M. Night  Shyamalan the Scriptwriter.

This week, Movie-makers are working on visual storyboards and scriptwriting.  Our film-makers will learn about how much detail goes into each frame of a movie and map out their own creations.  Scriptwriting will also be introduced as part of the movie-making process and participants will look at famous examples before having a go themselves.

M. Night Shyamalan is well known for his skill as a scriptwriter. He has often written and directed his own films. Shyamalan adapts each script to the big screen only after it is completed. Having had a rather erratic career, he chooses to view failure as part of the journey to success.

Here are some examples of Shyamalan’s scriptwriting at its best! Spoiler Alert!

The Sixth Sense (1999)

“What are you thinking Mama?”

This supernatural thriller, starring Bruce Willis as the ethereal Malcom Crowe, definitely made an impact on audiences and critics alike.  I still shudder to think of the opening sequence with a creepy Donnie Wahlberg laying in wait in the bathroom.  A mixture of unexpected shocks coupled with some very unnerving sub-plots leave you feeling very uneasy.  Just like a true ghost story, many questions are left unanswered and still bother me to this day.  What happens to Cole in the attic?  Who smashes the shop window?  Does Cole know that Malcolm is a ghost throughout?  Still considered one of the most famous horror films of all time- with the line, “I see dead people,” making it instantly identifiable.   The casting was brilliant on so many levels.  Toni Collette’s complex performance of vulnerability and strength and Haley Joel Osment’s troubling portrayal of Cole allow you to suspend disbelief throughout.  The breath-taking twist at the end was the icing on top of an already delicious cake.  The work as a whole, a testament to what is achieved when an artist keeps control of their vision from start to finish.

Signs (2002)

Alien Preparation

Another unusual story, mixing Extra-Terrestrials with issues of faith and kinship.  Place life-sized aliens and vulnerable children together in a cornfield and the horror is palpable.  Outstanding performances from Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin demand emotional investment from viewers and the isolated farmhouse allows you to feel a tantalising mixture of scared but safe.  The sub-plot of loss and broken faith, interwoven perfectly throughout is paid off beautifully at the end, with the double meaning of the mother’s dying words, “Swing away!” finally realised.

If your child would be interested in film-making, scriptwriting, screen-acting and performing, please click here.

Sarah Watson-Dramacube

The Year of the Water Tiger

Tuesday 1st February saw the beginning of the Chinese New Year and the Year of the Tiger.  The cycle of the moon dictates the date which is different each year.  Chinese New Year is the longest celebration in China- lasting 15 days!  Tigers are a symbol of power in China and considered brave, cruel and forceful.

Origin and Myth

The Nian Monster

The celebration has a history of over 3000 years and is heavily steeped in myth and legend.  Legend has it that a mythical beast called Nian would show up every New Year’s Eve to eat villagers and livestock.  Red decorations were displayed and candles were lit in order to keep the beats at bay!

Chinese Zodiac Signs

1 of 12 animals, each with their own characteristics, represent each year.

The animals include:

  • rat
  • ox
  • tiger
  • rabbit
  • dragon
  • snake
  • horse
  • goat
  • monkey
  • rooster
  • dog
  • pig

Traditions & Celebrations

Family and friends stay up late to celebrate the New Year.  Children are given red packets of sweets and adults say kind words to each other.

Houses are cleaned to ward off bad luck and then decorated with red scrolls and lanterns. Lost ancestors are remembered and offered sacrifices of food.

People also observe dragon parades which include singing and acting.

If your child likes to sing, dance, act and take part in musical theatre, please click here.

Sarah Watson- Dramacube

 

This week at Dramacube, children were busy creating special effects for their film-making.  As well as learning well-known methods, pupils were encouraged to improvise their own ideas to record on film.  Here are a few examples of ground-breaking special effects from the big screen.

Learning the trickery.

King Kong (1933)

18″ models and giant hairy limbs were used to create the tortured ape.  Painstaking stop-motion, matte painted backdrops and multi-layered filming led to an action-packed and emotional interplay between characters.

Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)

A mixture of practical effects and early CGI helped to create the most memorable moments in the film.  The unstoppable molten robot, chasing down the car and the splicing together of the head were moments that sent shockwaves through the audience.  This shape-changing villain has aged well over the years and is still yet to meet his match!

The Wizard of OZ (1939)

A much-loved and iconic film, celebrated for many reasons, particularly the incredibly realistic tornado that transports Dorothy to Oz.  Special Effects Director, Arnold Gillespie, employed a 35 ft twisted muslin held up by a steel gantry and moved horizontally from side to side by a steel rod at the bottom.  An avid flier, Gillespie was inspired by the sight and movements of windsocks at the airport.

