Life in Devon


Fairy Tale film

I love my village. When you move from The Big City to a tiny country town, you'd think life might become just a little dull -- but here in the magical hills of Dartmoor I find myself surrounded by more artists and writers than ever, and there's always something interesting afoot....


Dragon I've written before about the Chagford Filmmaking Group, created by Elizabeth-Jane Baldry as a vehicle for creating fairy tale films and for getting local kids involved in the filmmaking process, both in front of and behind the camera. (Their last film was The Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heugh, in which my stepdaughter played the title role.)

Peerifolk-with-ladle Now they've started work on their biggest project yet: a cinematic retelling of "Sir Lanval," a 12th century tale from the writings of Marie de France. It's all part of the "Shared Legend Project," bringing creative artists from Devon and Brittany together for a cross-borders collaboration...with a few of us Yanks thrown in for good measure. I'm particularly excited by this project because so many of my friends from all three countries are involved, including the American mythologist Ari Berk (who has collaborated on the filmscript with Elizabeth-Jane) and the French folklorist Claudine Glot (head of the Centre de l'Imaginaire Arthurien, organizers of the Breton side of the project).

The little video below is a behind-the-scenes look at the very first shoot for the Sir Lanval film, which took place here in Devon over Hallowe'en weekend. If you'd like to know more about the Chagford Filmmaking group, or to see clips from their other fairy tale films, please visit their website -- where you can donate to the group and help them meet their fundraising goals for this and other projects.

Alongside the film's premier, by the way, there will be a Alan Lee maiden sketchtravelling exhibition of Sir-Lanval-inspired art from twenty artists residing in Devon and France. I don't have the complete artist list to hand, but I'm one of them on the Devon side, as are Brian & Wendy Froud, Alan Lee, and Rima Staines. That's scheduled to happen in the autumn of 2010, and I'll post more info (dates, places, etc.) as it becomes available.


Magic on Film

Dragon-long You may recall my recent post about The Laidley Worm of Spindleston Heugh, the lastest project from the Chagford Filmmaking Group ("A dragon in the neighborhood," August 26). You can now view some charming photos from the film shoot here, on the CFG's website.

Across the ocean in New York, Lisa Stock (InBytheEye Films) has completed production on Brother and Sister, a short film based on my poem of that title, which was in turn based on the German fairy tale. Keep an eye on the Brother and Sister web page for the upcoming New York screening dates.

A dragon in the neighborhood....

Our daughter Victoria is turned into a dragon for the filming of "The Laidley Worm," the latest project from The Chagford Filmmaking Group. She's pictured below in the film's costume workshop, and on set at Castle Drogo with costume designer Laura Mackrill. The photos come from Laura's film shoot album and appear here with permission.






"I desired dragons with a profound desire. Of course, I in my timid body did not wish to have them in the neighborhood  . . . .But the world that contained even the imagination
of Fáfnir was richer and more beautiful, at whatever the cost of peril."
-- J.R.R. Tolkien (from his essay "On Fairy-Stories")

Below: the dragon and her dad on the hills above our village.

Laidley Worm

The goblins strike again....

The new issue of the Goblin Fruit poetry webzine is now online, with a special feature on poet Jennifer Crow and other delights. The webzine is created by the young, absurdly talented team of Amal El-Mohtar (Cornwall), Jessica Wick (California), and Oliver Hunter (Australia). This is their third anniversary issue (congratulations!), and it is gorgeous, so please do check it out. (And don't miss the new Mischief section of the site.)

 Speaking of gorgeous, the Goblin Fruit video above features the magical, magical art of Oliver Hunter. The music is by Oliver too, with lyrics drawn from a poem of mine. (Thank you, Oliver, for that honor.)


Back again...

Okay, that leave of absence wasn't as brief as I'd intended, for the move to the new house has been harder work and more prolonged than anticipated...and the dust hasn't truly settled yet. Nonetheless, I managed to carve out some time to get back into my quiet office today. (How lovely to be in a room with no walls to paint and no boxes to unpack!) I'm eager to turn my thoughts from issues of plumbing and electrics to art and myth and fiction again...just as soon as my exhausted brain and body and tired, work-swollen hands will allow.

The poignant and magical video below is "World Builder" by Bruce Banit. It reminds me of the worlds we build when we make fiction...or a new home...or any other act of creativity...

I love the gorgeous, thought-provoking animation above, about the power of the written word and the media environment we live in. It's by my friend Carmen Bromfield Mason, who is currently a student at the Chelsea College of Art & Design in London.

For the shorter piece below, the students were ask to record a small child explaining how something works and then to animate the explanation. Carmen asked 7-year-old Ely Todd-Jones (who is the daughter of puppeteer William Todd-Jones, and my god-daughter) to explain what color is.... The explanation is priceless, and the animation is charming. 

You can see more of Carmen's work here.

Also, please note that an update has been added to the Ravens in the Library post (January 6th), below.


Here's the trailer for Lisa Stock's short film-in-progress, "Brother and Sister" (as discussed in the December 13th post below). There's also a new website for the film. The music is by Priscilla Hernandez.

And on another not-entirely-unrelated subject, Ellen Kushner alerted me to this terrific quote from Jeanette Winterson, recently published in the New York Times:

"Art is central to all our lives, not just the better-off and educated. . . I know that from my own story, and from the evidence of every child ever born — they all want to hear and to tell stories, to sing, to make music, to act out little dramas, to paint pictures, to make sculptures. This is born in and we breed it out. And then, when we have bred it out, we say that art is elitist, and at the same time we either fetishize art — the high prices, the jargon, the inaccessibility — or we ignore it. The truth is, artist or not, we are all born on the creative continuum, and that is a heritage and a birthright of all of our lives."


Brother and Sister

Brother and Sister new poster copy

Filmmaker Lisa Stock (creator of Through the Cobweb Forest with artist Connie Toebe) is making a little film of my poem "Brother and Sister," inspired by the fairy tale of the same name. She sent me the pre-production photo above this week, and I think it's absolutely beautiful. For news on all of Lisa's films, flash animations and other projects, visit her website: InByTheEye.

Barth Anderson's poetic response to my poem can be found here, in the archives of the Journal of Mythic Arts (where it was published as one of JoMA's "fairy tale duets").  An annotated version of the "Brother and Sister" fairy tale appears on Surlalune. And, for a different take on the tale, I recommend Ellen Steiber's essay, "Brother and Sister: A Matter of Seeing."