THE MAKING OF THE FILM
Mark Cousins’ Scribbles
What are these Scribbled Pages?When I was in school, I loved it when they gave us big sheets of paper to draw on. Ever afterwards, when I have something to plan or write, I start with a large sheet of paper.
So it was with A Story of Children and Film. I realised early on in my thinking that, unlike my other films, it would not be about a journey, a road movie, it would be a series of themes. So I scribbled each childhood theme – shy, secretive, performative, destructive, watching, leaving, adventurer, dreaming, grumpy, scared, loss, limited horizon, daring, class, adult, dog with a bone, alone – on the page, and drew a rough box around each. Then, each time I watched a film, if it had a good scene about one of those themes, I wrote it down in the relevant box.
I got the themes themselves from watching my nephew and niece play (if you’ve seen A Story of Children and Film you’ll have seen them – they are called Laura and Ben). I noted down the order in which I saw the themes – shyness came first, for example, and destructiveness came last. I then took a red marker pen and numbered the themes according to the order in which I saw them in the kids’ play: 1 + 2 for shyness (I can’t remember why it got two numbers!), 9 for destructiveness, etc. This, by and large, became the order in which we edited the scenes in the film.
If you look in the scribbled boxes you’ll see many more films mentioned than are in the final film. When it came to the edit, we chose what I thought were the best examples. We didn’t need more than, say, five scenes to reveal a theme. You’ll also notice that some themes don’t appear at all (Emperor’s New Clothes, for example). We didn’t edit these scenes into the film, then remove them. We realised, before we started editing, that we didn’t need them.
I find the “big shoot of paper” approach so much more useful than, say, a linear document on a computer. The former allows me to jump between themes, notice connections, etc. It’s more creative, more like drawing.