Head Splicing in Terminator 2.

E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Carlo Rambaldi designed the animatronics for ET.  A Team of people controlled the movements of the face and two little people were employed to wear the costume.  This iconic marvel cost $1.5 million to make- the investment paid off and he is still loved to this day!

 

Ironically, the defining moment of the film- the main characters silhouetted as they fly across the dazzling moon, was incredibly simple.  A shot was taken of a low full moon and the riders were added, post-production!

If you child is interested in film-making, scriptwriting, or acting for the screen, please click here.

Sarah Watson-Dramacube

Back in 2018, Dramacube ran a term of musical theatre classes in preparation for a production of Disney’s Alice in Wonderland.  The quirky, fantasy story was brought to life through cast members singing, dancing and acting out the musical adventure.  This week will be Lewis Carroll’s birthday so let’s celebrate by looking back at his life.

Early Life

Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson on January 27th 1832 in Cheshire. One of 11 children, his childhood was a happy one! He often created games and stories in order to entertain his family in their isolated countryside residence.

Studies

Carroll was bullied at school, largely due to a stammer and several other illnesses and disorders. At Christ Church, Oxford, he excelled at mathematics and went on to lecture there.

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Alice is Born

Carroll favoured the company of children.  In fact, the memory of an afternoon spent with one such child, Alice Liddell, inspired the script for Alice’s Adventures Underground.   Originally written as a gift to the child, the manuscript was spotted by a fellow writer who urged Carroll to visit a publisher.   After some publishing mishaps, the book was finally published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865.  This was swiftly followed up by a sequel, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, in 1871. Other novels followed but were not well received.  By 1932 Alice was arguably one of the most famous books of all time.  Dodgson also wrote books on mathematics, poetry, humorous verse and did well with his photography.  However his name will always be synonymous with Alice.

Grinning like a Cheshire Cat!

Musicals, films, cafes, homeware…never before has a work of fiction inspired so many people and so much merchandise!  Disney was obviously the most impressive of all but most high street shops have some Alice produce in some form or another.  But what with the characters, the colours and the imagery it is no surprise!

If your child would like to step through the looking glass into a world of musical theatre, please click here!

Sarah Watson, Dramacube

 

 

Movie-Makers

This week at Movie-Makers, children were taught how to apply special-effects make-up.  Thus, learning techniques used for film and television which will soon be put to good use in their own film-making debut.

Mad Max:  Fury Road

The blood and the gore got me thinking about the amazing display of skill shown in Mad Max:  Fury Road.  Lesley Vanderwalt got an Oscar nomination for the post-apocalyptic hair and make-up.  Her dark and visionary displays of brilliance worked seamlessly with Jenny Beavan’s costume design.

Furiosa & the Five Wives

Furiosa had to reflect the reality of living in a male-dominated wasteland.  A shaved head to cope with the heat and strategically placed bandages to camouflage her femininity.  The finishing touch: a band of black paint covering her eyes.  Using metallic pigment that looked like grease from one of the dusty rigs. Cleverly, the characters start to morph into their vehicles- their survival tools- in a place where life is cheap and transport is gold.

In stark contrast to this, the Five Wives epitomise femininity with windswept braids, dusty faces and tones of white and cream.  The strain of their existence evident only, in some of their skeletal frames and sunken eyes.

Mad Max

A walking-talking survival kit.  Hardy’s new Max was given a more military look.  As a solitary character responsible for only himself, Max was dressed with bandages around his wrists, knives, sewing and first aid kits.  A scarf to beat the elements and a leather jacket to bring him into the Millenium.

The War Boys

The War Boys decaying corpses, were brought to life with chalky hues and heat cracked lips.  Life defying wounds and cancerous lumps made certain characters upsetting to watch.  Nux choosing to brand himself with a V8 engine, suggesting the idea that his car is an extension of him.

Immortan Joe

Perhaps the most unsettling of all, the leader of the chaos, with his skeleton mouth mask to hide breathing apparatus and chest armour, adorning medals, to disguise an outbreak of Syphilis oozing silently beneath.

Special Effects Wound

 

 

So, come and join our wild ride!  To try out script-writing, screen-acting and film making, click here.

Sarah Watson- Dramacube

Review by Gill Martin, Travel Writer.

If Starlight the Polar Bear looks familiar it could be that you saw him switching on the Christmas lights in Hampton Hill a little while ago.

Now he’s off on a new mission with his best friend Ellie at the town’s theatre.

The plucky pair embark on an adventure that will enchant children from three to eight and, of course, their families taking a welcome break from manic shopping for sprouts and brandy butter.

