Made in Wales

Back from Cardiff, where Skillset Screen Academy Wales invited me to teach my infamous workshop on Storylining in a Corporate Environment, pronounced on previous occasions as “life-changing”, “instructive”, “terrifying”, and “better than the guy we had last week.”

The venue was the swish multimedia Atrium building of the University of Glamorgan; the task, distilling a series of contradictory directives into an idea that would displease everybody equally. After initial instruction in the way that Japanese animation is put together, the students, largely postgraduates studying Film or Scriptwriting (but also Animation and Business Management), were forced to come up with their own ideas for a story bible mixing criteria from Japan, America and Europe. And within half an hour, we were arguing the merits of High School Knights versus Hattie Bast, a British schoolgirl who is also a reincarnated Egyptian cat goddess, as well as debates on tokenism, individuation, transforming robots, the merchandising value of magic amulets, and why it’s never a good idea to name your toy line after a natural disaster. There was even time out for a brief lesson in forensic pathology, as we discussed the alleged Death Note Murders. Also, there was free coffee.

My favourite idea of recent classes remains Decontaminators, the series pitch worked up by students at the Irish Film Institute last week, which was concocted as a sci-fi franchise designed to sell soap to anime fans, but there’s no telling where the wild tangents and industry related rants will take any given group of participants. It’s a calculatedly hit-and-miss affair, and we’re obliged to compress debates that take weeks in the professional world into just a single morning.

The recurring theme is “monoculture” – that deadly affliction of cliche to which so many TV serials and toy lines are dragged by the demands of their corporate sponsors and management teams. But surviving such pressures and getting the job done is really what the workshop is all about. I always have a lot of fun doing it and the students seemed to enjoy themselves, too. One of them called it a “wake-up call”… that’s a good thing, right…?

One day, I really must just give them a title like, I don’t know, Schoolgirl Milky Crisis, and see what ideas they come up with to fit it.

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