What did we do?
This week we started with a class exercise. We were given pieces of blank paper and told to write down a character. Their name and a profession, their age or a personality trait of theirs. We then folded them and put them in a hat. We randomly pulled out new pieces of paper with characters on them. This process continued with writing down a name, then on another piece a location and then finally an object.
For my chosen pieces, I got:
Phil Striker- Construction worker, addicted to caffeine.
From this, we were told to write a theatre piece and here are a few of the ideas I came up with:
- Phil is working on rebuilding a certain part of the prison. The Joker has manipulated him into smuggling a gun into the prison.
- Phil and the Joker are cellmates and they steal a gun from a prison officer.
- Phil visits the joker in prison as he killed Phil’s daughter.
I eventually chose my first idea and here is my script so far:
Large visiting room in prison. Guards are placed at every entrance. In the middle of the room is a table and two chairs, Phil is sat on one.
Joker enters and sits down, grinning at the man.
JOKER: Phil! My old buddy, how are you? (Joker stands to go and hug him but is immediately reprimanded by guard causing him to sit once again.)
Phil stays in his seat, eyeing the Joker nervously.
JOKER: Tough room, huh? (Sighs) I’m happy to see you. I knew you’d come.
PHIL: (Stutters) I did as you asked. I have what you want.
JOKER: Now now Philip! Slow down! (Grins) We have a lot to catch up on, let’s not get down to business just yet. Or I’ll start to think you don’t enjoy my company. Now, is it a magnum? Revolver?
Phil begins sweating, eyeing the stoic guard.
PHIL: It’s a 19 millimetre semi-automatic pistol.
JOKER: Ooh! (Claps hands) Brilliant. Now, do you wanna hear a secret?
PHIL gulps before shaking his head.
PHIL: I wanna leave.
JOKER: (Fake pouts) You’ve hurt my feelings, Phil. Now, I forgive you but I’ll ask you again. Do you wanna hear a secret?
JOKER leans forward in his chair.
JOKER: You know that wife of yours? Beautiful Sarah that I promised I wouldn’t touch if you got me a gun?
PHIL nods slowly, looking terrified. JOKER leans forward even more.
JOKER: She’ll be dead by the time you get home.
PHIL jumps up.
PHIL (shouting): No! You promised you wouldn’t hurt her!
Guards start walking over. JOKER grins.
JOKER: She’ll look beautiful in her coffin, well, that’s if you find all of her body. (Laughs)
PHIL screams and guards restrain both men, dragging them out of different exits.
JOKER: This is my game, Phil but thanks for playing.
Scene ends as audience are shown the shape of a gun under JOKER’s clothes.
Prison cell. JOKER is on the inside whilst PHIL is on the outside.
JOKER whistling. PHIL is working on reconstructing the roof further down the hall.
JOKER: A naked blonde walks into a bar, carrying a poodle under one arm and a 6 foot salami under the other. The Bartender says, ‘So, I don’t suppose you’d be needing a drink?’ The blonde says-
PRISON GUARD: Shut up!
JOKER raised his hands in mock innocence. PRISON GUARD rolls his eyes.
PRISON GUARD: Arrogant prick.
JOKER: It ain’t arrogance if you can back it up. (Smirks)
PRISON GUARD goes to respond but gets a call on his walkie talkie.
PRISON GUARD: Ok, copy that, I’m on my way. (Turns to PHIL) I’ll be back in a second. If he gives you any trouble, just ignore him.
PRISON GUARD leaves.
JOKER: Do you want to hear the rest of my joke?
PHIL ignores him.
JOKER: Is that a yes? Or a no, Phil?
PHIL: How do you know my name?
JOKER: (chuckles) Sarah told me. Such a sweet lady.
PHIL: Wha- How do you know my wife?
JOKER: Well, she doesn’t know me but I sure know her. (Grins) How’s she doing, anyway? You both must be deeply saddened by your loss.
PHIL: What the hell are you talking about?
JOKER: (Pauses.) Oh no, don’t tell me she hasn’t told you? (Throws arms up) Well damn, I’ve let the cat out the bag!
PHIL: What are you talking about?
JOKER: Sarah, sweet lovely Sarah had a miscarriage.
After this, we discussed our characters inner and outer conflicts. We also discussed how the days writing would impact our writing in the future. Through writing this piece, I have learnt a lot about theatre writing and I was able to look up some examples of theatre scripts to see if mine were similar. I looked up the script of one of my favourite musicals ‘Mamma Mia.’