It’s a 45 minute respite and a welcome run up to Christmas Eve, set against a midnight blue starlit sky, snowy landscape and the eerie spectacle of the Aurora Borealis.. Perfect escapism.

There’s a nod to climate change as Ellie, forced to flee her drowning village, must find Father Christmas at the North Pole by December 24 to tell him where he can deliver presents to all the other villagers in their new homes.

Starlight the Polar Bear

Starlight, a very rotund bear who admits a lockdown weight gain, raises plenty of laughs as he and Ellie battle bitter winds, scary night witches and icy mountains.

There’s jolly audience participation with much clapping, stamping, jumping and waving.

It’s a fun and festive show with endearing characters, as heart-warming as a hot toddy.

For other reviews click here.

Excitement prevails this week across Hampton, Teddington, Twickenham and East Molesey as Dramacube’s performing arts classes start up again.  Students will sing, dance and act their way through each inspiring session.  Don’t forget, casting will soon be under way for the musical theatre sensation that is Aladdin Jr, so sign up quickly!  In the meantime here are some interesting facts for you:

Aladdin is a very old man!

The story of Aladdin is centuries old because it forms one of the tales told in The Arabian Nights.   Famous other tales include, Sinbad the Sailor and Ali Baba.  There are 1001 tales in total!

Aladdin is quite the Nomad!

The original book of tales dates back to the 10th century AD.  The tales were gathered from North Africa, Turkey, Persia, India and East Asia.  Antoine Galland translated the Arabic version into French in 1712.  In both French and English versions, Aladdin lives in China.  Aladdin to Arabia in the Early 20th century via cinema.

Aladdin improves with age.

Early text versions describe the central character as shallow and lazy.  A far cry from the clever, loyal hero of the big screen!

An Aladdin with low morals?

The original tale saw Aladdin attempting to bribe the Sultan for his daughter.  Failing that, Aladdin kidnapped the Groom until he finally relented!

Aladdin on Broadway!

Aladdin became a stage musical in 2011.  The musical theatre production hit Broadway on March 20th, 2014.

The Genie played Robin Williams.

The characteristics of the Genie were moulded around Robin Williams.  Williams also improvised most of the lines and the character went on to become a firm favourite in the film.

Visual Stereotyping

A Whole New World!

The original film sparked racial controversy because of negative stereotyping.  Successful campaigning led to offensive lyrics being cut from the opening song.  Several visual issues still remain.  Disney has recently added warnings to the opening credits of many of their older films.

To get on board the magic carpet ride, click here.

Sarah Watson, Dramacube

Another hit for Dramacube!

After weeks of rehearsals and hard work, Matilda Jnr the Musical finally hit the stage this week and was met with rave reviews!  Five casts, of “revolting children”, came from all across Twickenham, Hampton, East Molesey and Teddington to impress audiences with their singing, dancing and acting skills.

Multi-layered Matilda.

Matilda Jnr the Musical really does have everything.  The play has humour and heart and is truly inspiring on so many levels.  At face value it is a story about magic but also covers challenging topics, such as defiance, bullying, abuse of power, neglect and hope.

Think Big!

By inspiring a generation of children to think beyond their size, with powerful lyrics such as, “Just because you’re little you can do a lot you..”, Matilda covered new territory.   My daughter has been mesmerised by both the rehearsals and the shows.  Enchanted by the performances of the cast, she has come home every time, singing and dancing.  But not only that.  In quieter times I have found her, sitting in a corner for half hour stretches, reading books and pretending to be like Matilda.

Thinking Bigger!

I’m big, you’re small!

Even as an adult I have found myself moved and motivated by some of the songs.  Statements such as “Nobody else is gonna put it right for me.  Nobody else is gonna change my story…”  have given me a bit of a wake up call and spurred action over procrastination.

True Brilliance!

Matilda Jnr the Musical is loved by the actors who perform it and enjoyed by the audiences who watch it.  But like a true work of art, what makes it particularly brilliant is that each individual will come away from it with something different, which makes it truly unique.

Feeling Inspired?

If you have been inspired and would like to come and have a go, why not try a Dramacube taster?  We look forward to seeing you there.

 

Sarah Watson, Dramacube.

Background:

The stage is set.  The costumes are made.  The actors have been hired.  Rehearsals for Ellie and Starlight’s Christmas Adventure are well under way.  The play is a sequel, of sorts, to Ellie and Starlight the Musical which was shown at Hampton Hill Theatre in 2019.  Of sorts because the sequel is not a musical and the main focus is Christmas rather than climate change.  It opens with a brief reference to the final outcome of the original show- Ellie’s village having to move as a result of global warming.  Both shows are based on a picture book I wrote several years ago and the origin of that story is anything but fiction!

