Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Euroscript Comedy Writing Workshop

Last weekend, screenwriter Trevor Walsh attended the Euroscript Comedy Writing Workshop. Here is his report!

Knock Knock, Who's There? The chicken, The chicken who? The chicken who crossed the road to attend Euroscript Comedy Workshop. It remains to be seen if my joke telling improves as a result, it can't get much worse than this opener.

The first day kicked off with an examination of joke structure, covering the various methods of creating gags and one liners. We brainstormed a random list of famous characters, followed by a list of landmark settings. My effort: What's the difference between Jordan and the Pyramids? One has protruding man made structures visible from space, and the other can be found in Egypt. OK not a great effort, but in my defense we were only given 5 minutes to come up with this gag and the mornings caffeine hit hadn't kicked.

This format pretty much set the scene for the rest of the day, a mixture of structure and theory lessons with practical writing exercises and presentations to the group.

Things got very interesting when we were asked to pick a news story from the days papers and expand on it to write a satirical sketch. I teamed up with a cool Muslim guy called Sec and we picked the news article about the Muslim fundamentalist hate preacher who's daughter was found to be a lap dancer. With a premise like that the sketch writes itself, however Sec came up with the excellent idea of a subversive sketch using the format of Channel 4's The Family and setting it in the household of the hate preacher at the point he finds out about his daughters new profession. This was our chance to test the boundaries, by the virtue of Sec being a Muslim we had carte blanche to be as politically incorrect as we wanted, and didn't we ever! Needless to say it went down well.

Saturday afternoon was dedicated to character development. We were split in to writing partnerships again and given random character traits and a set up to explore. Once we had a good handle on displaying character types through dialogue we were asked to write a stand up comedy monologue.

It’s a technique used by many a stand up, to focus inwardly at things we hate about our appearance, then things we hate about our habits and personalities, finally things that have frustrated us recently. We then flipped these around to find the positive benefits for the items we just listed. I found this to be an excellent method for getting the creative juices flowing.
We were then asked to choose a character trait and view some of our personal observations through the lens of this character. My character was a young, slightly paranoid, sarcastic, cynical, impatient version of me. People who know me may argue this is a good representation of me but I disagree profusely… at 30 can I still be considered young?

Overnight, we were asked to brainstorm interesting comedic characters for day 2 and Sunday was devoted to Sit Com writing. It was a practical day to hone the skills developed through Saturday. We were asked to brainstorm settings for a sit com, two lead characters with high comedic conflict potential and two supporting characters. My sitcom idea, Broken Records - An independent record label run by a cynical, sarcastic producer/owner who's very serious about making his label a success. His dad, an ex 70's rocker takes the artistic director role, and they are in constant conflict over the label’s output. The idea was ultimately fleshed out in to some initial opening scenes for a pilot episode.

Overall I felt this Euroscript course is heavily TV focused but I believe it also had a lot of insightful information for feature writers looking to inject a comedic edge in to their scripts. The heavy and sometimes intense requirement for participation is not for everyone, but I highly recommend writers with an interest in comedy to give this workshop a go. Euroscript are running another Comedy workshop spring next year, check their website for details.

Thanks, Trevor. I'd like this to become a regular feature for this site. Obviously I will always report on events I attend but I can't go to everything! So I welcome guest blogs from anyone and everyone who wishes to report on a course, workshop, lecture or networking event they have been to. Just email me at the regular address!

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