Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


Assignment 5: Tell Me a Story

Purpose: To get yourself in the habit of starting with a story.

Basis: Far too often a good movie idea fails because it was merely an idea and not a story.

Directions: Choose a genre (or three) and write three short stories in that/those genre(s). The goal here is not to come up with an original tale. Do not try to be original at all. If you choose to write a love story stick to the basics: Guy meets girl, they fall in love. You could certainly add in the bits about how they dislike each other at first, or how they don't realize they are related or are mortal enemies, or whatever. But do not deviate from the basic story. The point here is to learn what it feels like to tell a complete, albeit short, story. Once you know how to tell stories you can start to tell them on film. Until you know how to tell a story your movies will not be compelling. Don't waste time making a bunch of flops. Instead, write up three short stories (no longer than a page each, as short as a long paragraph).

One more note: You will be shooting at least one of these stories, so don't include anything you don't have access to already (including actors, locations, or explosions). Write three stories that you could shoot today.

Looking Forward: Your next assignment will be to begin the process of writing a script for one of your stories. Do not start writing a script. Write three short stories that follow the form of a genre. We'll get to scripts in a bit.

What to Watch: "Egghunt" This short drags a bit (it would have been better if it were a minute shorter), but the story is simple and yet compelling.

View Sample: Assignment 5 Sample


Lynne Diligent said...

Luke, a couple years ago I heard a speaker from The Learning Annex in New York talk about something really interesting. He said that most of the people who come up with the ideas for Hollywood movies are not the ones who actually make them into stories. He explained that these are actually two different skills which people tend to be good at one, or the other. The people coming up with ideas tend to be ideas like, "What if a guy got into this certain situation, what would happen?" Then they pay the person who came up with the idea, but other people make it into a story a write the scripts. Have you heard this? I wonder if this could be the reason behind what you say is the problem with most student productions. As an aspiring writer of many years, after hearing this talk, I wondered if that was why I've always been good with coming up with situations, but not so much with figuring out what could happen to move the plot forward, or how to wind it up. Nevertheless, I will see what I can do with this assignment!

Lynne Diligent said...

I didn't see a way to reply to the student sample, so I'm posting my assignment here:

Assignment Five on Telling a Story

1.) Title: It Serves Her Right!
A poor North African girl of 20, who works as a maid, lives at home with her sick, bossy, and domineering mother. Her ten-year-old brother is recovering from a leg broken in a hit-and-run taxi accident. He now has his cast off and is walking to school on crutches. One day, the mother announces she is taking a bus to visit relatives in another city, leaving the young woman and her younger brother alone, without food, and without money. The young woman manages to take care of her brother and herself with great difficulty, mostly by eating lunch at work herself, and buying tea, bread, snacks, and yogurt for the small brother. It is the bitter cold of January where overnight lows are 33°F and daily highs are about 55°. Patio homes are open, and there is no indoor heat. After 3-4 weeks the mother returns. She begins complaining about what a terrible vacation she had at the relatives’ house, that it was so cold, and she was miserable. The young woman and her brother just look at the mother, then they turn away and smile to themselves! (indicating “it serves her right for what she did to us”) (True Story)

2.) Title: The Toucher
A 13-year-old boy middle-school boy is bothering some of the girls in his class by touching them inappropriately, when they are in line and at other times. One girl talks to an adult she knows about the problem, after being disturbed by this problem for several months. The girl explains that there are some girls in the class who encourage this boy to act this way, as they think he is good-looking and want him to touch them. So now the boy has the idea that all girls want him to behave this way. The adult suggests to the girl to first tell the teachers privately in the classes where it is happening, so that they are aware of the problem. It would also be a good idea to tell her own parents. Next, she should keep an eye on this boy, and the next time he is near her, and she suspects he might touch her, to look him right in the eye, and say something to him personally and directly, such as, “Don’t you EVER touch ME!” Hold his eye contact for two or three seconds afterward. Then, if he does touch her, she should scream or shout loudly (even if it is right in the middle of class), “WHAT are you DOING? GET your HANDS OFF ME! WHY are you touching me like that???” This will immediately get the attention of the teacher and everyone else, and hopefully that will get the message across that he will never do it again, and might get in trouble, as well. She leaves her private conversation with the trusted adult feeling like she now has a plan to deal with this boy. (a longer short movie could show this plan needing to be carried through, and the boy getting suspended from school)

