Sunday, 26 July 2015

40. Lights! Camera! Action!

I’ve recovered from my cold now. Admittedly, it didn’t hit me as hard this year. Perhaps that’s because it filtered its way through the rest of the family first as this month’s column explains.

The winter holidays have it in for my family. I can’t remember the last time some, or all, of us made it through the fortnight unscathed.

The week before, there’s always an inkling of things to come - a sore throat, an itchy nose watery eyes. I’d blame it on dusting, but my dubious enthusiasm for housework doesn’t appear to counter what’s (not so) affectionately known in my family as The Line Flu.

The first week, hubby and Miss Teen made several tissue boxes and an alarming amount of Lemsip disappear. By the second week, their aches and pains had eased only to be countered by the Little Miss with her coughs and high temperatures, the former she kindly shared with her father.

We’re used to people avoiding us at this time of the year whether it’s our flu or the plague named for our street after we allegedly shared our germs with several neighbours, but there are some positives. Being too sick to leave the house meant we saved money, and of course, hubby and kids were better by the time school resumed. But come that Sunday night, you know who started to feel sick, don’t you? Tissues, please!

I’d also recovered enough to brave, along with my oldest child who came along for moral support (and so I could volunteer her as tribute for the scary stuff like acting), a film making workshop. I have no aspirations or desire to see myself on camera (any camera), but there’s always the possibility that someday I’ll write something that will be transformed on screen and I might witness that transition and watch actors bring my words to life. So, feeling inspired, (and a tad out of my comfort zone) I undertook a marvellous opportunity to learn about scripting, storyline and the processes that lead to watching that story unfold on the big screen.

Hosting this amazing workshop were producer and editor, Luke Graham, and Capricorn Film Manager, Kerry Thomas, who also has her own photography business.


Along with numerous music videos and short films, Mr Graham is also the producer of a recently completed movie, Broke, filmed in my hometown.


After the introductions and a little about their backgrounds, we were off.

Oh! My! Gawd!

I had no idea how complicated it was to make a film. I’m not so ignorant as to believe the industry doesn’t have its complexities, but certainly not to the extremes that we covered in the workshop. The sobering part is - we barely scratched the surface. Much of the afternoon’s session dazzled me. Camera angles, lighting, sound, gaffers, direction, actor interpretation, production, distribution (and assistants to each) – these were things I hadn’t even considered when thinking about movies. There’s an entourage of people responsible for each step of the process. I bet I looked as dumbfounded as I felt.

The morning session was more my speed. We learned about the Three-Act Structure for applying to writing, (beginning, middle, and end or introduction of character, plot, and conclusion.) The first act sets up the world in which the protagonist and antagonist live. Just as an audience needs to believe in the film they’re watching, a book must place the reader into your setting. You need to set up your characters, introduce their goals, their motivations and show the inciting incident (reason) that sets them on their path. This is your catalyst, call to action, the hook. This is where your reader / audience begin to ask questions. What is the goal? Why should they care about these characters? This is also the time to introduce your sub characters – for example the muscle or perhaps the comic relief depending on the story.

The second act shows a series of escalating obstacles that lead the characters closer to their goals, build tensions and have your protagonist face their greatest fear. The audience / reader become more invested in the story. They want to know what happens next. Will the character or won’t they achieve their goal? Who or what stands in their way? (Introduced in the first act.)

The third act, the resolution - this shows the point of no return, the climax and the final turning point. There’s a release of tension and the protagonist succeeds or fails. Often they don’t get what they want. They get what they need. The story must show how the characters changed and grew from the experience. How has the world changed around them? What is the new status quo? This must be answered to the reader’s / audience’s satisfaction if the story (film) is to succeed.

Mr Graham and Ms Thomas gave hours of their time, sharing their expertise, knowledge, and passion for what they do with the group. Even if you’re not interested in the filming side of things, it is an excellent workshop and a fantastic learning experience. There’s a short film festival organised for this coming September, (more information is in the link), but I certainly hope the opportunity arises again for more workshops like this.

That night when I came home, I watched a movie and imagined the camera angles and how they’d come to their decision of how to shoot the film. What was the director thinking when he read the script and how did he decide what he wanted the audience to empathise with so they could participate emotionally and experience the story? What were the actors’ motivations? Which scenes did they shoot first? (And yes, I even looked for mistakes in continuity.) Things I’d never considered before, yet had to consider whilst watching the movie after the day’s events. It was a good thing I’d seen it before because I became so involved in my search and in my thoughts that I forgot to ‘watch’ the film. And considering how many times I watch (or read) a movie (or story), to suspend one’s disbelief and become lost in said book or movie is exactly what you want. When something is seamless, the audience / reader accept the story, become wholeheartedly involved with the characters and follow the story / film to its satisfactory conclusion. Nothing beats a good story!

I’m rambling, I know. There’s so much more I could share. It was such an incredible day and I’m so pleased I went. Not only did I learn more about writing, an entire world I didn’t realise existed was opened to me. I also met some amazing people. There were actors, a couple of writers, camera enthusiasts, editors, directors and combinations of these, each captivated by the workshop for their own reasons and I hope they all do well in their chosen ventures. And who knows? Maybe we’ll all get together some day and create our own short film participating from start to finish in our own marvellous creation.

I have a lot of work to do. :)