Portsmouth Festivities Twenty Love: Turning Poetry into Film

Image courtesy of Egg and Spoon Films

The closing event of this year’s Portsmouth Festivities was themed around Pablo Neruda’s Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair. The event showcased a series of new interpretations of Neruda’s work from leading poets, musicians, actors and filmmakers. Egg and Spoon Films, a small Portsmouth-based production company, were commissioned to produce three short film adaptations as part of the event. Here, co-founders of Egg and Spoon Films, Dr James Rattee and Linda Mason, talk to S&C about their experiences of producing the work.

How did you initially approach the project?

We were very excited to be asked to participate in Portsmouth Festivities. It’s a large and successful festival and an excellent opportunity to showcase new work. From the start we were afforded a lot of artistic freedom, which gave us the chance to think creatively about our response to the poems.

At first, reading Neruda’s poetry was a slightly intimidating experience! His poems are beautifully written, very sensuous and emotive. There’s also a powerful sense of loss, which is palpable across his work. In approaching the poems we knew we had to evoke these tonal qualities.

We were asked to adapt three poems: The Morning is Full, Girl Lithe and Tawny, and Here I Love You. We were keen from the outset to make each film very different. There are some stark contrasts between the poems and, to do them justice, we felt that a mixture of animation and live-action would help us reflect this variety.

Image courtesy of Egg and Spoon Films

What was the production process like?

It was a lot of work! As a company we tend to specialise in documentary, so moving into fiction was an exciting challenge. This meant having to develop scripts and storyboards, as well as cast and direct actors. While this was something that was a new and a little scary, we soon discovered that there are many transferable skills between fiction and documentary production. In both, there is a need to depict events authentically. In a documentary you work hard to make your subjects feel as comfortable as possible so that what you see on screen is genuine and open. With fiction it’s much the same. You’re collaborating with actors and your crew to create experiences that resonate with reality.

We were lucky enough to work with some really talented people, not least an illustrator for Here I Love You. She’s a Portsmouth based artist (Bryony Drew) and her work really makes the film.

Image courtesy of Egg and Spoon Films

What are the films about?

As a poem, Girl Lithe and Tawny mixes infatuation, objectification and lust. The film adaptation depicts an older person’s attraction and unrequited love for a younger woman, as well as memories of her own youthfulness and desire. The Morning Is Full is about the last moments of a couple’s break up. The poem is partly about the calmness before the storm and, in this vein, the film focuses on the silence and stillness of emotional pain. Lastly, Here I Love You is an animated short about a man’s longing for his departed girlfriend. The film’s protagonist sits at the end of a pier, reminiscing and longing for her to return.

Image courtesy of Egg and Spoon Films

How was the screening?

Screenings are always nerve-racking as you have no idea how people will respond. Luckily, all the films seemed to go down well and we had some really excellent feedback. The nicest comments were people saying how the films related to their own experiences. Neruda’s poetry is so powerful as it resonates with experiences we all have, and the films seemed to do something similar.

One of the highlights of the evening was getting the chance to see how all the other artists had responded to the poems. There was some fantastic material there and the event went really well.

The event was also screened live on Facebook – you can still watch the amazing closing ceremony via Portsmouth Festivities Facebook page.

Image courtesy of Egg and Spoon Films

What will happen with the films now?

We are currently in the process of submitting the films to other festivals. If people would like to know more they can visit our website eggandspoonfilms.com,