Interested in writing for young audiences? And for young performers? Top Australian theatremakers and playwrights discuss the key considerations and approaches in The Wonder Years, a Fresh Ink forum from the Australian Theatre for Young People (atyp). January 2013.
Why writing plays is like juggling
As part of LOVE BYTES, our love monologue competition, check out Camilla Turnbull’s VELCRO.
BAT EYES (2012, Dir: Damien Power, Screenplay: Jessica Bellamy from her original monologue)
“When you are old and grey and full of sleep
And nodding by the fire, take down this book
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep”
BOOT (2012, Dir: Damien Power, Screenplay: Damien Power and Joanna Erskine, based on Joanna’s original monologue.)
Can you save a friendship with a lie?
Sam O’Sullivan performing Jessica Bellamy’s original monologue LITTLE LOVE for The Voices Project. Directed by Laura Scrivano.
Laura Scrivano is a theatre and film director and has recently directed for The Voices Project filmed versions of the original monologues from Joanna Erskine (BOOT) and Jessica Bellamy (LITTLE LOVE), that have also been adapted for Damien Power’s forthcoming films BOOTand BAT EYES. Both Laura’s films and Damien’s will be available online later this month. In this extract for an article Laura has written for the Fresh Ink blog and to be published when her films go live, Laura provides advice to writers and filmmakers who are looking at entering the LOVE BYTES competition.
Writing is all about the words. Right?
Words form the scaffolding around which we build our stories, the foundation stone of the transaction between the audience and the author. And in a dramatic monologue, they’re essential.
But for me, as a director, story starts with character. And a character can be revealed as much by what they don’t say, as what they do. Clever lines and pithy prose don’t offer dramatic possibilities. I’m interested in the spaces between the words, the pauses, ellipses, breaks and breaths. While the words carry the meaning of the story, the spaces between reveal truth. They can make a character believable, empathetic and authentic, which are ultimately the reasons why an audience will invest in and be moved by a story.
The space between is where I started when I was asked to direct Boot and Little Love for The Voices Project. But, there were really two spaces between; those between the words and the space between theatre and cinematic storytelling that these stories would inhabit.
Filming a piece of writing originally penned for the theatre can be fraught with problems. Especially when that piece of writing is a monologue - an inherently theatrical form. Monologues exist rarely on film, and when they do it’s often to alienate or shock the audience. And the brief for Boot and Little Love was to engage the audience with the writing. Although the goal is inherently same in both film and theatre – to tell a story that will move or connect with an audience – the theatrical form is a world away from cinematic storytelling. On film, the audience’s experience is no longer live; the eye of the camera mediates and dictates their visual world, the performance rhythms, the story beats and ultimately their feeling states.
When I was asked to direct Boot and Little Love, I knew that in essence we were creating something in between theatre and film. We were expressing theatrical writing through the cameras lens. The biggest challenge would be to keep the audience watching. Both monologues have 8-10 minutes worth of text – much more dialogue than would ever be in a filmed adaptation of the same story.
In order to keep the audience engaged the performances had to work for the camera, while the visual style needed to be both simple and capture the heart of the story. We achieved this by focusing on the performances, setting up a simple but strong mis-en-scene (the compositional elements in the frame) and finding an editing style that matches the emotional temperature of the stories
Keeping an audience engaged throughout a filmed monologue can be difficult. As cinemagoers we are used to economical storytelling, moving shots, fast paced editing and an orchestral score to keep us in our seats. Unless you’re Steven Spielberg you probably don’t have a large, professional film crew in your back pocket. So, here are some tips on how to make a monologue work on film:
Enjoy creating your own filmed monologue - hopefully my films of Boot and Little Love go some way to providing insight into that space between, from which you can take an exhilarating leap into creative possibility.
Laura Scrivano is the creative director of Mess Hall, a collective of artists creating film & theatre projects (facebook.com/messhallproductions) and tweets at @laurascrivano. Recent theatre credits include Polyopera for Opera Australia, the world premiere of Sweet Bird andsoforth and the creative development of Stories from an Invisible Town for Hoipolloi, UK. Her short film Hairpin will screen at the WOW Film Festival in Sydney on 7 March. Laura’s films of Boot and Little Love will premiere online later this month.