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    Holiday StoryLab for Film Workshop Day 2: Characters: Animals, Fairies, War and The inside of the moon | StoryLab for film research

Holiday StoryLab for Film Workshop Day 2: Characters: Animals, Fairies, War and The inside of the moon

I started by suggesting each child talk to us about the scene they had made the day before - they had been too excited by the over head projector then, and short of time at the end of the session. We did it sitting around the table, which was calmer and it went very well - there was lots of excitement again, but better listening and some good negotiations between them - I reiterated that we were a team and told them that we were making a jigsaw story together, with each place and the character each child would choose to make for it, connecting together like a puzzle to make a story. This seemed to please them, and assisted their collaboration. 

The two 6 yr olds had been somewhat at loggerheads the previous day, both were very confident and absorbed in their own ideas they would have been happy to continue working solo, but I could not facilitate this in that context. I had arranged that they were no longer sitting together which helped establish a more comfortable dynamic : they needed more space from each other for their ideas and personalities to expand. 

The 7 yr olds, interestingly, seemed to have less confidence in their ideas, whether a feature of age or character or both. The boys in particular, felt a need to depreciate their work. The 7 yr old girl collaborated closely with the next eldest girl. From the beginning they had agreed to make two parts of Fairyland. Later, the 7 yr old abandoned the fairy she had made to create a close copy of her friend’s.

The two youngest boys (5 and 6 yrs) had worked more abstractly the previous day, taking a lot of pleasure in the collage materials, while the others stuck to drawing with the coloured permanent markers. The 5 yr old, whispered now, that he didn’t know what his scene was, but when I remembered that he had said he would make Space the previous day, he agreed and then elaborated that it was "the inside of the moon". The 6 yr old boy produced a bag of paper folded African animals he had made at home with his mother ("but I did most of it") which he said were his characters for the show and that his place was the jungle. He became a prime idea generator and organiser of the group story, along with the youngest girl. 

From the discussion about their places and who might be found in each, they began to make connections between them. To hold onto their ideas, easily lost or confused in the rush, I took a pencil and separate sheets for each place putting them in the agreed order. This became both the storyboard and served as a sort of chairing of the discussion. The 6 yr old boy tried to wrest the pencil from me at one stage but I feared the others would notice his leadership too much if I allowed that and challenge it and he amiably returned to his seat when I resisted the ’coup’! I was also able to use note taking to prepare them for the next task - asking each child what they should make as their character for their place.

One 7 yr old boy didn’t know what he wanted to make, so I asked him to collaborate with the 6 yr old who had decided he should make six people who would be changed into the african animals by the older girls’ fairies. 

It seemed the younger the child the greater their ambitions and ability to fulfill them. The 5 yr old wanted six rockets, and the youngest girl made several characters in record time - blithely assigning me the more difficult technical finishing of them.

Again the 5 yr old proved the most experimental in terms of use of materials, and was fiercely independent. This is probably a feature of his character but may also have had to do with the fact that the other children frequently referred to his being the youngest. Age related status was a constant topic of conversation, and I believe usually of great importance to this age group - they are more likely to know each others ages than names. It may have been maximised here by the fact that they were all from the same school - save the youngest who’s still in montessori - he made it into the workshop ’under age’ as his sister signed up. 

Trees were a recurring theme in the places. In retrospect, I wonder was this a sign of lack of confidence in the 7 yr olds again - three of the images are similar, albeit in different colours. But this became a strength and feature of the story. The tree in fairyland is a portal into another world where "a very boring tree" is changed into a five star fairy hotel (by a 7 year old boy). However when this is chopped down a war ensues (another 7 yr old boy) created by the enraged fairies. During the war the people are bombed, but the fairies decide to encourage peace after all, by changing the angry people into animals, who in turn go through a tree in the jungle to another tree in another world which is a lava tree (:7 yr old boy). They then are turned by the Lava into rockets and shoot to the moon. The conclusion of the story is that they return to the bookstore (:6 yr old girl) and ’the present day’ where an old lady, her granddaughter and another girl preside.

Having sorted out the story and who was going to make what, I told them it was time to meet that day’s puppets and that they would be useful in giving us ideas of how to make our puppets. The first showed them something of the scale and techniques I hoped they would use - an unfinished sample shadow puppet made for another workshop, it had no hair so I was able to demonstrate the use of feathers, bubble wrap or a long roll of netting as possibilities for collage hair, changing voice and character of the puppet to suit each transformation and hopefully instilling an ’open’ attitude to materials. We also discussed how, by using the sticks, I was able to keep my own shadow and hands out of the image. 

Then I showed them a ’giant’ head piece a student had made and donated to my cause which had coloured eyes and cut out eyebrows and that I wore on my head and used my own hands for. This was so exciting some spontaneous performing happened as a couple of them tried it on. I then had a transformation puppet of a seal which changes into a boy from a show of mine and again this changed into a spontaneous performance, as my daughter (6 yrs) came and ’swam’ her own shadow with it, knowing a puppet of a girl was missing. Then another child came up to help play the boy. We threw netting over the overhead projector at the end to show them captured in the trawler net. It is lovely how this age group enjoy throwing themselves physically into performing when given a chance. Even the older ones overcome self-consciousness in their eagerness to play. I am learning a lot from their willingness to do this. Again they got excited by the projector with more and more objects appearing on it, getting quite chaotic. When an orange appeared I deduced with unanimous agreement that it was time for their fruit break. I had to unplug the projector to make this possible, however.

During fruit break the puppeteering continued as I told them about a show I had done with performing fruit and vegetables and several of the snacks took on characters. During the course of this we also decided they might bring in some small toys tomorrow to do something using their shadows.

After break they were all set to make and their focus and quiet at their tasks was a real pleasure to witness and I made up a silly song to praise them for it. They were so busy they paid me little attention, though I was indulged with a smile here and there. I couldn’t fool around for long though, as this was a busy time for me as they did need a lot of technical assistance and advice. I was glad I had kept the numbers low (8 children), though it should be noted this was only possible as I was supported by my bursary award.

With my encouragement they were beginning to use the light source to test things also, and again it was the youngest who experimented most with materials. They didn’t get the puppets finished before clean-up time, which worked very well, with my assigning each different jobs. The most popular was the hanging up of the storyboard images which resulted in an entire pot of thumbtacks being spilt, so again it looked like chaos was reigning when the parents arrived.

Day 2 : The Plan (largely unused): Characters (story clues) cutting and voice play Today we need to think of some characters to go in our story places. Does everyone know what a character is? You might already have an idea of someone, but just for fun let’s play a game that might help give you more ideas. Whether you use them or not is up to you. Like the pictures yesterday you will each have a turn to lucky dip out a clue from the story chest. You can open it and then tell us any ideas it might give you as to who the character in your story might be. If others in the group have ideas then they can put up their hands and the picker can choose to hear one or two of these. Clues back into the chest, at one end. If they have really enjoyed we can have a second round or say we will keep it for the next day?

Before you begin to make your characters I thought you might like to meet some puppets and find out about their stories? Róisín, Rón ag athrú : but show on sheet as well as OVP, Giant head piece and at the same time demo making (keep it simple). Heads as big as your fist, arms and legs at least as thick as two fingers.

Once they have made take it in turns to test them in the environments. Do they need to make props or other characters? Move onto action plan.


Day 2 Materials

light cardboard (cereal boxes / paper pick)

split pins

Hole punches






as day 1


Day 2 Resources

Chest of story clues (character clues and action clues??)

Story dice

2nd OVP

2nd sheet

Sample puppets

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