RT Burns Club

*Federation No. 2085*

                            

                             RT BURNS CLUB INTERVIEWS

 

 

INTERVIEW WITH DR. GERARD CARRUTHERS CENTRE FOR   ROBERT BURNS STUDIES - GLASGOW UNIVERSITY
        
                           A short biography on Dr. Gerard.
 
Gerard Carruthers was lecturer in the Department of English Studies, University of Strathclyde (1995- 2000), where he taught American, English and Scottish literatures. He served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Glasgow-Strathclyde School of Scottish Studies, and as a member of the UCAS (Scotland) English Panel. Previously he was Research Fellow at the Centre for Walter Scott Studies, University of Aberdeen (1993-5). Gerard Carruthers is a graduate of the universities of Glasgow and Strathclyde and of St Andrew's College of Education, Glasgow. His PhD thesis was on 'The Invention of Scottish Literature During the Long Eighteenth Century'. He is currently supervising postgraduate dissertations on Ulster Scots Poetry of the Eighteenth & Nineteenth Centuries, Eighteenth-Century Literary Rhetoric, and Robert Burns; he has supervised successful PhD theses on Robert Fergusson and Seamus Heaney and successful MPhil theses on Robert Burns, 'Bunkermen & Lasses o' Pairts: Contemporary Scottish Fiction' and on 'Utopian and Dystopian Landscapes in Twentieth-Century Scottish Literature'. He was an external examiner on the BA in Cultural Studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands Millennium Institute. During the summer of 2002 he was W. Ormiston Roy Memorial Research Fellow at the University of South Carolina, Columbia, USA. He is a member of the steering committee of the Distributed Burns Collection, of the Abbotsford Library Research Project committee and of the organising group for the Royal Society of Edinburgh Robert Burns Celebrations 2009. He is co-organiser of the Burns International conference held annually at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow. He is a frequent contributor to the media.
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                               INTERVIEW - November 2008
    
We wish to begin by thanking Dr. Gerard for taking time out of his busy schedule and kindly giving us this special interview, it is most appreciated.
 
Davina
Dr. Gerard, At what age was your interest in Burns sparked and what was it about Burns that caused this?
 
Dr Gerard
I was taken to Burns's cottage as a five year old boy by my parents, and something about this experience stuck with me, a kind of atmosphere re Burns's life and work though I'm hard put now to define with any precision what it was that a small boy related to. My serious involvement with Burns though came in the late 1980s when I undertook a PhD on Scottish Literature of the long eighteenth century with a chapter in the dissertation on Burns. Working on this, I realized that here we have not only a great poet, but one of the world's greatest songwriters too.
 
Peigi
Dr. Gerard, Has Burns been over-analyzed in Academia? Would he himself approve of how his works have been dissected? Or would he still believe that a ''spark o' Nature's fire," is learning enough?
 
Dr Gerard
I suppose I'm a typical academic, I believe that you can't have too much analysis. I wary about speaking for Burns, but I suspect he'd be proud that he has both great 'popular' and 'academic' appeal over two centuries later. Also, I think the idea of the 'spark o' Nature's fire' was something he believed in – up to a point. Natural ability/genius is an important thing. However, Burns was well-read and well-educated, and to a standard at least as high as the typical university student of his age. I've just edited The Edinburgh Companion to Robert Burns (out in summer 2009), and there are two very interesting essays in there by my American colleagues, Dr Corey Andrews on Burns as a critic, and Dr Steve McKenna on Burns's reading of Virgil. What Corey and Steve both show is that Burns takes literary criticism, indeed he practices this, very thoughtfully and seriously.
 
Alexandria
Dr. Gerard,Was there a single event or poem that made you want to learn more about Robert Burns?
 
Dr. Gerard
I used to perform in a band that played, variously, folk and rock music around the pubs. I was already doing Burns as part of my PhD as I've said, but I had to learn 'Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation' for performance in 1988. And this song just blew me away and cemented my fascination with Burns. Also, I grew up in Clydebank in the west of Scotland and my father was part of a very active trade union movement. We were a Catholic family and so my father wouldn't join the Communist party. He was a staunch Labour Party man, though he had a number of friends who were Communists, and through the years I increasingly came into contact with a whole swathe of Communists and Socialists who venerated Burns. I grew up, then, aware of the great humanitarian significance of Burns who stood for that 'can do from a humble background' and 'a man's a man for a' that' attitudes.
 
