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The Arts Unit @home Art Bites – Creating a detective story with props

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[music playing]

SUSAN GELDART: Hi everyone. I hope you're all keeping safe and well during this time. My name is Susan and I'm the Year 7 Drama Ensemble Tutor at The Arts Unit.

In today's session, we're going to learn how to make a storyline or a plot from using props as a stimulus. You'll remember your basic drama skills, that a prop is an item or an object that's used to enhance a story. For example, in a play or a film, you'll notice that characters sometimes have objects like a bunch of flowers or a briefcase or maybe a newspaper. These are all items that the actors use as a character to embellish the story. In a moment, I'm going to get you to collect three props or objects from your own home that we're going to use to create an original detective story.

The task we'll be doing today is creating a detective story where each prop or object is a clue that we will use to create and tell our story. Later on, we'll give you an example of what that might look like. You'll build your story like a game of Cluedo in using each item as a clue that all builds towards your story's conclusion and the solution of the crime.

So the theme of the story is crime mystery. What you're going to need are three objects. You're going to set off around your home to find three objects that you could use as a stimulus for your story. You may go to any room or space in your house, or you may decide to collect items from just one room.

But a word of warning here, please don't use any dangerous items. We don't want any accidents. If you're unsure about what is safe or appropriate to use, then it's important that you have a parent or a carer with you. They'll be able to help you.

I've got my daughter Poppy helping me today. Poppy is going to set off around the house and find three objects.

Here, we have Poppy in her bedroom. And for her first prop, she's found a pair of earrings from out of her jewellery box. Into the bathroom and Poppy has chosen a shower cap as her second prop. The last room Poppy heads to is the kitchen. Here, Poppy selects a chocolate cake.

You can pause your video whilst you find your three props or keep watching for what we've done with our props before you start.

Once you have yours, lay them out together as Poppy has done. In our case, we have the earrings, the shower cap, and the delicious chocolate cake. Once you've placed your three props down, have a good look and explore the possibilities. How could you include these props into a story which has one or two characters and an interesting plot?

Because this is a crime mystery, make sure you include an element of surprise or conflict and build some tension. Think of inventive or interesting ways each prop is a part of your story and can be revealed one object at a time. As the ideas pop into your head, scribble them down on paper in a plan or use bullet points. And with these ideas, you're going to create your own story.

Once your story has fallen into place, write the whole thing down. This will form the narration to your final scene. If you know what 'film noir' is, like those old movies where the detective narrates his journey and thoughts as he goes, this is what you're doing. So your first step is to write your story.

The next step is to record yourself telling the story. You can use a voice recorder app or your computer. Record your voice using your expressive skills, remembering to manipulate tone to create mystery and tension. Try to be your character as you speak. You can record it as many times as you like until you're happy with the finished product.

The next step is to bring your story to life.

Using various parts of your house, walk through the story. Use the voice recording to narrate your story. Remember to make the use of your three props clear and obvious. You want your actions to match what you're saying in the recording of your narration.

Your last step is to now film your action. Once you're satisfied that your actions work in time with the narration, film the whole scene on your device. Here is what we eventually created.

POPPY: It was 10:00 AM, and mum walked into the house with some shopping. As she unpacked the bag, I noticed the chocolate cake. I paid special attention to this because we hadn't had chocolate cake in the house since 2018, when my sweet tooth grandma moved in with us. However, last month, grandma moved into her new unit, so I guess mum had just thought it was safe to reintroduce chocolate cake.

I watched carefully as mum placed the cake in the cupboard behind the cereal box. She said, 'I'm hiding this from your brother.' Mum had a few items left in the bag. She'd picked up a few things for Bert down the road. She told me she was just going to pop out and take the shopping around to Bert's. She's usually gone for around an hour when she goes to Bert's because she has a coffee with him and helps him with his garden. He's been lonely since his wife Betty passed away.

When mum left, I returned to the lounge to do some more schoolwork. I wanted to get it finished so that I could go and sit in the yard and read my book. The house was empty. It was peaceful. I could hear mum down the street, laughing with Bert in his garden. It was almost too quiet, so I put my earphones in and listened to music whilst working.

Thirty minutes or so passed and I was feeling a bit peckish. That's when I remembered the chocolate cake. Mum wouldn't mind if I had just one small slice. But when I opened the cupboard door and looked behind the cereal, the cake was gone, the whole thing! The cupboard looked different. The food inside had been moved around and now that I think about it, the door was slightly ajar.

My heart started thudding in my chest. Someone had come into the house whilst I'd been upstairs. Were they still in the house? I walked down the hallway and saw that the front door had been left open. Mum sometimes leaves it open when she nips to Bert's. Had someone walked in the front door from the street?

On the floor next to the door, I spotted an earring-- just one. How odd. I didn't recognise the earring at all. It wasn't mine, and it couldn't have been mum's because she doesn't have her ears pierced. By now, I'm starting to feel scared. I moved back into the lounge to grab my phone to call mum, but I was stopped in my tracks.

I heard the bathroom door slam shut. I turned around slowly and with my heart about to leap out of my chest, I caught sight of someone wearing our shower cap in dad's bathrobe. They had their back to me and were looking out the window. Tentatively, almost unable to breathe, I tried to escape before the intruder turned around. I tiptoed past, praying that the floorboards didn't squeak. I felt sick.

One step, two steps, three, and then-- grandma? What are you doing in our house, wearing our shower cap?

GRANDMA: Oh, sorry, dear. Did I give you a fright? Oh, I did knock on the door, but you didn't hear me. Your mum said I could come round here and have a shower, because they've turned the water off in the unit and I'm having my hair shampooed this afternoon. Didn't want to get it wet. And Bert's taking me to the bingo tonight. Isn't that lovely?

POPPY: Is this what you're looking for?

[writing on screen]

SUSAN GELDART: So you can see how we used the three props. The shower cap was used by grandma to protect her hair in the shower, one of the earrings was used as a clue, and the chocolate cake tied in nicely at the end with grandma and her sweet tooth.

I hope you have as much fun making your video as Poppy and I did.

If you'd like some extension activities to further challenge yourself, there will be some at the end of this video. Make sure you show your teacher or your family the end result. Maybe have your own special film screening.

Good luck with the task, and here are some other ideas if you'd like to have a go at those as well.

[writing on screen]

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