Scenes Technique #1 - Show what happened as a film director would.
How would Morgan Freedman or Jessica Chastain portray what happened?
In the last episode of Case Analysis, we discussed fairy tales. Many films use fairy tales as their plot or theme. After all, fairy tales accomplish two things that trial lawyers also want to achieve. First, they tell a story in an entertaining way. While lawyers aren’t so keen on entertaining, they do aspire to interest their audience of decision-makers.
Second, fairy tales involve a ‘life lesson’, such as ‘slow and steady wins the race’. Aesop had it right. Entertain to teach. Dull doesn’t cut it. Trial lawyers would substitute ‘call to action’ for ‘life lesson’. The call to action ultimately seeks to align the decision-maker with what the lawyer wants as the result of the trial. We’ll delve into this more deeply when we get to Argument later in the series, but take it on faith for the moment that you want to persuade your audience to do something. Not just to believe the version you are presenting but to act on that belief by ruling in favour of your party.
This section of the Advocacy Club Boot Camp on Substack will serve as a bridge between the theoretical and the practical, between Case Analysis and Examinations. It’s time for us to do something with the information we gathered and then analyzed.
As before, we break the Scenes Technique into discrete steps. The first step is to consider all the events that go into each of the Seven Elements. Later we will sort out which ones deserve to make the Director’s Cut, but for now, we will think about all the little moments that go into the element.
Let’s return to the Goldilocks fairy tale. The first element spun for Goldilocks was:
1. A little blonde girl wandered helplessly in the forest, searching for sanctuary.
Our film director asks several questions.
· Who is the girl?
· How did she come to be in the forest?
· Where are her parents?
· What does the forest look like?
· What did Goldilocks expect as she entered the forest?
· What did she feel as her wandering took her ever farther from safety?
You could add dozens more such questions. As you answer some of these, you will start to grasp the practicality of the Scenes Technique. Here are the various little scenes that make up the element. Yes, we have invented lots of detail that the fairy tale lacks.
1. 9-year-old Goldilocks does, indeed, have two parents.
2. She lives on a farm on the outskirts of the forest.
3. Her parents instructed her never to leave the yard without one of them by her side.
4. One day, she was playing in the yard when a songbird drew her into the forest.
5. Goldilocks followed the bird ever deeper into the forest.
6. After a while, she lost touch with the bird and noticed she was quite lost.
7. She panicked and tried to retrace her steps, but to no avail.
OK, we’ll leave it off here. The idea is that we found seven sub-scenes within the element without any difficulty at all. A film director might find a dozen or more such scenes while setting the stage, introducing the protagonist, and creating the enticing incident that launches creative fiction.
When you think of it, you realize that your courtroom witness shares quite a lot with Goldilocks. The decision-maker doesn’t know your witness, so you must introduce the witness. You should set the stage for the witness to testify, answering questions that place the witness into a relevant part of the plot of the trial’s story. And you need an inciting incident. Effectively, ‘tell us what happened then’ as the testimony gets to the interesting part.
So that is the first step of the Scenes Technique. Pick an element you have spun for either side. Imagine all the component scenes that go into it, and place them in their proper order to cover the whole element. In our next episode, we will provide a template of questions to answer as you go about this step.
Exercise: examine one of the elements you have drafted as spun for either side. Record all the component scenes that make up this element.
No handbook is written about this technique, although one is under consideration.