Rose
Dr. Gerard, How do you feel about a recent quote from Jeremy Paxman, calling Burns' poems ''sentimental doggerel"?
 
Dr. Gerard
Actually, Jeremy Paxman remains one of my favorite television news and current affairs interviewers. I think, however, he is entering into grumpy middle age. I have no problem with him finding Burns to be not his cup of tea, but he shouldn't spout nonsense about 'doggerel'. Burns is a poet of unquestionable technical panache whose rhythms and rhymes are usually highly accomplished. I found myself in the position of 'opponent in chief' to Paxman when he made his comments, and I was quoted extensively in the British and international media. Some people were agitating for Jeremy to have a discussion with me on Burns on the Newsnight programme, but he (or his producer seemed not to be keen). Another thing he should not have been doing was venting his spleen with these comments in the introduction to Chambers Biographical Dictionary. And an irony is that Robert Chambers, one of the founders of this publication was a very distinguished Burns scholar!
 
Davina
Would you like to have lived in the years of the Enlightenment and rubbed shoulders with Burns, Scott and Dr. Blacklock to name just three?
 
Dr. Gerard
In a word: no. I'm too fond of our 21st century home comforts such as central heating and a shower whenever I want one! I would love to travel back in time for a day however, to see Burns and, a bit before this David Hume. I'm also a huge Scott fan. There is, as I call it, a 'bampot' version of Scottish cultural history which sees Burns as poet of the people and Scott as snobbish patrician. They were very different kinds of people, but they did have some similarities in that both are great pioneers and broadcasters of Scottish popular culture and Scottish history. Burns and Scott together, great imaginers that they are, together largely invent modern Scotland, as I'm fond of telling my students.
 
Nicholas
Dr Gerard, Do you have a favourite Robert Burns poem and why is it your favourite?
 
Dr. Gerard
My favourite Burns poem without a doubt is 'A Poet's Welcome to his Love Begotten Daughter' about the illegitimate child he fathered to Betsy Paton. It is both tender and defiant, saying I don't care what people say about the circumstances of her birth, I love my child and that's all that counts. It is, if I may use the phrase, 'pro-life' in a very beautiful way. We can't always defend Burns's behavior where women are concerned (though some bardolators attempt a whitewash), but here we have Burns at his best defending both his lover and their child.
 
Rose
If you could have written just one poem/song or work of Robert Burns, which one would you have wanted it be?
 
Dr. Gerard
It's would have to be 'Tam o' Shanter' for its sheer psychological brilliance (laughing at the stupidity of the male psyche, I'd argue) as well as for its comedy. Also, my goodness, that man can brilliantly sustain narrative sense and entertainment across over 100 couplets. Jeremy Paxman read and wonder!
 
Alexandria
How did you come to be involved in the event The Robert Burns Conspiracies and become one of the panel experts?
 
Dr. Gerard
Burns has attracted frauds, forgers and fanatics, sometimes pushing dubious lines in good faith at other points trying to con people because they have a particular political or cultural agenda. You find suggestions that the British government effectively murdered him (which the historical facts do not support as an idea). If it doesn't seem too much like advertising my wares, might I point you towards a book I've produced with my co-editor Johnny Rodger which will be out in January 2009 from Sandstone Press. Among other things, this book, Fickle Man: Robert Burns in the 21st Century deals with some of the conspiracies and strange legends surrounding Burns. I've used the 'Burns conspiracies' idea in high schools as something that really hooks kids.
 
Nicholas
What is your theory on whether Robert Burns sent guns to the French revolutionaries, do you personally believe it?
 
