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Workshop: Debby Broughton-Hay: Short scripts, sketches and The Simpsons

This was to be my first workshop with the club and I felt a bit nervous.
The speaker at this workshop was Debby Broughton-Hay, a successful member of the club and writer of murder mystery play “Brought to Book”.
I knew absolutely nothing about script writing and the word “workshop” implied that I might actually have to participate. I arrived early to find Debby and Nigel engrossed with an I.T. issue and as my knowledge of all things I.T. is poor, I left them to it and sat down. At this point, a regular member of the club came in. I smiled Hello, a smile that became quite fixed as he approached me with a little piece of paper in his hand that I recognised immediately as the ‘blog request’.
Debby began her workshop with an observation exercise using a clip from ‘The Simpsons’. She said the show was a good example of the layering and intricate details to be found in good script writing and wanted us to closely observe the clip, looking for what made us laugh. Her choice of the Simpsons initially surprised me, but not altogether, as I knew of the mathematical jokes being made continuously throughout the series by the highly educated script writers. I wish I could say that I spotted these jokes through my own mathematical prowess, but anyone who knows me well would be beside themselves in tears of laughter at this notion.
A brainstorming session was then initiated by Debby, where the group looked at what had made us laugh recently. ‘Unexpected events’ cropped up frequently as a provider of laughs which was easily evidenced by a clip of ‘Mr Bean’. However, it is not always easy to conjure up funny situations out of nowhere, and to that end, Debby showed us how, by playing a simple game of consequences, ideas may be generated. Although these ideas may seem ludicrous at first, they may be catalysts of better ideas.

Debby also gave advice on how to write sketches, including questions you need to ask yourself. For example, is your sketch part of a bigger programme or is it to stand alone? You don’t have time to describe your characters at length; therefore their impression must be seen and/or heard almost immediately to the viewer/listener. Struggling to find a subject? Think of events in the last few days that made you laugh or smile; brainstorm and research your subject; explore all avenues and think of where the sketch is to be located. What is the medium? Stand up? TV? Radio? Sound only, or sound and vision? A sketch has to be specific for the format you choose, and the timing has to be written in to the script for your sketch to work. Layout, dialogue and other screen directions are written, and finally the sketch is polished. This involves performing it, and refining the dialogue, evaluating what works and what doesn’t. There are so many aspects to consider in script writing but Debby’s workshop has definitely inspired me to try it.
Gillian Berretti

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