Gaabriel Becket


 

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646pxRoyal_British_Legions_Paper_Poppy__white_background.jpgToday (11/11/2017) is Remembrance Day in Wales and the UK. Remembrance Day (sometimes known informally as Poppy Day) is a memorial day observed in Commonwealth of Nations member states since the end of the First World War to remember the members of their armed forces who have died in the line of duty. Following a tradition inaugurated by King George V in 1919. To mark the occasion AmeriCymru is honored to present an interview with Jonah Jones, Director of 'Letters Home' which won the ‘Best Short Welsh Film’ award at the recent inaugural Cardiff International Film Festival


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Letters Home from Jaye L Swift on Vimeo.




AmeriCymru: How did it feel to win the Cardiff International Film Festival?

Jonah: It was a surprise to be honest. The various criticisms we’d had up to that point varied from reasonable to downright mean-minded but we’d had a couple of minor hits with some festivals – best foreign film, best war film and a commended or two. Neither Jaye (the writer/producer) nor I had even thought about what to say when we got to the stage. She chickened out and I said something or other but I can’t remember what. I still hardly believe it.


AmeriCymru: How would you describe the film?


Jonah: It’s an intense snapshot of what it must be like to face such numb horror as the slaughter of WW1. We tried to give each of the soldiers a loving and hope-filled home-life, against which we set the stark claustrophobia they experienced in the trench before going over the top.


AmeriCymru: How did the project begin and what was your role in it?


Jonah: Jaye and I were part of a writer’s group based in Bridgend, South Wales and we had often whinged about not being able to sell our work. In the past I had some success with stage and radio plays and she had some more recent success with stage plays – one of which was Letters Home. She had started to put together a team to make the play as a film and asked me to direct it. We took her original script and changed it to make it more filmic – adding the three women and the baby – real name Josh, who behaved immaculately throughout his scenes. I thought of using Suo Gan as a theme throughout and a well-behaved baby gave me the perfect excuse. Jaye found Andy Edwards, a WW1 enthusiast who had built a trench at Morfa Bay Adventure Park near Pendine in Pembrokeshire, West Wales.
Some of the uniforms and weapons came from The Barry at War Museum, South Wales, some from the Tin Shed, Laugharne, West Wales and the rest we hired.

AmeriCymru: How easy was it working with a small crew and budget?


Jonah: If we’d known what we were doing we would have costed the whole project very differently but we ragged and tagged our way through it. Cast and crew did the whole thing for expenses only. That’s how persuasive Jaye can be. We used kickstarter - crowd funding site to get the money for hiring locations and equipment.

The actors were professionals, working for Fluellen Theatre in Swansea and Pontardawe, South Wales but most of whom had never performed on film. AJ (sound) and Matt (camera) were both starting their careers in this field. I had directed stage and radio but this was my first attempt at film.

Because we were a small crew, we were flexible and willing to learn as we went. There were no what we call jobs-worths in the gang. This was very much a team effort. Whatever needed doing got done by whoever was standing nearest.

Filming began on October 11th 2015.

We used a farmhouse owned by a friend of mine for the several “home” locations and filmed the whole project over three days. Problems along the way were circumnavigated as best we could. When the actress playing Tomos’ mother pulled out, Jaye and I looked at each other and decided that of the two of us, she would stand a better chance of playing the role. After that, she was muddying up the soldiers in between takes and dishing out the food while Mark (runner, armourer and smoke-machine operator) was helping them put on their puttees every morning. How they did it during the war is beyond me. It seemed to take forever.

Having shot the “home” sequences in one day, we all stayed at Morfa Bay for two further days to shoot the rest of the film. One consideration was the weather. Jaye had an alternative script for if the weather was wet, changing the location to Passchendaele. Fortunately, the weather remained dry and so we were able to stick to the original idea.

Editing and sound mixing was completed by the team during spare weekends either side of Christmas and we were able to show it to all the people who had supported us at Barry at War museum on 21st of May 2016.