Dr. Gerard
I think it unlikely that the poet sent guns to the French revolutionaries (when he'd have got more canons for his money just by sending them cash – they did have such guns in France!). I'm on the Abbotsford Library Research Committee, and apparently there were documents there pertaining to the story of Burns and the guns. Some of these are now apparently missing and I'm currently trying to investigate the situation. My own hunch is that Walter Scott was suspicious of the story (which first appeared in the biography of the poet by Scott's son-in-law, John Gibson Lockhart). Jennie Orr, one of my graduate students and I have written a bit about this in Fickle Man mentioned above, but in future I want to carry out a fuller study of Scott's investigation of the affair. What you have to remember is that Lockhart was more or less looking for stories that proved Burns was a bit impulsive, less than a complete gentleman! The guns to France story, I think was one such episode, a rather right-wing inspired legend (Lockhart was a Tory) which elements of the left among Burns's fans later adopt as part of the poet's radical credentials but history and common sense suggest the story to be unlikely.
 
Janet
Dr. Gerard, "In your mind," how do you see Robert Burns Ayrshire muse, "Coila" fit into this"?
 
Dr. Gerard
In one sense, Coila is not to be taken all that seriously. Her appearance in 'The Vision' is part of Burns's comical self-mockery. On the other hand, she is a device to allow him to set out his stall as a bard of Ayrshire, a regional bard. At bottom, she helps him say, 'poetry can happen in eighteenth-century Ayrshire.' But I don't think she even qualifies as serious imaginary friend.
 
Davina
In your opinion will modern poets like Robert Garrioch, Edwin Morgan, Sydney Goodsir Smith and MacDiamid still be read in 250 years time?
 
Dr. Gerard
Difficult to say. Eddie Morgan, I think, is the best of the poets you mention. Smith and Garioch are good but, frankly, minor in the grand scheme of things. MacDiarmid writes lots of rubbish, though I think that his early lyrics such as 'The Bonnie Broukit Bairn' are beautiful. He is also the most important Scottish cultural activist of the 20th century. I've edited Scottish Poems for Everyman and Alfred A. Knopf which will be published in the US in January 2009. I've tried to represent what I think are the most important poetic currents in Scotland through history. Morgan and MacDiarmid are included but not Smith and Garioch. Morgan is a great love poet and a great observer of human life, along with Iain Crichton Smith the closest thing to Burns Scotland has produced in the 20th century. I think these two, and maybe Sorley MacLean of all Scotland's twentieth century poets will be read in 250 years.
 
Peigi
When Scotland becomes independent do you think any of Burns' songs will be used for the official national anthem?
 
Dr. Gerard
I think Scotland may well become independent, especially if the Conservatives were to form the next British government. Popular opinion would possibly be more behind 'Flower of Scotland' or even 'Scotland the Brave' as a Scottish national anthem, and I think it is quite likely that a new anthem would be composed possibly by someone like James Macmillan. My own vote for a Burns national anthem would be 'Bruce's Address at Bannockburn'
 
Davina
Considering that more and more Burns Suppers are now dual gender affairs, do you think that they have a valid place in bringing a better understanding of Burns to a wider audience?
 
Dr. Gerard
There are still all male Burns suppers, an idea that makes me uncomfortable. Happily, however, there are fewer and fewer of these. I think Burns suppers are about social enjoyment and that's fine. With a good speaker and performer or two, yes, indeed: people will learn about Burns in an unforced way. Already there are many so-called 'amateurs' and enthusiasts as well as professional academics who know huge amounts about Burns and who have a great interest. No other poet, I think, can rival Burns in this regard and I'm immensely grateful that this interest is out there and is so big and wide.
 
Davina
There has to be more to an Immortal Memory than just going over Burns life. Who have you heard who has delivered the best Immortal Memory and what aspect did it take?
 
Dr. Gerard
Gosh, that is difficult. I've heard a number but two pals, Ken Simpson and Willie McIlvanney (one of Scotland's greatest fiction writers) stand out. Ken is great at describing the sheer human sympathy and wryness to be found in Burns's work. Willie is wonderful at imagining and describing the compromises Burns had to make as a man to earn a living. What both dwell on is the sheer power of Burns's imagination. Recently, I've been very interested to read Lord Roseberry's late nineteenth century 'addresses' on Burns at various public occasions these are well worth a look. Clark McGinn is a tremendously witty Burns speaker (precisely because he has a deep understanding of the life and work). I'd recommend Clark's Ultimate Burns Supper book to anyone who does not know it.
 
