I absolutely adore working in this sector. As the former manager of a number of visitor attractions, I know first hand that what managers and boards of visitor attractions really want is for as many people as possible to hear the story we’re telling - be it the story of an object, a place, an individual or a people, an event or period in history.
Writing is just one small part of this work. Stakeholder and audience engagement can be an enlightening part of the process, which pays dividends in terms of buy-in for the subsequent stages. I am skilled in leading stakeholder engagement sessions and in reporting the findings.
While not an historian, I am a curious and rigorous researcher and enjoy working with local experts and historians to tease out the most interesting, surprising or significant elements of a story that are to be told.
Under the leadership of the interpretive designer I welcome the opportunity to brainstorm ideas about how elements of the story might be brought to life, be it through audio, audio-visual, VR or a good old-fashioned in-character guide. I can draw on my experience as an actor and director to cast and direct actors for any roles required to dramatise content, and of course I would be only too delighted to write any scripts required.
Writing film scripts for the heritage sector is different to writing most other movie scripts because the story is already known. They are akin to adaptations of historical novels, but with characters who are not nearly as fleshed out. The whole question of plotting is often not an issue, which can be a relief, but it can also be limiting. An unimaginative approach or a slavish focus on facts can result in a documentary rather than a story, or a telling of the story that adds nothing new to the interpretation that already exists in the centre.
That’s why character is perhaps more important for films or VR films for the heritage sector. The key to the story is often the person who tells it. Perhaps it is not the major historical figure whose perspective we take but his or her servant, mother or enemy. When we don’t know much more than their name, and sometimes not even that, we have carte blanche with the character in a way that we don’t with certain iconic figures.
This is the kind of thing we tease out with the client and interpretive designer. We decide whose story or stories we are telling, what events or eras we need to cover and develop the storyboard accordingly. Where there are several stories to tell or eras to shine light on we discuss themes and ways to tie them together. We do whatever research is necessary or share the information that is available and I write the script.
That makes it sound very easy. There are of course many drafts based on an agreed number of feedback sessions. There is also a deadline, thank goodness!