The premiere proper was at Pontardawe Arts Centre (where most of the actors were based) on July 1st 2016 – the centenary of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

AmeriCymru: You funded some (or all?) of the making of “Letters Home” with a kickstarter campaign, how hard was that to make happen? Did it make getting to make the film easier? Do you think crowdfunding opens more opportunities to independent artists?

Jonah: Because we needed specific locations and costumes, the project would have been too expensive for us to fund from our bank-balances, even though we cut it down to the bare minimum. Thank goodness there are people out there who want to fund films for very little reward. In the case of Letters Home all they got was a private showing and a signed DVD. Our crowdfunding experience was entirely positive and much easier than I had been led to believe. If you have a project and you need crowdfunding, my advice is to treat all the sponsors as members of the team, as we did. Keep them in the information loop, tell them about the disasters and the triumphs of the process, show them the out-takes and the team is stronger for it. The film wouldn’t have been made without them.

The kickstarter page; Letters Home

AmeriCymru: Have you had a chance to watch the film as part of an audience? What effect do think it’s had on the people who’ve seen it and was it what you hoped or expected?


Jonah: We’ve seen it a few times and in various locations: Barry at War Museum, Pontardawe Arts Centre, a hotel in Llanelli, Brecon Cathedral (on Armistice Day 2016 – very moving) and most recently in the Vue Cinema in Cardiff as part of the Cardiff Independent Film Festival. Each one of those locations had something special and emotional about it. On three occasions, Trenchfoot – Andy Edwards’ band played. Great band – check them out.


Technically our favourite was the Vue Cinema because the sound of the mine (synthesised by AJ) came up through your feet when you had professional loudspeakers of that size.

Jaye is a very skilful writer and people responded strongly to the suppressed emotions in the film. Most people talked to me about how sad and hopeless thoughts were mixed with heroism and flashes of love, for a real knot of emotions. That pleased me most; that we managed to get across that range of emotions in such a short piece.

AmeriCymru: What was the most challenging thing about making “Letters Home”?

Jonah: Trying to show the size of this horror with such limited resources. We chose to focus on the three men and get inside their heads, rather than try to show the battle. We couldn’t advance across no man’s land, because there were houses surrounding the one in Morfa Bay, therefore we had the soldiers passing camera as they began the assault. Ok – I sort of stole that from All Quiet on the Western Front. I was determined not to show them dying, so that we could all believe that they might have survived.


AmeriCymru: Where can people see “Letters Home”?

Jonah: https://vimeo.com/172583931

We’d be very happy for any feed-back from AmeriCymru readers.

The review in Wales Arts Review

AmeriCymru: You worked at the BBC for many years, what was your career there and had you had prior experience as a film or video director?

Jonah: I worked at the BBC in Cardiff as a sound engineer but the way that the BBC was organised in my day meant that if you fancied a go at something different, they would often let you do it. Along the way, I presented, wrote and presented, directed (radio) and produced. I never directed TV – now you’ve made me feel a bit of a charlatan – but worked on big network productions, so was able to watch the process from the side-lines. Before I joined the BBC however, I was a peg-bar animator, making films that I had written. That meant that I had a good sense of pre-editing (you don’t want to draw stuff that won’t end up in the film).

AmeriCymru: You have another film, “The Caterer’s Reckoning,” which you direct and also wrote, what can you tell us about it?


Jonah: Once Letters Home was done and dusted, Jaye and I thought about the next project. Keep it cheap and make it very different. What can we film in my house? I looked at the creative mess in my computer and came up with a black comedy which had been performed in the New Venture Theatre, Brighton a few years before. Jaye laughed at the script and so I set about turning it into a film. This time we paid everyone – except Jaye and me. If you’re going to this business, do it for love, not money.

The plot? Too many possibilities for spoilers. Suffice it to say; a ghastly married couple who can’t stand each other, wake up after a party in their house to discover something unexpected behind the sofa. We’re just gluing on the music and the effects as I write. Once we have draft one, we’ll show it to people at an arts centre in Cardiff and collect their thoughts before possibly a final tweak or two. Hopefully we’ll start on the festivals circuit with it before Christmas.