Alexandria
Why do you think that the name Robert Burns is always surrounded by controversial issues and it is sometimes forgotten how most of his poems are masterpieces?
 
Dr. Gerard
Again, there are many things one could say, and I think this is a big issue where we need more scholarly investigation. Burns's life was not without controversy (especially sexually) and for reasons which have never been entirely explained the poet has become a cipher for all kinds of people of all shades of ideological belief who think he speaks for them. Part of the answer is that Burns does speak in voices, not because he is insincere, but because he has huge sympathy with different kinds of people, different kinds of mentality. He is also a romantic figure and so attracts glory-hunting charlatans as well as the sincerely deluded! To say nothing of the majority of people with an interest who simply find his life fascinating and his work great. I think there is growing appreciation of the greatness of Burns's poetry. He is increasingly taught in universities throughout the world. I've recently been appointed General Editor of the multi-volume Oxford University Press edition of the Works of Robert Burns and I and my colleagues in a very large time are all mindful that over the next ten to fifteen years that we want to produce an edition that says more than anything, 'Burns is a great writer, a great artist.'
 
Rose
Do you think it is about time a truly wonderful film was made on the life of Robert Burns to celebrate the 250th Anniversary and have you an opinion as to who might make a great Robert Burns?
 
Dr. Gerard
Yes, that would be good and I suppose I daren't not mention Gerard Butler! He would make a good Burns, I believe. The one American actor, in my admittedly limited knowledge, who I think could carry it off would be Johnny Depp. There seems to be a curse though where Burns film are concerned. I had a long chat with Vadim Jean the director who had Gerard Butler lined up to play Burns. But this was seven years ago and I've no idea why nothing seems to be in any advanced state of production. I fear 2009 will pass and no film will appear – a missed opportunity.
 
Davina
Election fever is in the air in the USA. For which current U.K. political party do you think Burns had an affinity?
 
Dr. Gerard
In the British context, Burns would be rightly satirical towards them all. He'd have some affinity with the many good people in both the Labour and the Scottish National parties, but even these two nowadays are somewhat slickly institutional and I don't think Burns would be a member of any political party. My guess is that a Burns living in the 21st century would be a bit too independent-minded for that.
 
Alexandria
Do you have any plans for any Homecoming Scotland 2009 events and are you getting involved with any Robert Burns Celebrations?
 
Dr. Gerard
I'll be speaking in Glasgow, Oxford, St Andrews, Prague, Vancouver, South Carolina and other places in 2009. I'll also be giving a talk at the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh on 'Burns and his Biographers'. This will have Homecoming endorsement. I also advised on the Burns exhibition, 'Zig Zag, the Paths of Robert Burns' which will tour Scotland as a Homecoming backed project during 2009. It is already opened, however, at the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. It has been quite brilliantly put together by Kenneth Dunn, Imogen Gibbs and Robert Betteridge.
 
Beth
Dr. Gerard, Will there be a Homecoming Scotland 2009 event(s) that are aimed at sparking the interest of children towards Robert Burns? I work as a teacher-aide (children 9-15 in NY). I wish more academic time was spent on classical writings, including of course, Robert Burns. However, with state testing, so much of the exciting educational topics are whittled down or non-existent. As I understand, Robert Burns loved children. Are there presently, or will there be, any websites created about Robert Burns that are geared towards children 9-15?
 
Dr. Gerard
At our Glasgow three day conference in January we're having a panel and a competition re Burns and children's writing in association with 'Itchycoo' (check out what they're doing for kids, including a brilliant new publication). Also, the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh is putting together some great modern material of relevance to teaching younger age groups. Check out both Itchycoo and SPL websites for more details (as well as that of our own Burns Centre).
 
Alexandria
Do you think all the Homecoming Scotland Events will bring more worldwide attention to Scotland and to Robert Burns?
 
Dr. Gerard
I hope so. It is like anything really. If things are well done and inspiring then an appropriate stir will be caused. Watch that space! The 'Zig Zag' exhibition I've just mentioned portends well, and fingers crossed!
 
Beth
If someone attending Homecoming Scotland 2009 was just becoming acquainted with Robert Burns' writings, aside from his more famous pieces, what other not-so-well known piece(s) would you recommend to them to delve into?
 