3.) Title: Street Cat Adoption
A street cat is hungry. He goes from house to house the neighborhood looking for food to eat. Sometimes he has to eat from trash bins in the neighborhood. Sometimes he catches a mouse or a bird. Sometimes he finds and open window and jumps into people’s houses, finding his way to the kitchen and eating the pet food of the cats and dogs in the houses. Sometimes he sees people in houses, and meows outside their windows. Some people chase him away , and sometimes others give him a bowl of milk or something else to eat. The cat finally convinces a nice family to adopt him by continually rubbing against their legs to thank them after each time that they feed him.

Anonymous said...

Assignment 5:

1. Ballerina
A young woman is rehearsing at her ballet studio, her teacher watches from the front. " Again from the top" her teacher commands. After rehearsal the young woman races to the dressing room "Marie, Marie, tomorrow they are putting up the casting list!" The young woman exclaims to her friend. " That is so awesome. I know you've been working hard to get that dewdrop solo." Marie replies. " Yeah, I really hope I get the part" the young woman says. The next day the young woman runs into the studio and looks for her name on the casting sheet. She reads: Dewdrop solo..... Lily Jones. The young woman is upset that she didn't get the part. As the woman enters dance class, her teacher runs up to her " Lily Jones sprained her ankle yesterday. I was thinking maybe you would want to dance the solo in Lily's place." The young woman gladly excepts " looks like I got the part I wanted after all" she thinks to herself. - The end.

2. The Surprise
A little girl wants a dog badly. She is constantly begging her parents for one but they always tell her no. One day she leaves to go to school, when she gets home from taking the bus she notices everything is really quiet and the house is dark. "What is going on? Where is everybody?" She says aloud. After a few seconds, she walks up the stairs, into the living room. Right as she comes up the last stair her sister snaps a picture of her and says " SURPRISE!" As the little girl is trying to figure out what is going on she notices something on her sister's lap. A little dog! The girl gasps, " A dog!" She exclaims. The dog lifts it's head up and looks at the little girl. The girl runs over and takes the dog from her sister's lap. " What are you going to name it?" Her sister asks. The girl thinks for a second then, hugging the dog tightly, says " Princess, I will name her Princess." -The end

3.The Scare
A little girl is sitting on a couch clutching a pillow, her sister is sitting next to her. The movie they were watching is just ending. " That was a scary movie" the girl says to her sister. Her sister doesn't reply instead she just turns off the TV and they both get up and walk to their separate rooms. When the girl gets to her room she jumps into bed and pulls the covers up all the way to her chin. She sits there, clutching the covers then, all of sudden, jumps out of bed and runs into the hall yelling " Mom, I'm scared!" As the little girl goes upstairs to find her mom, her older sister sneaks into the little girl's room and hides in her closet. After a few seconds the little girl comes back into her room and gets in bed. As she lies there, glancing fearfully around, she sees her closet door opening ever so slightly. A hand comes around the closet door, the girl sits in bed, frozen with fear. The closet door inches slowly open, then her sister jumps out and yells " Boo!" The little girl screams and covers her head with the covers. Her sister starts laughing. When the little girl hears her laughing she comes out from under the covers with an annoyed look. " I can't believe you did that!" The little girl says to her sister. Her sister just laughs more. " I'm telling mom!" The little girl says, then she runs out of the room. Her sister follows her, closing the door behind them. -The end

Anonymous said...

Here's two of the short story's, I am working on the other.
sorry for the wait.

