Tuesday, May 31, 2016

My Sophia Ballou Bio

The Soundtrack: Whipped Cream and Other Delights by Herb Alpert.
The Scene: a strange mixture of the American Ideal overlaid on police sirens, helicopters and the racing of engines. Outside the place and backstage, there are all manners of people migrating. They're moving from their hideouts, caves, dugouts or hovels and moving on toward the cornershops, pawnshops, pornshops or late night churches. But inside the place, “the scene” are potted plants drying out by the moment, and Herb Alpert channels bliss from beyond the vinyl dumpyard.
The Characters: this is a tricky mix. There's a dishwasher, a picture framer; a Boy Scout, a soldier. They're all talking at once: recounting tales of war, dirty dishes, beveled picture frames and singing summer camp songs. “You can't ride in my little red wagon, the backseat's broken and the axle's draggin'...” The doorbell rings, enter stage left: a trumpet player, a tap dancer; ancient car restorer, movie actor. The movie actor says, “The bartender, the waiter; the student, and the once jailed speeder are on the corner by the liquor store. They said something about gin and tonic, Manhattans; grappa, and blood and sand.”
The Action: the party gets swinging. The picture framer is in the kitchen washing dishes, much the dismay of the dishwasher. The bartender explains the finer points of a particularly violent game of cards to the soldier who quietly explains the reason why he's not allowed to play games, much less the violent ones. The trumpet player and the tap dancer look through the vast collection of Herb Alpert records. These two are pretty close in proximity, both time and space. And Herb Alpert's pretty cool.
The Conflict: enter the writer. He comes from stage right, some hidden, darker hallow from the depths of the house. He moves into the room and the record stops. The soldier fits inside the student, the student then into the Boy Scout. The bartender and the waiter, down their drinks and fade into the walls, the ancient car restorer follows suit then the once jailed speeder. They dispense into the room, the walls, thin air, each other. The writer flows through the house and into the kitchen. The picture framer continues his work at the sink, soap suds rippling heat waves through his cut fingers. He turns off the tap, the job's done. He faces the writer and in stride vanishes into the dish soap smelling air of the stale kitchen.
The Sound: a faucet hiss, a sigh, the refrigerator’s hum.
The Motion: the filling of a water glass. The view from here, out the kitchen window: Ansbach, or Al Basra, or Denver. Beyond the lilacs it could be San Francisco or Vermont, or Portland, or Tucson.
The Spread: ten to one. No one here gets off easily, at least not that easily.
The Outcome: Law suits, lawn suits; leisure suits, Umbrella Factory suits.
The Writer: like all the other dudes, call this one: Anthony.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Building the CV, Teach a Workshop

A few months back, I met a fella who was, at least partly, in charge of a local film festival. After introductions, I told him that I have a film that in recent months had been making a very short tour of film festivals. He urged me to submit. In the course of conversation, he also invited me to teach a writing workshop for animators. Having worked with animators before I eager jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately, it was all talk. His counterpart at the film fest declined my film and I did not teach the workshop. I submit, humbly, to this blog: my workshop outline.

 Into to Screenwriting for Animators

Objective: a basic introduction to writing for the screen with a focus on 1) Dramatic Situations, 2) Plotting 3) Definition of characters and their roles and 4) dialogue construction.

The method: Write a short screenplay in an anecdotal tone based on a joke.

Preamble: The joke. Common structure of jokes coming in threes, the predictability and the punchline (denouement/outcome). What jokes appropriate for this exercise. Anthony's joke:
Three guys are on a deserted island. One of them finds a genie lamp and rubs it...out pops a genie. The genie grants three wishes (ever notice how these things come in threes?). The three guys decided, very democratically that they each get one wish. The first guy wishes that he was home with his friends and family. Poof! He's gone. The second guy decides that he wants the same thing, and poof! He's gone too. The third guy looks around and says “Man, this place is lonely without those other guys, I wish they were back here with me.”

Part one: Intro to the 36 Dramatic Situations. Handout: the list of all 36. In this workshop we will on two or three of these dramatic situations. It's good to have exposure to all 36, but for the sake of this workshop, limiting the dramatic situation to the less complicated ones is best. For instance, in Anthony's joke: Erroneous Judgment or Recovery of a Lost One are the likeliest situations.

Part two: Intro to the seven basic plot lines. Handout: the list of all 7. Like the Dramatic Situations, we will focus on just two or three of these. Anthony's joke: The Voyage and the Return is probably the likeliest definition. Or more rudimentary: human vs. nature.

Part three: Characters defined and their roles in the telling of a story. Handout: the list of Types of Characters. We will focus on the Protagonist, Antagonist and the Foil. Anthony's joke: The first two guys are protagonist, since we can sympathize with them and their situation. The situation itself functions as antagonist and the third guy functions as the foil.

Part four: Construction of dialogue: This is the bulk of the workshop. Writing exercise first, a reading of the script and an individual mentoring with each script. Anthony's practice, to end each characters line at the first period (.), the notion that we talk through one another rather than talking to each other and natural speech.

Conclusion: How do these elements work on the screen? Group discussion about a popular movie and a deconstructing of it by Dramatic Situations, Plot line, Characters and their dialogue.