Monday, February 12, 2018

Directing Workshop: Week 5

So the last class was a Sunday afternoon class, which meant that I was a hungry and sleepy person before and after the class. I forgot that I was sleepy when the class started, since we talk about listen to things I care about as a person right now. I alleviated my hunger midway through the class by excusing myself to go eat in the middle of the class. Mm, food. If I were a better manager of my own time, I would have eaten before going to the class, but I manage my time terribly, so I go eat only when the gastric kicks in.

We started off by talking about how there were conflicts and crises in stories. Conflicts were things that were in the way of our main character’s main goal. Crises are small(er) conflicts along the way that the main character may or may not engage in, but ultimately do not hinder the main character from reaching the main goal.

We were supposed to bring and present our chosen 15-minute scripts to the rest of the class, telling the class what our script’s all about, the theme explored in it, the conflict and the crisis on the pages. We spent a good forty-five minutes or so going round the group presenting our scripts to the rest of the group/

The script I have chosen is called “Malam Pertama”, written by Ridhwan Saidi. It’s about two strangers who just got married and are going through their first night together, but they speak different languages so there’s a translator there with them in their bedroom translating for them. I think the main theme explored is the awkwardness of the first night of a marriage between two strangers. Their main goals are to get to know each other better. The main conflict is the difference in language. The crisis is the translator, who is both the facilitator and also the factor that enhances the awkwardness in the bedroom.

What I’ve gathered from trying to analyse and listening to all the other analyses of 15-minute scripts is that short plays (or even short stories) don’t necessarily fit into a traditional story mould (a traditional story mould being the story has a beginning, middle and end). A short story sometimes just wants to point a thing out, such as mine wanting to point out an awkward thing by making it absurd. Some short stories can be character-centric, saying “isn’t this character interesting/weird?” by showing how the character is interesting or weird. Other scripts still can just aim to deliver an image into the audience’s mind, showing for example, a scene right after a car crash.

I guess one can mould a series of events into a beginning, middle and end, and if the script doesn’t connect the dots very well in the script, or maybe connect them in a way that doesn’t suit the director’s taste, then the director would be able to shape it into a form that more pleases them. But of course, if the initial form on the page is displeasing to the director, why did the director choose the story in the first place? Maybe they got paid? Maybe they weren’t aware what they were doing? Who knows?

We also talked about performance concepts and performance forms at the very end. Performance form being a choice from realistic, experimental, pantomime, musicals, et cetera, and performance concept being the art pieces that surround and inform the staging of the play (such as music, advertising, mood, lighting, graphics, et cetera). I don’t think there’s much to add on that.

Next week will be a week off, because of the Chinese New Year holidays, so we’ll resume classes the week after that. Until then,


Friday, February 9, 2018

Directing Workshop: Week 4

So in this latest session we started talking about how to analyse a script, from the apparent to the less-than-apparent. What is apparent on the page are things such as the title of a script, its writer, the characters in it, the stage directions, etc.

To get to the less-than-apparent stuff, Abang Wan asked us to use questions as the key to gaining access to it, mainly the 5Ws and 1H (what, where, who, when, why, how). By asking all these questions, we get to dive deeper into a script and therefore gain a better sense of what the script is trying to do and what story it's trying to tell.

Abang Wan is of the school of thought that when a script goes from the page to the stage, the director is the main story-teller (instead of the playwright), so there are certain liberties that the director is able to take in order to tell a story on a stage. However, before the director can take those liberties, they have to respect the script by analysing it as thoroughly as they can.

The director must get to know the playwright, why they wrote a certain piece, what their thoughts are, what scripts were written by the same playwright  around the same time, what the playwright's critics say about them, what their tendencies are, what they value in a story, what environment were they writing in, and so on and so forth. This is done to respect the writer and understand the core of the written story.

Once that step is done, a director can start diving into the theme of the script. What is the main thing that the script is trying to say? What are the recurring ideas in it? The director decides whether or not they want to keep the main theme. If not, then the director has to find a way to highlight different themes within the same story (not the easiest thing to do, I imagine).

The director also has to find out what questions are being raised by the script. These questions can form the main Acts in the story, as discussed in this Lessons From The Screenplay video here. I like the idea that is put forward by Michael in the video, that Acts are questions that are asked by the story and an Act beginning when the question is first asked and an Act ending when it is answered.

A director also needs to analyse the characters in the story. A director needs to understand their motivations, why they say things the way they say them, their relationships with each other, their relationships with themselves, etc. A director ideally needs to get to a point where they know the characters even better than their actors will. This is so that the roles are cast as well as they can be, and any questions that the actors might have about anything relating to their characters can be answered by the director without wasting much of either's time.

After rereading my notes, I've noticed that in the four weeks we've been going for this workshop, there's not a whole lot about the elements of story in our discussions. We don't talk much about what a story consists of, story structure, what makes for a good story, and similar questions geared towards servicing story. Given that my understanding of the director's job as being the main story-teller, I find this lack of story-related questions a bit peculiar.

But at the very end of my notes for this week, I wrote "find out matlamat utama kita punya watak utama, dana apa yang menghalang dia daripada matlamatnya," and that's like the first thing about what makes most stories, stories: a character wanting a thing, but is kept from the thing by an obstacle or obstacles. So that's comforting. I hope more story-centric discussions happen in the coming classes. I'll also have to do my part by asking story-related questions, if those discussions are going to manifest themselves.