- Erin Phillips
Screenplays As Pieces
Movies and TV shows can be great resources for HI scripts. Finding one in script form with an ISBN is a treasure trove of snappy dialogue and made-for-the-screen jokes. But judges are looking for a little something extra when you pick a movie or TV show, and simply re-creating the characters from everyone’s favorite comedy isn’t a surefire way to get laughs, especially if the audience has heard the jokes before. So how can you, the performer, go about freshening up this script to make new jokes? Below I outline three strategies for bringing new life to a classic screen-based script
Re-cast it: When you first get the script, it can be tempting to mimic the actors from the show or film, but a fun exercise that will violate the audience’s expectations is to completely change up the characters. Read the script like it’s a book you don’t know anything about. Based on the text, how would you cast this character? Try to think outside the box. If the screen actor portrayed the character one way, could you portray them the opposite way for comedic effect? You can even borrow character voices and imitations of other celebrities to stand in for those that exist in the screen portrayal. New, fresh characters create intrigue that will draw judges and audiences in, and will allow you to make your interpretation truly yours.
Adapt visual jokes to your advantage: Sometimes a joke that’s hilarious in a film or show can be just plain confusing when it makes its way off the page of a script and into your HI. Animated movies are notorious for having visual sequences with subtle jokes tied in. You can use these visuals, however, as an excuse to show off creative blocking. Taking these visuals very literally and using blocking to portray the movements of animals or inanimate objects can be a great way to give your audience something unexpected.
Look back to the dialogue: Comedic TV shows and movies are often packed with so many jokes that some get glossed over in the quick pace of the show. No matter how well you know the film or episode, always read the script carefully. Sometimes you’ll find jokes you had completely forgotten about because they were simply verbal one-liners that didn’t pack a visual punch. Those kinds of jokes, however, can be your best friends. Play up the comic timing on a hidden one-liner and you can make the audience remember a beloved TV or movie experience in a new way.
Movie and TV scripts present a unique set of challenges for HI performers. However, these challenges make the performance worthwhile. Cutting and crafting a unique spin on a script for film or television can be extremely rewarding. These tips are just the beginning of finding your own voice in the work of screenwriters. Movies and TV are great resources, and hopefully now you’ll be able to use them to create your own masterpiece.