Jen, Lacy, and Beth were sitting on a fence. “Oh, I am so bored!” Jen sighed
“I wish someone would buy these bracelets, it’s like no one wants any.”
“Maybe no one can be bothered climbing up here Just to buy...” Lacy was interrupted by the excitable Jen,
“Look here's someone quick, quick, quick!” They got up and started shouting to the girl who was walking along the road.
“Loom Bands, Loom Bands, 50c a piece!”
The girl wandered over.
She looked at the bands on Jen's arm, “I think I will take this one.” She took off one of the bracelets.
“Sure that will be fifty cents, thanks” Jen said
The girl produced the money from her pocket and handed it to Jen.
“Thanks so much,” she smiled and walked off.
“Bye” they shouted after her.
Jen sat down “Yes, Fifty cents!”
“Hey Bethany,” said Lacy sitting down “How about we go down to the store and buy some snacks while we wait?”
“Good idea” Jen said “I will stay here and see if anyone wants to buy some more. You to go ahead!”
Beth took Lacey's arm “See ya” they said as they went laughing down the hill.
“Bye” Jen shouted after them.
Out of a bush came a rustling of leaves. Someone climbed out from behind the bush leaping towards Jen.
“Ahhhhh” screamed Jen. The robber tackled her to get the bands off her arm. Jen screamed the whole time. The robber took off up the hill leaving poor Jen on the ground crying.
Hearing Jen sobbing Beth and Lacy ran up the hill. “What's wrong, what happened?” questioned
Lacy. In reply, Jen said with tears streaming down her face “Someone stole the Loom Bands”.
Lacy grabbed her phone out of her pocket and frantically dialed 111. “Hello; come here quick there's been a robbery!” she panted, “thank you bye” She turned to Beth who was comforting Jen “The police said we have to leave everything as it is” and with that they left poor Jen lying in the dirt on the side of the road.

The thud of foot steps on the pavement announced the arrival of two police detectives.
“Take notes” Detective Tim said to his assistant and handed her a note pad. Striding decisively around her prostrate body he examined the crime scene before him.
“Beaten in the head” He said pompously; after studying the faint indentations on the muddy ground he announced “Footprints size 11” Spying a colourful object by his feet he bent down and picked it up.“A strand of a rubber band” he told his assistant emphatically. He stuffed it into his pocket with no regard for preserving the criminal evidence. Speaking to the victim for the first time he said gruffly “Pull yourself together” and with that departed with his submissive assistant in tow.

Later on the day, as the two detectives were walking up the street; Tim said to his detective in training “Now we must remember that this robber, where ever he may be, has a delicate plan.”
Unknown to them the robber was only a few metres away. He waited until they went pass then he broke cover. But the thief did not escape the eyes of the sidekick, “THERE HE IS!” she shouted.
“LET”S GET AFTER HIM!” Tim yelled charging down the hill.
“Thank you so much for rescuing our Loom bands and catching that awful guy!” Jen said to the two Detectives.
“Thank You!” the others shouted.
“No problem, all in a day's work!” said Tim.

Anonymous said...



They took me away.
They took away from me, my family, my possessions, my clothing, my church, my bible.
I cannot see trees, hills, streams, people, children, colour. I have forgotten even that these things exist.
My world is gray
My world is silent
My world is four walls
14 years, 17 hours a day I hear the words - communism is alive, Christianity is dead, No-one loves you, give up.
My wife has been put in another prison far away. I have not seen her in 14 years. She is told I have hung myself but thankfully she doesn’t believe the lies.
One piece of bread a week to sustain my weakening body.
And then there is the torture. I cannot speak about the torture. It would haunt your memories for weeks. Such suffering for one to endure. One wonders how it is possible for a human to survive it.
Paul knows what it is to suffer. Paul writes in Corinthians I am nothing. I too am nothing and have nothing.
So what am I left with in this dark place? Nothing. But in the nothing there is beauty. Because in the nothing there is God, and so you see I really don’t have ‘the nothing’. I have everything.
My world may be gray but it is full of colour
My world may be silent but in the silence the Lord speaks to me.
My world may be four walls, but I am lifted to heavenly places.
It is my great joy to be found to be nothing.

Anonymous said...

Short Story


Teenage boy looks in the full pantry and then fridge and says to his mum
‘Mum there is nothing to eat’

The story of 7 days of meals to show how greedy we are and how some others have nothing.

