Activity Corner #2 – Melvin 2.0

So we revisited the stories/characters we created in the exercise where we had to list one thing we liked and one thing we hated and had to create a character based off of those things. I had already made a story when we originally did the exercise so partnering with Justin and Luke we created a completely original character.

We stuck with the Melvin name and attempted to make another likeable character (if confused please refer to OG Melvin). What we came up with was way different than Melvin 1.0. So we began with the ‘why’. Which is something I forgot to do in the original exercise. This was a good point to start because it basically sets everything in motion. In this exercise I was definitely the one driving all the questions and prompting the others to come up with ideas. I asked them “Why does Melvin love to sweat?”

“Melvin NEEDS to sweat” is what I got back. Oh… Definitely wasn’t going to come up with that myself. First thing off the bat we had the basis for a new idea. We went back and forth talking about what kinds of people need to sweat. Having extra brains right there just makes things less stressful and more manic. More fun! We ended up on a fighter who is losing weight for a fight.

Long story short we made Melvin a Muay Thai fighter on the brink of a championship when he was exiled from the professional Muay Thai circuit for killing a man in the ring. Melvin now looks after the son of the man he killed and is training him to become the next Muay Thai champion and live vicariously through the boy. But the boy’s father told him before his last match to never follow down his father’s path as a Muay Thai fighter for it was too dangerous.

Needless to say the exercise was really fun! Collaborating and throwing ideas all over the place is a great way to unlock a pathway that neither party could come up with in an individual setting. I initially came up with a boxer who needs to sweat to lose weight for a fight, Justin then added in that oriental flavour, factoring in the humid Thai weather and then Luke rounded it off by adding the element of redemption and how the real fight isn’t in the ring, but in his heart. It was funny and original but we all had a little part in how it ended up.

Applying this to screen-writing in the initial stages could go so many different ways. It could lead to too many parties clinging onto their ideas for dear life, causing a metaphorical melee for idea supremacy. I’ve definitely worked with others in this class in similar collaborative activities and ended up nowhere because myself and the other person were too head strong about our respective ideas. It massively depends on the chemistry of the writers. You really need to have good chemistry in order to truly ‘riff’ with ideas that culminate into screen-based gold.

The process of script meetings seems like its a much easier time. You’ve already got a piece of work in front of you and don’t have to build it from the ground up. There comes solid discussion and tangible points of editing where the conceptual stage of a script just doesn’t. I can definitely imagine working with someone whom I don’t share strong chemistry with at this stage of the screen writing process.

All in all collaboration is great way to reach corners of the room that you didn’t even know were there. It’s like finding a trap door under the rug you’ve had in your living room for years. It can also be a really fun way of flexing your improvisational skills depending on how well you get along. Bad chemistry in the early stages can be damaging and you may find yourself running around in circles but good chemistry can unearth some real gold.