A ray of sunshine penetrated the wintry gloom of the city centre last December when Los Angeles film lecturer, casting director and writer Wendall Thomas visited the Tyneside Cinema to present her one day film masterclass: ‘Bridesmaids: Anatomy of a Hit.’
When you think of the Tyneside Cinema you might think of its plush seats, the glorious fact that you can take your glass of wine or chilled beer into the cinema or its beautiful Art Deco décor. What doesn’t spring to mind quite so readily is that the Tyneside regularly plays host to a wide range of activities and international guest speakers that support the arts scene in the North East.
Listening to a woman who has hands-on experience of working in the Hollywood film industry was like being an avid baker given an audience with Mary Berry (throw in Paul too and you’ve got more Hollywood than you can shake a stick at!).
The Roxy Cinema was full of people as eager to learn about ‘the three-act structure’, ‘ensemble comedies versus the hero’s journey’ and ‘universal themes’ as I was. We were guided through a recent history of successful international comedies: The Full Monty, The Tall Guy, Notting Hill and Meet the Parents to name just a few. And we learned that it’s the universal themes behind these films that mean that they travel – and sell – so well across the world. Notting Hill is ‘a dream come true’; Meet the Parents is about the fear commonly experienced when meeting your prospective in-laws; and Bridesmaids? Well Bridesmaids is all about ‘What happens when your best friend in all the world announces she’s getting married.’
Watching a few minutes of the film and then listening as it was explained in terms of how the story was constructed by a mixture of scenes and sequences was fascinating. To go back to our keen bakers it was like those episodes of The Great British Bake Off where Mary and Paul bake something from scratch and hold your hand as they take you through each stage. Suddenly you find yourself thinking “Sachertorte! What a doddle! I could do that!”
I have written one screenplay so far in my life. It took a year and a half to complete. I used three reams of A4 paper and several cartridges of printer ink to produce something that’s just ninety pages long. And that’s ninety pages with a lot of white space. What I learned at the Tyneside with Wendell Thomas is that there’s a lot more to Sachertorte than meets the eye – It’s back to the laptop I go!
by Katherine Wildman © 2013
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