of short films inspired by Hull’s life as a maritime city.

The programme kicks off on Saturday with the writing cohort led by Russ Litten.

Here’s what he had to say ahead of the first session:

Words and stories brought to life

I am utterly delighted to be involved with the creation of the four new films that are being put together by Nova Studios, for a creative digital skills programme as part of the Hull: Yorkshire’s Maritime City project.

Throughout my professional writing life, I have always thrived on the challenges and freedoms of creating narratives for the screen, and have always enjoyed collaboration. So I am very much looking forward to working with Alan and Matt and their team, and the young writers at the up-coming workshops that are taking place in the city centre, close to the Marina. I always enjoy the company of artists, and I know that the people joining us to create the words and narratives for these films are among the sharpest and most inventive minds in the city. This is a great opportunity for them to see their words and stories brought to life and shared with others.

Exploring the psychogeography of our immediate environment

Here’s what we shall do. For three consecutive Saturdays  a group of young writers aged 16 – 25 will join me to explore the psychogeography of our immediate environment. We will consider every aspect of our maritime heritage and how it touches upon us as people. We will listen to local guides, community members and story-tellers, look through the minds and eyes of others, fresh insight and angles to consider. We shall sit down and discuss our findings. We will examine what we think. And then we will get our thoughts on paper, see where our wanderings have led. What does our maritime heritage mean to us, both as citizens and private individuals? How can we best express this? What words could we choose to shape and guide moving images on a screen?

The success of any creative writing workshops relies on the participants being genuinely interested in writing and passionate about the subject matter. More immediately – and crucially – you have to establish an atmosphere of mutual support and trust, of human warmth. As someone once said, there is only one rule for writing great work, but unfortunately nobody knows what it is. I think the only rule for writing is “does it work?”. We’ll be spending our Saturdays trying to make it work. When it does, it’s a source of constant wonder.

Writing for the screen is an exciting discipline. In many ways, it’s the ultimate realisation of “show, don’t tell”, that golden mantra repeated on creative writing courses around the globe. You don’t have to find well-placed words to describe a river, you just point the camera. This requires a writer who is accustomed to constructing prose upon the page, however brief, to slightly adjust their thinking. Along with this, there is also the massive opportunity for experimentation and innovation.

I see my job as making sure that our writer’s stories are realised and expressed to their fullest effect. I don’t think we’ll have any problems. I think we’re going to produce some really exciting work. The great thing about young writers is that they are fearless and often very original. I am very curious to see what approach they will take, and what the finished films will look like.

Here’s to a glorious few weekends writing on the Marina.