7 days of meals
DAY 1 – Teenage boy eating roast then saying I’m still hungry
DAY 2 – Teenage boy eating Lasanga then saying I’m still hungry
DAY 3 – Teenage boy eating Pizza then saying I’m still hungry
DAY 4 – Teenage boy eating Stirfry then saying I’m still hungry
DAY 5 – Teenage boy eating chicken pieces then saying I’m still hungry
DAY 6 – Teenage boy eating pork chops then saying I’m still hungry
DAY 7 – Teenage boy eating hamburgers then saying I’m still hungry

Then film a small girl at the same table
DAY 1 – Small portion of rice then saying I’m still hungry
DAY 2 – small portion of rice then saying I’m still hungry
DAY 3 – small portion of rice then saying I’m still hungry
DAY 4 – small portion of rice then saying I’m still hungry
DAY 5 – empty plate then saying I’m still hungry
DAY 6 – empty plate then saying I’m still hungry
DAY 7 – empty plate and empty seat.

Unknown said...

Story 1-Out in the Woods....Two girls decide on the perfect day for a hike as a fall break clebration. They get ready and packed for a weekend filled with fun and adventure. One girl, Sidney, decides to have a little fun with her friend Tiffany, and tells her a scary legend about the forest they are quickly approaching. Sidney shrugs it off, while the story continues bothering Tiffany as the two enter the woods. The first hour of their trip passes uneventfully. Suspence builds when the girls start to realize they are not alone. They soon find themselves running through the woods from an unknown creature straight from Sidney's story. But what the two don't know could cause them a big embarrassment.
Story 2----Dance Class Exaggerated..... Kylie, Chrystal, Callie and Makayla all go to dance class. The class may seem normal at first, but the firls have their dancing quirks. Except in this video, they will be exaggerated. (Scenes: Leg cramps, freestyle, stretching, music playing, bar stretching, storytelling, hunger games, apples, before class and dancing confusion.
Story 3---The Cat Girl....Sophie is playing with her cat, Whiskers, when the cat accidentally scratches her. Slowly the cat's germs get into Sophie's system and her body starts becoming a cat. This, children, is why your parents tell you to wash up after getting scratched.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

1) Misunderstood
Jean, Annie, Izaak and Luke strolls through the botanical garden as a tall, barefoot, bewildered man dressed in only an old dirty grey coat stumbles up to them asking their help.

2) JAIL birds
Jean, Annie, Izaak and Luke find themselves in court for misbehaving in public. The judge is passing the judgement for them to be jailed for 3 years. The four contemplate and make plans to escape even before going to prison.

3) The artist
Stephen, a paraplegic 21 year old man stares at his computer screen wondering how to impress Design companies with his 3D designs. Stephen's mother opens the bedroom door and enters. Stephen is startled as he was concentrating on his work, he looks at the door as his mother enters the room and tells him to come get his dinner. Stephen explains to his mom that he first want to finish this one model he is busy with, then he'll come eat. His mother doesn't like his excuse and yells at him saying that she will throw his food to the dogs if he doesn't come eat immediately.

Unknown said...

The Sound:
One night a boy and his friends are watching a movie. Then bang something falls, the boy goes over to the sound past a bathroom with a friend downed in a toilet. He does not see this but finds only the cat. He comes back and sits down. Then he hears a noise in the closet, he opens it and inside is a body of a friend hanging from the ceiling. The dog runs out. Again the boy does not see the body. A black figure walks behind him. The boy unknowing knocks out the figure, then comes back and sits back down next to another dead friend. He takes the remote from him, not realizing that all his friends are dead and starts watching the movie again. The end.

The Girl Scout:
Once there was a man that did not like to spend money. He was reading when, “ding dong” the doorbell rang. He came to the door and opened it, and found a Girl Scout selling cookies. She said,” Want to buy some cookies only five dollars a box?” She begged again and again but he would not buy any of her cookies. Then he slammed the door in her face. He went to is room to watch some TV, but when he went in she was jumping on the bed and when she saw him she said “want to buy some cookies only ten dollars a box?” he said get out of my house and he carried her outside and locked her out. He then went to the kitchen, he was hungry so he opened the cabinet to get something to eat. The Girl Scout was there, she said “want to buy some cookies only fifteen dollars a box”. He said no and pushed her out of the house. He turned around and she was in the dining room and then she said “want to buy some cookies twenty dollars a box?” Then he said okay I will buy the cookies just get out of my house. Then she said thank you have a nice day. The end

The Clown:
Once there was a kid that was scared of clowns. One day he opened his closet and there was a clown in it! He screamed in terror and ran down stairs to find his parents. But then he remembered, his parents went to the neighbors. The clown walked out of the freezer. The kid screamed and ran upstairs and hid in there corner. The clown jumped out of the bed and chased the boy. Then the clown started falling down and throwing pies at himself. The kid laughed! The end.

