Skills > Workshops > Previous NWTC Workshops > Writing and directing Jan 2016 >

Workshop wonders!

Once Finding Sophie was over, NWTC hosted four workshops which were run by Janice Dunn.


On Saturday 23 January, Janice ran two workshops. Firstly, a youth workshop with Natalia Sanchez’ group which is developing ways of  telling stories. Using gibberish, the group described  pictures, stories and works of art as well as improvised  a park bench scene whereby someone would be unpleasant enough that you would give up your seat for them! 

Voice and accents

A second workshop was dedicated to three of the young principals from Oliver! - Janice helped them with an hour of voice-work and accent—all participants said how helpful and enjoyable the work was .

Two subjects close to Janice’s heart—writing and directing—were the focus of two further  workshops held on Sunday 24 January, which took place in the beautiful  Chateau de Bourglinster, each lasting two hours.

Writing: “Express your vision”

The writing workshop took participants through the stages  from having an initial idea to actually getting text down with some kind of structure! After participants introduced themselves, they were asked to write one short line (maximum of seven words) - and this became the “idea” and the first stage in writing a story.

The second stage to consider was structure. Janice invited groups to brainstorm how they might approach structuring a story around  their  line. Using the line/idea above, everyone came up with a line then considered the best way of telling the story by thinking of how other scripts/films are written. Janice emphasised that for her, long before character analysis or details are given,  structure is the starting point. 

There are many structures used in story-telling including:

  • Have different sections (acts) for example by writing for a set time about the  chosen line, cut text into lines and randomly select three lines to become Acts I, II & III
  • Play with the short text by making it either the start of a story, the middle or the end and find what results from that
  • Have a circle structure whereby the ending brings the reader back to the start
  • Write as an internal monologue
  • Play with timeframe—for example, use flashbacks to tell the story
  • Use an “unreliable narrator” where information given is later found to be untrue
  • Use multi character approach (such as Love Actually)
  • Use multi story lines (such as Inception)
  • Put twists into the story and decide where
  • Write a procedural drama
  • Use the “what if”  scenario to structure the story

Having decided on an idea and structure, the third stage considered was that of creating a “storyboard”. This involved breaking down the ideas given in the structure into more detail and fleshing out the story. At this point, Janice said she would introduce more information about characters.  If this part of the process was difficult, Janice advised that the structure needs revisiting as once that is strong it is very freeing to then flesh it out. Interestingly, Janice explained that she has not suffered from writer’s block as she writes professionally. She also emphasised the fact that we know more than we realise in that  we have many examples around us to draw upon when trying to make decisions when writing.

Lastly, Janice talked about the use of “threads” and how these can enhance a story as well as the importance of getting valued feedback from people you trust. 

The workshop brought together all ages and familiar and new faces. All fourteen participants were asked for feedback at the end to help the Committee plan for future workshops and, without exception, all would like additional workshops with most preferring a writing workshop to be a day or even weekend event.  In addition, all would have liked more time to develop/practise each stage of the writing process describe above.

Directing: “Toolkit for fixing connections”

After lunch, the second workshop took place. Again, there were both long-term NWTC members as well as new faces. 

Janice explained that she wanted to give us ideas to dip into, rather than advocate one way of directing in order to connect with your actors.

The first exercise had participants thinking of a particular character whilst walking around the room, then embracing the thought of a season and allowing that season to show. The results were clear, some changed dramatically and some were beautifully understated.

Janice then introduced us to  focus exercises. as way of helping people to get energy levels up The dynamics of the room changed quickily and one could see how some relationships could be reflected within a script and hence useful to rehearsals.

Some radical changes  came from an exercise based on Laban’s movement where participants were asked to think about different ways in which the body can move, then to concentrate on moving the legs in a different way. This immediately brought a completely different dimension to characters and the physical change obvious.

The use of visualising animals and adapting their characteristics into a character was also explored as were various states of tension and vocal choices (in terms of breath, pauses, volume, speed and pitch). All giving insight into how a director can find ways to connect with each and every actor.

In between the workshops several participants joined the organisers for lunch. It was lovely to be able to chat in a relaxed atmosphere about the workshops. The feedback was highly positive.


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