Meet and Greet

TaxisEvery time you come up with a plot for a movie and figure out who the characters will be, the next step is decide how they’re all going to meet. Will it be during the investigation of a crime, in the thick of war on a battlefield, at a party, or on a blind date through the classifieds? The screenwriting exercises in this month’s issue revolve around the coincidental, accidental, intentional and sometimes totally quirky ways that people make each other’s acquaintance. For younger students who haven’t yet mastered the basics of script structure, these lesson ideas lend themselves to extemporaneous storytelling and role-playing skits. Older students are encouraged to draft scenes into correctly formatted screenplays as well as film them for peer review.

 

TABLE TOPICSStadium

These discussion questions provide a good foundation prior to choosing which exercises to try first.

1. How did you and your best friend meet? How long have you known each other? Did you like each other from the very start?

2. What is the first thing you focus on when you meet someone new? (i.e., their looks, their sense of humor, what they’re wearing)

3. What famous person from the pages of history would you most want to invite to your Sunday dinner table? Why?

4. What famous person from the realm of fiction would you most want to hang out with on a weekend? Why?

5. Have you ever done something spontaneous to help a total stranger? Has a total stranger ever stepped up and done something spontaneous to help you?

6. What do you think would be the most unusual place to meet the person who would become the love of your life?

7. If you’re at a party and you don’t know anyone, do you make the first move to approach a stranger or do you wait for someone to approach you? Why?

8. Who is the most interesting person you have ever met and where did your first meeting take place?

JUST SWINGING BY

RobinHoodEveryone knows that Robin Hood and his Merry Men robbed from the rich and gave to the poor and that he was not a big fan of the monarchy. Everyone also knows that Queen Victoria ruled England for just over 63 years (the longest reign of any female in history) and that she was totally devoted to her husband Albert even after his death.

Your assignment: A brief wrinkle in the time/space continuum causes Robin to spin off-course while swinging through the branches of Sherwood Forest and sail through an open window at Balmoral Palace in Scotland. The legendary archer looks up to meet the disapproving gaze of Her Majesty who had been sipping her afternoon tea. Write a three-page scene of what transpires between them.

RIDE SHARE

Taxis

In 1907, less than 70 taxis serviced all of New York City. As of 2010, there are nearly a million drivers currently licensed as cabbies by the city’s Taxi and Limousine Commission. This translates to about 14,000 vehicles, excluding “black cars”, limousines and hotel shuttles. As if so often the case, though, try hailing a cab when it’s rush hour, it’s pouring rain, and you’re running late.

Your assignment: Your character is on his way to an important job interview. As a yellow cab pulls up to the curb, another individual rushes forward and makes the claim that he/she saw it first. Unbeknownst to either of them, the second person is the prospective employer. Write three separate two-page scenes in which (1) one of them gets the cab, (2) they grudgingly agree to share the ride, and (3) their arguing on the sidewalk results in the cabbie driving off without either one.

CELEBRITY SIGHTING

sunglasses

You just never know when someone amazing is going to cross your path. The question is whether you’ll really be ready for it.

Your assignment: Your character decides to pop into a convenience store and pick up some ice cream and cookies. When he or she gets to the cashier, however, the realization is made that there’s not enough money to pay for them. Further, the cashier is in a grumpy mood. All of a sudden, a young stranger in dark glasses steps up and offers to pay. Your character is astonished that it’s the lead singer in one of the hottest new bands. How, though, can this exciting encounter be proved to friends without any pen or paper for an autograph or a camera to take a picture? Write a two-page scene that revolves around this premise.

PIZZA FIT FOR A KING

pizza

Every now and then a wrong number actually has a person on the other end with a sense of humor and a personality we think we might like to get to know. But alas, any possibility of a connection ends at the moment one or the other hangs up.

Your assignment: Prince Richard, future king of Glendorra, is visiting the U.S. on a little publicized diplomatic mission. Confined to his hotel suite for the evening and nonplussed with the room service menu, he decides to order a pizza. Unaccustomed to doing such things for himself, however, he misdials the number and reaches a total stranger who happens to be a lovely young woman. Though she explains to him that he has the wrong number, there’s something about her voice that bewitches him. Write a three-page PHONE INTERCUT scene in which he tries to convince her that he’s a royal.

PEN PALS

PenPal

Whether a relationship unfolds via email or snail mail, having a pen pal is an interesting and rewarding way to learn about other countries and cultures. While lots of pen pal relationships that start out in grade school tend to dribble off as the participants get older, there are also those that not only end up lasting a lifetime but sometimes lead to face-to-face visits as well.

Your assignment: Choose two countries that are as completely opposite as you can imagine. (Examples: Iceland and Cuba, France and Mongolia.) Do some research to learn what the countries are like, how the people live, and what some of their customs are. Write one-page character profiles of two pen pals that start writing to each other in their freshman year of high school. For the second half of this assignment, why a one-page movie synopsis of how old they are when they decide to meet, where the meeting takes place, and what they discover about one another in person that never came through in their letters.

IT’S ALL ABOUT WHO YOU KNOW

Gingerbread

There’s a popular trivia game called “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” in which actors set out to prove it really is a small world by connecting themselves to Bacon in six or fewer steps through their respective film roles. What if this same theory held true for fairy tale characters?

Your assignment: Hansel and Gretel are lost in the woods as the result of pesky birds gobbling up their breadcrumb trail. They stumble upon the most deliciously sweet little house and are about to help themselves to some chocolate shingles when an old crone appears. The plucky pair realize that the only way they can save themselves is to establish that they’re actually friends of a friend of a friend of a friend of the crone’s whom she would never want to have come seeking revenge for their demise. Using various fairy tale characters as the connecting “links”, write a two–page scene between the kids and the crone.


 

ChristinaHamlettAs part of my ongoing commitment to supply great lesson plans for today’s classrooms, I always enjoy getting feedback on how the material is used and what kind of new content you’d like to see in future columns. I’m also happy to answer any questions related to specific problems your students may be struggling with. Just drop me a note at or through my website at http://www.authorhamlett.com.

 


Former actress/director Christina Hamlett is an award winning author, professional script consultant, and ghostwriter. Her credits to date include 26 books, 128 plays for young actors, and 5 optioned feature films.