Friday, 14 January 2011

Scene Exercises - Ambience Workshop

Take a look at The Script Lab for a nice exercise on mood and atmosphere. This is a simple exercise for beginners that will let you gain some degree of control over atmosphere in a scene. Remember that the setting for a scene, the mise-en-scene, has its own character and its own energy. Putting someone in a white room with bare walls (something new writers are frequently warned against) has a very different effect to a person arriving in a throneroom of burnished gold.

Think of how a character relates to items in a room. A priest will react differently to the sight of a crucifix than will, say, a vampire. While a Manhattanite will react differently to a room full of Tiffany silver than will a werewolf.

A white room can be used to great effect if we just think about is possibilities first. A white room promises penetration. It promises a space to be filled. But what will fill that space is up to the mind(s) entering it. It's a tabula rasa, but not for long.

I'm reminded of a flashback in Absolutely Fabulous, where Eddy and Patsy visit a hyper-minimalist friend in her 'white box' home. All that's in the room is a white box and a wind-chime-esque chandelier. Patsy, who normally represents every kind of excess in the world of celebrities and fashion, enters the space and inevitably causes chaos. Consider what your character might bring. Like Inception, the dream is shaped by the minds who enter it. How will your character shape your dream?

You can of course reverse this, and see how the space alters your character (a funeral parlour might make a cheery person more depressed; a church may make an atheist awed).

I'd like to hear about your own explorations into scene and ambience. Have you done this or a similar exercise before? What was the result? What is the best example of a character changing their surroundings or of surroundings changing a character? Can you think of any from film/literature?

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