Dr. Gerard
'A Poet's Welcome', as I've mentioned. I'd suggest though they should start the likes of 'Tam o' Shanter', 'To a Louse' and so on. I'd also suggest a good way in would be to listen to the complete songs recorded for Linn records under the production of Fred Freeman. I'd maybe direct a bit of initial attention too to the less 'Scottish' pieces such as 'A Winter Night', which I think is very finely meditative and although increasingly better known I'd like to see people reading 'Address of Beelzebub' when they begin with Burns – a brilliant satire and a fine example of Burns as one of the first modern lowland Scottish writers to speak up for the highlands.
 
Rose
Can you please tell us what is being planned at The Centre For Robert Burns Studies and Glasgow University for the celebrations and what do you hope to achieve by the end of 2009?
 
Dr. Gerard
At Glasgow we're having a three day conference (over seventy academic papers and some excellent performance as well), from 15th-17th January. If interested, please check out our website for the Centre for Robert Burns Studies which I direct at Glasgow University. There will be a premiere of a new setting of Burns's 'Lament of Mary, Queen of Scots' by James Macmillan and a performance of The Merry Muses by Sheena Wellington among other things. We'll properly launch the Oxford University Press edition which I've mentioned already as well as the book, Fickle Man and a limited facsimile edition of Walter Scott's book edition (1823) of Burns's The Fornicators' Court, a project undertaken by the Faculty of Advocates and the Abbotsford Library Research Committee. This book will be finely produced and has an introduction written by my graduate student Pauline Gray (who is doing a PhD on Burns and Bawdry) and by me. Only 1,000 copies will be available so if you want one of these get in quick!
 
Thank you all for your questions and your kind interest and I wish you all a great Burns year in 2009!
 
END
 
                                                            
We wish to once again thank Dr. Gerard for his informative and interesting answers and to our members who sent us some great questions.
 
More information can be found on Dr Gerard and The Centre For Robert Burns Studies on this link below, with a link to The Homecoming website too:
 
http://www.gla.ac.uk/robertburnsstudies/
 
http://www.homecomingscotland2009.com/default.html

 

 

 

                        INTERVIEW WITH DOUGIE MACLEAN

                          A Short Biography On Dougie Maclean

Wanting to concentrate on his own music, Dougie left the Tannahills and teamed up with fellow Scot, Alan Roberts. They toured Germany, Holland, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and France, and played all of the major European festivals. Together they made an album, Caledonia, which sold well and was met with critical acclaim, as well as an album with Alex Campbell called C.R.M.  Joined the Tannahill Weavers and toured extensively in the UK and Europe playing fiddle, mandolin and sharing vocals. Are Ye Sleeping Maggie? was recorded while MacLean was with the group. Born in Perthshire, Scotland in 1954, Dougie MacLean grew up in the countryside where his father was a gardener. He was surrounded by his families love of music - his mother played mandolin, his father fiddle.

More can be found here:

 http://www.dougiemaclean.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=47&Itemid=71

 

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                                INTERVIEW - June 5, 2009

RT:

I thought your soundtrack for "The Last Of The Mohicans" was truly wonderful. Knowing you are an admirer of Robert Burns, if you were asked to write a soundtrack for a movie based on his life story, how would you go about doing this? Which of your current compositions would you include to create an appropriate and stirring soundtrack; or would you start from scratch according to the mood of the script?

Dougie:

I'd probably start from scratch and, depending on the mood, acting and setting write and record the background music (with my son Jamie in our studio here at Butterstone) incorporating arrangements of Burns' own songs where it felt just right.

RT:

Could you ever see yourself becoming a Scottish Minister in the future or representing Scotland in some capacity?
I'm happy with representing Scotland as I am...I guess a kind of musical ambassador!

RT:

 I know it's hard to pinpoint just one, but do you have a favourite piece of Scottish Music that brings tears to your eyes every time you hear it?

Dougie:

I have so many favourites!...but probably it would be "Ca' the Yowes' by Robert Burns...the lyric is so moving...particularly that last verse. I can hardly sing it without feeling a lump in the throat.

