Road Trip!

SuitcasesGetting from Point A to Point B has changed quite a bit from the days of our ancestors. Not only can we now reach our destinations faster – as well as in greater style and comfort than was available to previous generations - we’ve also figured out how to take more of our “stuff” along for the ride. This month’s lesson plans revolve around the subject of moving ourselves and our belongings from one place to another. 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 TOPICSWoodie

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

1. What is the longest trip you’ve ever taken? Where did you go? Who went with you? How did you get there?

2. What is your favorite kind of car? Why?

3. Would you rather be able to (1) fly like a bird, (2) swim like a seal, or (3) run like a cheetah? Why?

4. When you travel on public transportation, do you prefer to sit by the window or on the aisle? Why?

5. If you could travel to any spot on the planet, where would you want to go and how would you like to get there?

6. When you go on vacation, what is the one item that always goes with you? Why does it have special meaning?

I SAW THREE SHIPS

columbus“I’m not saying the voyage is a bad idea,” said Queen Isabella, “but don’t you think asking for three ships is just a bit much?” As earnestly as Christopher tried to explain that he and his crew needed to pack a lot of provisions for such a long and uncertain journey, both the queen and her husband weren’t exactly keen on depleting the kingdom’s coffers. “I’ll spring for one ship,” she promised, “but you’ll have to raise the funds to get the other two yourself.”

Your assignment: Write a two-page scene in which Christopher has a staff meeting with his crew and they brainstorm ideas on how to get a lot of money in a very short time.

MAKING AN ENTRANCE

Woman_PlaneAir travel today has become so commonplace that it’s easy to take it for granted. Back in the day when Pan American Airways’ “flying boats” were crossing the Pacific to exotic ports of call, however, there was an element of glam that accompanied the experience. While the price tag for a commercial airline ticket was high, the number of passengers was small – an equation that lent itself well to stellar service and amiable conversations over cabin cocktails. Not only has the lady in this image had an enjoyable flight but she also has no shortage of admirers to welcome her to her destination.

Your assignment: Using this image as the opening scene of your film, write a one-page set-up that tells us who she is, where she’s come from, where she is now, who gave her the roses, and how her life is about to be changed forever. You may use any genre.

MIXED BAG

SuitcasesOne of the biggest things that people worry about when they board planes, trains and busses and have to check their luggage is that there’s always a possibility the latter will get left behind on a tarmac or platform, break open at an inopportune moment or be picked up by another passenger just because it looks exactly like theirs.

Your assignment: Dolores is a bride-to-be who has packed all of her wedding apparel – dress, shoes, veil – in one suitcase. Professor Jones is an archaeologist who has carefully packed his latest discovery in a suitcase that looks remarkably like Dolores’. Yes, you saw this coming. In their haste to get where they needed to be, they both grabbed the wrong luggage. To complicate matters, the respective luggage tags got torn off while they were being loaded. Construct a two-page film treatment that uses this mix-up as its core premise.

SWIMMING WITH SHARKSDinosaur

ABC’s Shark Tank and BBC’s Dragons’ Den are reality shows in which plucky entrepreneurs pitch their inventions to moguls with the moolah to underwrite their development, marketing and distribution. Some of the gadgets they come up with are clever, others are just mind-numbingly kooky. The quest of each candidate is to make a persuasive appeal; the objective of the judges is to identify all of the product’s design flaws.

Your assignment: The judges have traveled back to the time of cavemen where Oogie, Zog and Borg are excited to demonstrate their respective inventions – a stone wheel, a dinosaur harness and saddle, and a one-man raft. Choose one of these inventors as the subject of a three-page scene in which he tries to convince the panel that his idea is going to change mankind’s mobility forever.

WESTWARD HO!Stagecoach

America’s roads in the rough and tumble Wild West were nothing to write home about, especially if you were traversing them by stagecoach. Not only was the terrain rocky and uneven but drivers and passengers also had to be wary of surprise attacks by Indians and bandits. The inside of a stagecoach was no picnic, either, and was comprised of cramped quarters, hard seats and no glass in the windows to keep out rain, wind and bugs.

Your assignment: It’s the 1870’s and you’re going to be traveling with your family to a new homestead in Colorado Springs. Write a one-page voiceover plus accompanying visuals to show what the worst day of the journey was like. Write a second voiceover and accompanying visuals to show the best day.

THE WHEEL DEAL

BicyclesThe RAGBRAI is an annual 7-day bicycle ride across the state of Iowa. Sponsored by The Des Moines Register, it draws quite a crowd of all ages and is the longest, largest and oldest touring bicycle event in the world.

Your assignment: Using this event as the central backdrop of your movie, create a one-page profile sketch for a character of any age who wants to take part in this race more than anything in the world. In addition to describing his/her lifestyle and most important relationships, identify where his/her love of bicycling comes from as well as what obstacles stand in the way of participating.

THE GATHERING

Robert Frank photoIn 1959, Swiss-born photographer Robert Frank published a collection of images called The Americans which he derived from his two years of travels throughout the United States in the 1950’s. The photos were initially condemned as anti-American because they conveyed a sobering and gritty tapestry of life that was at odds with the country’s media messaging of prosperity.

Your assignment: Closely study the individuals, cars, clothing and rural setting of this photograph. Using this image as the opening scene of your film, assign names and relationships to the three men, determine why all of their vehicles are parked as they are, and what is going to happen in the first 10 minutes of the story.


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.