AmeriCymru: What’s next for you? What else would you like to do?


Jonah: Two possible films (one written by Jaye) on the subject of Earth’s annihilation as part of the Create 50 Impact project. Three possible monologues of mine to be filmed in Welsh and English. Jaye also has an expensive-sounding script for which we’re trying to get Ffilm Cymru Wales funding. There’s a vague idea of mine for a longer film involving spooky goings-on in Merthyr Mawr (not far from Bridgend, South Wales – wonderfully strange-looking place) but we’ll probably stick to the short ones first.

I also have to come up with a logo for 2 Jays productions.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?.


Jonah: This year was my first ever trip to America and I think I hit two of the best parts of it with the best local guides. The first was Portland, Oregon where we were looked after by the AmeriCymru team of Gabby and Ceri, who took us out into the sort of wilds you don’t get in Llantwit Major, where we are based. The second was San Francisco where a friend of the family showed us around. My partner, the author Mari Griffith (featured elsewhere in AmeriCymru) and I were delighted to make the connections between the Old Country and the New. Hopefully that will be the first of many trips here. Tell your Hollywood friends, maybe they’ll invite us over.

Any other questions or observations – please contact me through AmeriCymru.

Thanks
Jonah.



Interview by Gaabriel Becket

Posted in: Movies | 0 comments

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Shipwreck at Morning Light – Cefn Sidan, Pembrey from the Vyvyan collection


vyvyan.jpgAmeriCymru: How would you describe your work? If you had to choose a genre, what would it be?

Vyvyan: It is a well known fact that Wales is a truly beautiful country with majestic countryside and breathtaking coastline. Most of my work is based on seascapes although from time-to-time, an occasional countryside scene will capture my imagination. Living by the sea with a splendid view overlooking the Gower Peninsula, painting coastline scenes provides me with the “passion" to paint.

The overall style of my work can be described as contemporary and having practised as a graphic designer, my profession has provided me with a strong structural approach to my work especially with the use of colour, composition and technique.

AmeriCymru: How did you evolve as a visual artist, did you have particular influences or was it just more organic? What was your education as an artist?

From very early days, I always knew that art would play an important part in my life. As my education progressed, art became my favourite subject in school and I was extremely fortunate to have the support of my art teacher Wally Jones, who encouraged me to develop my interest in this subject.

Between 1966 & 1968, I studied graphics and fine art at Llanelli School of Art. My fine art lecturer was the well known Welsh artist, Tom Nash. He was greatly influenced by the renowned Welsh artist, Ceri Richards and on numerous occasions, Tom Nash demonstrated the style and contemporary approach Ceri Richards adopted to his work. This obviously left a lasting impression on me and to some degree, has had some influence in the way I approach my work.

During the two year period at the Llanelli School of Art, I also participated in a graphic design course which I enjoyed immensely and found that both these courses provided a perfect blend which has remained with me to this day. My lecturer in graphic design Howie Jones provided me with the platform to develop a keen awareness in graphic design.

Following my Pre-Dip course at Llanelli School Art, I went on to study graphic design at Ravensbourne College of Art & Design between 1998 - 1971. I qualified with a First Class Honours and then my career in graphic design commenced with a London Advertising Agency.


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AmeriCymru: What media do you work in? Do you mix your own paints and pigments? What do you use?

Vyvyan: I tend to work mostly with oil paints as I generally paint with a palette knife on a large format canvas. Apart from the odd watercolour and acrylic, the majority of my work tends to be in the medium of oils and on average, I use a maximum of six colours to achieve the tone of colour for a painting and I never use black paint. Instead, I always use Pain's Grey

AmeriCymru: How do you usually choose your subjects, is it planned - “today a seascape” - or more that you see something and it grows on you or you have to recreate it?


