Fiction isn't really my forte but after mentoring at the Ministry of Stories, working on more scripts for clients and discovering genre-bending series such as Wormwood, I have begun to question my own limitations. And what a feeling. It's healthy to embrace whatever you think you are least capable of.
A while back, I went on a two-day Master Class presented by The Game Changer. The aim was to develop a new wave of original filmmakers, producers and writers from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. Over one intense weekend they held sessions on new perspectives in characterisation and unconscious bias, directing your vision, building emotional intelligence, presenting ideas and finding funding
The most inspiring part for me was the directing workshop run by the intense yet charismatic Burt Caesar. He took us through the principles of narrative and how to work with actors to convey a story on set. Then it was time to put theory into practice by writing a two-scene short in about 30 minutes. He gave us a choice of five prompts:
- Stranger in a strange land
- Be careful what you wish for
- Can you judge a book by its cover?
- What you reap is what you sow
- No good deed goes unpunished
I chose the first.
Unfortunately, only a few of us got to read out their scripts.
So in the spirit of growth, it's time to share.
The sun beats down on a lifeless body in the back yard of a Nebraska chop shop. Rodents, ants, spiders and other creepy crawlies scurry across the ground. It is a sweltering, unforgiving noon.
The body begins to move…
Drifter: "Ah … not again. My head."
Voiceover: Hey, you wanna hear a funny story. I have this problem.
I know what you're thinking. Guy gets loose, has a few drinks next thing you know … he's face down in the middle of nowhere.
But this is different. This happens to me EVERY night. I mean every goddamn night. And I always end up in some filthy ashtray of a town, trying to pick up the pieces.
Drifter looks in his pockets for clues about the night before. But all he finds are coins and sand.
Drifter: "Wait, why am I wearing overalls?"
He slowly gets to his feet, still groggy, tripping over random metal bars, tyres and a sodden bag.
Drifter: "I need to get outta here. Wait, where the hell am I? Vinny. Call Vinny. He always knows what to do. He'll straighten things out for me."
Drifter stumbles to the nearest doorway and begins to get his bearings. He feels quesy. After a few wrong turns he finds the toilet and throws up. Violently.
Camera cuts to Drifter's bloody hands as he splashes water on his face and looks up at the mirror. His eyes finally open. Confusion turns to panic.
Drifter: "No, no, no…"
We open on a phone booth as Drifter tries to call Vinny. He barely makes it past five fumbled digits before the line goes dead.
A little girl, young and brash, taps him on the shoulder.
Girl: "Don't waste your time, buster. That phone hasn't rung since the Fifties. It makes a good restroom, though. If you're desperate n'all. But I guess you know all about that.
Drifter: "Beat it, kid. This ain't the time. Wait … where the hell am I?"
Girl: "That's a good one, greaser. Heavy night, huh."
Drifter: "Look, this is stimulating but I need to call my friend asap. Get a ride to my kid's birthday in Salt Lake City."
Girl: "Buddy you are s$%^ outta luck. That's a way and there's a big storm coming. Hey, I thought your kid passed years ago."
Camera pans to Drifter. He's confused and distraught.
Suddenly, a creaking door swings open and a grizzly stranger appears. Shotgun raised.
Stranger: "You can't hide forever, boy"