Narrative Structure; Film Language; Critical Analysis
In this lesson students critically analyse the conversion of a storybook to film form and use tools including a venn diagram and text retrieval chart to analyse the process.
Teacher reference: A Television Comedy Study Guide
Any Round the Twist series video and book from which the program was adapted.
Materials required: lots of magazines for cutting up; large sheets of cartridge paper; paste; paper for speech bubbles.
1. Analyse the first scene and the main character
Read the story
Students read the part of the selected Paul Jennings' short story first or you might read it aloud to them.
Discuss the orientation of the story and how this sets the scene for the story to come. Who is the main character? Where is the story set? How does the narrative lead into the plot?
View the video
View the beginning of the Round the Twist video version and discuss the same questions and then compare the two. Is the story the same or is a different scenario set up? Why? What are the differences between the settings? Why? Why do the key characters have different names?
Students now read or you can read the rest of the story to them.
Analyse the story
Students work with a partner to fill in the first column of a text retrieval chart and list the main elements of the narrative for both the print and the video texts for comparison. Before setting students to the task, model the process by filling out one or two sections of the text retrieval
chart with the class.
3. Looking at the whole text: the Round the Twist episode
View the video
The class can now view the whole Round the Twist episode based on the same story and keep rough notes of any information required to fill in the video section of the retrieval chart.
Complete the text retrieval chart
Following the viewing of the episode students can complete their text retrieval charts.
4. Compare the two versions of the story
Students can work with a partner to compare the two columns looking for similarities and differences in the collected information. A venn diagram is a useful strategy to see these clearly.
Based on an activity developed by Jane O'Loughlin with her year 8 class in Travers, D and Hancock, J (eds). 1994. Teaching Viewing - Twelve Units of Learning with Visual Texts, SAETA.
Pairs of students can join to make groups of four to compare notes and to discuss the information they have gathered.
5.Analyse the information and looking at the reasons why In groups
Groups can now review and analyse all the comparative information they have collated about the two versions of the story and fill in the Video and Book Comparison worksheet.
As a class
Discuss the students' responses to this question. Why are some elements included in one version and not in the other? Explain to the class that any television series will have
production limitations, which mean that some events in a book simply cannot be reproduced because of the ongoing story and/or the production budget, and because they may not suit the dramatic form of the television script.
Extend the discussion to include the ways the script writers have varied the original story to fit in with the Round the Twist setting, characters and continuing narratives. Which elements of the story are specially designed to fit into the ongoing Round the Twist context?
As a starting point identify the 'constants' in the Round the Twist stories - for example, the same major characters in every episode, identical settings, continuous relationships - Dad/Miss James, Pete/Fiona, Pete vs Gribble Junior and so on.
Share the following background information with students to give the adaptation process some context.
Esben Storm, co-script writer and director of the first two Round the Twist series describes some of this process:
With Round the Twist we started off with the quirky short stories. Each featured different characters, settings and styles. So we had to create a context into which we could incorporate the basic plots and twists of the short stories. It became apparent that we needed three kids, two of whom were twins, a single father and a seaside home. They became the Twist family...
From A Television Comedy Study Guide, 1996 ACTF p.10. See Resource Packs for purchasing details and order form.
Paul Jennings said:
When I started to write Round the Twist I had to think of a setting, somewhere for the family to live. I wanted it to be unusual. In the end, I thought of a lighthouse. It would be terrific to live in a lighthouse. I rang up the big bosses - Dr Patricia Edgar [Executive Producer] and Antonia Barnard [Producer]. They told me they would think about it. Making the interior - the inside of the set, would be very expensive...In the end the phone call came back. Yes. You can have your lighthouse. I was rapt.
Paul Jennings Round the Twist 1990 Puffin Books p.6.
6. Establishing guidelines for television script writers
As many people are usually involved in the writing and producing of a TV series in comparison to the one book writer, it is important, once the series' framework is established, to create a set of production guidelines. This is commonly called a Production Bible and is designed to make sure all the writers have the same information.
Distribute copies of this very simple Guide to Writers' which has been adapted from actual instructions given to writers of the old cowboy series Bonanza.
GUIDE TO WRITERS
· Definitely no fires.
· No floods.
· No deaths of major characters.
· No major characters are to commit a crime.
· No major character to be seen drinking alcohol.
· No bathroom scenes.
(From Lesson Ideas, Little Black Balls by Robyn Quinn)
As a whole class
Discuss the possible reasons behind each of these instructions to the writers. Discuss the production context given that this program was made many years ago. Introduce the concept of social mores and television censorship with ‘G’ ratings.
In pairs or small groups
Ask students to prepare a 'List of Instructions to Writers' for Round the Twist. Compare their lists and ask students to justify the reasons for such rules. Considerations could include: characters, locations, the requirements of the continuing narratives, and the age of the target audience.
