Last week I was invited to a writing class sponsored by Universal Pictures with Naomi Wood as tutor at Faber Academy. Couldn’t believe my luck, as fairy tale is right up my alley, as with writing. And I’ve got Naomi Wood’s book Mrs. Hemingway on my Kindle for a while (just haven’t got around to reading it).
The class was small and felt private, unlike the usual publication tie-in events with several dozens of people in a room. There were only five of us from various blogs, with one PR person and another girl from Universal – that made seven of us sitting at the big table.
This workshop was in conjunction with the home entertainment release of The Huntsman: Winter’s War, which is based on Snow White tale. It’s sort of a prequel/sequel of Snow White and the Huntsman (released in 2012). I haven’t watched the first movie (nor had I the second at the time), but we all know Snow White story. I received the press DVD after the class, and watched The Huntsman since then. I’d say you really don’t need to watch the first film to watch the second one, as Snow White was not even in The Huntsman, only referred to once or twice.
Naomi Wood is a writing teacher apart from an author, and it shows. She’s done this a lot! We went through the materials (with slides!), alternating with clips from The Huntsman, text reading of fairy tales (excerpts from Snow White, Rapunzel, Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber) and some actual writing.
We discussed what constitutes fairy tales, the typical fairy tale characters, and the traditional fairy tale story structure; and expanding on those, what we could or would do to give those elements a fresh perspective, a new twist or angle for modern audience. Naomi Wood herself has done something along the line with her book Mrs Hemingway, in which she tells the perspectives of Hemingway’s four wives.
During the class we had a few sessions to write down our ideas then discussed them with the class (i.e. how would you make the villain different, the antagonist, the setting). After the class and watching The Huntsman, I think I have a whole new appreciation of fairy tale retellings. It is not easy to come up with wholly fresh ideas of an old work but still cater to mainstream audience.
In The Huntsman, some elements are modern (no more damsel in distress with kick-ass Jessica Chastain), while some elements are still stuck in the past (single lonely women are evil, woman is miserable without baby). The fairy-tale setting however does forgive many “rules of the old world”, as we play with the imagined once upon a time. It’s exciting to think how much more we can do to break the boundaries and expand the fairy tale box. I love retellings and hope to see more movies and TV series on that (yep, I absolutely love Once Upon a Time). If you’re interested in fairy tale and its retelling, the movie is great, for consumption and for study. It also features fabulous costume galore, funny scenes with the dwarves, and plenty of beautiful stars :)
Thanks Juliana and Universal for inviting me to this interesting workshop!