Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Thing: Workplace Bully

In the last ten years, both at work and in my flats, I've had the misfortune of running into four enormous arseholes. One of them very nearly broke me.

Confronting and defeating bullies isn't something that comes naturally to me. Or to a lot of people, I suspect. But it's totally necessary for our survival. Bullying is high-stakes. It can drive a person to a nervous breakdown or to suicide. And a lot of people share this experienceaccording to this Stuff article, one in five New Zealanders may experience bullying.

In the process of learning a little bit of verbal self-defence, I realised there's a great story in here. I'm interested in watching a story about someone who's driven right down to the breaking point, and who fights their way back up.

Workplace Bully is a web-series.

There are two main characters - the bully and the woman he's bullying (a new arrival to the office).

There are two halves to the story - her slowly realising she's being bullied as her self-esteem gets driven down to breaking point, and then her learning how to fight back against the bully, which will require her to push herself, her workmates, the bully and her workplace as far as she possibly can.

I have a very clear vision for this show. It's funny (in the sense that watching a witty bully is entertaining), but the first half is mostly about tension and slowly-mounting disaster. There's no physical violence in it; the only violence in this story is verbal and bureaucratic.

In the second half, as she learns how to fight back, I'd hope that the story starts to feel archetypal - a hero's (sic)journey about a woman nearly destroyed by a monster. And then fighting back against him.

As a show, I think it's going for something very real. Plausible. Realistic. And, I think, really dramatically satisfying. But not a drama; it's almost like a constructed documentary

Episodes are very short - one or two minutes. In fact, each episode is basically a scene focusing on a single situation - a morning tea, a power-point presentation, a single moment of insight into the woman or the bully's personal life. And the episodes don't follow on directly from each other: this isn't a cliffhanger-type show; it's more a gentle observing of incidents from two peoples' lives that add up to a bigger story.

I have two actors in mind, and I'm keen to try and shoot it Lone Gun style. So far it's been an easy show to outline and come up with episodes for (and it has the added bonus that doing the research benefits me). I suspect that rather than scripts, Workplace Bully would semi-improvised from an outline.

What I'd like to do in the next three to six months is:

1. Outline and research a bunch of episodes, to make sure that there's enough material there.
2. Shoot a Season Zero: three to six easy to achieve episodes over one or two days, Lone Gun style.

The Big, Wild Success for this project would be that I film the whole arc and that there's an audience for it. It'd also be great if it helped people (but maybe that's just a little too sincere).

So, if you're interested in this project or you have some thoughts on it, let's have a conversation about it. Because I'd like to try and get the most out of this, I've implemented a few rules:
  • Interview me (and each other). Ask questions, rather than posting monologues about what you think.
  • Be nice. Make people feel safe to post, and try and critique constructively. Although, if you absolutely must tell me why this idea is not damn good, go for it ... but - you know - 'constructively', and we'll sort out how that works.
  • I will try and engage heavily with this conversation, here, on Twitter and on Facebook. Let's see how that works.
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