Vyvyan: My work ethic allows me to choose a suitable subject matter weeks in advance. Once I have a subject matter in mind, the planning of when to paint will largely depend on my work commitments with graphic design commissions. When a slot in my programme of work is made available, I make the most of the balance between fine art and graphics.

AmeriCymru: What is your process following the choice of subject?

Vyvyan: Planning is a crucial part of the preparation. Choosing the format (landscape or portrait), composition and styling is the first step and once I set my mind on the approach to take, I am then eager to start. If an opening from my graphics work allows me the time to commence with a painting, I’m in paradise!

AmeriCymru: Do you work mostly in a studio or en plein or both?

Vyvyan: Most of my work is undertaken in my studio as I find everything is at hand and I’m in control of the environment. Having practised as a graphic designer for nearly 40 years, I’m used to working in a comfortable studio environment. When weather permits, I go on location with my camera to photograph scenes that I can use as a reference. However, it has been my ambition to paint on location in Italy one day!

AmeriCymru: (If both) Which do you prefer and why?

Vyvyan: Given the choice, a studio environment would be my preference from the simple reason that I would be in control of the environment to work in.


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AmeriCymru: What would be your ideal creating space and what would be in it?

Vyvyan: I am fortunate to have two studios - one for graphics and one for fine art. In both cases, they are bespoke and have been set up specifically for the type of work to be carried out. My graphics studio focuses on the right environment for computer work - dust-free and well structured interior - contains large format Apple Macs, library and reception area whilst the fine art studio has more of a care-free surrounding with modular display units, large flat white table, working desk and drawing board, paint cabinet, two large easels and daylight freestanding lamps.

AmeriCymru: In the studio, what do you use for visual reference?

Vyvyan: With recent advancement in technology, I now work mainly from photographs taken of various scenes and I use my iPad as a working tool to enable me to scale and view images as a whole or in sections. This is a perfect reference tool for a studio environment.

AmeriCymru: Do you have a favorite work that you’ve created and why is it your favorite?

Vyvyan: My favourite piece of work is titled “Shipwreck at Morning Light” (see attached). It is a large format oil painting (60in x 29in) painted with a palette knife of a well known shipwreck of “SV Paul" which beached during a storm in the 19th Century at Cefn Sidan, Carmarthenshire. The skeletal remains of the wreck emerge from the sand when the tide retreats and at certain conditions, the striking silhouette of the wreck forms a very powerful image. This is a scene which I have a very personal connection since my youth. The original which had been on display at our local Golf Club for a year has now found place in our home - as a special gift to my wife! Large format limited edition canvas print of this painting and one other have been purchased by the Golf Club and are now proudly displayed in the restaurant area.

AmeriCymru: Do you teach or collaborate on projects with other artists?

Vyvyan: As my design business his still an active profession, I haven’t had much free-time to be involved in teaching or collaborating with other artists. However, I am fully aware of the need to do so and it is one of my ambitions to form an Art Centre whereby local people can be encouraged to show their talent. I have met a number of local people since I moved to this area who are interested in art and with some support, I am sure that this dream of mine can become a reality.


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AmeriCymru: If you had advice for a young artist, what would it be?

Vyvyan: Based on experience, I would advise young artist to find a way in developing their talent. Whether it is through education, visiting art galleries, seminars, art is a special gift and one must capitalise and built on this opportunity and find the passion to move forward.

AmeriCymru: Do you paint commissioned pieces as well?

Vyvyan: I have produced some portrait work but I tend to stick to my personal plan. There is so much more painting I want to do which leaves very little time for special commission pieces to be undertaken.

AmeriCymru: Where can people see your work?

Vyvyan: For the majority of people, my work can be viewed on my personal website vyvyancollection.co.uk I have exhibited in galleries in London and Cardiff but I have found a niche to display my work in an environment that complements my style of paintings. Currently, I have furnished two of the top restaurants in West Wales, the Coast restaurant in Coppet Hall, Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire and the Beach House restaurant, Oxwich Bay, Gower. In addition, I have a selection of work displayed at the luxury hotel, The Grove of Narberth in Pembrokeshire.

