Is it too early to start talking about Christmas?
That’s a rhetorical question, I’m typing this in a café that smells of pine needles and cloves (I wish I could add smells to this post) and I’m drinking hot chocolate and I have no shame. I’m confident that books will be a big part of Christmas for most of the readers of this site (the clue is in the name). You’re probably already making lists and I wish that you all wake up to a beautiful pile of neat, ribboned parcels. But I’m not going to talk about books. I’m going to talk about a different sort of seasonal storytelling – theatre and cinema. This time of year tempts me to sneak into a theatre matinee (what could be more perfectly festive than the swish of a red velvet curtain?) and come out blinking into the cold air and the early darkness with my head full of stories. I love walking home past windows lit up with Christmas decorations and, at the end of term, dodging small children dressed as shepherds or angels or kings.
And movies, oh the comfort of seeing every single seasonal cliché in HD and blown up on a sixty foot screen. Cheesy music (yes, I am thinking about White Christmas), snow that starts falling on the dot of midnight on Christmas Eve, romance wrapped up and left perfect under the tree.
So here are my top three Storytelling lessons from festive films…
- Let your imagination run riot – who knew that a story about a rogue stowaway orphan baby fast tracked to North Pole, brought up – and up and up – in Elvish day care and then single handedly returning Christmas cheer to cynical New York, would be a big hit? Elf. And the next time someone asks you to check the credibility of your plot line just point them to Home Alone. An eight year old boy is left behind when his family fly to Paris? Seriously? Seriously?
- There’s a place for sentimentality and it’s an extra big place between mid-November and 2nd January, ‘If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.’ Love Actually. ‘Will you please tell Santa that instead of presents this year, I just want my family back.’ Home Alone. Even the scene where Cady rescues the Jingle Bell Rock performance is weirdly moving – or maybe not, Mean Girls.
- Some stories demand a happy ending. It’s doubtful to say the least that It’s a Wonderful Life would be the cult Christmas classic that it is if George Bailey had killed himself or even just gone to prison. OK it’s not obligatory to have an angel turn up and sort everything out but happy tears are good at Christmas.
So maybe add a notebook or two to the wish list of books (they’re easy to wrap too), take inspiration and write your own sweet Christmas story for stage or screen.
p.s. if like my co-author Hon you enjoy reading film scripts you can easily get hold of the Love Actually script and search out all your favourite quotes.
Perdita Cargill co-author of Waiting for Callback