Three sparks inspired the evolution of Annalium. The first was a simple phrase used by a script reader in summing- up the failings of one of my submissions to the BBC's Writer's Room. The work was described as 'Dialogue-heavy'. I took this on board.
The second spark was introduced when listening to a radio interview with Cerys Matthews (lead singer of Catatonia) who had released the album, 'Tir', in her native tongue, Welsh. She said it was something she had always wanted to do and seized the opportunity when not recording with the band. Music critics jumped on it, describing the work as a self-indulgent album which would only be of interest to friends, relatives and members of the Welsh Language Society. But the doubters were proved wrong as the album sold well around the world, particularly in Europe and Japan. It was explained that music lovers in these countries were used to listening to songs in an alien tongue. The quality of her music and the obvious passion displayed in her voice was enough to win the fans over.
The final spark came during a television interview with the French actress Audrey Tautou. She was asked why she had turned down so many offers to appear in big budget Hollywood films. She responded by saying she was being paid well enough to meet her needs at home in France and was staying true to herself in playing roles that were important to her.
Somewhere, deep in the soup of my subconscious mind these three ingredients began to stir and ferment. ' Dialogue heavy', 'Writing from the heart', 'Being true to one's self'. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the first episode of Annalium hit the page.
I was in a local pub on my own with pen and paper. I was not working on any stories at that time, was bored and decided to freewheel - to just start writing anything. I wrote: 'We are flying over a forest...' The natural next step was to descend through the canopy, so I did. But then what? 'A fortified building with large wooden doors. Four people on horseback emerge and disappear into the forest.' I followed them, they were on a hunting trip but there was danger lurking in the depths of the wild tangle of woods. After a while I realised I was writing my own version of 'Gelert', the traditional Welsh folk story that had the whole class of 14 year-olds in tears when our teacher read it to us. The second realisation was that I had almost completed the tale without using any dialogue at all. I was being 'dialogue-light', whilst 'writing from the heart' and being 'true to myself'.
The Lady of Shalott by Tennyson
Inspired this painting by John Waterhouse...
and my short screenplay, 'Elaine'
I trawled my memory-banks for other stories that had inspired me as a child and remembered the poem, 'The Lady of Shalott' by Tennyson and the painting by Waterhouse that I had fallen in love with.
Then a Chinese folk story, 'The Emperor and the Songbird' came out of the ether.
Suddenly I had three dialogue-free shorts in my portfolio, each inspired by those three sparks.
The screenplays, 'Gelert', 'Elaine' and 'Cuckoo' were the first episodes of the Annalium, soon followed by short stories I had written for my children, 'Mezmo' and 'Sadie?'
There was no ready market for this genre at the time, but that wasn't the point. The Annalium was real, it was 100% me and not written for anyone other than me .
Now, with 31 dialogue-free scripts and counting, it's getting a bit out of hand.