RT:

How do you feel about the modernisation movement going on in Scotland right now, in which the traditional images of the haggis kilts, whisky etc are being played down?

RT:

I appreciate your making the effort to come all the way to California to share your music.
I enjoyed hearing the band in Santa Cruz, but loved your solo performance in Sebastopol. When are you coming back?


Dougie:

I'll be happily back in California in September 09...for details of venues and tickets just take a visit to the concert list on http://www.dougiemaclean.com/

RT:

One of my favorite songs of yours is "Rescue Me." This summer I'm planning to climb the Buachaille Etive Mòr;
any tips, besides "don't do it"?

Dougie:

By all means do it! Be prepared for changes of weather! but above all enjoy the climb and the wonderful view.

RT:

Two of my favorite songs of yours are "Garden Valley" and "Broken Wings."
Where were you when you wrote these and what inspried you to write them?

Dougie:

They were written in very different places -Garden Valley while in an American city on tour and reflecting on being far from 'home' and of the many who were exiled to different lands in past times. Broken Wings was written while at home in Butterstone in Perthshire- reflecting on nature, on ageing, on our treatment of the planet, on relating with our children...  

RT:

Do you have any specific plans so far that you can share for Homecoming Scotland 2009 and all tScotland Events, have you been asked to perform at any so far?

Dougie:

As my song "Caledonia" has been chosen as the theme song for Homecoming Scotland (and features in the Homecoming advert), I know I will be invited to sing it at quite a few special occasions. What's great is that there are people young and old all over Scotland performing it, making videos around it, recording it. I'm so proud that my wee song has touched so many hearts!
So far I've performed at quite a few Homecoming events (The Homecoming Advert Launch, Auld Lang Syne Concert in the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, the Edinburgh Youth Games Launch at Meadowbank Stadium, The Scottish Proms (with the RSNO) in The Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. Still to come is a performance during The Gathering Concert in Hollyrood Park, Tattoo Hebrides (with my band) on the Isle of Lewis, 2 concerts during the Blas Festival in September, many peformances during our own Perthshire Amber Festival in the fall. Then no doubt I will be involved in the final weekend of celebrations at the close of Homecoming Scotland in late November. A busy year!!


Thank you to Dougie for answering some of our members questions and and for Jennifer for being so kind and answering all our many requests.

                                                 END

 

 

  INTERVIEW WITH SCOTTISH SCREEN WRITER ALAN SHARP

                                        

                          A Short Biography On Alan Sharp

Alan Sharp (Writer) had the opportunity to explore the story of one of his native Scotland's greatest heroes with the screenplay for Rob Roy. Early in his career, he distinguished himself as a noted screenwriter of American Westerns, although most were written before he'd ever stepped foot in America. Among the Westerns he scripted are Robert Aldrich's "Ulzana's Raid", Peter Fonda's "The Hired Hand" and Ted Kotcheff's "Billy Two Hats". He found equal success in other genres, writing the screenplays for Sam Peckinpah's final film "The Osterman Weekend", based on Robert Ludlum's bestseller, Arthur Penn's psychological thriller "Night Moves" and Richard Fleischer's "The Last Run". His additional credits include "Damnation Alley", "Cat Chaser" and the cable telefilms "Descending Angel" and "The Last Hit". Sharp also wrote and directed the film "Little Treasure". Sharp was born in Alyth, Scotland and raised in the tough Scottish port town of Greenock. At the age of 14, he followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a shipyard worker. Four years later, he enlisted in the army. After his discharge, he began his writing career as a novelist, although his first book was five years in the making. The time turned out to be well spent, as it resulted in the award-winning A Green Tree in Gedde, which established Sharp as a major literary newcomer. He confirmed the promise of that first book with his second tome, The Wind Shifts, before turning his attention to writing screenplays.

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                                       INTERVIEW

Alexandria:

How do you begin your work ~ from the end and work backwards, the reverse of that, or hopping to key points throughout and then pull it all together?

Sharp:

 I try to get the story to tell itself from front to back. It’s very helpful to have a final scene in mind, a sort of destination, if you like, but often that doesn’t reveal itself until you’ve taken a number of false turns. Re-writing is the key and the ability to view previous drafts as material to be changed, cut and shaped. Start thick and end up thin.