(Sophie is onstage by herself. She hears her friends calling to her, the ﬁrst to arrive for her wedding.)
ALI: (offstage) Sophie!
LISA: (offstage) Sophie!
(ALI and LISA climb over the wall.)
ALI: Sophie! Ahhh!
SOPHIE: Ali, Lisa. Where have you been? I thought you’d get here hours ago.
From this script, I picked up little techniques that would make my script look more professional, such as using capital letters for the characters names and making actions centre aligned whereas dialogue would be left aligned. I will go into more detail with what I learnt later.
For our next task, we worked on subtext. Subtext is the underlying meaning behind dialogue. We were given the task of writing a script featuring two characters that were both speaking with subtext. Both were saying something but meaning something else.
For my piece, I chose to write about two Christian girls who are discussing gay marriage, however, they are both secretly in love with each other. Except only one of the girls is willing to admit she has fallen in love with a girl.
Two girls sitting at a picnic table.
NINA: Did you hear about what’s happened in America this morning?
CHLOE: Oh god, what’s happened now? (groans)
NINA: Well, they’ve legalised gay marriage.
CHLOE freezes and stares at NINA. CHLOE grasps the cross around her neck.
NINA: Yeah. To be honest, I don’t think it’s such a bad thing.
CHLOE: Me neither but our parents are gonna lose it.
NINA looks down at her own cross necklace.
NINA: Probably. But what’s so wrong with a man loving a man or a woman loving a woman?
CHLOE looks away, missing NINA’s nervous gaze.
CHLOE: We’ve both been raised to believe it’s wrong and that it’s a sin. What’s changed in your mind?
NINA: (Sighs) I realised that maybe, I had fallen in love with a girl.
CHLOE’s eyes widen.
This is a piece of writing I intend on working on more as I feel that it’s an interesting concept that could be explored in multiple different ways. I chose to write this plot as I felt that stories often focused on straight couples, especially in the Young Adult genre as most feature a love triangle featuring two guys and a girl or two girls and a guy. I wanted to turn the tables on this trope as I don’t see a lot of gay representation in certain forms of media, aka YA books.
Our next task was to write a film script. The only ‘theme’ we were given was ‘The writing is on the wall.’
For this task, I came up with several ideas which included:
- Person goes missing, police find kids drawings in basement.
- Person is murdered, leaves clues written on walls
- Serial killer taunts police by writing clues on walls
- Messages are found under wallpaper
- Anonymous student is writing other students secrets on notice boards
I finally settled on my first idea and here’s what I wrote.
Old man with no children who lives alone disappears. When the police investigate, they find children’s drawings on the walls and messages written on the walls in the basement.
OLD MAN- Peter Jenkins
POLICE OFFICER- Trisha Yates
POLICE OFFICER 2- Alan Humphries
Run down cul-de-sac with only a few houses. Afternoon. Two police officers are standing outside a small, rundown house.
TRISHA: This is the house?
ALAN nods, looking up at the house.
ALAN: Yeah. His name is Peter Jenkins, 84 year-old white male hasn’t been seen in 5 days. His neighbour Cathy Hargreaves reported him missing after noticing his cat hadn’t been fed. She went over to see if he was home and said his post was piled up and there was no answer. She checked back every day for 4 days before reporting it.
TRISHA: So his kids didn’t notice?
ALAN: He doesn’t have any. Lived here alone since 1989.
TRISHA and ALLEN walk up to the front door and TRISHA knocks.
ALAN: (Snorts) If he’s missing, he isn’t going to answer is he?
TRISHA rolls her eyes.
TRISHA: Mr Jenkins? Open up, it’s the police.
TRISHA: Would you like to do the honours?
ALAN breaks the door down and they step inside.
TRISHA: Mr Jenkins?
ALAN: You take the kitchen, I’ll take the living room.
The two split up and search. The kitchen is an off yellow colour with scuffed counters and dusty curtains. A box of cereal is laying on the counter, half open. The living room consists of a faded beige carpet with tan walls. A patterned grey sofa is situated in front of an oak coffee table. On top of the fireplace is a TV that’s showing Channel 7 news. The two finish checking the ground front before finding a door that leads to the basement.
TRISHA and ALAN look at each other.
ALAN: Ladies first?
TRISHA rolls her eyes once again.
TRISHA: My hero.
ALAN: At your service.
