There’s an idea in screenwriting that goes like this: the most critical moments for the hero (i.e. the hard choices or key conversations) should happen in memorable settings. The backdrop should underscore the importance of the moment in the story.
While I love paying attention to this idea in films, I even more appreciate trying to create it in my own story.
I’ve pulled off the power of the backdrop in a dramatic way a few times in life. One of my favorite was when the TV network I was producing for got sold. I had just finished a multi-season series on sex-trafficking and was exhausted. And this change would likely require me to move way to get my next gig.
It was all so sudden and overwhelming. I knew I needed a new backdrop to acknowledge that my story was shifting in a significant way.
So I packed up my flat and headed out on an Unemployment Tour. My suspicion was that walking in the bush and gazing at the sea in South Africa with two dear friends might rouse me from my exhaustion and being back in familiar haunts in Europe may ground me enough to re-imagine a new home. Those backdrops worked their magic. When I returned to the States I was ready to engage a new season.
While that dramatic scene change was a gift, most I make are more subtle. Take today for instance. I was in NYC this week directing a shoot. I stayed on for a day so I could spend it walking in Central Park, which is always home base for me in NYC.
In this beloved backdrop I called a couple of treasured friends to include them in this memory…to set them in this scene.
Using backdrops can be even more basic. It’s simply a matter of exacting a little intention in our everyday lives.
For example, I know my best talks with my dad are on walks–we’re both more present that way. So we prioritize connecting in that way…whether we’re together or plan a call when we both can be walking.
Backdrops can also create energy and provide comfort. I have a dear friend who often schedules her first dates as a walk along her favorite greenway. She likes to see if a man is up for a little adventure and she knows even if the date doesn’t go well she’ll at least get in a good walk in a beautiful place.
Every city I live in I try to find a place of beauty near my home and go there regularly, especially when I need puzzle out challenges or work on creative projects.
I’m curious what backdrops you’re choosing for your story. Where do you go to help you make the hard choices or to have important conversations? And what are some favorite backdrops for your story?
Do tell. Thanks!