I spent all of last weekend in a house with 11 other people, four of them aspiring screenwriters. The fact that they were, in age, only 4, 5, 7 and 9 diminished not at all the seriousness with which they approached their task. And, I wasn’t just in the house with them; I was as central to the process as Della Street was to Perry Mason because they were dictating the entire screenplay to me and I was entering every word on my laptop, using Dragon Naturally Speaking, the voice-to-print software by Nuance. They told me a line, I repeated it through my headset and this dandy piece of software set it down on the waiting page, in crisp black and white, with stage directions and all.
So far they’ve written only four scenes, involving mostly battle-of-the-sexes-style bickering and a dispute about who flushed somebody’s slippers down the toilet. (Best to insert a touch of the madcap early on we thought. We also then began actively looking for the opportunity to use the word ‘ underpants.’ ) We did get as far as introducing the mother, who in Scene Three reveals that she is going off on a business trip and will cede control to the mysterious Neighbor Lady. She, in scenes as yet unwritten will turn out to be the secret weapon in the story, giving this opus its title, The Ninja Next Door.
The whole process reminded me so much of these children’s last collaboration two summers ago, I decided to dig out pictures of that 2009 performance, was a rendition of Harry Potter that you see directly below in rehearsal.
Though it was wonderfully brief it seems it was not quite brief enough to keep the attention of the younger future screenwriters who took such a dim view of the proceedings that they fell to making their own fun. (What can you say about the groundlings? Even Shakespeare had to deal with them!)