The ‘Woman On A Bench’ Theory

A way back at A-Level, we were tasked with creating a short film of sorts. Although my final coursework ended up in screenplay form, the curriculum did however inspire an idea in me that seems very relevant to this university module.

The idea was born from my days of studying English Language, in which I was asked frequently to write short stories. I almost got a reputation with the lecturers as being a student who never pulled this off, often handing in chapters of longer pieces, or really weird texts (one time I wrote a story backwards, Memento style). Of course, filming a scene of a larger film, although perfectly acceptable, did not really fit the criteria of the media realm. Everyone seemed to be drawing blanks, with the usual problems of not being able to fit coherent narrative structures into three minutes or less. All short films seemed t be completely art-house and nonsensical, or they attempted to be a really long story with nowhere near the run time needed for it to flourish.

Thus, I developed a theory to inspire imagination, not only in myself, but also in others. It would be a theory that would devise a plot set up so simple, it would be a marker and a starting point for those who needed simple ideas, or provide a challenge to those who had mastered the complex, and fancied taking a step backwards towards the simpler foundations of narrative.

With careful consideration, I crafted a fundamental basic of narrative form. Aptly titled the ‘Woman On A Bench’ theory, the set up was that an old lady would be sitting on a bench (location anywhere). This one old lady would be sat on one side of the bench, and at some random interval in the film, a second character would enter. Something would happen between these two characters, and then the outcome of the film was entirely at the producer’s and director’s discretion. Either way, it would fit a three minute time slot perfectly.

This theory could be cultivated into all sorts of varying forms (such as my own ‘job interview’ idea here, for example). What made this little idea of mine work was the fact that the stereotype of the ‘old lady’ affects the story immediately. How many people picture a film fitting this theory set in a park on a sunny afternoon?

This was not a theory devised to promote the obvious – quite the opposite. It was designed to make movie makers challenge the obvious perceptions. The easier the route the producers took, the likely the more boring the film would be. There is really only one variable – the character that enters the film. What the film is about and how it ends is more or less entirely based around how this variable is manipulated.

Yet, this theory also demonstrated how little is needed to create a good film. Two characters and a simple and easy-to-access setting. The film is almost entirely reliant on script (evidenced from the origins of my English Language days again). But it should show that if you have a good script, the rest can be less important. I had a notion once that if a story was really good, how it was written became less important than the originality of the idea. This thought was met with some criticism, so this theory of short film production would also likely be up against some criticism too (albeit with some curiosity). The reason this theory of mine has not gone ‘live’ yet? I have yet to create the film ‘Woman On A Bench’.

My job interview idea takes aspects of the theory, in so much that it is script heavy. However, no elderly women are featured, and the bench has been removed completely. This are non-flexible aspects of this challenge – those two crucial parts of the mise-en-scene have to remain the same, in order to provide the barriers and the challenges – and moreover, the rewards. It is my intention to create a film of this sort later in the year, to prove once and for all that all you need for a good short film is a decent script.

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2 Responses to “The ‘Woman On A Bench’ Theory”

  1. This is just great! A simple starting point to build on.

    Kind of reminds me of our Narrative assignment: the only thing in the brief is that there is a knocking on a door – which can be in the start, middle or end of the film, can be in or out of shot, a main or additional line in the story…

    ‘Restrictions’ like this help a lot. Thanks for sharing your idea 🙂

  2. Cheers 🙂
    Yeah, as I say, I came up with it a while before coming to uni. Good job I did though to be fair – they just LOVE restrictions, and they’re abundant in almost every module, so better to get used to them early on! lol

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