7. Writing a storyline for a new episode of Round the Twist.
As a whole class
Students can identify some short stories from the many Paul Jennings books which have not been made into a Round the Twist episode. While choosing and listing these stories, they can also consider some of the reasons why they may not have been chosen for the television series.
Explain to students that writing a script for a television episode begins with writing a brief storyline which outlines the entire story in one page or less. A storyline does not include any dialogue. It is a brief overview of the main story and characters.
Below is a short synopsis from Round the Twist.
Spaghetti Pig Out ep 5 vol 1 Round the Twist 2 ACTF.
A bolt of lightning hits the video remote control at the lighthouse and suddenly it works on people. The PAUSE button freezes everyone. The FAST FORWARD gives real meaning to an instant meal. But it is the REWIND that causes the most trouble, especially when Gribble pigs out in a spaghetti-eating competition and feels a little sick as a result.
Working in pairs or small groups, students can select one of the listed non Round the Twist Paul Jennings short stories to write a very short Round the Twist television series storyline.
Students can brainstorm ideas for their Round the Twist version of the new story.
Remind students that they will need to consider the Round the Twist setting, characters and plot to determine who will do what and where and consider the magic and fantasy devices that are a feature of the television series.
8. The importance of dialogue in a television production
As a whole class
Look at the difference between the amount and types of dialogue in the print version of a story and the television version. Discuss the ways in which dialogue in a television/film text contributes to telling the story before beginning the following activity, which focuses on the importance of the dialogue in communicating a story to an audience. You will need the materials listed under Resources
Individually or in pairs
1.Choose and cut out large photographs of two or three different people from the magazines/brochures.
2.Arrange the photographs on a sheet of paper.
3.Draw and cut out a set of blank speech bubbles.
4.Place a speech bubble coming from the mouth of each character.
5.Using the speech bubbles, create and write a conversation between them. Make
the dialogue simple and direct.
Discuss with students how this conversation, combined with the look of the selected
characters, creates a story. Speech bubbles can be changed to lengthen the exchange or
to change it. Students can read each others comic 'stories' in small groups.
As a class
Reflect on this process, discussing and listing the types of dialogue which worked best in communicating the story to others.
9. Writing the script
Explain to students that the next step in the process is to write the script which describes what happens in the story, what characters say, where the action is set and the time of day. For further background information see Scripts in the Film Production section Exploring television and film production: live action.
Discuss the following script extract with the class, looking at the features and the way it is set out.
Download the annotated script example from this lesson plan.
Students can now write a very short script for a possible scene from their Round the Twist synopsis, if possible with only two key characters. They need to include dialogue between the characters and instructions explaining who is doing what, when and how. This also needs to include the characters' reactions and expressions - for example, 'Bronson has a scared look on his face as he approaches the dunny in the dark'. Any ideas for music and sound effect instructions should also be added.
10. Performance of script
Students can present the new scenes by:
- script reading (Readers' Theatre),
- dramatisation of the scene,
- a visual comic strip version of the scene.
If possible, compare the ways different groups respond to the original stories, especially if some groups have worked on the same stories.
11. Some things work better in film, some in book form
Discuss how some things work better in film, others in book form. Nails ep 5
vol 4 Round the Twist 2 has some examples such as the hilarious kiss scene
which is only included in the television version of the story.
Video Clip: Nailsep 5 vol 4 Round the Twist 2 ACTF Scene: Play audition in school hall.
Begins: Exterior of school. Gloved hand appears at door as Andrew enters.
Ends: Rabbit says, 'Yeah, lose the gloves'. Dur: 3'30"
View the scene and discuss why it is only in this television version and not in the original short story. What are the elements that make it so funny?
Would these work in a written version? For comparison, ask students to find some examples of stories in books which they think might not translate to the screen very well. Encourage them to give reasons why.
Paul Jennings' short stories were transformed into the successful comedy series Round the Twist Series 1 and Series 2, made by the ACTF. The award-winning television series takes Jennings's individual stories and reworks them into the one location and set of characters. They become the funny and fantastic experiences of the Twist family who try to get away from it all by leaving the city to make their new home in a lighthouse. Most Round the Twist episodes are based on original Jennings' short stories, rewritten as scripts by Paul Jennings in the first series and by Jennings with director/script writer Esben Storm in Series 2.
Both the books and the television series have continued to be very successful and very popular. The material provides a wonderful opportunity for students to see how these stories have been adapted and reconstructed into different formats.
Skeleton on the Dunny, Paul Jennings, in Unreal! (1985) Puffin Books
Skeleton on the Dunnyep 1 vol1Round the Twist 1 ACTF
Spaghetti Pig Out, Paul Jennings, in
Uncanny! (1988) Puffin Books
Spaghetti Pig Out ep 5 vol 1 Round the Twist 1 ACTF