Scenes Technique #2 - The before, during & after questions
Scenes don't take place in a vacuum
In the previous episode of Scenes Technique (#1), we rattled off several scenes that – together – comprise one whole element. As you may have observed, the Advocacy Club Boot Camp on Substack likes formulae. We don’t like random thoughts, although we appreciate all creative contributions.
So, then, what is the formula for creating the scenes of an element? Start with the timing. There is a sequence for most scenes: before, during and after.
· Before the scene, the witness or protagonist was doing, thinking, or feeling something relevant to the scene or element you are about to present. Effectively, what did the witness expect? How was the witness prepared for what came next?
· During the scene, stuff happened. What was there about the setting or the witness that impacted the description of that event? Here, we delve into the bias and other factors influencing the witness’ perception and credibility. For example, how far was the witness from the noise? What meds did the witness take? What is the relationship between the witness and the other people involved in the scene?
· After the scene wound down, how did the witness react? This reaction could serve as a segue to the next scene but could also reflect on the witness’ perception and credibility.
Note that perspective is important. There will be a different series of scenes for each witness. Partly, this is because each witness participates in some but not all possible events. But it is also because each perceives the events differently, impacted by their personal bias, experience, where they were, and how they felt at the moment.
As we use this technique, at least thus far, we are still thinking as the film director. In our next episode, we will add the factor that most interests lawyers – evidence. How will you prove what the scene shows? How will you persuade the decision-maker that it happened the way you want to portray it?
Let’s return to the Goldilocks fairy tale. Consider all those questions we posed as we played the part of the film director:
· Who is the girl? Before she entered the forest, Goldilocks had several attributes that matter to the story’s telling. Here we consider her age, physique, and how obedient she was.
· How did she come to be in the forest? Here we learn about her playing in the farmyard and hearing the lovely songbird. Was it a mockingbird? A nightingale? What did it sound like? How far was the bird from the girl?
· Where were her parents? They play supporting roles unless the Three Bears blame the parents for what happened. Then they become the villains. We might explore their relationship with their daughter, whether there were other kids in the family, how they looked after Goldilocks, and, of course, what were they doing when she went for her wander?
· What does the forest look like? We describe the setting that started out so friendly and became more of a threat. What was Goldilocks’ experience in the woods?
· What did Goldilocks expect as she entered the forest? Maybe she didn’t think about what she was doing, but maybe she was confident in navigating these woods and felt safe. Maybe she disregarded her parents’ warning.
· What did she feel as her wandering took her ever farther from safety? You have to get her all the way from the yard to the Three Bears’ house. When did she realize she was in trouble? What did she fear most, the forest’s unknowns or her parents’ punishment? Before you segue to the house scene, you should explore how she felt and why. Cue the Hitchcock omen or foreshadowing!
As an exercise demonstration, let’s revisit those scenes we created to flesh out the element and remember that we spun this for Goldilocks. Let’s apply our formula to each of the first three:
1. 9-year-old Goldilocks does, indeed, have two parents.
a. Before: there may be siblings or other familial adults on the premises.
b. During: describe Goldilocks and the family dynamics, with examples.
c. After: we will leave the family to focus on the farm setting, so what does the audience need to know about the family that has not been covered?
2. She lives on a farm on the outskirts of the forest.
a. Before: where is the farm? Who owns it (if not the parents)? How close is it to the forest? How long has Goldilocks lived there?
b. During: what does Goldilocks do on the farm? How happy is she there? What experience has she had in the forest?
c. After: we are about to move on to her parents’ instructions, so we need to present any experience she or they have had with the forest and her wandering off.
3. Her parents instructed her never to leave the yard without one of them by her side.
a. Before: what did Goldilocks know or do that prompted the instructions?
b. During: what were the instructions? When were they repeated?
c. After: how did she react to the instructions, both in her feelings and conduct? What trouble did she get into after the instructions?
We have only covered a little ground in the fairy tale, but see how much of what we discussed would feature in any trial lawyer’s presentation of a witness. In effect, ‘Witness, why are you testifying in this courtroom?’
In our next episode, we will provide a further template of questions for you to ask as you make the transition from film director to trial lawyer.
Exercise: examine several of the scenes you created in the previous exercises. Record all the before, during, and after questions your scene should include.
No handbook is written about this technique, although one is under consideration.