TRISHA goes down the stairs, followed by ALAN and flicks on the light switch. They are met with shelves of food and stacks of clothing in the dimly lit basement. TRISHA picks up a piece and holds it up.
TRISHA: (Frowning) This is kids clothing.
ALAN takes out a torch and flashes it on the lilac dress TRISHA is holding.
ALAN: But he never…
TRISHA: Had any kids. I know. But then why does he have kids clothes?
TRISHA begins looking through the other piles of clothes and discovers they are all of a similar size, with either dinosaurs, footballs or animals on the front.
ALAN shines his torch around the room and stops when he finds another door.
ALAN: Trish, look.
TRISHA looks over and sees the door. The two share a look and move towards it. The door is padlocked with several other sliding bolts. ALAN pulls at the lock with no luck.
ALAN: There has to be a key around here somewhere.
The two begin searching.
ALAN: What do you think is in there?
TRISHA: To be honest, after all the cases I’ve worked, I really hope it isn’t what I think it is.
ALAN: Maybe it’s like a homemade safe?
The two continue searching until they find the key hidden between a yellow ‘for ages 5-6’ sundress and a pair of ‘for ages 7-8’ paw print pyjamas. The two are both becoming more uncomfortable and apprehensive.
They walk to the door and unlock it. ALAN shines his torch around the room. They are immediately met with the stench of mould. On the stone floor was a mattress, decorated with stains of varying colours. Near the end of the bed was a small, metal toilet and a cracked sink. On the adjacent wall however was drawings. Countless colourful pages stuck onto the wall. Stick figures drawn in crayon littered the pages. One, however, caught ALAN’s eye.
ALAN gestures at a drawing near the bottom of the wall and TRISH looks. The drawing was titled ‘The day I left mummy and daddy.’ The picture contained the image of a stick man grabbing a small girl and pulling her into a black van. In the bottom left corner, the name Emily was written in messy handwriting.
TRISHA: (Shaky voice) Alan, do you remember Emily Hart? She was abducted by a man in a black van in 1999.
ALAN: Oh dear god.
Then the puzzle began to fit. They saw that every drawing had a name at the bottom. Each correlating with a child that had gone missing in the past 40 years. Emily Hart was 7 when she was taken. Then there was Marko Derill who was only 5 when he was taken in 1992. Before that, there was Sadie Lewis and before her, there was Lizzy Barnes. The list went back decades.
All of their names were here.
But where were they?
And where the hell was Mr Jenkins?
What did we learn?
Through these tasks, we learnt about the script writing format, both for theatre and film. We also learnt about subtext which is the underlying meaning behind words. Another thing we learnt about was conflicts, internal and external. Internal conflicts are conflicts that a character struggles with within themselves, such as struggling to make a decision whereas an external conflict is a conflict between two or more characters or between a character and their environment etc.
We also learnt that films are visually driven whereas theatre shows and radio shows are dialogue driven. Most theatre shows have social, emotional or political messages behind them as well. We learnt a lot about what was behind the scripts.
I found writing scripts to be really interesting as it was a form of writing I hadn’t explored before. I really like the idea of the writing in this format as it allows the reader to have some freedom when imagining the characters and the setting.
Why did we do it?
The purpose of these tasks was to learn more about script writing. We learnt about both theatre script writing and film writing for multiple reasons. One being that when we come to our FMP’s, we can choose to write a script as our format. Another reason being that we now know how to write scripts which will be extremely useful when we are trying to pursue careers in this field. Ability to write scripts of different formats will help our CV’s when applying for jobs in writing.
How do you feel about it?
I found these tasks to be really thought-provoking and practical for our FMP’s and future careers. I loved being given an outline (The writing on the wall, choosing random characters etc) and then being able to let my imagination run. I feel that as I discovered different forms of writing, it has opened up a new world of writing possibilities for me and I will definitely be doing more script writing in the future as I found it to be something I really enjoyed.
How will it impact my writing?
The lessons of this week will impact my writing as I now know a new writing format and style. I think that I will now be able to explore a new side of writing through this format as well as being able to discover different plots for stories that may not work in other formats. I feel that it will also help me when writing dialogue in anyway as I will remember to focus on what the characters are actually saying and what they mean aka subtext.
What do I need to develop?
I think that I still need to work on scriptwriting to become better at it and I plan on working on it more in the future. I also want to work on subtext more as I think it is a really crucial aspect of all writing, not just script writing. I plan on working on both of these as the year continues and as we begin other projects.