Harrogate Crime Writing Festival 2003, Part 2

Knife, body, blood, naked skin,
misty night and scream.

Poisons, shots and a hanged man,
hands, guns and the murder came.

Everlasting life, undying love,
all that was not enough.

Anita G. Hauri

During three fabulous days, the only thing I really cared about was how to commit the perfect crime. But no! Please - don't be afraid, don't worry - it's just in my head. All that expenditure in order to write the right crime novel!

Harrogate's first Crime Writing Festival from July 17 - 20, 2003 gave us the extraordinary opportunity to be face to face with some of the world's best crime writers like Val McDermid, Jeffery Deaver, Reginald Hill, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson, Karin Fossum... or Colin Dexter and Chris Burt who told us many lovely anecdotes about Inspector Morse. They all showed a real sensibility and talked very honestly about things like why they write, how they write or why the story plays in certain places and not anywhere else.

Very thrilling was the Industry Forum: How to get published in the crime world? But at the same time it put us back down to reality. To find a publisher is like playing the lottery. The second Industry Forum: Making it for the Small Screen: Original Script or Adaptation with Sandra Jobling, Robson Green and screenwriter Stuart Hepburn and Bill Boyes producer at the BBC was an absolute must for every screenwriter.

As finally everyone had been seated and Robson Green had been pleading all those present to stop staring, Val McDermid introduced each one. Robson Green was the last one in the line and of course it was met with applause. Robson immediately seized the opportunity and stood up just to say "goodbye, thank you, and good night!" It was 10.30 a.m. and of course he didn't leave.

Stuart Hepburn opened it with an example of what all is needed to start a production: Good screenplay, a lot of very important people who believe in it and a lot, I mean a lot of money, and then if you can convince a famous actor to be in maybe there is a chance that something very good will be done. As he mentioned the famous actor, Robson made big sighs, smiling broadly. But Stuart fixed him with a strong eye and explained that he meant a really well-known actor. Robson swore revenge.

But one thing Stuart Hepburn made absolutely clear. A screenwriter has to put away his ego. He has to write exactly what the producer wishes and, if necessary, 35 times the same thing (Oh yes, I can just say that's true!) But even after that you can feel that they really love their job. Also, Sandra Jobling told us stories about the production of 'Wire In The Blood' with such an enthusiasm that she could hardly remain sitting on her chair, or how hard it was to get permission for a scene with an explosion or to convince co-producers.

Oh yeah - the explosion! Sandra Jobling was fighting for months to get the permission and then - you certainly (surely) remember Alan Sinclair's pictures. Do you? Yes, it was that day and I understand now why Robson looks that seriously. The scene was very well prepared and it hade been done. But immediately after the big detonation it was clear that something was wrong. The explosion was too heavy and for a long time they didn't know if all actors were alright. Robson became very vivid as he explained that on that day they didn't only lose many spotlights and 'gaffers' but also two cameras, a lot of important material and four stunt men (he really said so).

But what is it that makes them work so hard? According to Sandra Jobling it's in the end all a matter of feelings. When she reads a book or screenplay and if there is something that she is seized by, sometime it's just the feeling that it will work, then she gives the book to Robson and if it has the same effect on him, the game can start.

You should have been there and seen them. You could really see energy growing up and it was only theoretical. So, if it's real, it will certainly be much stronger and it has to be like that. They put their heart and soul into it. Enthusiasm and the big, big desire to see it on the small screen, that's the fuel for a very, very long time and without it nothing will be done (happen). It's the same for the plot - the story. Bill Boyes made it clear that the plot must endure real hard stuff for months. It has to bear to be abridged and to be rewritten over and over again. If it's too fragile, it will lose its life and that means "game over". In an adapted screenplay you will find only 30% of the original novel.

Fancy. Fancy is one of the important things in Robson Green's choice for a part. Also, when reading a book, he must see himself in the role and then the desire might come up to play the character. And if there is a real interesting relationship between the protagonists like in 'Wire' - Carol and Tony - it will be just perfect. With all that he is ready to even fight for the 'smallest things' like a kiss, if necessary. Should they kiss or not? Of course not he said. If they don't kiss, you keep their relationship even stronger. Oh yeah, and one of the reasons why he liked to be Tony Hill was because he looks good as Tony (Ok, everyone has his own judgement.)

How does he prepare for a role? Once he really has internalized the part, he looks for the appearance and it can be like it was for Tony Hill, that he just sees the right person walking in front of him. In that case, it was a professor wearing a raincoat, with a plastic bag in his hand, toddling along. Robson immediately knew that's exactly how Tony would look like.

Acting, facing the camera, how does he do it that his feelings are so real? He said he doesn't play, on the set everything surrounding him is made to create the necessary feelings so they have to be there, he can not feign to cry and that 12 times one after another. He really cries because he really feels like this in that moment. And about fear? He just mentioned everybody in here who has children knows what fear is like. Oh yeah, but one time he said he didn't have the real feelings for a scene. It was in 'Wire in the Blood'. He showed us how he was hanging naked in the cellar and was kissed by his kidnapper and all he could think of was: "Oh my God, what will my father think about me now?"

How important is the director? He is important but also important for Robson Green is to know exactly what the camera does, how it moves. One of the first things he had done when he started as a TV actor was to buy books about cameras to learn everything about them. And it can be very confusing if your director looks at you playing and you can see that he just falls asleep. Very, very confusing. OK, it was a very, very hot and sultry day.

I think Robson Green has a very special ability. Although he can hardly change his appearance, maybe his hair is just a little bit longer or shorter, he does surprise me at each time how strange and different he can look. It's just the little things, a different way of walking, new posture, and that's just what I really like. Robson Green said his goal is to be able to play with an absolute minimum of gestures but to give a maximum of feelings just by the expression of his eyes, like Paul Newman.

I can say he has reached his goal. Oh yes, he definitely has. Oh, and by the way, I mustn't forget (for the second time). I just want to say thank you - many thanks to Val McDermid and Robson Green for allowing me to take these photos. (Copyright to Anita Hauri for all text and photos.)