Patrick, YFP Director, gives us an update on Digital Storytelling, AFF’s art education program that provides film and screenwriting curriculum and resources to Austin public schools. To learn more about Digital Storytelling, click here.
“Oh crap, mops!”
Thus jumpstarted a screenplay about killer mops, “Mopacalypse,” penned by an especially clever Garza High School student. In the script, a group of terrified teenagers outrun a horde of bloodthirsty killer mops. They swab, sop, and wring their victims into a damp and sputtering pulp.
The table read for the script felt light and breezy, garnering a few laughs along the way. Each Garza student, and even myself, assumed a role in the script and acted the story aloud. By reading the script, the writer gained a sense of momentum and flow to his story. Did the characters sound realistic? Did the killer mop premise hold water (yuk yuk) over the course of five minutes? When the script concluded, the students, teachers, and I harped on these questions and provided constructive feedback for the author. We lauded the horror film parody inherent in the script, and pushed the author to take the premise even further.
“What if someone gets a phone call,” I suggested, “and they hear a mop wringing on the other end?”
“Or the students try to kill the mop, and it breaks into smaller mops, like scrub brushes. . . or toothbrushes!”
“Or the mop dies, then pops back up like Michael Myers in HALLOWEEN?”
“Or there’s a nest of mops run by a Queen?”
“And you see a mop hatching out of an egg!”
The rapid fire exchange of ideas is something I live for in a writing workshop, and I’m always happy to see students catch a spark of inspiration. Along with the help of two other guest filmmakers, I helped each student shape their idea into a cohesive whole. I encouraged the students to cut extraneous scenes and hone in on the material that worked – all killer and no filler. I also reminded the students to add more focus to their scripts. Consider what each character wants and what is stooping them them from getting it. Pinning down a clear goal and obstacles for each character helps spin a tight story loaded with conflict.
We read another script, a music video about a ladybug longing for a human.
“How are you going to direct a ladybug?” I asked.
“You could make it stop motion.”
“Maybe you could use a combination of live ladybug and a fake ladybug for still shots?”
“Or pull a dead ladybug on a string!”
The diversity of the screenplays at Garza High School astounded me. We acted out an absurdist murder mystery about mercury poisoned top hats, felt for a boy who lost his hearing, and cringed at a schizoid werewolf hunting yarn. As a screenwriter, I’m always excited to see where the students take their material. How will the finished product look? Often, the final film will not resemble the first draft of the script. It’s these revisions, growing pains, and sometimes happy production accidents that really breathe life into the creative process.
The next time I visit Garza, the students will have revised their scripts and produced a second draft. I can’t wait to see how their ideas have grown!