AmeriCymru: Any final message for the readers and members of AmeriCymru?

Vyvyan: Readers and members of AmeriCymru can hopefully relate to some of my work. Through some of my paintings of landscapes and seascapes of Wales, “Hiraeth” can fill some of people with national pride for their homeland and “a longing to be where one’s true spirit lives - a place and belonging."


Posted in: Art | 0 comments

The Terry Davies Story coverThe bestselling autobiography of the first superstars of rugby union, Terry Davies, has reached the shortlist of rugby book of the year at a prestigious awards.

Terry Davies - Wales’s First Superstar Fullback by Terry Davies with Geraint Thomas has reached the The Cross Sports Book Awards Rugby Book of the Year short list.

‘The Cross Sports Book Awards is the major annual promotion for sports writing and publishing leading to Father’s Day. The Awards will be filmed and aired on Sky Sports.

In his autobiography, Terry Davies reveals the truth about his life in rugby in the 1950s as well as the loss of his talented brother to leukaemia at a young age.

He also reveals all about what happened to that crossbar that was stolen from Twickenham in 1958.

The book tells of the remarkable life story of the Lions star, encompassing his childhood in Llanelli, learning rugby in Strade School, making his debut as a schoolboy for Swansea, entering the Royal Marines and winning his first cap before going on to become a household name

The boy from Bynea, who combined the good looks of a young Robert Redford with silky skills and tough as teak tackling, went on to wow crowds across the rugby playing world through his displays for Wales and the British and Irish Lions in 1959. The 2017 British and Irish Lions will embark on their tour to New Zealand in June.

From the highs of touring New Zealand and beating the All Blacks in their own back yard to the lows of a career-threatening shoulder injury, his rugby journey, which began as a nervous 17 year old one rainy day up in Ebbw Vale and ended with universal acclaim, is real Roy of the Rovers stuff .

‘Terry is a natural storyteller,’ said co-writer Geraint Thomas, ‘His book is packed with humour. He typifies the Welsh humour once so prevalent amongst the working class,’

‘His tale is both a social commentary and cultural account of Welsh life pre and post war as well as a priceless account of a bygone age of rugby union’ added Geraint.

‘As a young inspiring player he left a huge impression on me due to the way he stood out from the rest.’ added Sir Gareth Edwards, who wrote the introduction to the book.

The book is presented in memory of Terry’s brother Len, who was caped for Wales before Terry, but died in his twenties of leukaemia.

Geraint Thomas is a Swansea Valley based journalist, writer and playwright. After graduating from Cardiff University's School of Journalism he secured a position as a news reporter on the South Wales Evening Post where he is currently still employed. He also writes the occasional feature for Swansea Life magazine.

Category winners will be announced at a star-studded black tie dinner at – Nursery Pavilion, Lord’s Cricket Ground on 24th May at 6pm.

The winners of the awards will become the shortlist for the overall Sports Book of the Year 2017, voted by the public at www.sportsbookawards.com.

The Terry Davies Story: Wales’s first superstar fullback by Geraint Thomas (£9.99, Y Lolfa) is available now.

Posted in: Book News | 0 comments

Obituary of Dr. J. Marshall Bevil


By gaabi, 2017-02-09

AmeriCymru member Dr. J. Marshall Bevil has passed away this last week in Houston, Texas. Jack Bevil was a husband, father and grandfather.  A Doctor of Musicology, forensic musicologist, composer and arranger and a teacher of music, for years he directed the Lovett Elementary school string orchestra and mentored other school orchestras to competitive performance, teaching hundreds of children, changing their lives and improving their communities.  

