A Screenwriter Calls

Trumpet Issue 1

First-Year English students enjoyed a very special lesson on Thursday 14 November 2013, when screenwriter Richie Conroy paid a much anticipated visit to St Ciarán’s Community School, Kells, Co. Meath. Richie is a writer on the popular series Roy which has been shown on TRTÉ in Ireland, CBBC in the United Kingdom, and won the 2012 Children’s BAFTA Drama Award for its second series in 2012.

The session began with a discussion about the important elements of any story which allowed the students to display the knowledge they had acquired from studying short stories in class. The students undertook many tasks on the day, one of which involved watching an episode of Roy entitled ‘A Crushing Blow’, which served as the basis for a lively workshop about the craft of storytelling and screenwriting. Students were then required to work in pairs to come up with their own pitch for Roy which they would then present to the rest of the class. The students devised some very imaginative scenarios which ranged from zombie invasions to encounters with long-lost siblings in far-flung places!

When it came to interrogating Richie about his chosen profession, the questions came thick and fast: ‘What inspired you to become a screenwriter?’ (I’ve always loved film and TV and while studying the old Irish myths and sagas in College I thought that someone should really turn these into a movie. I decided to learn screenwriting once I graduated and I’m still learning) ‘What is your favourite screenplay you worked on?’ (I created a comedy called Fran with my friends and we had great fun making it. We made two series and it opened up lots of doors for me professionally) ‘When did you discover you had a talent for screenwriting?’ (Talent is often spoken about like it was something God-given when, in actual fact, we marvel at the talents of a famous painter or footballer or musician what we’re actually marvelling at is a culmination of a lot of practice. The writer Malcolm Gladwell suggests that to be a master at anything one needs to dedicate 10,000 hours to it. And we must not forget what our elders taught us – if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well).

The workshop was also attended by Anna Boner, Poetry Ireland’s Development Officer with Writers in Schools, and Maureen Kennelly, Director of Poetry Ireland. They were highly impressed by the enthusiasm and creativity of the students, and Maureen commented: ‘This was a highly motivated class. They posed some really considered questions and demonstrated a very advanced understanding of this form of literature. We were struck by their spontaneity and imaginative vigour, and by the very careful attention that they gave to Richie – we look forward to many return visits to St Ciarán’s’.

All in all, the students were delighted with the content of the workshop and felt Richie really connected with them in a fun and informative way. Richie was also very complimentary about the students, saying: ‘It was great fun and I was very impressed by the creativity on show from the class. I have no doubt that there are some budding screenwriters in Kells!’

Gina Reilly is an English Teacher, St Ciarán’s Community School, Kells, Co. Meath

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