Author Nick Hornby went back to school to help pupils see what's involved in turning a book into a film. Reva Klein reports
It's one thing to visit a school where you taught ages ago and be greeted with delight by ex-colleagues - it's another to be met with queues of children clamouring for your autograph.
But then, Nick Hornby is not your average ex-teacher. He is hot property as a best-selling author and scriptwriter and as a popular hero among football fanatics of all ages.
His fame and fortune came fast and furiously with publication of his first book, Fever Pitch, which explored his obsession with Arsenal Football Club. His style, wit and obsession with detail, delivered with mix of pride and self-loathing, won him plaudits all around.
Hot on its heels came a novel, High Fidelity, which, like his first book, was a bestseller that at its core was about why lads are the way they are. Then came the film version of Fever Pitch, starring Colin Firth. His latest book, About A Boy (due in April), has made him enough money to keep him and his whole street in season tickets to Highbury until the middle of the next millennium, at least.
But back to the queuing children. They are students at Parkside Community College, Cambridge, where Hornby taught English in the early 1980s. He has come on the invitation of former colleagues as part of a GCSE media studies project on bringing Fever Pitch to the big screen, to which he is adding teacherly hands-on expertise.
Divided into two groups, half the class of 25 work on trailers for the video release of the film of Fever Pitch with a brand-spanking-new, state-of-the-art Media 100 digital editing package. The other half are adapting a section of the book into screenplay form.
For Jane Reed, GCSE media studies teacher, having Hornby there to share his insights and ideas is a real treat. "We've been looking at ways of adapting the text by studying the film and reading corresponding bits of the novel and screenplay. Having the writer here has helped with making the trailer and it's been useful to hear his reasons for decisions on dialogue and music, for instance."
The video-editing software is as new to the college as it is to the students, acquired as a result of Parkside's new status as an arts college with a focus on media. It is one of only six such specialist schools in the United Kingdom.
Hornby observes and encourages. He tells one student: "Many of the clips you have chosen were used on the real trailer. You're on the right track."
The students are chuffed to have the author in their midst. Liam Kelly, 15, says: "You get inside information on what he was feeling when he was writing the book. Normally, we get just teachers and theory."
The trailers are completed and the students move on to look at film distribution and the role of trailers. But the exercise doesn't end there. The students will be sending the author and the producer of Fever Pitch copies of each of the six trailers produced.
Who knows? Maybe one of them will be spotted by the big boys in Hollywood to start work on About A Boy.