Unknown said...

The unstoppable snore:
There are two guys sleeping on different beds, one is awake and one is fast asleep. Guy 1 starts snoring. Annoyed, guy 2 rolls over and puts, his hands to over his ears. Guy 1 snores louder. Guy 2 gets up and rolls guy 1 over. Guy 1 snores louder. Guy 2 pokes guy 1. Guy 1 snores even louder. Guy 2 walks back to bed, puts a pillow over his ears, and yells “shut up!” Guy 1 snores extremely loud! Guy 2 cry’s under the pillow. {Scene slowly fades} The next day guy 1 gets up happy, he looks over at guy 2. Guy 2 is snoring softly. Guy 1 shakes his head and says “wow this guy snores” and walks away. The end.

The couch potatoes:
There are two couch potatoes who spent all their time on the couch watching TV. There was a power outage and the two potatoes were forced to go out and find a new home. They crawled up the stairs, they slowly made their way through the door and out in to the sunshine. They walked down the street. They ran up hills, walked up across fields and climbed up cliffs for a long time. When they finally found a home they were very fit. They sat down on the couch, got comfortable and clicked the ON button on the TV. The end.

The Game:
A girl finds a game and she gets addicted. She won’t let her brother or parents get the game away from her. She plays it day and night until she collapses and goes in to a deep sleep. The next day her brother sees the game and opens it. He sees her sister in the game. He plays it badly and almost gets her killed. The game ends and he ponders whether to press “Retry” or “Game Over” with the sister freaking out. The end.

Unknown said...

Lunch Stealer
Each day Sam gets up to pack a lunch and get ready for work. As he walks into work Sam makes sure to carry his lunch pack in with him where he places the pack into a white refrigerator just down the row from his cubical. The pack sits among dozens of other lunches, all waiting to be eaten. Most days the lunch sits in the white refrigerator waiting for Sam to come back and eat it. At noon sharp on an ideal Tuesday, Sam went to go get his well packed lunch and to his surprise it wasn’t in the white refrigerator just down from his cubical. Someone in the office had stolen Sam’s lunch from the shelf with in the refrigerator, he looked high and he looked low and it was no where to be found. Sam was angry and upset as he walked back to his desk thinking, “Who could have stolen my lunch?”

Computer Crash
One day Jill was working away on a very important project for her boss. Sarah her boss need this project for a 1 o’clock meeting with some very important clients that were to be in the office later that day. Jill worked tirelessly through the morning to accomplish all of the details that her boss wanted in the presentation. Her boss Sarah would stop by periodical to add this or that to the content of work. As Jill started to finish up the project and save the final version of the presentation a quit “shhh” happened and the computer went dark. “Oh no”, Jill thought the computer just crashed and the final version hasn’t been saved. As she sat there at her desk Jill could only hope and pray that the project could be found in its final version form. She pressed the start button on the computer and the computer started up with a loud fan like sound.

Two Intelligent co-workers chatting to the Beat
Bill had always loved urban Dayton with its obedient, odd office. It was a place where he felt active. He was a witty, hilarious, tea drinker with charming legs and black eyebrows. His friends saw him as a dirty, dangerous designer. Once, he had even rescued an person from a burning building. That's the sort of man he was. Bill walked over to the window and reflected on his noisy surroundings. The rain hammered like jumping mice. Then he saw something in the distance, or rather someone. It was his co-worker Frank . Frank was a funny friend with long legs and skinny eyebrows. Bill gulped. He was not prepared for Frank. As Bill stepped outside and Frank came closer, he could see the agreeable smile on his face. Frank gazed with the affection of delightful doubtful dog. He said, in hushed tones, “Do you have a pencil." Bill looked back, even more shocked and still fingering the crumpled sandwich. "Frank, I've got a new job," he replied. They looked at each other with stressed feelings, like two tender, tall tortoises thinking at a very modest meeting, which had indie music playing in the background and two intelligent co-workers chatting to the beat. Frank looked shocked and puzzled and said back, “that’s great, but I still need to borrow a pencil.” THE END

Unknown said...