Beth:

What genre do you enjoy working on most

Sharp:

Westerns and thrillers. Melodramas in which the plot requires a conclusion where the issues are resolved in an action climax. The Burns script did not conform to this model, however.


Peigi:

When you are writing a screen play such as Rob Roy or Burns, how do you decide exactly which dialect to use?
Will the dialect in Burns approximate what is heard from natives of Mauchline today?

Sharp:

I don’t get too fussed about specific dialects. The actors will supply vocal texture. I just aim to give them an idiom that is both realistic and comprehensible when spoken.


 Rose:

Will dialogue coaches be on the set; how much input will you have regarding dialect authenticity?

Sharp:


None. I am not likely to be on the set.


Peigi:

Will Burns' intense sense of liberty, equality, and Scots independence (A Parcel of Rogues in a Nation), as well as his profound connection with nature and environmental ethics
(The Humble Petition of Bruar Water), be addressed in the screenplay?


Sharp:


With a character as protean as Burns there will inevitably be a short fall in conveying the whole personality. The present Burns script concentrates, somewhat predictably, on the 18 months following the publication of the Kilmarnock Edition up to his marriage to Jean Armour.


Rose:

Do you find it easier to write a screenplay when you can envisage which actors are going to play the roles, or doesn't it matter?

Sharp:


It’s useful to have actors in mind, not so much for casting purposes, over which a writer has no influence, as to help imagine the dynamics of the scenes and interactions between characters.

Rose:

Which one of your screenplays are you most proud of?

Sharp:

I think the best screenplays I have written are Ulzana’s Raid, Love and Lies (American television), Rob Roy and, as yet unmade, Burns.

Rose:

Do your screenplays always get made into films and how do you feel if re-writes are necessary at a later date or the film doesn't eventually get made at all, does this ever happen?

Sharp:

Most of the work I do is adaptation, and so much of your question been reduced b the author. In the case of Burns where there was no book to be adapted, the decision was made to concentrate on the abovementioned 18-month period.

Janet:

How do you find your way in to a novel, or the broad topic of a man's life, to select the central theme for a screenplay?

Sharp:

To get a whole life into a screenplay/film is very difficult and full of ‘7 Years Later’ legends on the screen. I am not fond of the bio-pic format. It was felt that the period selected is, by far, the most dramatic and concentrated epoch in the poet’s life, and likely to be the most interesting to audiences.


Peigi:

What is the challenge of taking a great poet like Robert Burns and showing how he interacted with his art on the screen, ie, how Omar Shariff showed how the atmosphere, his surroundings, life events, etc., affected his poetry in Dr. Zhivago.

Sharp:

Considerable. It can be confidently said that my efforts to depict Robert Burns falls short of being either complete or satisfactory to anyone who knows much of his life.


Janet:

What advice or suggestions would you give Gerard Butler for his development of his characterization of Burns for the film?

Sharp:


I would not presume. He has the script and his talent and he will have the director, Vadim Jean, with whom he has worked previously.


Jan:

We loved your screen play and the movie Rob Roy, and since Robert Burns is another famous Scottish figure, how will this screen play differ from Rob Roy?


Sharp:

Rob Roy was a relatively minor figure in Scottish history and his story was told as a Western, allowing his character to resolve itself in action. In Burns’ case, a more complex psychological reality was required to achieve a satisfactory climax. It’s the essential difference between drama and melodrama. 

Alexandria:

What is is about a certain story that grabs a hold of you and screams at you that you just have to be a part of telling that tale.


Sharp:

Moral ambiguity, mixed motives, irony and sex.

Alexandria:

Do you like to write about Historical Characters?

Sharp:

Yes, they are always bigger and more complex than is possible to do justice to in a screenplay but their actuality, the fact that they really lived, is a stimulus and a challenge.

Alexandria:

What is another project that you hope to be one day be a part of, something you have always wanted to write about?


Sharp:

I’d like to write about politics, conspiracies, Alexander Selkirk, the American Civil War and Christopher Marlowe.

With thanks,
Alan Sharp

 

Thank you Mr Sharp for kindly taking the time to answer our questions.

                                                 END