Jack Bevil played and composed for the Welsh crwth and was kind enough to speak on and perform the crwth for us at the 2011 West Coast Eisteddfod. You can watch him performing, and speaking a little Welsh, at the event, below:

He was kind of enough to share audio files of his performance on the crwth with us all here:

Jack Bevil was an amazing addition to our community here on AmeriCymru, an artist, a scholar and a very decent human being who was proud of and worked to share his Welsh heritage.  We are honored to have had the immense pleasure of meeting him and being the recipient of some of his generosity and kindness.  There is no one else like him and he will be greatly missed.

Dr. Bevil's family have posted the following regarding his memorial service on his page on facebook:

"Jack's memorial arrangements are as follows.

"Friday 5pm-8pm: Visitation at Klein Funeral home. 9719 Wortham Blvd., Houston, TX 77065


"Saturday: 10am memorial service at Klein Funeral home.

"Saturday: 1:30pm short graveside ceremony at Anahuac Cemetary.

"In lieu of flowers, please make a donation to Camp Sweeney. It is a camp for diabetic children. I attended the camp every summer between ages 11 and 18 and it truly changed my life. Jack was very thankful a place like camp Sweeney existed and would like to pass that gift on to others. Follow the following link if you would like to donate. https://www.campsweeney.org/donate/

"Please contact Dafydd Bevil if you have any questions."

You can find his obituary here, on the site of the funeral home: http://www.kleinfh.com/m/?p=memorial&id=1920332

Posted in: News | 0 comments

Tis’ the season to be jolly, giving and grateful and AmeriCymru is thankful for all our amazing members, for your friendship, your contributions to the network and everything we’ve learned from you all over the years.  

The end of 2016 marks eight years of AmeriCymru.  Thousands of people around the world found the site, became part of it and joined us in celebrating Wales and Welsh heritage, sharing your own experiences and telling everyone more about Wales.  We created a non-profit, the Meriwether Lewis Memorial Eisteddfod Foundation (MLMEF) and used it to put on five years of the West Coast Eisteddfod as a live event, bringing Welsh and Welsh-American writers, musicians and artists to new audiences, and to sponsor years of our online competitions.  

Please donate to support AmeriCymru in the New Year!





Donations are paid to the Meriwether Lewis Memorial Eisteddfod Foundation, a US 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation in the State of Oregon.  You can verify our non-profit status on the IRS website and find us on charity reporting sites Guidestar, Great Non-Profits and CharityScout


Nadolig Llawen, Merry Christmas from AmeriCymru! red dragon on Christmas tree

In 2017, we are honored to participate with the New Welsh Review and Aberystwyth University to sponsor the AmeriCymru Novella award, a first-ever opportunity for Welsh and Welsh-American writers in the United States and Canada to participate in the New Welsh Review Writing Awards.  This competition has previously only been open to writers in Wales.  

In addition to allowing Americans and Canadians to submit work for the first time, the competition is being judged by its first Welsh-American, AmeriCymru member David Lloyd.  David was the winner of the 2015 West Coast Eisteddfod short story competition and the editor of Other Land, a collection of poetry describing the Welsh and Welsh-American experience, in addition to authoring other collections of poetry and novels and directing the creative writing program at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York.  

We need your help to make this and other projects possible with your tax-deductible, year-end donation.  We are sponsoring the competition, the competition prize and bringing our judge and the winner of the novella category to Hay-on-Wye in Wales to receive their prize at the Hay Book Festival.  Everyone who works on our projects and events is an unpaid volunteer, Ceri and I included and, of course, we also donate out of our own pockets to fund activities. 100% of your donations goes to fund costs of the projects and events we put on.

Please show your support and donate this holiday season!  Help us bring on the Welshness!







Gaabriel Becket from Welsh-American social network americymru.net interviewed mezzo soprano Megan Morris after her performances at the 2011 North American Festival of Wales in Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Posted in: Music | 0 comments

This is a hilarious portrait series by Washington state photographer, Kevin Horan, for a show in Dallas, Texas called "Critters." I would love to go see this whole show!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-sight/wp/2016/08/01/these-may-be-the-most-magnificent-portraits-of-goats-and-sheep-youll-ever-see/

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