This week Ellen and Jeremy have run some excellent content workshops. Yesterday morning Ellen provided ace ideas to help kick-start the writing process, and today Jeremy gave us Post It-tastic pause for thought as to different ways to structure what we write. In pairs, we told well-known stories using just a handful of key narrative points.
Andy T and I ended up doing this for two films: Back to the Future, and Elf. After sticking a bunch of bullet point-esque Post Its to the wall, Jeremy told us the next exercise would be to re-angle those stories with one of an assortment of approaches. Andy T and I (blindly) picked Backstory, where the starting point is looong before the action you’re about to focus on takes place. Andy T had a pretty succinct response to the backstory for Back to the Future: namely Back to the Future 3! Then we started to ponder on just what the through-the-mists-of-time opening would be for Elf. We considered Christmas through the ages, the origin of the elves... and then realised there was an obvious beginning. When we shared it with the group we got a round of applause (woo!). I got overexcited about the idea, and as soon as I got back to my desk dashed off a draft of that first scene:
A card onscreen reads: 0001 AD INT. HOUSE - EVENING We’re in a home on the outskirts of Bethlehem. A portly, bearded bloke is huffing and puffing around the house. BEARDED MAN [to himself] This heat, it’s driving me crazy! There’s a knock at the door. EXT. FRONT DOOR - EVENING A man of very tiny stature stands outside, holding a large jug. TINY MAN Hello, neighbour! We thought you might like some nice, cool lemonade. BEARDED MAN Oh, you betcha. TINY MAN Got a glass? BEARDED MAN Sure do, come on in. INT. HOUSE - EVENING The BEARDED MAN crashes about in the kitchen. BEARDED MAN You staying for a glass? TINY MAN Super duper, thanks. They sit down in the sparse lounge. The TINY MAN pours the drinks. The BEARDED MAN take a long glug, winces. BEARDED MAN Stone the crows, how much sugar did you put in here? The TINY MAN has taken a sip from his glass, considers the taste. ￼ TINY MAN Does it taste sweet? We actually made it with less sugar than usual. BEARDED MAN [sighs] I can’t take this heat anymore. I want to move somewhere cold. Like Norway. Or Greenland. TINY MAN Our ancestors are from the North Pole. You’d like it there. BEARDED MAN How’d they end up here? TINY MAN You know, came on holiday... ended up staying. Oh, that reminds me - I saw Dave earlier. BEARDED MAN From the Shooting Star? TINY MAN Yup. Says they’ve been run off their feet. One couple ended up crashing in his manger - and the missus only gave birth to a baby in there! I thought we could take something nice round, bit of a welcome. BEARDED MAN Lemonade? TINY MAN I don’t know. The TINY MAN produces a sheaf of illustrated papyrus pages. I had a look through the Argos catalogue, and there seems to be a three-for-two on Gold, frankincense and myrrh. BEARDED MAN Fancy. Pushing the boat out, isn’t it? TINY MAN Well, it’s not every day something like that happens. I thought maybe we could take gifts to the other newborns. Whaddya say? BEARDED MAN You want me to come? TINY MAN You’re the one with the horse and trap. BEARDED MAN Well, I... TINY MAN Come on, it’ll be fun. He pours the BEARDED MAN more lemonade. BEARDED MAN Ah, go on then. It’s just one night, right?
Elf meets 2001: A Space Odyssey, as it were. Ho ho.
Bravo Jeremy and Ellen - a brilliant and useful time was had by all.