1) Wake Up
Casey Woke up one morning with a strange feeling.Not your average day she thought.Something was off, but she just couldn't quite figure it out yet.She got out of bed and went for a jog to get some fresh air.Her trip was cut just short of her home when she heard it.The whispers of voices showing no mercy on her brain kept lingering.She took a step back, turned around and saw a person out in the distance.Without thinking, She spun around and all of the sudden, she teleported.Wait?What?Teleportation?No,no,no.It's 2015 not 3012.People can't just do that!Hmm.Casey looked back to see nobody behind her.She continued up the steps,reached for the door and this time, she felt the hair on her back raise.This person was behind her.She was trapped.Looking back out of the corner of her eye, she saw nothing.Casey knew she was loosing her mind.Teleportation, and now, she's hearing and seeing people?She entered her house again and grabbed her phone.Now was her chance to get some real answers.She called the only person who knew everything.(mom)When her mom arrived at her house, Casey told her everything that happened.Her mother didn't believe her, so she showed her.Only, it didn't work.She couldn't teleport.Mabye she needs to be chased.She grabbed her mother by the arm and told her to chase her.It STILL wasn't working.Casey ran back outside and called for the stranger.First she heard it.Then she saw was HER!"Hey I was just wondering if you could let me borrow a cup of sugar"She awkwardly looks at her-Casey wakes up--The End
Grace tried to be heard.Always.She resorted to other means of play after she realized nobody could hear her but herself.She saw the confused looks on their faces as she spoke.Realizing she was done trying, she stopped speaking.Completely isolating herself from the world.Until one day, she found an old piano in her parents barn.She sat down and something magical happened.It wasn't the sound as much as it was the feel.The touch, the sense of awe that only SHE could give herself.In that moment there was nothing more that she could do to be content.After all, music really does speak louder than words
Brooklyn and Shy are texting.
Brooklyn: "Hey wanna go shopping?
Shy: "Hey wanna go Shopping?"
Brooklyn:"Ummm yeah, I just asked you that lol."
Shy:"Ummm yeah, I just asked you that lol."
Brooklyn:"Seriously,this isn't very funny..."
Shy:"Seriously,this isn't very funny..."
Brooklyn:"You know what, forget I even asked.I'm not talking to YOU anymore."
Shy:"You know what, forget I even asked.I'm not talking to YOU anymore."
Brooklyn:"You are awesome"
Shy:"Dude seriously?"
Brooklyn:"Wanna go shopping?"

Unknown said...

Story One: Comedy Sketch: Professor Layton In Real Life. The central theme is Layton finding puzzles to solve, but all at the wrong places and the wrong times. It is filmed as a collection of short videos, not as a one whole video.

Story Two: Comedy Sketch: A Spy’s First Day on the Job: A brand new spy is brought in to pick up his tech for his first mission. But he is starstruck by all the awesome gear and starts messing with things that he shouldn’t.

Story Three: Comedy Sketch: What’s Really Going on In A Cat’s Mind: A video following a cat around doing it’s daily stuff and then doing a voice-over commentary to show what the cats are thinking.

Anonymous said...

1) A little help (moral)
Scene is a bedroom. Boy is sprawled on his bed with textbooks and school books open everywhere. Boy is staring into space. Girls comes into the room and asks why is he not doing his schoolwork. Boy answers that he can't focus and he doesn't know why. Girls goes and re-appears with a Bible. She tells him to try to read it and find out if he needs God in his life. Boy rolls eyes and says he doesn't need anyone's help. Girl persists and finally gives him the Bible. the girl exits. The boy shakes his head and opens the Bible. he opens Mathew 11:28-30 and reads it aloud. He smiles and prays (actions - doesn't say anything). Then he smiles and studies peacefully.

2) Day in a dog's life (comedy)
Camera follows dog around for a day and a voice over tells what the dog is thinking

3) Snoring (comedy)
two people are in their beds. One is sleeping and one is awake(sitting up). One is snoring very loudly. THe other is trying different methods of making the room quiet.