Children can write Hollywood Movies. I have established this fact through an experiment, which will be the basis of today’s blog post. I should probably say from the offset that I think children are our intellectual superiors. Intelligence is the measure of one’s ability to learn, and children learn more quickly, more effectively and more openly than their tall, cocksure relatives: adults.
So, like all the best pseudo-science, my experiment began with an expected outcome: that I could take the Hollywood Structure, lay out all of the expectations of a bog-standard, three-act story, and tell my daughters – Lilly Rose (8) and Sophia Maria (6) – to fill in the details. This exercise doesn’t just apply to screenplays, by the way, a lot of novels, short-stories etc. seem to follow at least some if not all of these narrative tropes. It’s intriguing to see the strings so nakedly, however if you adhere dogmatically to everything on the list, you’ll probably find your story A. feels really like a story and B. you’ve heard it before a thousand times.
Still, we had some fun, so if you’re a parent and you want to encourage some creative writing in your little people or you just want to ruin all movies for them forever, here’s what we did:
We went to a café (Vegan, of course – we’re not barbarians) and sat around a table with some coffees (they were all for me) and chocolate brownies (also for me). The first thing we needed was a PROTAGONIST. Lilly enthusiastically suggested the idea of a nine-year-old girl named Kerry. She needed a FLAW – something that she could overcome by the end of the story – and after playing with the idea of her being cowardly, we decided it would be more fun to make Kerry reckless. (Crazy and brave, as the girls put it). This married nicely with what we needed next – a POWER, or quality – which was Kerry’s bravery.
Kerry needed a NORMAL WORLD to live in – a situation that could be disrupted by a sudden incident, and then reestablished for a satisfying conclusion. It also helps if this world piques the interest of the audience. We decided she lived with her father, and her mother was an archaeologist travelling the world. Kerry missed her mother (side-note to all of this in terms of parenting, storybuilding together turned out to be a fascinating insight into my girls’ view of the world – their mother and I are separated, and Kerry missing her Mum was no coincidence).
In the opening of our film Kerry climbs a big tree at school. All the students gather round shouting ‘jump! jump! jump!’ She does so, and lands on a shy boy from her school named – ahem – Joanakin Fishwin Ginnequin III, or Charlie for short. This little boy is fascinated with Irish history, and wishes he was friends with Kerry, but more of that later. Scuffed and limping, Kerry heads home to her Dad where they argue about Kerry’s uniform, and the fact that her Mother won’t be coming home at the end of the week as she had thought. Kerry runs off into the countryside, as the sun is setting, and finds herself in a mysterious cave…
Then the INCITING INCIDENT: the moonlight shines through the cave, Newgrange-style, and illuminates an ancient Celtic pendant, which Kerry puts on – granting her the power to control gravity! Details were a bit sketchy on exactly how she figures this out but of course the first person she goes to is Joanikin Fishwin Ginn – let’s just call him Charlie. He reluctantly agrees to help her, at which point there’s a comedic MONTAGE SEQUENCE of Kerry learning to use her powers. This makes Charlie quite a clever double-cliché as both the WISE MAN (e.g Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars) and the BEST FRIEND (e.g Joan Cusack in everything).
Kerry faces various challenges, including the kids bullying Charlie, and – details, again, are sketchy – evil viking henchmen. All culminating in her facing off against the ARCH-NEMESIS of the piece, another wielder of a power-imbuing artifact… bum bum BUUUM… Kerry’s Mother! (quite proud of Sophia for that idea) That’s right, we went full-blown Freudian on your asses, but it makes a certain amount of sense, what with her being a globe-trotting archaeologist.
But what Kerry doesn’t realise is that her mother isn’t controlling the artifact – the artifact is controlling her mother. All along, the people who cared about her were telling her to calm down and think before she acted. It was always the advice from her father and Charlie. Now, in this crucial moment at the climax of the story, she almost destroys her own mother with her awesome gravitational powers. This is the one person she’s been trying to reach, to see again, to hold. But thankfully she listens to that inner voice, overcomes her anger and recklessness, and in the last moment saves her mother, and plucks the pendant from round her neck.
I finished the last brownie with the girls singing the theme music and using hand gestures to indicate the credits. Now faced with the pleading question ‘But aren’t we going to make it?’ ‘Can I play Kerry?’ ‘Couldn’t you just film it on your phone?’
Sorry kids, I was just taking advantage of your rich imaginations and superior intellects to write a blog post. I think I made my point though. Michael Bay has tried to keep this method a secret for far too long, and I’m blowing the whole thing wide open.