Climate Change Refugees:

Whilst studying for an ill-fated Teaching degree I came across an article about the world’s first climate change refugees.  It outlined the plight of the Yupik Eskimos of Newtok Alaska- having to move from their native village.  Rising temperatures had caused the permafrost beneath their feet to melt and their houses were literally sinking into the earth.

Guilt:

Instantly I was overcome by an overwhelming sense of guilt.  The Yupik people exist without the excesses of the Western world.  They live a rather dichotomous existence; balancing precariously between a native and modern life. For example, some homes have televisions but running water is only available at the village school.  And yet, these are the people paying the price for modern man’s abuse of the planet.

Knowledge and Education:

Having written stories before, I decided that I should try and share their story through the medium of a picture book.  If I could travel the country teaching children about climate change maybe it could help in some small way.  Despite great interest from social media and re-tweets from the likes of Sarah Jessica Parker, the publishing companies didn’t share my passion.  But Dramacube did, and since that time the story and characters have been brought to life in 2 different plays.

Newtok Now?

A Sinking Village

Believe it or not, 25 years later the relocation is partly underway but limping along slowly.  It would seem that governments fail to write policies or provide funds for villages displaced by climate change.  At $100,000000 it is a huge amount of money to raise and manage and who would want to bear responsibility for it?  The Yupik people attempt to keep moving forward towards an uncertain future.  They do their best so I will endeavour to do mine in continuing to share their story.

 

Sarah Watson, Dramacube

Spot the Difference!

So, the trees are twinkling, Hampton Hill, Twickenham and Teddington have had their lighting up festivities.  We’re all more than ready to sing, dance and be merry.

However, Christmas means something different to each and every one of us.  Shaped by familial, local and national traditions.  You could argue that no two Christmases are ever the same.

The most obvious differences stem from whether or not you see December 25th as a religious occasion or a time to gather and give to others.

All across the world countries celebrate this holiday, in very different ways.  The concept of Father Christmas varies throughout.  I have picked out a few of the most interesting…

America:

In America and Canada, Father Christmas is sometimes referred to as Kris Kringle.  Children leave out cookies and milk to help him refuel for his long journey.

France:

In France, children are visited by Pierre or Papa Noel who delivers presents on the evening of the 23rd of December or the morning of the 25th.  However, in the far North and Eastern regions, he is accompanied by Le Pere Fouettard (Old Man Whipper) who is dressed all in black and may deliver lumps of coal and possibly beatings/ whippings to naughty children!  Now that’s what you call an incentive to be good!

Italy:

Babbo Natale is said to visit children in Italy on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning.

On the 5th of January he is followed by the witch, La Befana.  She comes during the night to put sweets, snacks and dried fruit into the socks of well-behaved children.

La Befana

Russia:

The Orthodox Christmas is celebrated on the 7th of January, with presents being exchanged earlier on New Years Eve.  Children believe that Ded Moroz delivers gifts with his granddaughter, Snegurka, but only when they are summoned by children sitting in a circle around the Christmas tree.  When the visitors arrive, the star and other decorations light up on the tree!

Sweden:

Tomte or Jultomten is a creature drawn from Swedish folklore.  Originally a gnome-like figure, he would guard farm houses against bad luck.  The modern translation sees adults dressing up as Jultomten, complete with mask and asking if there are any well-behaved children in the house who deserve presents.

The Netherlands:

Sinterklaas, the Dutch version of Santa Claus, resembles St. Nicholas, the patron saint of children and the inspiration for our representation of Father Christmas.

Sinterklaas rides into town on a white horse, brandishing a jewelled staff and handing out gifts.  He is accompanied by Grumpus who rattles chains and threatens to kidnap naughty children.  How terrifying!

Finland:

Historically, the more traditional Yule Goat was actually a benevolent spirit who would knock on doors and demand gifts from occupants!  Thankfully, Joulupukki has somewhat softened over the years and now delivers the presents instead, with the help of his reindeer who can walk but not fly.

Iceland:

The Yule Lads are 13 mischievous elves who like to play tricks on children and wreak havoc for the particularly naughty ones!  In the 13 nights leading up to Christmas, Icelandic children place their shoes on window sills in the hope that the elves may leave them gifts or sweets.  Naughty children will only receive rotten potatoes in theirs!

To learn more about this fascinating topic, click here:

So, we better get back to our Christmas chores and make sure you behave or Grumpus might come to get you!

Sarah Watson, Dramacube